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Puzzling Things in a Warped World

Steve Campbell

Steve Campbell

Unlike other column writers, who seem to have all the answers to anything that can happen anywhere in the world, sometimes I’m just puzzled.
And I turn my puzzlements over to you, to help find the pieces my inadequate brain has missed.
To the point: I see a very reactionary trend in the County. This, in itself, is understandable. There are only three ways to deal with change – acceptance, revolution, or reaction.
Having tried to launch the revolutionary concept of separating from the province so we can set our own rules, make our own deals, boot up our own manufacturing industries, and generally relax with some local wine and beer, I have discovered that County people are not yet united enough, or angry enough, to take a big leap away from the Big Governments, which take our money and give us some back if they see fit.
Sorry, I’m still a little sore about the failed Revolution.

Acceptance, on the other hand, is the great Canadian trait, and tends to rule most decisions, including apologizing for being shot during a bank robbery: “Sorry, didn’t mean to get in the way! I know you’ve got things to do, just go ahead, I’ll wait here on the floor.”
And then there’s reactionary: the non-act of waiting for something to happen, and then reacting violently to it.
I’ve seen this grow over the years. A lot of it stems from our sense of lack of control – which is a very good read of the situation. We are slowly losing control of our County, our land, our lives, our money, our rights and our personal vision of our future.

Here’s a handful of examples, spanning three levels of so-called government: industrial wind turbines, Quinte Health Care, demolition of fishing industries at Point Traverse, County’s refusal to support future solar farms, Hospice PE, the fate and future use of Wellington’s main corner spot, MPAC (the people who assess your property value at more than you can sell it for, and gain a big tax bonus), LCBO location and temporary location, Picton’s heritage plan.
Whew! In this whole list, only occasionally have the interests of County people been served, or even remotely considered.
This solves part of the puzzle as to why citizen’s groups and petitions crop up overnight, every time something happens here.

The people on the ‘inside’ are taken by surprise that their actions are met with resistance. But it’s impossible to assume that all of us can keep track of what’s about to happen, before it happens!
Those of us who are following all these things could attend meetings all day, every day, and late into the night. I would need a 45-gallon drum of benzedrine in my truck just to keep up with the wild, unexpected actions of, well, everybody who assumes a power position in any organization or governmental body.
I discussed this issue with Times editor Rick Conroy at a casual meeting, and we came up with a new take on the sudden political action of County people.
We arrived at the second part of the issue: The people of County have lost trust in all of the governments and agencies to make the right decisions.
I am clearly a believer in this (hence the move for County sovereignty).
The puzzle for me is that I am of two minds: 1) It seems you can’t do anything in the County anymore – from building a deck to playing music outdoors – without somebody jumping up to stop you, and 2) Often the decisions of the Powers That Be need tempering and adjusting by people who might be affected by the decision, and they might modify and improve the idea.
This is a Solomon-like decision, and I don’t see a whole pile of people out there who could fill Solomon’s sandals.

Our mistrust is well-founded. Witness the removal of rights of municipalities and individuals to install industrial wind turbines. (The province has also installed legislation in which you can no longer fight a traffic violation ticket – removing a right to trial that was installed in British Law with the Magna Carta.)
Yes, these things sneak by us and – partly because of our reactionary attitudes – the new game is to keep everything secret. (Stephen Harper is the master of this – for the number of face-to-face meetings with the press, he could substitute a wax manniquin! And this from a government that promised ‘transparency’, unlike those nasty Liberals.)

And the provincial Liberals? Yes, they had a plan for revamping health care in rural Quinte. Did they give us the plan? No. I’m sure, as the plan unfolded, QHC administrators were as surprised as us, as each new bomb was dropped.
The best thing they could have done is to hire a PR guy to tell us where they were headed, and how it would work, and what would be replaced with what. In effect, TELL US the Plan!
But no. It’s a secret. We still don’t know. So instead, the whole thing stinks of a Richard-Nixon-style cover-up. Do they wonder why we don’t trust them? Do they care? Hell no.
(Personally, I think I’ll die hooked up to a Fisher-Price PlayStation with a garden hose IV, until the guy with the bucket of leeches arrives.)
Even our own Hospice Board seemed to be willing to resign, rather than explain what was going on. More secrets? Who knows? But it certainly led to a large community uproar.

The most disturbing trend, to me, is that we are constantly running into our own governments. Trouble is, we keep running to them for money and, as we all know: “He who pays the bills gets to make the rules.”
The government wants control every time they back a project. They don’t understand that, here in the County, we focus on volunteering and fund-raising, only to find our efforts do not allow us that same kind of control.
To me it should be the other way ‘round – the government should be thrilled to support volunteer efforts at no cost to them, and step out of the way. But then, I’m revolutionary.
Still, I need to recognize that the government does not trust ‘the people’ to run things properly. You need several levels of administration, and a local group headed by a highly-skilled person with a degree and an enormous pay cheque.
Which is why us incompetent slobs do our work, get pushed aside, and have nothing left to do but scream.
Lack of trust indeed – who better to trust our money and future to than those who squander billions, and can’t see past the next election.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Wolf Braun says:

    Good quotes Olmanonthemtn !

    Not sure who said it but…. “Democracy is not what governments do. Democracy is what the people do!”

  2. Olmanonthemtn says:

    Some Thoughts:

    The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.
    Lord Acton

    The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.
    Woodrow Wilson

  3. Bob Stock says:

    Or, add a box to be ticked on the ballot,”No Choice”. If the “NC” votes outnumber the votes of the winning party, start over. Go back and review your policies because most of us don’t like what you or the other parties are offering.

  4. Chris Keen says:

    @Susan – And how does that excuse McGuinty and Wynne?

  5. Susan says:

    And Harris was? Who started deregulation of publicly owned Ontario Hydro? And our very successful and cost saving amalgamations? Tories you say!

  6. Chris Keen says:

    McGuinty wasn’t transparent… why would we expect Wynne to be? Obfuscate is their watchword.

  7. Susan says:

    After the Hydro One deal is complete it will be out of bounds for the ombudsman and auditor general. All salaries will not be accessible either.

  8. Olmanonthemtn says:

    Headline today (07/09) from the Toronto Star

    Ontario budget watchdog hits government brick wall. Ontario budget watchdog Stephen LeClair says he is being denied information on the controversial Hydro One deal.

    How timely County Steve

  9. Wolf Braun says:

    SC: ” How do you plan to effect change when most people don’t realize the system is broken, and the people in the system don’t care?”

    Ah but the system is broken Steve. And people are seeing this. My observations are that more and more people are caring. Particularly the young and those who make up parts of the 99 percent. Just google – “Is democracy broken?” It’s there. Heck even that stogy dull magazine McLeans debated the question in 2014. 🙂

    Many democratic nations are suffering from permanently high unemployment, staggering public debts and budget deficits, and a deep economic recession. Greece is the birth place of democracy. Changes happening in Greece are troublesome for western leaders. Although many people blame politicians for their problems, virtually no one ever considers blaming the democratic system for their woes. If you think about it, however, it’s clear that it’s the collectivist nature of democracy that has led us into this hole.

    Over the last 150 years, government debts have grown inexorably. During that period, average government spending increased from 12% of GDP to a hefty 47% among major Western countries. This can’t be sustained. Ordinary people are realizing this can’t go on. Political parties use the word “change” during the election cycle as if it means something. For them it’s electioneering. I’m saying make it mean more. Make real change happen.

    Steve, you’ve actually been writing about a solution for some time now. I’m not disagreeing with your solution merely suggesting that we begin discussing it more seriously on a platform or context of purpose of government. Heck that’s why I attended LOTM. But one or two people came with their own agenda. 🙁

    Your solution is not unlike that of Switzerland, who by the way never joined the EU.

    Over the last 150 years, government debts have grown inexorably. During that period, average government spending increased from 12% of GDP to a hefty 47% among major Western countries. People are beginning to realize this is not sustainable.

    In your own way you’ve been writing about Switzerland. At least that’s the way I read it. You add your own twist and that’s OK.

    Switzerland, geographically positioned in the center of the EU, was never part of this collective EU folly and suffers little from the economic crisis (their current unemployment rate is a modest 3.1%). The country must live within its own means, and others cannot spend at the expense of the Swiss. There’s are good example of a Principle backing up the Purpose of Swiss government. 🙂

    The Swiss democracy itself is a very decentralized one. It consists of 26 regions known as cantons, or provinces, that on average have 300,000 inhabitants. These cantons enjoy remarkable autonomy, and they compete on matters like taxes, regulation, health care, and education. Because of that competition, people and businesses can not only vote with their pencils, but also with their feet. That fosters sensible governance, which has led to the prosperity and social stability Switzerland is famous for.

    Switzerland is just one example. Denmark actually holds a festival once every 3 years and brings thousands of people out for a weekend of camping where they discuss “their” democracy and is it working according to their purpose. Again, you can google this stuff.

    So if you want to set up The Canton of Prince Edward, let’s not push right into the act of doing so. I’m suggesting that we begin moving in that direction by having a conversation of “why will Prince Edward Canton government exist- its purpose?” I’ll throw out a start –

    “The purpose of government for the canton of Prince Edward is to protect and enhance the lives of of its people”. If we can get a democratic agreement on something short, concise, easy to understand like that then we can move on to principles. How we will want our leaders to make tough decisions on our bealf.


  10. County Steve says:

    Hi Wolf. I rarely jump into the blogs, because that’s the place for other readers to voice their opinions.
    I don’t disagree with what’s gone wrong, clearly. But your way is as ineffectual as my way. It will indeed take a revolution, at least a revolution in thought, to give us a system that works for the people. Note that over 90% of the people in this province and country are tied with an umbilical cord to a system that no longer serves its purpose. Once the parties start lining up their promos and hate ads, it always comes down to “Which party do I choose?” not “”Why don’t I like any of them?”
    You can have all the “serious discussion” you want, but what’s the point if the people who can make the change aren’t listening?
    As you have asked me many times before: “Good on analysis. What’s your solution?” How do you plan to effect change when most people don’t realize the system is broken, and the people in the system don’t care?

  11. Wolf Braun says:

    “There are only three ways to deal with change – acceptance, revolution, or reaction.” …Steve C.

    Did you not learn anything from me? 🙂

    Re-engineering Government is what’s needed ! It’s broken. We the people need to fix it. The politicians and bureaucrats won’t fix it. It’s not in their interest.

    Re-engineering is not revolution or reaction. Acceptance is simply laziness and putting democracy in the hands of the government and bureaucrats. Democracy is not what governments do. Democracy is what people do.

    People need to re-engineer all levels of government starting with the federal level first. It makes no sense to start at the municipal level. That only makes for fun for journos.

    It begins by people starting a discussion on the purpose of government. People need to ask themselves why should government exist. What’s its purpose. How do we become passionate about government again? What will get us excited in the morning about government? What kind of government do we want to proud of?

    Having this discussion is hard work. It takes time. Look at history. First there was God’s law. Then came man’s law. Then the MagnaCarta. And on it goes. Took a long long time to get the type of government that we were proud of as Canadians.

    Until now. It’s busted. We longer operate under Westminster rules – an honourable understanding that elected officials will play within the rules and by the rules.

    It’s been decades since any political party has played within those rules. PM Harper has just taken it to an entirely new level. He’s taken his power to the maximum. Unfortunatley, dumping Harper and changing the parties won’t really change much.

    Parliament in Ottawa has become so undermined it is almost impossible to do the job that most Canadians expect of it. Omnibus bills. No discussion or debate. No scrutiny of the legislation buried within piles of other bills. Fudging the budget. Shall I go on?

    If people want to own democracy people need to start having serious discussions about why and what type of government they want – PURPOSE ! 🙂

    What ever happened after LOTM ? 🙂

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