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Time to be innovative and creative

I’d like to start this column with a reference to a story published by eminent Times editor Rick Conroy, not just because I expect a litre of Jack Daniels as a reward (though I do), but because he nailed down a thought that has been bouncing around in my mind for some time.
He reported on the Federation of Agriculture meeting, in which the guest speaker, Guiding Light Nina-Marie Lister presented a New Way of looking at life.
She basically said that times are changing, and the traditional ways of doing things are not cutting it anymore.
To paraphrase her: It’s time to start thinking about new ways of doing things. It’s a time to be innovative and creative. It’s time to let go of the “it’s always been that way” kind of thinking.
This sparked a flashback in Rick’s mind, and his editorial recalled the way things used to be done, when life was ‘simpler’. In many ways, most of us wish we could return to that world.
Nina-Marie capsulized it perfectly: “We should be telling farmers what they CAN do, not what they can’t do.”
Rules and regulations are abundant, and some of them are downright ridiculous. And yet a whole machine of government officials are put into place to persecute offenders to their legislation.
They tell us what we can’t do, and fine us for it.
This is not the way to ‘grow’ a sagging economy. It’s like growing up with a father who sets all the rules, and beats you black-and-blue if you break them. That’s a kid who is not going to grow up with an ounce of creativity, individuality or sense of self-worth left in his system.
Reports say that abused children often become abusers when they grow up. And so it is with us.
We see it here in the County, with lots of people having lots of problems with how other people are living their lives. Not a good thing. It means we’re not operating as a co-operative community anymore.
We used to say, “Mind your own business. Leave me alone!” But I haven’t heard that expression for years.
We have become empowered by using and abusing the rules and regulations that are set down in legal documents, so that we can get what we want, sometimes at the expense of others. Also not a good thing.
We’re so caught up in being told what’s right and wrong, through our government father’s edicts, that the hope of thinking of new and creative ways to approach our World is just a Fool’s Dream.
But the world has changed, and we need to start thinking in a different direction. Not what is legislated. Not what’s allowed. But what we need, in an ever-changing world.
When I look around, I see a world that doesn’t work anymore.
God, I fear, is dead. Economics is the New King of Kings, the Stock Market is the golden pathway to Wealth, and the measure of Success in Life is in how much money you’ve made, by the time you die.
This is an ancient system, but more and more people are discovering that the true measure of wealth is in Quality of Life – personal happiness and comfort, and the accumulation of great friends, who enrich our lives in laughter and conversation.
Here in the County we used to understand that. Yet the machine rolls on.
I believe that we are not beneficiaries of the Industrial Revolution, we are victims of it.
Though it was a time of major industrial growth, it set us on a journey we can’t escape from. Technology burgeoned, and all of our modern comforts grew out of it. And there was money to be made. Lots of money.
After Henry Ford built his famous production line, there was no turning back. And industry followed, and Henry’s sweet deal with Standard Oil ensured that gasoline would become our fuel of choice, though diesel and ethanol engines were both in production at the time, and were both more efficient.
Now let’s apply that to what we know in the County today.
Everything is still done the same ol’, same ol’, despite the change in the make-up of the County. Money is still King, with Council trying to control it, and taxpayers still demanding all of their services.
Federal and provincial Acts still pretty much control how our municipal council ‘behaves’. And the staff has their own agenda. And us taxpayers, too. So, rule-bound and duty-bound in every direction, I’m surprised there’s not a higher suicide rate amongst councillors.
(A high suicide rate would also solve that problem with Council size, so it’s pretty much a win-win situation.)
I run a business. But I’m clearly not a business expert. When I am dragged, kicking and screaming, into the Accounting World, I become ‘Business Steve’, who can’t do anything remotely creative. ‘Business Steve’ is a brain-dead bookwork zombie, counting numbers.
This, I think, is what happens to Council. A councillor once said to me: “I wanted to just do what people wanted me to do but, when I saw the financial statements ….” and his voice drifted off.
He found out that Money is King, and numbers on paper can be thrown around all over the place, in the vain hope that the final number will be a good one. I know this, because I once put $5 on a roulette wheel. Fastest five bucks I’ve ever spent.
As Council struggles to put a new budget together, my advice is: “Let’s figure out what we CAN do, not what we can’t.” That’s where opportunity lies.
There’s no doubt about it. The ‘money-saving, duplication-eliminating’ Amalgamation has created a Giant Corporation of the City of the County of Prince Edward (our original title), yet we still do things the same way we did in 1900, just bigger, with more people and more money.
As Keith Macdonald said during a candidate meeting: “Five of us used to get together for a township meeting around a kitchen table. We could solve all of the township’s problems, and still be home for supper.”
Now, the ‘right way’ to do things takes 10 times the time, 10 times the people, and 20 times the money, by the time any project can move from start to finish. By the time you add in engineers and consultants to the endless list of County staff who need to be involved, because they are ultimately ‘liable’ and ultimately ‘responsible’, well, you might better just have painted that flagpole yourself.
Short of declaring County Independence from the rest of the world, I don’t know if we have much chance to slow down the Giant Machine that runs Council, and also runs us.
But it’s time to be inventive. Big Money is being blown away. And it’s not in Town Halls, Rec Committees, Libraries and Museums.
By the way, congrats to Council on their new pay raise. I haven’t had one since 2008, but it’s nice to know that your extra bucks will add incentive to reducing the costs of running this County.

Filed Under: Steve Campbell

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