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Why nothing is easy

Steve Campbell

We are Canadians. If you agree with this premise, let’s move on. We are law-abiding people. We have a very low per capita murder rate, although it’s not zero, so don’t pat yourself on the back yet. We have some criminals, mostly people who like to steal stuff, and that happens pretty much everywhere there’s people.

But most of us abide by the rules. And these rules are given to us, and we accept them, because we’re Canadians, and we respect the law. I came upon this when I realized I put on my seat belt to move my truck to a different parking space in my own parking lot. The odds of a cop turning up in my parking lot at that moment, with lights and sirens blaring, and the fact that my odds of sustaining bodily injury in this simple operation, were minimal. Yet ‘the rule’ was now so automatic, it felt weird to put my vehicle in gear without the belt.

By the same token, bicycle riders wear helmets. That’s a rule. They come into my shop, and they still have their helmets on. I point out that they are perfectly safe in my shop, and can probably remove their headgear. But they don’t. They look at me with anxiety. I could also have asked them to remove their multi-coloured skin-tight spandex bike suits, and would probably get a better response. Naked, but helmet in place.

The point of this exercise is that most of us ordinary people, who are not murderers or thieves, have been trained to do what we’re told.
But that’s not what this story is about. We do these things for our own safety, and they became law because someone else decided this was for our safety. And they were right. It saves lives. Therein lies the trap.

Who makes the rules?
This has always been an issue for me, as you may know. If you have kids, you know you need to make rules. Or you think you do. If you think like a parent, you ain’t looking at your kids. You’re looking at your total adult self, and how your kids should operate. This is why every parent has said, “Be careful.” If you think about it, this is pointless advice. Your kids are not going to say, “Hey, I never thought of that! I was thinking of doing something reckless and dangerous and possibly fun but, Hmmm, maybe I should be careful instead.”

You were a kid once; how did this work for you? Criminals aside (who possibly became criminals because their moms didn’t tell them to be careful) we have all learned more from our mistakes and mishaps than we have from our victories. And we became more or less responsible adults, with some old bone breaks and bruises due to the ridiculous need as children to have fun.

When Rules Go Crazy
This preamble is to point out that we like rules. We like some of them, such as driving drunk. Sorry, I meant to say ‘not’ driving drunk.

Trouble is we have governments. Other than tax us to death, governments have one purpose: To invent rules to control things we don’t tend to do, just in case. This is why there’s a rule against murder. Most people would think this didn’t need to be a rule; it should be kind of intuitive. This is why, if your husband snores, you think twice before you smother him with a pillow, and shoot him twice just to make sure you can have a blissful sleep. Because there’s a rule against that.

The problem is, when government officials have nothing to do but stare out the window and shoot elastic bands at their desk wobbleheads, they think up new rules. Some of these rules result in proposed legislation containing thousands of pages, largely because one typed page titled “Here’s something we should stop,” wouldn’t get the time of day on the House floor. Still, everyone who gets the bulky copy is only going to read the summary, and some random paragraphs.
So rules arrive on a regular basis because, if they don’t, it will look like you’re doing nothing (which you are) and could be fired, and would need to resort to demonstrating your elastic-firing skills on America’s Got Talent.

Bringing this home
Nothing is easy in Canada because, just like an overprotective parent, the government wants to make sure nothing happens. Think about that. Nothing happens. Should that be Canada’s motto? “Nothing happening here! We make sure of it!”

So they go crazy with rules. You can’t email government, but you can fax. You can’t call them, because they want email. They have rules for themselves, which I find kind of funny. “I can’t help you because we have rules about your situation, and also rules about how we deal with your situation. I really need to pee, but that’s not allowed until 2 p.m.”

We have a housing crisis in the County, partly because of the rules. I built a house back in 1985. It was rough – I had to be on site every day solving problems, while holding two jobs. I remember waiting hours for the inspector to come and look in the trench for our hydro and phone lines, while the bulldozer guy chewed on a toothpick at $100 an hour. That’s nothing compared to what County people go through today.

Building a home today in the County requires way more hoops than I had to jump through. There’s rules all over the place, with agencies checking in, neighbours being consulted, zoning being cleared up, building inspectors consulted, building plans being cleared … and that’s just the beginning. You don’t even have a shovel in the ground.

This is why building a home in the County is now only within the grasp of the wealthy. Money needs to pour out before your dream house becomes a dream reality. The cost of bringing hydro to your home should make you take a serious look at solar. Then there’s building permit fees, and increasing property and water taxes.

Council thinks housing will boom in the County. I predict it will wither and die. We have priced ourselves out of the market, except for those who can afford it. That leaves us behind, and that is not acceptable. Big government does what it does, and we can’t stop them. We get nice flyers in the mail from our MP and MPP, but they are just big smiley faces. Our local Council tries hard but, until they get their priorities in proper alignment, they will be no help either.

I wish I had a solution, but I don’t. We could gather together, but we would disagree and fall apart. This I know from experience. I’m lost.
In the immortal words of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody: “Goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go. Let me leave it all behind and face the truth.” Is this our future? As Nevil Shute wrote in the apocalyptic novel On The Beach: “The world will not die with a bang, but with a whimper.” Is that our destiny?

– Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Loretta says:

    About Rules:
    It’s unfortunate but ‘common sense’ isn’t common enough or we wouldn’t need to make laws forcing people to use a seatbelt or wear a helmet. When studies/science shows that doing or wearing something (like a face mask during a pandemic) saves lives you’d think that people would just do it, but we’ve had 3 years of evidence that shows a large enough portion of our society is will to put the rest of us at risk of death or injury unless we threaten them with fines or jail. And even then some will resist and do so in a violent manner. Not sure what is the best way to counter act such nonsense, but not reacting the way they do, is a start.

    About Housing: I think you’re right, but there will always be people with money willing to pay ridiculous prices, just because they can.

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