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Word on the Street: Steve goes insane… again

Steve Campbell

If you’ve read the last three columns, you can probably sense a theme. Being a municipality relegated to being a tiny baby-drooling, diaper-filling, hand-me-down, constantly-crying, pleading and begging pathetic creature … sucks. The real power is in the parental house: the Feds and the Province.

Most of us, not including me, eventually grow up. They stop thinking their parents are stupid fascist dictators, and this little switch goes on that says: “Hey! Maybe they’re not as bone-dumb as I thought. Maybe it’s time I got my act together and started acting like an adult.”

Brace yourself because I’m going to seriously pitch the concept of separating from Ontario and becoming our own Province. I pitched this concept, in the form of humour, many times before. But time has passed, and I honestly think this is a credible answer to our problems.

Open your mind a bit. We would still be Canadian, so all of the things the Feds give us would still be on the books. We would still pay income tax (to the Feds only) and still get, in return, our tax dollars supporting a ballet troupe in Edmonton and some really cool Mid-Eastern garb for our Prime Minister.

But we won’t care, because the former provincial tax money comes to us. At whatever percentage we choose. Unless we start a ballet troupe, this is Big Bucks! We can set our own provincial tax. We can assume all of the infrastructure that the old Province put in place, which they have already dumped on us – so there’s no hurt there. They can’t take back our roads, our hydro or telephone lines (which, by the way, date to 1952, and Bell Canada does not know we exist, and needs to send an 80-year-old retired line tech, who still understands our problems.)

All of that will change, when we become a province. Think about it. And I mean seriously. Who gets the best seat at the table? Whiny, demanding municipalities, with their hands out and lots of boo-hoos? Hell, no! They’re everywhere! You want to have a playground fight with Lennox and Addington? Or a hundred other cry-babies? I say no!

Now, let’s break it down. Who makes the best deals? Is it that little weenie in accounting? Is it the slicky-boy salesman with the pencil-thin moustache? Is it the self-involved teenager screaming at Mother Province?

No, it’s the Province of Prince Edward County, standing equal to all at the table, and demanding its just due.

This has been done many times in Canada. B.C., Alberta, Manitoba (spectacularly!), the Maritime provinces, which hate to be called the Maritime provinces, because they – like us – have extremely different lifestyles, pride and cultures that should not make us treat Cape Breton and Newfoundland in the same category.

This is our problem, too. We’re denying a known fact. We are different from the rest of Ontario. The only thing rural Ontarians share is the mantle of a city-centric Ontario that doesn’t know us, doesn’t understand us, determines we don’t have the voting power to sway elections, but is worth a whistle stop. And not much else.

It’s not a revolution. It’s paperwork. Provinces have done it before. All it takes is paperwork.

So, what are the benefits, and what are the losses?
If you think about it, and I swear to God I’m serious about this, I don’t see many losses. When I started my business back in 1976, I had a bit of a problem establishing suppliers, because I was new and untried. My payment record earned me trust and, within a very short time, businesses were falling over themselves to get my business.

Every business on the globe wants to cut extra-special deals to bring you into their fold. Because you’re new and promising, and they want a sweet, sweet romance with you to justify their job, and make a bundle of money off you.

The Province of the County is well ahead of the game, because our rep is already established. If I can re-write all the old slogans for the County – The County: Ontario’s Worst-kept Secret; The County: A Place Away. Which is where we want to be when you’re visiting. The County: A Place Apart, but now, just a place, just like any other place. The County: What the hell is happening?

The point is this: Becoming a province actually opens up new avenues of income. Do you think Bell Canada, internet services, Hydro One are going to walk away from a new fresh prospect? No way. In fact, we can cut even better deals with them, using our new Province credentials and clout. Even if Hydro One pulls out, I happen to know that Tri-Canadian’s local solar power grids already supply more electricity than the County consumes, which is currently being frittered away by the massive Ontario grid, often resulting in dollar losses.

CPP and other pensions would remain, since they’re federal. The only thing I haven’t been able to justify is OHIP, which is an amazing thing we can’t do without. I’ll leave that to you.

But start thinking: What has the province done for you … for us? My never-ending rant against the Municipal Act is that it was drawn up by city people who were solving their own city problems. And we inherited the backwash of rules that were designed to keep city people in line.

But we are not city people, anymore than PEI is Alberta. One size does not fit all. Advantage is: We can keep the rules that we need, and we can dispose of the BS that does not apply to us. That, to me, feels like freedom. To be back to the way we were, are, and have always been.

To me, we’re a County that can’t sustain its own growth, can’t handle its own changes, its own health. One thing I’ve learned in life: If you’re losing the game, change the game.

Imagine. Just imagine. It’s not that hard to change the game.

  • 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. Fred says:

    You’re thinking too small, Steve. The sovereign nation of The Coun’y will garner greater attention across Canada and the world. Once people abroad (ie., the far side of BoQ) realize our treasures are no longer up for grabs, they’ll be on their knees.
    We need to start preparing, now that hockey season has been cancelled. Our collective attention should be turned to other priorities such as new Departments of National Defense, Langwidch, Historic Building Restorations, Potholes, Elder Sustainability, to name a few.
    Besides our current military assets, hidden in plain sight (the Loche Sloy missile, Union St. aircraft, Arrow prototypes…) we must rejuvenate our stocks of giant hogweed, poison ivy, stinging nettle, rabid raccoons and coyotes (wolverines and porcupine preferred but in short supply), chicken-hog manure mixture… My suspended war cabinet have already been instructed on these measures, but as the invaders enter our trap, slowed to a snail’s pace by the strategically placed potholes and decrepit access points, raccoon families drive vehicles off the road. Naturally its occupants will exit the vehicle to photograph cattle, sheep and deer. This is the moment to fling poop into their car.
    Abandoning the vehicle the foe begin walking … in the vapor of hogweed, trodding through lush ivy and nettle. The itching worsens the condition but pales in comparison to what comes next. The abundance of skunks spraying from all directions invites rabid coyotes to chase the enemy back to the borders. God help them if anyone asks for direction. Our coded dialect will leave them dumbfounded. All political stripes will approve of this warfare as being all natural and cost effective.

    Sorry. What was the question again? I sometimes get too passionate when thinking about freedom

  2. Chris Keen says:

    I assume behind the argument you’re making here Steve that you are going to modify the municipal government saving us a few hundred thousand dollars for the mayor and councilors’ salaries. The rest of the work done by County employees will need to continue.

    Paying for two school systems is mandated in the Constitution of Canada and can only be changed with an Act of Parliament and approval of the provincial government – a political nightmare to be sure.

    You assert that the 8% sales tax will give the County more money than it’s ever seen. Don’t you think the County receives hundreds of millions in dollars/services from the province already? On what is your assertion based? We would have to replicate EVERY service the province now provides. I find it very hard to believe we are a net contributor to Ontario’s coffers.

    It seems from my vantage point that ALL levels of government “squander” tax payers’ dollars. I can think of some very recent examples of what I would call non-essential government spending in the County. How do we prevent that in future? Why would you think our “new” provincial government would be any better than our current municipal government?

    Here’s an alternative idea. Start here in the municipality by cutting every program/dollar spent it is not required to provide by either provincial or federal law. Let’s see what that saves us.

    Once we’ve done that let’s move along to the provincial level.

    Sadly, under the current and likely future economic climate a pesky virus may take care of this for us.

  3. CountySteve says:

    OK, I’ll play devil’s advocate. First: you’re not thinking in terms of creating a New Way to do things. If you look at replacing the system, as we have it now, it would be extremely costly. Because the system we now have is extremely costly and inefficient. The system works for us less and less as the years roll by.
    We can think of better ways to run a society of 25,000 homes. Dumping Ontario’s rules is a good start. Paying for 2 school board systems? Why? That can certainly change.
    Paying for two levels of government? Us and the feds? We pay the feds anyway, unless we leave Canada completely, which is not on the slate.
    We will need to pay tax, but the provincial tax will come to us. This is a huge amount of money. If we maintain the HST, the feds get their 5% GST, and we get the remaining 8% into our provincial coffers … not Ontario’s, where it is clearly being squandered. Think of it: 8% of every purchase made in the County, not only from us, but from our one million visitors. Wine, beer, food, clothing, accommodation, suntan lotion … everything that is purchased!
    Administration of that tax? Just like the feds do now … take in 13% through our HST filings and give us back our 8%. This would surely give us more money than we’ve ever had by grovelling for provincial donations (part of our tax money coming back to us, and the rest going to Metro Toronto).
    Have you seen the light? Are you now converted? Because we need people like you in the County Think Tank.

  4. gilles says:

    I love it! Already visually the sign change on the 401. Next exit: The Province Of The City Of The County. That’ll get people to slow down.

  5. Chris Keen says:

    So on top of what we already support with our County taxes we would, as a “province”, have to pay for: two school boards/systems; two levels of government; the hospital; administer criminal and civil justice; build a prison etc… etc… on top of everything else. Since this (and much more) is mandated federally, this strikes me as much more complicated AND expensive, assuming this column wasn’t intended to run on April 1st.

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