Dispatching diplomacy

Talk of war perked up our ears last week, since it’s not too often the County of Wellington takes an adversarial role with those around it, suggesting to us diplomacy has failed.

In a nutshell, decade-long rural grievances that have simmered away are now boiling over. County council feels it needs to act in light of more legislation emanating from Queen’s Park that its members see as negatively impacting our way of life in rural Ontario.

First on the hit-list and presumably the catalyst for the action is the slots issue and the pending re-apportionment of betting purses through changes at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission. The potential for Centre Wellington to lose its slot machine revenue – even if it is a fraction of what it currently receives – is a sore spot for Mayor Joanne Ross Zuj. She and her council have grown accustomed to the regular contribution made to its coffers by the OLG facility. In addition to that self interest is the plight of horse farmers who have expanded their operations and built up their numbers in this county.

If that issue were not enough for a fiery presentation or two (or dozens), Warden Chris White has invited others to express their concerns about how provincial policy has deepened the chasm between urban and rural residents.

Wind power as per the Green Energy Act has led to many proposals and built-up infrastructure rural dwellers find displeasing. The cost of electricity has increased and much of that can be attributed to policies from Queen’s Park that suggest green power trumps all concerns. Where the rural and urban difference comes in is that urban folks can be quite uncharitable when it comes to the location of said wind generators – the lake shore is inappropriate but farmers’ fields are okay.

Source water protection is the idea of protecting water at source. As councillor Lou Maieron pointed out, we are protecting water that ultimately flows into lakes for the benefit of cities’ water supply. While the concept of honouring water is an absolute necessity for humanity, the cost of protection remains essentially a local one.

Similarly, taxes paid by farmers to our townships and the county are based on the value of land multiplied by 25% of the residential rate. Essentially, rural residents and business owners prop up the land base to make it easier for farmers to be stewards of land they till and crop. Conceptually it is fine, but let off the hook for many years now are urbanites who have no vested financial interest in ensuring land is managed well or that woodlots and wetlands are honoured as part of an ecosystem on which we all depend. Most will know the famous phrase “farmers feed cities,” so it seems a tad unfair for locals to have to top up the farm tax rebate as they have for many years now.

Other items will appear as the delegates make their presentations. Quarry and aggregate proposals, too, will rear their head as examples of farmland traded for consumption of resources in cities. Roads aren’t paved, sidewalks aren’t poured and buildings aren’t erected without aggregate. While we have respect for those industries and understand the necessity of them, much of urban Canada has little or no perception of the traumatizing impact such projects can have on the countryside. It will be a sad drive to Collingwood should farms churn out stone rather than potatoes.

A final sore point remains the state of planning in Ontario. Standards for development are a necessity but we believe that large urban centres have made it virtually impossible for communities out here to be a little different; a little more practical with a buck.

We hope this strategy for Wellington County helps fine tune the talking points for some long standing disagreements on policies that are viewed as affecting rural Ontario adversely.

The importance of the message should not be lost with rhetoric; instead reinforced with the power of conviction that all residents of this province have a duty to pay their way.