Keeping the focus

Perhaps it was a case of piling on.

Wellington County Warden Chris White started something last week when there was talk at county council of grievances between urban and rural municipalities.

Piling on is a football term and a penalty to describe what happens when the defending side has the ball carrier down – and his opponents continue to hit him anyway. Once the urban versus rural cat was out of the bag, it was easy for councillors to bring up long held grievances against policies that favour cities.

We recall an incident where Centre Wellington councillors heard opposition against a densely planned subdivision. We asked council at the end of its meeting how it felt to listen to what appeared to be justifiable complaints from residents – all the while knowing that, legitimate or not, there was absolutely nothing they could do to address those concerns.

Why? Because Queen’s Park and its bureaucrats decided the parameters for growth in the areas outside the Greater Toronto Area, and applied rules and regulations province wide.

It is worth asking if something good and reasonable for Toronto is going to be perceived the same way in Kenora or even Elora. We suspect the answer is no. But the political reality is every municipality in Ontario is ruled by the provincial government. The relationship is often described as one of the parent and the step-child, and the province has the top role. We all know children will from time to time rebel, but in the long haul, it is in everyone’s interest to try to get along.

We know White himself feels that way. He was inundated with calls and emails on the urban-versus-rural issue after last week’s article. There were calls to the Advertiser from well outside Wellington County, too. In this day of the Internet and high technology, not much moves without someone watching.

As for White, he is correct in announcing well ahead of the May 29 meeting that it is about the equine industry and its focus will remain that. He fears, we suspect with some justification, that others with a rural bias will hijack the meeting for their own purposes, rather than allow county councillors to complete what was supposed to be a fact finding meeting on the equine industry.

The results of the decision by the OLG to pull the plug on its agreement with the horse racing industry has been like a stone dropped into a placid lake. The ripples have moved outward at a faster pace than even the stone-dropping Liberal government and the OLG expected. We noted that Toronto Star columnist Dave Perkins wrote the Liberals had no idea the fire storm they were lighting with their decision.

Whether other issues fall into the same category is a discussion for another time. But information about the loss of jobs in Wellington County and other places that support horses is what the county is seeking as ammunition to help it convince the province to back off. A war started by the county is not going achieve that.

Winston Churchhill once said, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”

White has reconsidered and wisely wants to take a more civilized approach through negotiations now that the anger-fest at county council provoked such interest everywhere.

It is the correct way to go.