By Shane Jolley, Guest Columnist
For a while I thought I could resist weighing in on last week’s hoopla over Bill Murdoch’s desire to give Toronto the big rubber boot out of Ontario. After all it’s maple syrup season and time’s-a-wastin’, but after reading several Toronto based commentaries on the fracas, I simply couldn’t sit it out.
A part of me loves it when Bill drops one of these bombs, if for no other reason than to distract our attention from the hopelessly broken federal political situation, which is becoming dull and whiny more than anything. I mean really folks…do we have to keep hashing over which stuffed shirt can restore legitimacy to our federal government? But kicking Toronto out of Ontario; now that has entertainment value.
The various commentaries on the subject reveal an alarming amount of ignorance from all sides. For example, those who appreciate Bill’s reasoning claim that Toronto is a blood-sucking chest wound on the rest of the Ontario economy, subsidized by us poor rural folks, while the Toronto based commentators see those of us out here in “the sticks” as a bunch of unenlightened folk who feed off of the rich flesh of Toronto, but won’t just move there because we’re too ignorant to understand that Toronto is indeed the centre of the universe.
Now, granted that the fine published works on the subject in all of the newspapers and blogs, represent the most extreme opinions; after all it’s their job to sell more adverts around that controversial Bill-bomb, but the re-surfacing of the subject has revealed some interesting thought gaps that I’d like to point out. I must admit that I’m not likely nearly as anti-Toronto as Bill, in spite of the fact that I haven’t got a nice cushy job there. I do enjoy visiting on occasion,and then racing back ahead of all the weekenders who love to hate us and hate to love us. In fact, it usually feels more like a pillage than a visit as I often bring back copious numbers of bikes from the Toronto police auction. So there, I guess I do profit from Toronto in that sense.
But I digress. Back to the thought gaps.
A recent piece on the Torontoist.com claimed that Toronto separating from Ontario wasn’t such a bad idea, because Toronto could do fine on it’s own, thank you very much. It kind of left me wondering what they’ll eat, but I suppose those are just details.
And in regard to who’s bleeding who, has anyone crunched the numbers? I haven’t. How much benefit do we really derive from Toronto and vice versa? Does anyone really care? Not likely. Most of these types of issues are emotionally based and used to highlight the grievance of one party over the other; a job which I must say Bill is fulfilling with flying colours.
But here’s what I see as the crux of the issue. Coyotes aside, there is a growing recognition that our current political structure is becoming largely incapable of addressing the new economic realities that are upon us. Take energy for example. Whether fossil fuels (gasoline) or electricity, we are heading for some huge shocks. The $147/per barrel oil price of 2008 is a foretaste of what is to come. The only way forward in such a volatile environment is a much more localized way of organizing ourselves and our economic activities. This requires much more distributed systems of energy production and consumption. Food is another critical one. Eating isn’t optional, and our food security is increasingly compromised through bad trade deals, the unprofitability of agriculture, and increasing levels of imports.
Then there’s the perpetual need for more money and power at the municipal/regional level in order to address the specific needs of citizens, by those elected officials who are closest to the action.
So what does this have to do with the Toronto ruckus? Well, Bill is correct about the Toronto mentality. It is a mentality that only knows hyper-centralization as the way forward. After all, dealing with 3 million plus Toronto residents gives new meaning to “herding cats” or trying to keep the proverbial “frogs in the wheelbarrow”. The tools of choice for our current government are over-standardization, and a big controlling stick.
So here’s one for Bill to consider. Rather than Toronto becoming it’s own province, Grey and Bruce counties could become a province instead. Think of all the fun. We could have a big naming contest so that visitors wouldn’t think we’re named after a grey haired dude named Bruce, the provincial capital could be Bognor or maybe Pinkerton, and if Bill sticks around long enough he could be Premier. And since we’d have almost the same population as PEI, would could send 3 stuffed shirts to Ottawa instead of 1 1/2.
As crazy as it sounds, it’s an idea that has been proposed seriously before, most recently at the LocalMotiveProject.com. What do you say Bill?
But time’s a wastin’. Back to the sap.