Abandonment: Then and Now

Jamie MacMaster (originally published in The Landowner magazine)

I have in my library an eight-volume set: The History of Scotland: it's Highlands, Clans and Regiments. As far as histories go, one would be hard pressed to find one with more bloodshed and betrayal than this work, authored by James Brown away back in 1913. Thousands of pages of fratricide, patricide, and internecine slaughter, spanning a period from the Roman abdication of Britain up to the routing of Prince Charlie's forces on the moors of Culloden in 1745.

At the time of publication the British Empire was at its zenith, pride ran high, and any suggestion that the ancestors of the lords and merchant barons presently pulling the strings of power had conducted themselves in less than exemplary fashion vis a vis their Scottish subjects, would not have been conducive to social acceptance or economic well-being. So it is not surprising that Brown's exhaustive work avoids mention of the greed and callous scheming that took place in the drawing rooms of Westminster and Edinburgh. It took another fifty years for John Prebble to set into print the whole story. More than English sheep, swords, or muskets, more than anything else, the dispersal of Scotland's people to the far corners of the globe was caused by one thing: the Highland Chiefs abandonment of their clansmen for privilege, power and prestige in far away London Town.

More often than not, this switching of allegiances was accomplished by the simple expedient of appealing to the Chiefs' considerable vanity. The crude despots from the hills and glens liked rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers, they were awed by the power, wealth and the fawning deference…and they wanted in. And if access to the corridors of power could only be achieved and retained by setting aside the interests of kith and kin for a generation or two, well, when you looked at the uncultured crofters from any objective perspective, the prospect of unlimited port and power in Whitehall certainly trumped a lifetime sentence with the oats-and-herring crowd in The Hebrides.

And now, for a peek at history repeating itself, fast forward a few hundred years and hop across the Atlantic to modern-day Ontario, where a sleeping, gullible and trusting population is slowly awakening to the fact that their chiefs – their mayors – have been sleeping with the enemy in Queen's Park.

In the years prior to last fall's provincial election there wasn't one mayor, from Alexandria to Atikokan, who stood up and denounced the McGuinty Government for what it was and is: an ethically bankrupt collection of fools led by a shameless liar. Where were the denunciations about the depredations of the Clean Water Act? Who among us can remember yells of outrage from any "His Worship' about the utter foolishness of the Green Energy Act? Name me one Dick Whittington wannabe who dared to call out King Dalton for the economic devastation he has visited upon Ontario.

And Ontario's mayors have no more guts in a gang than they do on an individual basis. A perusal of the press releases on the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) website in the months leading up to last year's provincial election reveals that this revered body was concerning itself with such heady stuff as, "AMO reports significant benefit from federal funds" and, "AMO's Trash Talk Ad draws attention to Waste Management Challenges". Not one word about the election or the outstanding job McGuinty had done to drive industry and prosperity out of their municipalities.

But, the day after the election, this fawning supplication: "The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) will work with Ontario's re-elected Liberal government to advance key municipal priorities that are in Ontario's best interest…AMO looks forward to working with the legislature to implement changes that AMO feels will strengthen Ontario's communities." It's enough to gag a maggot.

Now of course, with The Fibber's days in office dwindling, a few examples of saber-rattling pure are popping up – pure theatrics, of course. In February this year, about eighty municipal politicians walked out of McGuinty's keynote address at the Ontario Good Roads Association/Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference in Toronto to protest his government's wind turbine policies. But the same windmills and the same legislation and the same problems were present at last year's Good Roads Convention, so why wasn't the walkout staged then? And what silenced these eighty politicians during last fall's election campaign?

Closer to home, a Glengarry County mayor recently expressed 'outrage' over the ridiculously expensive restrictions that the latest stage of the Clean Water Act would impose on his municipality. This same politician, only a few years ago, thought that politicians should be protected from the tirades of angry Landowners demanding action to stop the very legislation that he now considered so repulsive.

But in this Dalton in Wonderland world, where investing is really divesting, and blue is just a lighter shade of red, it is probably no surprise that the hierarchy of power has been completely reversed: our municipal politicians have lost any sense that the MPs and MPPs should be dancing to the mayors' tunes, not the other way around.

It's enough to make me pick up my pipes and play a lament….a very, very old one.



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