Canada: Where 'wants' will always trump 'needs'

Jamie MacMaster (originally published in The Landowner magazine)

Weezie and I spent a nice June morning touring the streets of Upper Canada Village seated in a wagon behind a team of Canadian horses, with our friend and fellow Glengarrian, Murray Howes, at the reins. When our sight-seeing was over, we decided to have dinner in the on-site tavern, where one can enjoy pioneer fare in colonial surroundings.

As we waited for our order, Weezie recounted the time from her childhood when she had gone with her parents to Le Village de Séraphin in the Laurentians. The village was constructed as a pre-confederation habitant settlement for the 1970's television production Les Belles Histoires des pays d'en haut – which enjoyed a loyal following in French Canada.

The Secours family arrived on site just as the fresh bread was exiting the outdoor oven, and overpowered by the aroma, Maman Evelyn wanted to buy a fresh loaf. But Papa Isidore, ever the practical fellow (and presumably keeper of the funds) would have none of it: "Bien Evelyn, you don't need that." The end result was that Evelyn went home angry and hungry, and poor Isidore endured a period of matrimonial pout, which (if anything like his daughter's) must have made the price of that loaf denied seem like a missed opportunity for eternal salvation.

Our beer arrived just as Weezie finished her little histoire, and I commented favourably on the old-style glasses with the Upper Canada Brewing Co. logo in raised relief. The waiter announced that the mugs were available for a modest price, and I told him I'd take a few. As he scooted off to check the inventory, an admonishment arose from across the table: "Jamie, really, as if you need that!" The timing of her outburst (and if I may say so, the quality of my rejoinder) was exquisite: "Eh! Reste tranquille, Isidore!" As they say in these parts, "De happle, she doan fall far from da tree, No Sir!" So we had a good laugh and went home with the glasses: a petty extravagance for which we incurred no debt or discomfort.

The preceding is a lesson in parsimony, prioritizing, and common sense that our governments and most of our population just can't get – and only yesterday my good friend Merle fired me off yet another email that proves it. In this province, where it can take up to 11 months to get an MRI; where our credit score is approaching that of Greece; where housing starts are forecasted to fall another 5 percent this year; where our trade deficit (bad enough at 5 per cent of GDP ) took yet another blow in the last four months as our international trade deficiency increased to $8.1 billion from $7.1 billion – yes, in this province, our leaders are responding to this deteriorating state of affairs by….get this…declaring that any puddle that has more than twenty tadpoles or one nesting black duck will be designated as 'significant habitat' and will be protected for a 120 meter radius. That's a bit over 11 acres of land folks – more than half an acre per polliwog or one acre per duck egg.

Roll that wheelchair forward! Deb Matthews has just carved months of your cancer treatments! Dwight Duncan (he who endorsed $100 civil servant lunches as good for the economy) has environmentally exorcised the economic devils that plague us! Praise to McGuinty! It was all predicted: And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid…and the bulls shall chase out the bears…and a little child shall lead them. Oh well, at least you got the last part right, Isaiah.

And just to show us that Harper & Co. have a steady hand on our federal Johnson bar, Heritage Minister James Moore's response to the revelation that 100,000 taxpayer dollars had bankrolled the production of a rap-video that glorified the Taliban and applauded the slaughter of Canadian troops should soothe all our fears. Gentle Jimmy belatedly tweeted that the dispersal of (our) contributions "did not meet the conditions of funding…we expect measures will be taken in response."

Gosh, we're breathless, Jimmy! Whaddaya mean? No more funding of pro-Taliban rappers? No more funding of musicians…perhaps even all artists? Are you (dare we think) only minutes away from declaring that your Heritage Ministry is really a worse-than-useless construct designed to divert tax-payer dollars to satisfy the wants of a parasitical few at the expense of the needs of the many? You think?

Not a bloody chance. And with an ever-increasing percentage of Canadians lip-locked on the public teat; personal debt-levels at an all-time high; and no widespread demands for the necessary chops, our politicians can be relied upon to act exactly as their Greek counterparts did when the alarms went off in Athens years ago. They will cover their ears and eyes, keep their mouths shut and focus on their re-election. After all, politics is nothing but the acquisition and retention of power.

Grab your parachutes, folks. It's going to be a long ride down.



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