Plus ça change

by Rob Bredin, Orangeville Citizen

It may take the political winds of change in Ontario on October 6 to resolve this damaging, deleterious, despond-making situation fully, formally, finally.

What has been attempted and started by the McGuinty Liberals with these noisome, noisy wind turbines quite closely resembles what was known as “contract farming” in France during the 1700s (an inequitable, state diktat/ near-monopoly-of-provision system then that resulted eventually in popular unrest, to say the least).

Having had my car serviced in Orangeville recently, and departing the garage, I heard a soft voice call out my name.  Turning, a man, Terry, wearing neat automotive maintenance attire, said to me gently, but with a touch of sadness, that he was glad of, and grateful for, the writing I had been doing about wind concerns upcounty in Dufferin.

I replied that I found that the Citizen’s omni-capable, old style, fair-minded, even-handed Wes Keller was really on top of this issue.

From my own point of view, I told Terry, the thought of siting industrial-scale wind turbines amongst populations had been illadvised, broadly speaking.

(Energy Minister Brad Duguid is not having them erected, for example, in/adjacent to the tonier parts of his Scarborough riding).

And that it struck me that the current Premier of Ontario — our very own political version of a nice to look at but unpaid for McHappy Meal® — had been trying to ingratiate himself, to buy popularity, and to solicit votes from rural and farming communities in south-central areas of the Province where he was traditionally none too popular, in the form of a pay-out for them from an unlikely, but “Green” source.

It was also seen as a political windfall for him and his slick, cool, urban-centric Liberals, who may yet know the difference between a cow and a bull, while they, themselves, specialize in “Bull”, which last they know all too well.

Further, I commented that I thought that, had one been interested in massing towering wind turbines as had been done with 133 (thus far) in previously sedate Melancthon Township — a gyrating army of eyesores at best, a blighting of landscape, vista and lives at worst — other sites were available.

For example, decommissioning a sprawling military base in Simcoe County, such as Base Borden, in a leasing agreement with the Federal Government, would have been a better bet by far for siting hundreds of these ungainly, hulking, inefficient, unreliable, acutely annoying, relatively low megawatt (in the greater power generation scheme of things for Ontario) producers.

And it turns out that the Canadian Army, with its smallish number of actual soldiers, is overstocked, and over-based with “$20-billion worth of realty assets across” Canada, some 30 per cent in excess of optimal requirements (Senator Colin Kenny, National Post, 26/08/11).

Terry concluded by saying that he appreciated all the efforts made by Citizen writers on this file; but, he added that — along with a score or so of other similarly affected/harmed families from North Dufferin — he and his family had been forced to live off their land (some 95 acres) for the past two-and-a-half years due to adverse health effects caused by the excessively close positioning to his home of a “hydro” transformer substation. (It was closer than even the Green Energy Act, which came upon the scene after-the-fact rather disgracefully, allows under the officially delineated “setback”.)

It may take the political winds of change in Ontario on October 6 to resolve this damaging, deleterious, despond-making situation fully, formally, finally.

What has been attempted and started by the McGuinty Liberals with these noisome, noisy wind turbines quite closely resembles what was known as “contract farming” in France during the 1700s (an inequitable, state diktat/ near-monopoly-of-provision system then that resulted eventually in popular unrest, to say the least).

In the basics of life for the populace of France, the French government – essentially a narrow, unaccountable elite – set prices on the order of 10 times higher for day-to-day necessities like salt, for example. Salt, under the old regime, could only be procured from the government’s direct agents/agencies who were known, colloquially, as “the Farmers-General.”

Like economizing, hardpressed Ontarians who open, bemusedly, alarmedly, dejectedly, their hydro bills to find as much as 60 per cent or more of these as either tax(es) or irreducible fees/charges/debt-servicing beyond the basic cost of this necessity and beyond their (our) ability to lower whatsoever, the French common folk had to have their salt to both preserve their meats and to season their foods that these might not lose their savour, so to speak.

These ‘farmers’ even went as far as erecting a customs wall entirely around Paris to preserve their highly-prized and -priced monopoly (reminiscent of what Samsung has been offered, and salient to what nouveau corporate smoothies, like one Ernie Eves, are getting into gravy-wise). In his mesmerizing work, Citizens (1989), top British historian Simon Schama wrote:

“Even had the Farmers not had the right to set the price of salt, the sheer bureaucratic weight of its official distribution would have enormously increased its price.

Few households could have conceived of doing without this most basic commodity, but they were not even given the possibility of forgoing it, since they were legally required to buy a minimum annual amount, determined by individual assessment. Captive to this astonishing system of control and taxation, the hard-pressed consumer had one way out, albeit an illegal one: smuggling (for which activity, if one was caught, meant life in the galleys)…. Salt could be had across the border … at almost 10 times less than the Farmers’ (who held multi-year, exclusivist contracts from the French government) price ….” (p.74)

Sound familiar? “Plus ca change…”, as the French say.

Ontarians are beginning to stir, restively now, in our loyal but quietly determined ways, against years of government impositions, impostures, and impots, which I believe is a French word for taxes.

2 thoughts on “Plus ça change

  1. The shame of this entire issue is that McGuinty, Smitherman, Gerretsen, Wilkinson and Duguid stand stoically behind the harm and the community turmoil created by this green policy.
    They sit back watching the destruction of rural Ontario and denying their role in it, while some reporters encourage the further ravaging of already destroyed families.
    Any reporter (not Mr. Bredin but a colleague of his from the same paper) who promotes continuing harm to neighbours in his community and via a community newspaper should be canned. I cannot believe owners of the paper allows this to happen week after week after week, especially with the black and white evidence placed in front of all of them.(Unless that is the publishers have some interest in the project themselves which may be the case.)
    Thanks Rob Bredin for your article but to say Wes Keller is fairminded and even-handed is just plain wrong.

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