by Dan Wrightman
In 1999 a friend of mine was planning to drive his truck to Costa Rica and asked if I could travel with him. Being young and knowing I might never get another opportunity to travel this way, I immediately said yes and we left for Central America in early December.
I had previously travelled by truck in northern Mexico, so I had an inkling of what to expect, but both of us were taken aback by the corruption we encountered on the Mexican roadways. It became obvious that as soon as we encountered any government authority through a traffic stop or a police checkpoint that we would be getting pulled aside and some of the first words out of the officer’s mouth would invariably be “Cafe/Soda?”
The game was this: the authorities would declare that they would have to search our vehicle for contraband, but that they would let us pass if we gave them ten pesos (enough at that time to buy a coffee or a pop).
The first time this happened, we refused, and the subsequent search of our truck stuffed full of tools and appliances took up an hour of valuable travelling time. Afterwards we just paid. On average we were pulled over three to four times a day in Mexico. We were frustrated and upset, not only by the cost, but by the abuse of power by government authorities. We felt sorry for what the people living there had to deal with on a daily basis.
Seventeen years have passed and I am astonished to recognize that we now have a government in Ontario that treats it’s own citizens in the same way. Multiple times a year the Ontario Energy Board announces a rate increase to our hydro bills, and each time it is minimized by declaring it as only a cup of coffee a month.
The billion dollar gas plant scandal is rationalized by our government as only costing a coffee a year for 20 years but that strains credulity, considering that the Green Energy Act was supposed to only cost us a cup of coffee and a muffin a month for 20 years.
The Ontario Retirement Pension Plan is being sold as only costing us a coffee a day.
We can see a pattern here, we have a government that is constantly bringing us new coffee “requests” that can’t be refused. While one coffee a month for one rate increase may be palatable, it becomes a financial burden when we have a steady stream of (coffee a month) rate increases added on several times a year, annually.
Most of us are frustrated and angry, but we pay our bills because the inconvenience of a house without electricity is unimaginable, but unfortunately for some the price has become too high.
How did we get here and how do we get out of this?
Unconscionable government spin doctoring combined with lazy and complacent media reporting have played a large role in how we got here.
As for getting out of this mess, there are no easy answers, but I should note that the last state we drove through in Mexico was Chiapas, which at that time in 1999, was still experiencing an indigenous insurgency by the Zapitistas. We were expecting a heavy military presence, but surprisingly there were no more checkpoints and no more bribes to pay.
Perhaps we just lucked out and hit things at the right time, but it felt more likely that the authorities knew the locals were not in the mood to put up with any more government coffee “requests”.