Happy Saturday morning:

introspective thoughts about life in the north woods and beyond:

“Up here – or do we say down? (After reading Virginia Woolf I think we’d better say down.)” ~ Melvyn Bragg

Hey-ho, I just knew it would come to this, a bit of elaboration on what my neighbors say, and what I see occurring, in this gorgeous part of the world. And with a little reflection, just possibly something that is also occurring in our own country; piece by piece, bit by bit.

To all four members of my readership: now I am going to have a second mug of coffee to allow for a few more contemplative moments. This will be a single topic Rambling; that much I do know.

“Circle the wagons boys” – was the cry when the westward bound settlers feared an attack. The photo below is the modern version of a wagon circle. What’s going on that caused people to circle their 21st century ‘wagons’? Let’s discuss.

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For many years a prosperous Ontario was the surging manufacturing engine of Canada. Yet, these days it’s reliant on revenues from other provinces to maintain; especially the oil dollars from Alberta. What has happened?

Perhaps it’s a number of factors. However, one cause jumps out. Canada and especially the province of Ontario have tilted towards socialism. As Lady Thatcher liked to put it; it’s a style of government which thrives on spending other people’s money. But, what then after other people’s money runs out? The new direction is definitely feel good stuff, and thus spreads, as the song says; “like pancake batter.”

One result of Ontario’s directional change is that as government largesse grew more and more people have become more and more dependent. And with dependence comes compliancy.

First of all I love the Canadians. The most decent people you will ever want to meet; friendly eh? However, over several generations the path towards socialism has fostered an attitude of acceptance. I just cannot envision Canadians ever demanding change to the point where they would grab torches and pitchforks and storm the ‘castle’.

Over the years, Ontario’s government has introduced itself into everyone’s existence. Private sector entities are government owned and operated; think entities as divergent as from the electric company to the neighborhood liquor store.

Regulations have also become more prevalent, intrusive, and over-reaching. These changes have seen manufacturing flee Ontario. Sound somewhat familiar?

Taxes have risen and continue to rise. As a sampling, our recent electric bill reflects the period including just a few days after Northern Comfort opened for the season – power had just been switched on and so actual electric usage cost was less than $5.00; add taxes, fees, and charges and the total bill was around $90.00. Need I continue?

Government generosity and regulation are not free. As manufacturing and therewith employment shrinks the revenue stream needs to increase. It’s a vicious cycle.

A small sampling of how all this stuff translates into reality; last evening I purchased a little food; $2.88 for a smallish head of cabbage and $3.99 for a pound bag of frozen Peas. Need some fuel? Regular gasoline (converted from liters into gallons) is $5.699 per gallon – $205 for a fill-up on the F150. The government beer store Summer Special for a case of Coors was touted as only $45.95.

Now stay with me, this just noted argument will answer my original posit.

The first to be affected by any shrinkage are the most fragile, especially the remote rural areas. Our nearest town, Thessalon, was once a bustling place as the photo from a hundred years ago shows. Today the streets are empty, many storefronts are vacant. Gone are hotel, Movie Theater, and several restaurants. This summer the last town gas station closed. Entering the town’s city limits a sign touts 1400 people –I don’t believe it’s a number which been seen in years.

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A little way beyond Thessalon is Bruce Mines – population 400. Last week’s newspaper devoted space to a joyful announcement; “a new resident has joined us….” Young folk are moving away and few replace. As more and more local citizens are dependent on public assistance drug use is increasing, alcoholism likewise. These are dying communities.

The search for new forms of revenue takes some crazy forms and turns. Insidious ‘taxes’ such as adding ‘workers’ to the crews of a government owned business. What a scheme, provide employment and at the same time pass the resultant rate increase to every customer. This little trick is seen at many work sites; “crews grow as work slows”. My neighbor watched the replacement of a power pole (Hydro-pole in these parts) become a four day event – as Marcia once overheard; “the longer you sit, the harder it gets.”

This area is stunningly beautiful; spectacular valleys with farms and fields about as green as they can get. Magnificent ancient granite cliffs jut out, and the deep, cold, lakes absolutely inviting. This should be a flourishing area, no ifs or buts. But here even the tourist industry is affected as people react to a big progressive government’s myriad of new regulations with their; “can’t do this, can’t do that, must do this, and shan’t do that” edicts.

Have a small mental lapse and the indiscretion will cost you; no warnings, pay the full amount please. A few kilometers over the limit and it’s the OPP’s payday with a fine of hundreds. Forgot a safety item on the boat? Payday for the MNR as the ticket now jumps to several hundred. The MNR’s big dollar jackpot occurs if you get caught on an after-dinner pontoon cruise and your guests happen to be enjoying some cake and a glass of Malbec.

Finally, add a blanket “all coverage” tax to every item and every service – to the tune of 14%. Make it so that even an item bought at auction is taxed. Sell your old John boat to a friend? When it’s registered a friendly request for 14% of the purchase price will come to your door.

The prudent local citizens have managed to establish a thriving grey economy which bypasses the over the counter purchases. But it’s not enough.

This leads me back to my “circling of the wagons” question which I began with. See I told you it would all come together.

As pointed out, this area has seen a dramatic increase of dependent-on-government folk at the low end of the economic scale. Logically this then accounts for many older cars being on the road; and older cars are less fuel efficient. The “efficiency” factor comes into play since distances to anywhere are huge; from Northern Comfort a trip to the Home Depot is easily a 1½ hour drive—one way. And remember, gasoline in Canada is currently $5.69 per gallon. It’s almost too much; desperation can result in reprehensible deeds, including theft.

Next to us is a small landing used by nine residents whose cabins are off the grid. They park their cars there while they boat to their places. Last week someone’s fuel tank was siphoned empty.

See how now their vehicles are now cleverly parked to prevent access to the fuel tanks? Circle the wagons boys!

Animal Planet – I suspect it’s a coincidence, but this week I happened to read a copy of Canadian Geographic. And what article caught my eye? It was a piece on the ongoing research on the “boom and bust” cycles of the northern tundra Lemming populations.

Do Lemmings commit mass suicide – a myth. Lemmings being integral to the survival of any number of other species such as the Snowy Owl, Artic Fox, Hawks, Jaegers, Gulls and Weasels – it’s true.

Reasons for the ‘bust’ cycle; no one is sure. A variety of reasons including sun spots have been put forward. Not noted as a theory is one which makes reference to a style of government (that’s a light-hearted comment folks).

Fini – Two evenings ago a young man blew his car through a barrier and into the Mississagi River. When Paul and I came to the scene half the car was submerged and the driver had drowned. Accidents are split-second events – stay alert, stay safe.

There, I’m done, now to put my feet up, listen to the woodpecker beat on the roof and ease back to as radio host Imus would say; “suck on a stalk of organic Kale.”

Happy birthday Pieter, many more; do enjoy the super moon tonight!

Cheers.
Dirk

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