Editorials - Jan. 13, 2023
The smell test
After receiving complaints from environmental advocacy groups over the development of the Greenbelt, the Ontario Provincial Police’s anti-rackets department has been looking into actions of Premier Doug Ford’s government to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation. The groups believe that developers were tipped off about the government’s plans to remove 15 sites, totalling more than 7,000 acres, from the protected zone in order to create more housing and then they bought them up. There was no way that the developers could know that land would ever be opened up for building, so purchasing anything within the Greenbelt would normally be purely speculative.
Even if no one from the Conservative government stands to directly profit from allowing the Greenbelt to erode, developers who support the party are poised to make record profits off of these developments and that at least warrants an investigation. Developers buying up protected green space for a song and then suddenly finding themselves able to build highly-profitable subdivisions doesn’t pass the smell test for a lot of people, so conducting an investigation to either bring someone to account or clear the air seems like the right move for everyone involved.
Whether or not anything comes from this investigation, it is important for both the public and our elected representatives to know that someone is keeping an eye on them. Politicians must be held accountable for their actions. If the public feels like the only reason to run for office is to line your pockets, eventually honest candidates will become scarce. Parties must be seen to be above rewarding contributors with favours after winning seats. Maintaining trust in our democracy is crucial in maintaining a functioning society. – DS
On the rise
In a memorable episode of HBO’s The Wire, drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield, having just secured the connection to import drugs into Baltimore, broke the news to his colleagues that the “price of the brick goin’ up.” While it may not be illegal drugs and we may not live in Baltimore, it appears that the price of the brick, for us, is going up.
Last week, Huron County Treasurer Michael Blumhagen presented, in draft form, his 10th budget since beginning work with the county. It had the grim distinction of featuring, at this point, the highest proposed increase to the tax levy in the past decade. Surely savings will be found and items will be trimmed, but that budget in itself tells a story. Labour costs, material costs, inflation and supply chain disruption are all to blame for the rising cost of everything from groceries to new vehicles and, while we’ve caught news stories about rising costs in this sector or for that commodity, it appears that costs everywhere are going up.
At its final meeting of the year, Huron East Council was faced with gravel costs that had increased by about 30 per cent when compared to last year’s costs. The municipality’s per-unit dust control costs will be $383, before taxes, this year, over $70 more than in 2022. The per-unit cost has more than doubled in five years, since it was $156 in 2018.
Blumhagen also noted that homes have not been reassessed since 2016, meaning that the recent years of rapidly rising sale prices have not yet been factored in and that those costs too will rise. The hope is that those increases will then offset the need to raise the tax levy, but, in the meantime, rising costs are manifesting themselves in just about every aspect of life. Time will tell if we can all keep up. – SL
Declining health (care)
Locally, many have felt the sting of the labour shortage in the world of health care. For years, it was nearly impossible to find a family doctor in Huron County and many people still remain unattached in that respect. In recent years, the region (and much of southwestern Ontario) has been plagued by emergency room closures and reduced hours due to a critical shortage of nurses and other health care professionals. A recent article in The Globe and Mail, however, posits that this could only be the beginning, as one in six Canadian family doctors are nearing retirement age, meaning millions of Canadians could lose their access to primary health care which only worsens the forecast of health care in this country.
“Seniors make up the fastest-growing share of family doctors, with the percentage 65 and older more than doubling to 15 per cent from 6.5 per cent over the past 20 years, according to a Globe and Mail analysis of statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). During that same period, the percentage of family doctors between the ages of 40 and 49 shrank to 22.6 per cent from 34 per cent, a legacy of cuts to medical school enrolment more than two decades ago,” reads The Globe and Mail story.
So, what we’ve been experiencing here in Huron County could be just the beginning. Doctor and health care recruitment efforts have been ongoing for years, but it has always been a difficult job. Action needs to be taken now to fill holes left by retiring professionals to ensure the longevity of the Canadian health care system. – SL