(Everything I do) - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Reading Denny’s story on Brian and Annette MacKenzie from our special issue on the Huron County Plowing Match reminded me of an ever-present cloud that has hung over Huron County for the last two decades: amalgamation.
The MacKenzies, both on their second marriage, merged a number of farm properties when they married. They called their home farm Amalgamation Acres as a way of “taking it back” and putting a positive spin on the idea of amalgamation, which had been much maligned at the time.
Whether you think amalgamation was a good idea (I have yet to find this person - so, if you see me on the street, do introduce yourself) or a bad idea, it does feel like life and time in Huron County is measured in terms of B.A. (Before Amalgamation - not to be confused with Canadian musician Bryan Adams) and A.A. (After Amalgamation - not to be confused with being a friend of Bill W.).
Admittedly, I wasn’t here B.A. I was living my life in the Greater Toronto Area, between high school and college, depending on the actual date of amalgamation. From what I’ve heard, however, life B.A. was pretty sweet.
B.A. (which can only be heard in my brain in the voice of a woman emphatically yelling out Adams’ initials at an unrelated, very quiet concert in Waterloo when his name was mentioned in passing on stage) things seemed like they were smaller and more grassroots.
As I prepare “Looking Back Through the Years” every week or speak to people who are old enough to vividly remember those times, it sounded like there were a lot of smaller village and township offices, smaller councils full of qualified local leaders handling manageable workloads and making grounded decisions.
Sure, things just cost a lot more these days, so every decision, it feels like, results in hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent, but there was a localized feel to it all B.A.
Now, or A.A., (and I won’t get into the quality of those stepping forward in search of council seats - some are respectable, others, not so much) it all can feel very corporate. As someone who talks to many of these people for a living, whether it be local politicians or municipal employees, I feel as though I woke up one day about five years ago and everyone had an assistant; that calling someone directly was falling by the wayside. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn down an assistant, but I think you know what I mean here.
Then there are the marriages of inconvenience between villages, townships and towns that really have no business being lumped in with one another, aside from the fact that they are located beside one another; kind of like three or four neighbouring couples that just get forced to live in the same house.
North Huron and Central Huron are perhaps the best examples of this. They both have a town (Wingham and Clinton) and a very rural township (East Wawanosh and Hullett Township). Then North Huron has a village well known for the arts in Blyth and Central Huron has lakefront property in Goderich Township. Governing those three areas in either municipality with a one-size-fits-all approach has to be utterly impossible. And yet, here we are, all trying our best to do so.
B.A., what went on in Wingham was of no concern to those in Blyth and vice versa. Now, however, one always has to wonder how the state of the other will affect its tax bill.
A lot of things changed on that fateful day amalgamation came into effect and it does feel like a turning point for Huron County.