Montreal, December 20, 2003  /  No 135  
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Randy Hillier lives in Carleton Place, Ontario, and is President of the Lanark landowners association.
Read other articles in QL's Archives on URBAN AND REGIONAL ISSUES
by Randy Hillier
          Without question, the road to Canada's high standard of living and democracy was originally paved by the rural economy. Our forefathers cultivated a lifestyle of individual liberty, independence, and self-reliance through sustainable fishing, farming, and forestry. The harvest was prosperity, mutual respect, and good government. However, Canada's prosperous rural economy is crumbling and under attack from urban socialism and the weight of government deception. 
          The rural lifestyle and economy is being abandoned on the long march to the City of Dependence. The few rural people who remain are invisible and are Canada's newest minority group, but without charter protection or political representation. Although the rural economy continues to fuel our standard of living, it won't last long. Canada's food production feeds many but is falling, and dependence on food imports rise every year. For over two hundred years, the forestry industry created employment and wealth, supplying local and foreign markets, but is rapidly disappearing. And Canada's 500-year-old fishery died a slow and painful fifty-year death of government euthanasia. The Atlantic fishery and maritime way of life was lost in one generation, replaced with a coffin of welfare, and nailed shut with the government handouts and control. Governments are crafting more coffins of regulations for the rural economy and lifestyle that still survives, but this is for the "public good." 
          Although the rural economy employs many, most people are unaware how urban regulations intended to protect society actually destroy the rural foundation society rests on. It's difficult to see the rural landscape or understand the problems from a distant high-rise condo in Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto. The maze of government legislation obscures the view with municipal amalgamations, buffer zones, species at risk, firearm registries, loss of property rights, etc. The silent sawmills, and unproductive farmland, are unseen and unheard from the supermarket aisles, or Home Depots' cashier, but are a rural reality. 
Blitzkrieg of regulations 
          The forestry industry is facing a blitzkrieg of environmental regulations and closings. The Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) is leading the charge, but municipal and federal governments are in reserve. MOE SWAT teams seek out rural sawmills and burden them with large fines and expensive work orders, and demand sawmills hire consultants, engineer work plans, and drill test wells, which cost tens of thousands of dollars. The offence is bark, mulch, and sawdust piles. Many sawmills can't afford the financial and administrative burden and lay off employees, stop buying logs and new equipment, and reduce their overhead and maintenance costs. Four Eastern Ontario mills closed this year and more will follow, felled by a bureaucracy that could not see that their forest of regulations would chop down this branch of rural prosperity. Environmental chains of bureaucratic ignorance have shackled rural loggers and millwrights to rural unemployment lines and business closings.  
          Maple sugar producers are also in the line of fire as municipalities reassess bush lots as "industrial operations," resulting in a six hundred percent tax increase for many. The cost can't be absorbed or passed onto the consumer. Another prosperous limb must be amputated from the rural economy to finance another branch of useless bureaucracy. In addition, new municipal tree-cutting bylaws demand landowners apply, and receive bureaucratic approval to manage and harvest timber from private land. For two hundred years, rural people have sustained a lifestyle as stewards of the lands, but their first-hand experience and practical knowledge is obsolete in the face of bureaucratic incompetence.  
          Rural meat packers are slaughtered with low quality government inspectors and regulations, as Canadians equate bureaucratic inspections and standards with quality or safety; however, this stamp of approval doesn't guaranty either. Competition and choice are the only true means to insure quality, and when competition falls, so does quality, but costs soar. Inspection agencies constantly increase the number of costly regulations to meat packers, hoping to improve quality, but the consequence is fewer plants and less competition. Expensive overregulation has closed one third of Ontario's meat packers in eight years. As the small rural packing plants close, large corporate abattoirs prosper in their place. With nearly one hundred rural meat packing plants closed, the loss to Ontario's rural economy is substantial, but not even a whisper of concern is heard in the city. The safety net of government management carves up the rural marketplace and competition, one meatpacker at a time, until there are none left. 
     « There are hundreds of regulations preventing family farms from selling their produce directly to consumers; this is in addition to marketing boards, Nutrient Management Plans, and municipal zonings restrictions which reduce the value and profits of family farms. »
          Many urbanites fear and dread intensive farm operations, but the path to factory farms is paved with the unintended consequences of government regulations. There are hundreds of regulations preventing family farms from selling their produce directly to consumers; this is in addition to marketing boards, Nutrient Management Plans, and municipal zonings restrictions which reduce the value and profits of family farms. Well-intended government regulations corrupt the marketplace and encourage factory farms that absorb regulation costs over large business volumes. New dairy farms can't start; the cost for milk quota is too prohibitive. Unlike the corporate farm, cattle and hog farmers cannot bear the cost to hire consultants to engineer Nutrient Management Plans and build sewage lagoons. Crop and cereal farmers are not permitted to protect their crops from wildlife damage, as deer forage in their fields; Walt Disney's Bambi must be protected, not the family farm. Today the only value of a family farm is as a housing subdivision to develop more habitat for urban environmentalist. 
          The common ammunition in the attacks on the rural economy are regulations that have no value to consumers, producers and society. The only purpose for these unnecessary regulations is more employment for bureaucrats, more government control of people, and a deceptive means to justify more user fees and taxation. This attack is only possible because the legal means to protect and defend individual's from government interference and injustice was compromised in Canada's court of collective society. The 1982 Constitutional loss of the right to own, use, and earn a living from private property, removed the individual's last shield of protection against the bureaucracy's weapons of mass individual destruction. 
          The hypocrisy is clear; unnecessary legislation intended to protect society and the environment remove good stewards from the land, and shatters the cornerstones of democracy. Freedom and democracy, once cultivated in the countryside, are being culled from society in the nets of red tape; and independence, prosperity, and self-reliance suffocate as the rural economy and lifestyle becomes extinct for the "public good."  
Previous articles by Randy Hillier
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