July 15
City folks don't understand rural Ontario

I'm a small-town kid. Always have been, always will be. And it's just the way I like it.
Born in a town of 20,000 in northwestern Quebec, Val D'Or, I did my high school years in North Bay, population 50,000.

It was in North Bay as a teen that I received my first real exposure to city snobbery. By the way, people who engage in being city snobs outside their urban safety nets are, and this is a great term provided to me by a friend in Bobcaygeon a few years ago, citiots (think of a blend of "city" and "idiots").

Anyway, the city folks up visiting us in Marten River, nearly an hour north of North Bay, said they didn't know how people could handle living full time in northern Ontario.

"There's nothing to do here."

I laughed at them, grabbed the dangling rope, swung out over the river and splashed in.

Nothing to do? Swimming, fishing, hiking, target shooting, hunting, canoeing, camping, you name it. Yeah, nothing to do.

Post secondary education gave me all the exposure to urban life I wanted and needed, between time spent in Hamilton and Toronto at university and college.

A couple of weeks interning at the Toronto Sun was all the time I needed to know I did not want to work in downtown T. O., unless absolutely necessary.

I don't understand why people love living there. A city is a nice place to visit, but . . .

Hence the differing opinions of people entrenched in urban life compared to those of us in small-town Ontario. We go to the cities to visit, the cityfolk escape to the smaller communities.

They walk down their streets, eyes on the ground in front of them, afraid to make eye contact with most anyone around them, while we saunter along, saying hello to passersby.

Excellent examples of the disconnect between big-city Ontario and its small-town counterparts come thanks to the actions of a couple of consulting firms who fell flat on their faces here.

First up was the Hay Group, whose Canadian head offices are in, you guessed it, Toronto.

The Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network tasked the firm with examining the state of health care in three rural hospitals in the LHIN's realm of oversight. As the resulting report recommended closing the emergency rooms in Sydenham District Hospital in Wallaceburg and Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital in Petrolia, the backlash in those communities was immediate, extreme, unrelenting, and very accurate.

Too bad the report had so many flaws. Doctors, municipal politicians and hospital staff shredded the report, saying patient numbers and travel times were woefully inaccurate.

Big-city consultants failed to properly understand rural Ontario.

And most recently, we had the Veritas debacle. A senior consultant with Toronto-based Veritas Communications Canada -- a company hired by the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance -- contacted Conservative MP Bev Shipley's office in an attempt to dig up "revealing or insightful" information -- dirt -- on former Liberal opponent Jeff Wesley. The head of Save Our Sydenham had provided "some stiff opposition" to his company's client, the spin doctor told Shipley's people via e-mail.

The person contacted in Shipley's office was none other than Pat Davis, who has known Wesley since they were kids. The information immediately went to Wesley, and he in turn contacted this newspaper.

Talk about the wrong way to contact a public leader.

That's another not-so-shining example of a big-city gaffe in small-town Ontario. People who are political opponents here generally don't let their differing opinions delete friendships.

Furthermore, the best way to find out what makes a person tick is to talk to them directly.

Citiots. We're stuck battling them at every turn, because their narrow-minded one-size-fits-all approach to things affect us all the time, from the questionable consultant hirings by local health officials, to the decisions made at Queen's Park and enacted by a bureaucracy made up mainly of, wait for it, citiots.

Don't get me wrong. I don't abhor everyone and everything coming out of urban centres such as Toronto. Most residents there are great folks. Heck, they're Canadians.

It's the group of snobs who think they know what's best for everyone in the province without spending much time away from their steel-and-concrete jaded lives who bother me.

Mutual respect can go a long way.

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