This morning I set forth to the village of Lion’s Head, to run some errands and spend the fruits of my pensions, provided (old age pension), administered (Canada Pension Plan), or enabled (RRSP) by the people of Canada, through their government. Before I even left the house, therefore, my journey was already anchored in public services.
I turned out of my driveway onto the road, ploughed, also constructed and maintained, by the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula, in which I reside. I paused to check for mail, brought to me through the efforts of a chain of public servants employed by a Crown Corporation, Canada Post, delivered to my rural box by the last links in the chain, who are also a couple of my neighbours.
At the end of my road I turned onto a highway constructed, recently re-paved and maintained by contractors hired by the Province of Ontario, and then onto a road similarly provided by the County of Bruce. Along the way I passed an ambulance, speeding to some emergency, and a member of the Ontario Provincial Police, on patrol for malefactors, hazards to public security, or people in need, both these vehicles and their personnel being provided by a collaborative arrangement among levels of government the exact details of which escape me.
When I got to Ferndale I stopped at the recycling depot, another municipal service, and then on to the Lion’s Head Public Library, a service of the County. The bank where I went for some cash is a public company, sternly regulated by the Government of Canada to ensure it remains solvent for my benefit and reasonably honest in its dealings. The local grocery store is a private enterprise, of course, but I was aware that I could read lists of ingredients on labels, and rest reasonably assured that my groceries were bug-free, not only because my grocer runs a clean operation, but also due to the efforts of regulators and inspectors perhaps both federal and provincial, and had been washed in clean water from the new water treatment plant operated by the Municipality and paid for by three levels of government.
Passing the school, of the kind that served me and my children so well in the past and continues to serve my hopes for the future, I stopped at the hospital where I left a sample of blood, skillfully drawn in a public hospital by a public person, in response to the prescription of a doctor working in a public medical system. I visited the drug store to collect some pills and left without paying a dime, thanks to the Provincial pill-paying provision for people my age, topped up by my own medical insurance.
My last errand took me to the Liquor Store, a service of the Government of Ontario, perhaps not essential but certainly convenient and lucrative.
I drove home thinking how irritated I would be when, sometime in June, some band of tunnel-visioned pin-heads would assure me that I should rejoice because we had arrived at “tax freedom day”.
I write this little travelogue not only to celebrate our wealth of public services, for which we must pay if we wish to maintain their quality and allow them their just measure of improvement, but to remind you that our “government” does not consist in the petty and partisan bickering of our legislators and their henchmen, followed so obsessively by our news media, but in the skilled work of legions of our neighbours and the thousands upon thousands of operations and transactions in which they engage every day for our benefit. And because we are a democracy we can be reasonably assured that they are working for our benefit, and not for the benefit of some authoritarian power. If we think they are not we can do something about it.
Such being the case, to speak and act as if our government as a burden which we are obliged to support whether we like it or not constitutes wilful self-deception. Tax freedom day forsooth! Of course we want our public services to be efficient and not wasteful. But most of all we want them to be there when we need them.