Wanderings – Tinsel and other grievances of the year

The secular holiday of Festivus was invented by an American author named Daniel O’Keefe and was popularized in a 1997 episode of the TV show Seinfeld. While this is normally celebrated on December 23, for the purposes and topic of this column, I think it is more appropriate in the lull between Christmas and New Year. According to the show, the Festivus celebration dinner begins with the “Airing of Grievances” where you tell those around the table all the ways they’ve disappointed you this past year.

Inspired by Jerry Stiller’s iconic comedic performance as the character Frank Costanza, and seeing a number of topics hanging around at the end of 2023 that are disappointing to say the least, I present my Airing of Grievances. Please note – no family made this list, there will be no feats of strength and yes, I do find tinsel distracting.

Political mailings – These slick-looking publications from local Members of Parliament still grace our mailboxes from coast-to-coast-to-coast. While they are fully recyclable (see Kent) they are mailbox clutter, and filled with political partisanship. I thought local MPs, once elected, represented all constituents equally? MP mailings are printed using tax dollars from all Canadians, and mailed using an MPs parliamentary mailing privileges – also paid by us. All to put in our recycling box. What a waste.

Municipal tax increases – I don’t know many people who would agree with the statement that a 5.5 per cent tax increase is “reasonable.”

It appears the days are long-gone when municipal politicians would challenge staff to keep property tax increases to an absolute minimum. Being known for great roads doesn’t help those families who struggle deciding whether to pay their rent or buy groceries. Why hold off on buying five new vehicles in a year, when a “reasonable” 5.5 or 4.36 per cent tax increase will keep that fleet in tip-top repair. I write this having spent another tidy sum of money to keep my 12 year old vehicle going another year. Whom may I “reasonably” tax to buy a new vehicle?

House prices – I find it difficult not laughing when I see the prices of houses out there. Homes that – without much additional work – are priced at double the sale price they were five years ago. I get that we do not see what the final sale price is often and that may in-fact be lower than the astronomical asking price – but come on. Asking for the moon, the sun, and the stars for a house that has never been updated or that needs a lot of work, is asking too much. Realistic expectations have gone out the window I think – if you can afford one of those.

Closures – The announced closure of our local utility office is definitely a grievance to be aired. Less may be more, but when it comes to a utility owned by the residents who use it, less is just less. Decision-makers often don’t see the real benefit of having that local connection. There is a balance between operating as a business and being a service to residents. I expect this type of action from a private business, not from a utility owned by residents.

Closures again – Running out to the store to get something is a lot more difficult since COVID-19 restrictions lifted. Many retailers have not readjusted their hours to pre-pandemic hours. Or even worse, further cut back on their hours. Yes, there are likely good “business cases” for cutting hours. That doesn’t do me any good when I realize I am out of something, or I work on a home reno project during my free time on a Sunday. There is an argument to be made for me planning ahead, but one cannot plan for intangible mess ups and breakages. Having to drive 30-40 minutes out of my way only adds salt into the wound.

Rental prices – Like many families, I worry about my kids and how they are going to be able to live on their own and afford rent. It goes without saying that many entry level career jobs do not go far to cover the cost of rent or living. I worry because of the anxiety they are having looking at this problem. What solutions proposed seem like stop-gap measures or ill-thought out ideas not based in fact.

Political egos – I don’t care if the politicians’ last name is Trudeau, Poilievre, Ford, or Crombie – cut it out with the blustering egos. Do they really know what Canadians or Ontarians want? I don’t think they do. I know what I want – solutions. Not double-speak. Not partisan babble-speak. Proper plans to fix issues within the respective government level’s purview that have budgets, time lines, and goals.

No one needs to see 15 minute propaganda videos on YouTube, or stump speeches with colourful socks – both devoid of fact or solutions. Deal with the issues, find solutions, work – don’t babble or chest thump.

In closing – Reflecting on my list from 2022, it seems little has changed. Maybe those who are in important authority positions read these grievances and act accordingly. Otherwise, they too may make the list this time next year.

Happy New Year?

This column was originally published in the December 27, 2023 print edition of The Morrisburg Leader.