There's no transit at all in Pottersville


If you haven't seen it yet, do try to catch the Brockville Theatre Guild's production of It's a Wonderful Life.

Then try to imagine what Brockville would look like were it transformed into Pottersville.

For those who aren't familiar with the show, Pottersville is the dystopian version of Bedford Falls shown to George Bailey when he wishes he had never been born.

It's what happens when the money-grubbing Scrooge figure Henry Potter is allowed to take over the town unopposed.

Potter is your uber-Republican type, the kind of guy who would consider the Tea Party a little too leftie for his taste, and would call Stephen Harper a socialist.

Early in the play, he tries to shut down Bailey's Building and Loan because poor people should not entertain foolish dreams of home ownership. And when he takes over the town, what once was a housing development is turned into a graveyard.

Thankfully, no one in Brockville is poised to transform this city into Pottersville, but Mr. Potter's brand of wheelchair crankiness can be found in the odd expression here and there.

It's not so much the existence of a physical Henry Potter in town, as a Henry Potter state of mind.

It crept up most recently in the vigorous online debate about a motion to extend transit services to weekday evening hours.

Debating whether the city can afford to extend the exiting transit service is one thing. Debating whether or not people who don't have cars should be forced to walk in the dark, however, is a Potter state of mind.

One can almost hear Jim Perkins's rendition of the crusty villain, for instance, in one commenter's suggestion that the two most vocal proponents of extending transit hours, Councillor Leigh Bursey and transportation supervisor Valerie Harvey, pay for poorer people's taxi fare out of their own pockets rather than forcing taxpayers to cover transit.

Yes, how dare the rabble ask us to help them get to work or the doctor's by subsidizing transit?

Well, because we have not yet reached the age of Pottersville, where any municipal services that do not generate a profit are eliminated. In that town, hockey arenas are only available to people willing to fork over a healthy admission price. The rich pay for their own roads and sewers and the poor live on rat-infested inner-city gravel roads.

And don't get me started on health care...

When we do get to that point, some people will be happy, but most of us will no longer recognize what we once knew as “Canada.”

Valerie Harvey has a point: there are some municipal services that make cities cities, things like buses, snow clearing, sewer and water pipes, arenas, outdoor rinks and arts centres.

Were these things profitable, they would be in the hands of the private sector already.

And were they indeed wasteful and unnecessary, they would be gone already.

Because when Mayor David Henderson goes on at length about the city's strategic plan, he is not talking about a strategic plan to make more cars, tablets or tomato cans and sell them at a better price than the competition.

And he is not talking about which Brockvillians to lay off, with their citizenships outsourced to Asia, to improve the bottom line.

He is talking about a strategic plan to make Brockville a better city, the kind of city people will want to live in – without which there is no job-creation, no economic activity, to begin with.

Debates about the cost of services and their efficiency are always important, but we must never lose sight of the fact there are services municipalities must provide because their job is not to be Fortune 500 firms, but to be cities.

Here's another word for it:Civilization.