St. Marys Journal Argus editorial
With the passage of the town’s new rules regarding Special Occasion Permits (SOPs), requiring those who organize a buck and doe at the Pyramid Recreation Centre to split their profits with the town or else face ludicrous restrictions from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), we can add one more pastime that’s been whittled away thanks to the beast we know as “liability.”
You know it well. It’s the reason young men can’t afford to drive due to unfair insurance rates.
It’s why you won’t find monkey bars incorporated into most modern playgrounds. It’s why you can no longer breed a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, sit in the balcony of the Town Hall Auditorium, enter the Journal Argus offices without first taking a tour of the building’s fire exits and extinguishers, or light a birthday candle at the PRC. Liability. What, do you want to get sued?
The Town claims that the new SOP works to event organizers’ advantage as, with the Town as a partner, liability, should the worst happen, will be split between the two. The extra cash the costly facility will pocket from the new rules probably didn’t stall the decision any either. Add to this the fact that raffles, 50/50 tickets, and crown and anchor tables are all, technically, illegal — not because of liability, but rather because, simply put, the AGCO says so, and that's that.
What other cultural pastimes can we expect to see fall by the wayside due to fines related to public safety? Hockey on a frozen river? Snowmobiling? It’s only a matter of time until walking to the store will require you to don a helmet, wrap yourself in bubblewrap, and shuffle your feet to avoid a kicking motion, or else risk a hefty fine.
The most frustrating thing about this plague called liability is that there’s not one singular entity spreading it around; it’s a slow, creeping pestilence, a product of bureaucratic thinking. Elected government officials take their cues from hired staff, who make smart business decisions in the same way they would in a private company. In order to make smart decisions, they take their cues from fellow professionals in related industries, such as insurance, law enforcement, and consultancy firms. In business, it’s not good enough to simply adapt to change...you need to spot threats to your bottom line on the horizon and prepare accordingly. In other words, why wait for a kid to fall off the swing set when you can just outlaw the swing set and avoid the situation altogether?
We don’t have to see our freedoms slip through the cracks due to opportunistic lawyers and a moronic fringe who are unable to grasp the concept of moderation. We can fight back. Take the New Democrats, who are demanding Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne include hard action against unfair auto insurance rates in her next budget or else risk an election.
Elected officials with a working knowledge of the legal system, not to mention a spine, can save the majority of us from being held to the standards of the worst common denominator. Standing up to the threat of “public safety concerns” means accepting risk and consequences. Kind of like an adult.