I read in the Beacon Star on Friday about how McKellar Township is once again debt free. Again and again I hear criticism from the surrounding municipalities about how Parry Sound has ‘soooo’ much debt. I’m getting tired of it.
Debt by definition is not inherently bad. If we as individuals never took on debt we would never be able to buy a house, or a cottage, or even a car until well after we were able to make the best use of them. Imagine not being able to take a job a few miles away because you refused to take on the debt to purchase a car. Or imagine a nation of renters where the only person who cared about property improvement was the landlord. We’d be controlled by mega-corporations because a private landlord couldn’t or wouldn’t take on the debt to purchase and develop a property. Debt is not bad, poorly managed debt is bad.
So Parry Sound has more debt that the surrounding municipalities. So what? If we can afford it there shouldn’t be any criticism. But people like to suggest that the town’s debt has been taken on for frivolous purposes. I guess this would include the renovation of town hall and the Bobby Orr Community Centre and construction of the the Stockey Centre a decade ago. I suppose they think the town would be better off with a couple thousand septic tanks next to Georgian Bay and a couple thousand wells drawing water rather than a first class water treatment plant.
My sense is that people feel Parry Sound has been extravagant in its capital investments. If things were done properly there should be little or no debt. But as I have noted above debt is not only not a bad thing, it actually can be a good thing. The Great Depression was caused not so much by the stock market crash as it was by the precipitous drop in spending and the clamping down on the money supply. If no one was taking on a prudent amount of debt there would be a much higher level of unemployment.
So what have these ‘frivolous’ expenses contributed to Parry Sound and the surrounding communities? If you live in Parry Sound you surely have a sense of the value of the many investments the town has made in infrastructure and quality of life facilities. But let’s take a look at how the surrounding communities have benefited from the generosity of Parry Sound.
For starters McDougall would not have their municipal water supply if it were not for Parry Sound. There is no way they could afford to build and operate a similar first class water supply operation.
How popular would the West Parry Sound area be for permanent and seasonal residents if the closest retail centre was Bracebridge or Huntsville? For Carling, McDougall, McKellar and most Seguin residents it would mean an 80 km drive one-way to get more than the most basic of supplies or a restaurant meal and entertainment. That would really increase the cost of living here. And do you think these retailers would be willing to locate in areas where they had to depend on wells and sewers and there was not a core population to service and draw employees from?
And what would the local cottagers and residents do for entertainment on a wet weekday or weekend, or a fine spring, summer or fall weekend? You can take only so much of the outdoors in black fly and mosquito season. I wonder how many of the people attending the free events at the Stockey Centre (Bands on the Bay) and the town dock, or using Wabuno Beach, or free skating at the BOCC, or launching their boats at municipal ramps, are the people who pay Parry Sound taxes. At other towns they charge $5 to $10 to launch a runabout. And how about the ‘out of town’ seasonal residents who drop by to pick up a few gallons of drinking water from the Parry Sound municipal taps? The tourists who stay at the hotels, motels and campgrounds in the surrounding municipalities probably would not be staying there if it weren’t for the availability of Parry Sound’s investments.
So get over it McKellar, McDougall, Carling, Seguin and Archipelago. If you are able to deny reasonable services and facilities to your permanent residents in order to keep your seasonal residents from complaining about taxes, go ahead and do it. But please don’t shake your head in dismay about the debt that Parry Sound is carrying.
I have an idea, how about the bunch of you get together and build a regional swimming pool? We can’t afford it but we would be more than happy to use yours for free, or for a nominal charge, the same way you use many of our facilities. We’d be delighted to drive a few kilometers to use it. We promise not to chastise you for your debt. We will actually thank you for helping to stimulate the local economy, some of which might even trickle down to Parry Sound.