The story began for me when my wife, daughter and I were driving a friend to Buffalo on Nov. 3 for her flight back home to Florida. As we approached the Peace Bridge crossing the Niagara River and border, we looked up and saw the bridge was clogged with trucks. Our first response was, “Oh, no, we are going to have a 40-minute wait at the bridge and we only have an hour to get to the airport.”
Then came the good news. The trucks were taking up only one lane of the bridge and the second lane was relatively free for us to pass. And as we passed, we looked over and noticed that most of these trucks where hydro trucks from Halton, Guelph and other regions all over Ontario. It was a caravan of what seemed like 40 or 50 hydro trucks from Ontario, on their way to hurricane-stricken coastal communities in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut. We found ourselves welling up with feelings of warmth and pride as we passed this caravan of hope for more than a million people still freezing in the dark almost a week after Hurricane Sandy’s cruel landing.
You may know that the idea of building the Peace Bridge was conceived close to a century ago, and the bridge’s name was intended to celebrate all of the years of peace and friendship between Canada and the United States since the War of 1812. On Nov. 3, the link of friendship this bridge stands for was proudly expressed as these hydro trucks passed over it.
Let all of those ideologues and extremists out there – the neo-cons and libertarians and their ilk – blabber on about how we should privatize the public good and let corporatists run our communities. I would like to know how many of them would refuse help from public servants if they were going days in frosty temperatures without adequate supplies of heat or food, or if one of their loved ones was in critical condition in a hospital that had suddenly lost power.
What we witnessed on the Peace Bridge and what we have been witnessing and reading about online and through cable channels and newspapers in the aftermath of this disastrous storm is some of the best that government has to offer when people are facing the worst of times for their families and communities.
This is what pooling our resources, which come through the taxes we pay, and using them to enhance the lives of our neighbors and ourselves, especially when we are going through dark times, is all about. It is not about some evil redistribution of wealth or socialism or class warfare.
I have, and probably always will have, complaints about the way government does and doesn’t work. But at times like this, it is important to remind ourselves how vital a role government plays for the common good.
Doug Draper is a Canadian journalist living in Ontario’s Niagara region.