Pontiac's Easy Street?

Posted 12.15.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | As close as we are to Ottawa, no one could have missed hearing about Ottawa's big idea to build a casino of its own, right downtown where traffic is bad, parking terrible, light-rail construction chaos is starting, and the area is already over-built and crowded. And why a casino?

The mayor, dealing only in profundities, said it is because he doesn't like seeing Ottawa money "crossing the bridge" into Quebec. Pinch yourself, this is almost 2013, going on 1971.

As petty, myopic, and self-defeating as this mayor's approach certainly is, with no one objecting, it is also surprising that no one is, any longer, raising the moral question: Should government be promoting and profiting from gambling at all?

Yes, casinos are everywhere, and people gamble with scratch-cards every day. Why not make some money on this sport and spread it around to arenas, art galleries, and bureaucrats' salaries? Why not take this income away from organized crime? Why not clean up card-sharking and regulate gambling-trade working conditions? Why not guarantee honest machines and clean washrooms? Government can do this, and create a new revenue stream for social and cultural benefits.

If all of this is convincing, why not expand such broad-minded thinking? Why not legalize illicit drugs, take them away from crime lords, and guarantee clean standards, purity, age limits, etc. -- and make money for school playgrounds?

Decriminalizing soft drugs is already on the way -- we saw several American states approve it in last month's US election. It's not a radical move any more. Even the president of Colombia wants decriminalization.

And if it is morally permissible, even beneficial, why stop at these radical moves? For example, why not legalize, regulate, and inspect prostitution? Take that money from crime gangs, give it to our rinks and amateur sports. There are governments that do exactly this, and they have less violence against sex-trade workers, less disease transmission, and less money going to other criminal efforts, like buying off politicians.

Yet -- what should really stick in our throats is not the profiting from "sin", but that it should be done in the centre of our major cities. If we are looking at welcoming "sin", because it gives us social benefits, shouldn't we also be examining the economic benefits these "fun houses" could bring? And why does downtown Ottawa (or Hull, Montreal, or Calgary) need even more economic stimulus, when our rural regions are de-populating and declining?

Shouldn't a new casino be built where it will generate the most benefits to the maximum number of people? The rural areas, is what I mean. Pontiac, is what I mean. A single casino in Chapeau might not attract enough clients, but a Disneyland-like City of Sin (to coin a phrase) just outside any of our towns would attract world attention and wealthy visitors. It might cost less than five billion to create, too.

Okay, okay.

Look, some of this is amusing and some of it even worth considering, but overall, how pitiful is it that we have to beg our provincial government to give us funhouses or sin cities as our only economic hope? Can't these motor-mouthed cabinet politicians come up with anything better than doing nothing (their present big plan) or using the avails of crime to boost our rural non-economies? Yes, there is a Plan Nord to develop the north and create jobs and infrastructure there. How about a Plan Quebec? One without corruption or cat houses, and one that includes the Pontiac.

Copyright © 2012 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/12.12