Liberals’ horse has left the barn in rural Ontario

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The rural-urban divide will again deny rural seats to the Liberals in this spring’s Ontario election.

The divide is a myth only to the odd commentator whose head is stuck in an area with no view of either skyscrapers or quiet pastures.

The divide has hit the Big Apple with the induction of New York City’s new mayor Bill de Blasio.

The mayor has pledged to remove horse-drawn carriages from city streets. He called the carriage rides “inhumane.”

The new mayor is responding in part to a petition bearing more than 4,500 signatures calling for the horses to be replaced by electric replicas of vintage cars, something de Blasio called “a cleaner, safer, wiser, more humane alternative that will be very appealing to tourists.”

He’s obviously bowing to the lunatic fringe of animal lovers who think any use of an animal outside of a pretty picture is cruel.

To be fair, some of the deepest thinkers of our times, such as Miley Cyrus and Alec Baldwin, are opposed to the carriage rides.

Apparently they would prefer to see the 200 or so horses put out to pasture, which in this case would be a quick stop at the slaughter house on their way to an animal byproducts processor.

If these horses are anything like others of my acquaintance, they love to work.

A quick proviso: Those that don’t want to work often have suffered mistreatment. If mistreatment is the issue, it’s a simple matter to enforce the laws forbidding it, instead of banning the rides.

Supporters of the carriages say the horses are well cared for and are allowed to work maximum nine-hour work days.

Pulling a high-wheeled carriage and a few passengers on paved streets wouldn’t wear out the average farm boy in nine hours, let alone a horse bred to work.

New York is by no means the only city that is home to carriage rides. In New Orleans, the carriages are pulled by mules, which are hardier and able to withstand the higher temperatures. But I digress. Opponents of the New York rides talk about the dangerous streets.

The actual number of horses injured is hard to pin down. Opponents list all kinds of horror stories such as the horse that supposedly pulled itself to death when trying to dislodge its carriage after it got stuck between two poles.

On the other side, carriage operators say the deaths of horses due to traffic may number as few as three in 30 years.

One owner said, “People expect us to be here. It’s like taking away the Empire State Building.”

Since Central Park opened in 1857, horse-drawn carriages have travelled through the park.

As for the idea of replacing the horse-drawn carriages with antique-style electric cars, one driver said that’s “just what Manhattan needs — more cars.”

Whether or not the mayor has the power to ban the carriages is an open question. He does have powers and responsibilities over land use, including Central Park, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1962. But city council first must pass an ordinance prohibiting the equine-powered transport. It’s anybody’s guess if or when that might happen.

So what’s all this to do with Ontario’s spring election? Precious little except for the fact the province isn’t the only jurisdiction that has elected people who don’t know the south end of a northbound horse from a hole in the ground.

Rural folks and those who support rural heritage always suffer as a result.

jmerriam@bmts.com

 

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