Life as a green slave

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big brother is watching you.



How “far-fetched” do you think this commercial is? It isn’t far-fetched, it is happening in varying degrees, all across the globe. Every single thing you do will be monitored. Welcome to the future and the future is now. Life as a green slave in a green police state.

Garth Turner


“The Tree Police

Cindy thought it would be a cool idea to carpet her lawn. So she did. Astroturf. Synthetic grass. Always green, forever clipped, no lawnmower, no trimmer, never a squirrel hole and no watering. Just green, crisp and neat.

Besides, on her Toronto street the green space in front of most homes is barely 15 feet across, once the parking pad is factored in. The urban soil is dodgy, and sunshine rarely gets through the canopy of boulevard trees. Growing healthy grass is almost a lost cause.

“So screw it,” she said. “We went for the plastic.”

A year later Cindy and Toby had another kid and decided to add to the back of the house. Fine. Drawings, permits, committee of adjustment approval – it all got done, but the project would mean the removal of a tree. Not that great a tree, either. And a private one – owned by them, in their back yard.

Enter the tree police.

The city sent a couple of guys to look at it, and determine if the slaughter could occur. In the course of that visit, every piece of vegetation on the lot became subject to inspection. Including the rubber lawn. And while it passed, the small amount of synthetic grass Cindy had installed around the boulevard tree on city property in front of their home did not.

As a condition of securing their building permit, she was ordered to remove the carpet, replace the dirt beneath and sod it, at her own expense. “I can live with that,” she says, “but not the tree tax.” Cindy and Toby were required to write a cheque for $4,000 as a ‘security deposit’ on the boulevard tree which sits on land they don’t own. If it croaks, they lose the money. If it lives for a few years, they get it back.

“This is disgusting,” she says. “Worse, it’s extortion. Where am I supposed to get an extra four thousand?”

People without houses lament the fact they can’t paint the walls chartreuse, plant a medical marijuana garden or ‘make the place my own.’ They often have absolutely no idea of the financial burden of home ownership, or the straitjacket most urban owners live inside of. On Cindy’s street, for example, old mutual driveways are too narrow to pilot the SUV down, but the city controls who can turn a lawn into parking. You can’t move an interior wall or finish your basement, let alone plant a single support for a new back deck, without a permit and a fee.

Wood-burning fireplaces are essentially banned. Fences must be three metres in height, and no shrubs can poke above them. If a garage falls down, it cannot be replaced. Of course, any city employee can come and spray paint instructions on your grass, along with the gas and hydro guys. In a country where citizens have no constitutional right to own property,  you can even have your whole house seized for an on-ramp or a park.

By the way, the people on Cindy’s street (where unremarkable houses on 30-foot lots cost a million) pay about $500 a month in property tax. They pay the city a garbage tax, as well, plus a water bill. Electricity charges are slated to rise by about 40% over the next few years, and if anyone decides to move, there’s double land transfer tax in Toronto. The average moving tax on this street is about $35,000.

Homeowners pay considerably more for insurance than renters, which is to be expected. New policies routinely come with a home inspection these days, and that normally results in a list of defects. No repairs, no insurance. No insurance, no mortgage.

Of course, houses have to be heated and cooled, which requires a furnace and air conditioning unit, which need regular maintenance, filters and duct-cleaning, lest your kids like inhaling carpet fibres and tasty dust mites. By the way, if the furnace is over four years of age, it’s probably an energy pig – which is consequential, given the increases in oil and gas prices. Outside, the garden needs attention, because the city can order you to remove any noxious weeds. Fail, and they’ll send some guys in brown shorts to do that job, and send you a bill. Don’t pay, and it goes on your property tax.

Same with the sidewalk out front. If you don’t clear the ice and snow within twelve hours of a storm, the fine is $100, plus a $25 surtax. Each time. And bugs. Watch the little suckers. Whole swaths of trendy, in-demand areas of Toronto, for example, packed with those slanty semis that hipsters love to bid for, are laced with termites. Getting rid of them can easily cost a few thousand bucks when trenching is involved. And there’s no point even starting if your infested neighbour refuses to spend the dough.

Did I mention the bed bugs? Or the white grubs in the lawn that are caviar to raccoons? The cute little guys have sharp snouts and can turn your turf into a miniature version of France during World War One in a single night. Of course, you can always come home one evening to see the bungalow next door has been demolished and a giant, smelly yellow machine is sitting on top of the bricks…”

And here is another example of a man sent to jail for illegally collecting rainwater…that’s right; jail time for having a pond on YOUR property.

 What will you do when they come for you?

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