Earlier this evening, I wrote about the convoy of MINIs that were herded off the road by the Ontario Provincial Police while on their way towards Ontario cottage country for a Spring cruise. In that post, I shared the viewpoint of one of the cruise’s organizers. I have a few thoughts of my own on the story.
Perhaps the fun stuff first: The road they call The Rattler, is in fact Muskoka County road #13. Muskoka 13 is quite possibly the best driving road in Ontario. During the winter. During the Spring, Fall, Summer it is a beautiful, twisty road that is heavily populated by cottagers and motorcyclists. It is quite narrow in places and is horribly bumpy. One of our writers here in The Garage, and not yours truly, used to test a rally car on this road. He will remain nameless at this point. I however did encounter this road way back in about 1993 during the Ontario Winter Rally. 3 am, -34C and sheer ice. That is absolutely the best time to visit Muskoka 13.
Warning: Do not attempt this at home unless you have experience, the proper tires and proper safety gear. Like a roll cage!
Secondly, the OPP has been involved with organized driving events for many, many years. In fact, when organizing a navigational rally, an organizing club must inform the local police which is usually the OPP. By law, route speeds must be calculated to within a certain percentage of the legal limit. On occasion, a driver who is behind schedule might exceed the limit somewhat. It has been 17 years since I’ve entered a navi, but even then the occasional speeding ticket was not unheard of. It was rare to have more than one in any event. The officers usually got bored sitting around an empty gravel road waiting for an errant driver and went on to better hunting grounds.
Now the not so fun stuff.
The organizers acted in good faith by attempting to co-operate with the OPP beforehand and during the cruise. They were rewarded by being used as a rather pathetic media stunt. Not having been there, I can’t comment on the actual methods used by the attending officers. The presence of media as the cars were herded in a line across what was for many years the longest street in the world however, was nothing short of premeditated.
You can hear the phone call: “Hello, A Channel? You guys need to get over here real quick. You’ll never believe what we’re about to do”.
Then, the television reports are carefully worded to sound like 11 MINIs were impounded and Children’s Aid have been called in to rid these MINI driving menaces to society of their offspring. The fact that none of the MINIs were impounded, nor were there any children in the cars that were ticketed, was not relayed to the television viewer. The report did not come out and say specifically that these acts were committed by the MINI drivers, but the inference was there.
I am aware that A Channel is a rural Ontario station that wants to believe they are major market, but do they need to resort to this sort of sensationalistic journalism? Surely a video of the actual people who were driving at 50 kmh over the legal limit with kids in the car would have been a more exciting story, as Julian Fantino himself wretched the poor child from his or her delinquent parent. No, probably not as exciting as a convoy of MINIs.
Following complaints from event organizers, A Channel has removed the offending video from their web site. As of this writing, they have not issued an apology to the participants of the MINI charity cruise.
Did I mention that this was a charity event? That’s correct, this was a charity event.
This cruise is also billed as a family event. The ironic thing is that organizers noted on the private message board that the OPP had been informed of the event. In large red letters. There were even instructions as to how to approach a mid drive lunch stop to prevent any accidents or inconvenience to other patrons. Organizers acted in a fully responsible manner. Anyone behaving outside the law had been full warned.
As for the 4 cars who were actually pulled over, 3 of them were ticketed and the drivers are accepting of their tickets if not of how they were ticketed. It would seem that all acknowledge that if you play, you run the risk of being caught. The issue is with the fact that they were set up with the purpose of making the OPP look good on TV.
We all know that radar detectors have been a rather large no no in Ontario for many years, so the guy who had his taken away and was fined deserved what he got!
The Ontario Provincial Police do a great job on our roads and their officers have always seemed to me to be a great bunch of guys and girls. When management decides to make an example of a very visible minority for the sake of media coverage, they have gone a bit too far.
Yes, a convoy of little shoe boxes being herded by a gaggle of black and whites makes for compelling TV. We get it. Just because it makes for good TV doesn’t mean it should be done. How many more real criminals could they have caught during the time it took them to mess about for the cameras?
For the record, the MINI folks are fully intending to continue their annual charity cruises, collecting donations for the OSPCA.