A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Still Looking for Spring

Just saw the first Robin of spring but he is just as confused as us whilst looking for worms in a frozen landscape.

I do hope that he has a better predictive instinct than that damned groundhog!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Is it Spring Yet?

Apparently not! More frigging snow yesterday, overnight temperatures getting down around -20 and no sign of any prolonged period above freezing in the forcast. On the good side we are now getting a few sunny days to bring the greenhouse up to a balmy 60f on occasion and bring on the gardening itch!
It seems I have had very little to say on these pages of late, I must admit to this winter bringing me down, the winter blaas, cabin fever, call it what you will but I begin to understand how some folks can become seriously depressed during long periods of little sunlight and enforced periods of little outdoor exercise.

In my own case it is not helped by my 'interest' in federal politics, or to be more precise the never ending decline in our democracy enabled and encouraged by Mr Harper and his group of oligarchs. I do hope my 2 or 3 readers are taking notice of his latest effort to disenfranchise voters and handcuff our Chief Electoral Officer. Its depressing & troubling to watch when there is little to do to stop him but talk about it and put a little public pressure on the Harper regime but as much as it may feel better to ignore these things we must fight for our democracy or loose it!

But enough of that, on to the next winter induced problem. Our wood pile is depleted and we have just a few hours of burning left, the reserve wood pile way back behind the barn has already been dragged up to the house. Not an easy operation given that we had 2' or 3' of snow between us and it, good job the neighbour farmer has a big blower our little Fergi tractor struggles with 6”! Then there was the removable of snow from the barn roof where the beams were cracking with the weight, shoveling wet cement whilst standing on a slippery sloping tin roof is not highly recommended for old retired farts, or for anyone for that matter. I did get the critical area cleared before taking the unintended big slide to the snow pile below, fortunately the pile was high and the drop short!!

So thats the way it looks in these county hills as we wait for that elusive spring. As my cousin in England talks of daffodils and snowdrops we here continue to be more consumed with keeping warm and snowblowing. Is it spring yet?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

At Risk of Extinction.

Its a sad day when citizens have to take our own government to court to make them follow their own rules and even then there are no penalties for ignoring legislation that has been established for more than a decade.
This from desmog.ca

A federal court judge found that the Canadian government has been breaking the law in not following through on its obligations under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The act, established in 2003, obliges the government to develop and implement recovery strategies for animal species in Canada at risk of extinction.
In her ruling, federal court Justice Anne L. Mactavish found that “there is clearly an enormous systemic problem within the relevant Ministries, given the respondents' acknowledgement that there remain some 167 species at risk for which recovery strategies have not yet been developed.”

Each were listed as a threatened species over five years ago, and have been waiting for a recovery strategy since. Even more important, each live in habitats that are directly impacted by Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, either by its route or by increased tanker traffic. The pipeline recently received approval from the National Energy Board. This made the need for recovery strategies even more pressing, but also meant that important information on the pipeline's impact on these species was missing from the hearings. 
This isn't the first time that the government has been taken to court over recovery strategies. Nixon says that Ecojustice has already brought at least six similar cases forward. While they have had success each time, it has become frustrating to both him and to environmental organizations to have to fight for the protection of each animal listed as at risk. Judicial supervision is about all that can be expected, since like much legislation, there are no clear penalties for when the government ignores what it is mandated to do. 

Also at risk is our democracy! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Is it Spring Yet?

Spring, where art thou...!!

Beautiful snow so white and deep
Hear it crunch beneath my feet
Nose is red and dripping I know
Could be the frost, or this bloody snow.
Allergic I am to this white stuff now
Our street coming in...they forgot to plow
Got er done through backlash of blow
Glasses now frozen at 18 below.
Birds of plenty here we feed
Seems they drop a lot of seed
Squirrels taking care of this I see
Damn !! here we go again, I gotta go pee.

Wiarton Wally.... Jan 20 2014

More snow..yaaaa!!

I look out my window there to see
Another foot of white shit waiting for me
Birds pissed off..and rightfully so
Newly filled feeders...under same foot of snow.
But wise I be this time around
Snow shovel inside, easily found
Pull cord attached for fast start and go
Yep..sure as hell..tis another foot of snow.
Peace on earth here, we old folks to find
Neighbour's all left, searching warmer sunshine
But bad news for them as I have been told
Temps down Florida way...is way down low.
One month now past since Christmas Day
Snowing ever since, but spring's on the way
If we get on through February..we can survive
Either that my friends..or be buried alive.
Lovely, lovely white crap my mind to say
Beautiful scenery, where city folks like to play
A skidoo would be nice, if booze runs low
Beer truck stuck somewhere...
In this new foot of snow.
Wiarton Wally.... Jan 25 2014

Is it spring yet...!!

Ah yes my fellow age challenged friend
This never ending winter is enough to drive us round the bend
A nightmare had, did dream of even more of this $%^&* snow
Awoke to see that once again drive full and must blow
Sun long gone, dull and low light makes us SAD
Clearing this crap each day just make me bloody mad
Dull days and snow we expect, here just east of lake
But it don’t seem right to go this long with narry a break
Cold and snow is normal I guess, but here’s the thing
Its going to be a long few months awaiting a warmer spring
I should go out and use the ageing tractor, it will start I think
But I am much more inclined to simply stay in and have another drink!

Rural Rumdrinker.... Jan 27 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Officialdom gone mad

Apparently the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has suddenly decided that Marmite, a yeast extract product loved by may ex-Brits and long been available here on supermarket shelves, cannot be imported and sold in Canada. They also have 'banned' several other products from the same company saying that Marmite, Ovaltine, Lucozade, Penguin Bars and Bovril "are enriched with vitamins and minerals” and therefore illegal. Other products like canned soup and stock contained too much animal products.

So it seems that the CFIA are more concerned with minute amounts of perfectly harmless substances in a product that has been consumed by millions for decades than inspecting those meat processing plants where bacteria and other contaminates regularly make it into the food supply. This all comes under the same heading of refusing import of speciality foods used by vegetarians and ethnic populations being banned for not having french on the label. Bloody ridiculous!

The report from the Canadian Press has hit the news big time in England, it was my cousin over there that alerted me to this. According to the original report the CFIA who blocked a shipment to Britt Foods store in Saskatoon they then went to the store and “officials then came to his store last week and seized the remaining product from his shelves”. The CFIA could not be reached for comment!

Word is that that the CFIA is now conducting a health-risk assessment to see whether the products should be sold in Canada.
{Marmite} maker A.G. Barr's website said the company is working to replace the food colouring to bring the product in line with the new guidelines set by the Food Standards Agency. The company assures the public the colouring is safe but all products with Ponceau 4R (E124) must carry a warning label stating the it could cause hyperactivity in children. Hmmm, so does too much sugar, when do all those sweetened drinks have to change their labels?

Update:- Just for those that don’t use this product you should be aware that it is a good Source of vitamin B12 particularly for Vegetarians (and that includes myself) and vegans, whilst there are other sources the following outlines its importance to this group of Canadians.
From the British National Health Web Site
“ Vegetarian and vegan mums-to-be need to make sure they get enough iron and vitamin B12.......
Good sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians are:..... yeast extract such as Marmite".
And then there is this...
In modern society, fruit and vegetable production is far more sanitised in that fruit and vegetables for sale in supermarkets are washed in chlorine. This removes the B12-producing bacteria and so vegetarians and vegans must obtain vitamin B12 from other sources, this means fortified foods.
This could easily be viewed as an attack upon the heath of Canadian vegetarians, it certainly is NOT protecting them from a harmful product!

The CFIA now say that it is OK to import Marmite?!
The Scottish soft drink favourite Irn-Bru and iconic spread Marmite are not banned for sale in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency clarified Saturday, after a shopkeeper made headlines in the U.K., claiming he had been ordered to stop selling the popular British products.
“These products have been available on Canadian store shelves for more than a decade and will continue to be sold in stores across Canada,” the CFIA said in a statement released Saturday.
“Recently, a shipment containing a number of products imported from the U.K. was detained in the course of regular border activities because it contained meat products that were not accompanied by the required documentation.”
Its hard to know who to believe as the shopkeeper alleges that the agency seized product from his existing in store stock.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Get out of the way Harper

We deserve an energy plan, a climate plan, and the new industrial revolution of clean-tech and renewables. The first step is for Harper to get out of the way.
Elizabeth May always cuts to the heart of the matter and I cannot but agree with her that Harper (and his cohorts) 'getting out of the way' is indeed the first step in reversing the slide to the bottom that they have started on this and many other issues that effect Canadians.

The following by By Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Green MP Bruce Hyer
What is an environmental issue? However you define it, Harper is against it.
“Environment” means different things to different people.
To some, it is the natural world for which conservation values will protect sustainable populations and ecosystems for future generations. The roots of that conservation ethic go back to the late 1800s, and Gifford Pinchot, the first dean of Yale School of Forestry. The ethic embraces “sustainable use” of forests and fish and the renewable resources that have supported economies.
Then, there’s the more modern concept of environment, stemming from Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, published in 1962 and credited with helping launch the environmental movement in the U.S. The 1960s era of environmental awareness was actually more concerned with how human activity and new technologies-in this case toxic synthetic pesticides-threatened species, but perhaps more significantly, human health as well. Now that the publication of Silent Spring has passed the 50-year mark, it hardly is “modern” anymore. Our current use of the term “environment” has increasingly been subsumed in the media into one issue only-climate change.
Yet, climate change is not primarily an environmental issue. Sure, it involves the environment. In the same way drowning involves water, but we do not describe drowning as a “water issue.” Climate change, like drowning, is a survival issue. Climate change is an issue that can be described best as a security threat-although it involves questions of energy, economy, and the environment.

The harsh reality of our current political climate is that all the basic notions of the environment are under assault. We have entered a political era of “decision-based evidence making.” Stephen Harper’s administration has launched an unprecedented assault on government science. More than 2,000 scientists and researchers in the federal civil service have lost their jobs. Most of these scientists were working in areas of the “environment.”

All the scientists working in our national parks have been laid off. Fisheries and Oceans has lost all its habitat specialists after Bill C-38 gutted the Fisheries Act to remove habitat protection. The entire Marine Contaminants Program at DFO has been eliminated. The list is long. Mr. Harper is not just neglecting science; he is attacking any science or data or evidence that runs contrary to his beliefs or agenda.
Meanwhile, even though the only legislative change Harper has made to the Species at Risk Act was to remove the application of SARA when a pipeline is involved (also in C-38), still SARA is being more broadly undermined. Species at risk are going unprotected.
National parks no longer exclude oil and gas activity (with the tragic circumstances of the creation of Sable Island National Park.) This could be the thin end of the wedge for industrial activity in parks, in general. Meanwhile, parks are being privatized piecemeal, as is clear from the Jasper National Park “ice walk,” the Banff hot springs, and now a hotel proposal inside the national park in Jasper. Harper may have expanded national park boundaries, but he has endangered the protection of what lies inside the boundaries.

The pressure to clear away any regulatory hurdles to oil and gas expansion has led to the wholesale dismantling of decades’ worth of environmental laws and regulation. From legislation passed under prime minister John A. Macdonald (Fisheries Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act) to laws passed under former prime minister Brian Mulroney, (the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and National Round Table on Environment and Economy), nothing is sacred. The last eight years bear witness to a devastating reversal of environmental law in Canada. It needs to be said that Canada’s laws never were as strong in environmental protection as those of the U.S. or other industrialized countries, such as Germany. In the race for the bottom, Canada has no competition.
Nowhere is the abdication of environmental responsibility as disturbing as in the area of climate change. Harper first cancelled our legally binding Kyoto targets, then withdrew from the treaty, adopted his own targets for GHG reductions in Copenhagen in 2009, and has now declared those will not be met either. True, he has not actually declared his rejection of his own targets, but the new timeline for oil and gas regulations, first promised when John Baird was environment minister nearly seven years ago (The “Turning the Corner” plan), make it clear no real effort is contemplated.

We all use oil. We will for a long time to come, but it must be used wisely, and we should all seek to reduce our consumption as much as possible, and shift to more renewable and sustainable energy sources. The sad and dispiriting irony is that if Canada embraced real action, we will create more jobs and revitalize our economy faster than by pursuing the mindless vision that puts all our eggs in the bitumen basket. Canada deserves better. We deserve an energy plan, a climate plan, and the new industrial revolution of clean-tech and renewables. We can still get there from here. The first step is for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to get out of the way.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May represents Saanich- Gulf Islands, B.C., and Green Party MP Bruce Hyer represents Thunder Bay-Superior North, Ont.
Originally published in the Hill Times.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Single Tier Grey County Government.

The Owen Sound Mayor has raised the question of the possibility of going to single tier regional government in Grey County saying that it has 'worked' on other areas and has in fact contacted the minister responsible in that regard. As a rural resident in Grey I must say that I am deeply concerned with such a proposal, firstly I am not convinced that a larger and centralized government model is responsive to the need of individual communities , nor am I convinced that such a move would save taxpayers any money. In point of fact I see the costs for urban services being spread across the entire county thus hitting rural residents particularly hard with costs for services that they do not receive.

From what I have seen for the most part 'amalgamation' where rural communities have been lumped in with larger urban areas has simply created problems in trying to accommodate both sides, let us be quite clear the needs and wishes of the two are quite different. On the other had in places where two or more largely rural areas were amalgamated there seems to be less problems and costs have not changed substantially either way.

We already have an overall upper tier county government although I am not very conversant with exactly what their mandate is, its hard to separate who is responsible for what, Municipalities, County, Provincial, and Federal - roads, health, policing, permits, environment, etc etc. They are all mixed up with various parts of the various services funded and controlled via various levels of government. There may well be some services that can be better delivered by a regional government and it would seem to make more sense to merge the Grey & Bruce County governments and use common resources for things like county road upkeep, and county wide policing services for instance than to do away with the individual municipal councils who are much more able to respond to individual communities needs.

Frankly centralized governments scare the hell out of me, the larger they get the less responsive they are to particular needs of the various diverse wishes of the communities they govern. Such government also quickly become urban-centric in that the majority of the taxpayers are living in the towns or cities now contained in a very large physical area with varying needs. Both the Ontario government and the Federal government are fixated on Toronto for instance with little regard to smaller centres or populations for instance.

In short I am strongly opposed to this idea and can see no real advantage in it, I remain unconvinced that it will reduce taxes but am convinced that it will reduce accountability and direct access to council by said taxpayers.

UPDATE – A recent report would seem to support my view that amalgamation does NOT result in any savings -see this-

Not only are there more employees per taxpayer but Ontario is way above average in this regard according to the report.