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.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Local MP to hold Teleconference.

September 27th, 2016 - MP Larry Miller will be hosting a community TeleForum for residents in the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. 7pm-8pm. Residents will receive a phone call at approximately 7pm and will be given instructions on how to participate.

Larry Miller, Member of Parliament for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, will be hosting a telephone town hall meeting (teleforum) with residents of the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound on the topic of electoral reform. The teleforum will take place on Tuesday, September 27th from 7:00p.m. – 8:00p.m.
Residents will have the opportunity to listen to and join in a discussion with Mr. Miller on the topic of electoral reform including: whether a national referendum is required to change the voting system, alternative voting systems, mandatory voting and online voting. The discussion from the teleforum will inform a submission from Mr. Miller to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE).
Residents will receive an automated phone call shortly before 7:00p.m. on the 27th and will be prompted to remain on the line. Those wishing to participate must simply remain on the line. Those who miss the call but receive a message on their answering machine will be given instructions on how to participate.
"I am looking forward to hearing a number of different concerns, questions, and opinions on electoral reform," said Miller. "It is my hope that a community teleforum will allow for the greatest number of participants possible. I hope that all will take the time to participate in this important discussion."
Those with questions or concerns about how to participate are encouraged to contact Mr. Miller's office.
The Sun Times reports that....
Miller said there should be a full national referendum before changes are made to the electoral system.
He said about 80 per cent of the people he has heard from share that view.
Miller said about two-thirds of the constituents who have contacted him or responded to a question that was sent in a recent mail-out from his office have said they support the current first-past-the-post voting system.”
Personalty I am not going to bother, I have made my views known directly to the committee and I have little faith that Mr Millers report to them will accurately represent the wide variety of opinions that will no doubt been pressed by those that manage to get a minute or two to speak in the hour allowed at his teleconference.
As for the majority contacting him “supporting the current first-past-the-post voting system.” that may well be true in that the Conservative mantra is just that however this does not reflect the general feeling a cording to a number of national polls. The only reason for supporting a referendum on any changes is to further support this position in that those that do not understand a new system will undoubtedly vote for the status quo, and make no mistake some of the options currently on the table are fully understood by very few citizens.

Cross posted at Democracy Under Fire

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Banking at your Post Office?

It is a VERY rare occurrence when I agree with any union organization who are generally about getting more, more, more for their mostly well paid members, but on this one I cannot but help agree.....

OTTAWA - Canadians have flooded their Members of Parliament with messages in support of postal banking after Canada’s six biggest banks reported a combined profit of $10.4 billion last week. Banking is the most profitable industry in Canada, but Canadians pay some of the highest bank fees in the world, averaging $185 per user per year.
Calls to bring back postal banking are gaining momentum as the Liberals’ public review of the post office enters its second phase of consultation. After bank profits were announced last week, thousands sent messages to their MPs in support of a postal banking alternative.
“These profits could be used to reduce the sky-high banking fees we pay in Canada. But because the big banks have cornered the market, they’re charging us more than ever,” said Dru Oja Jay, Executive Director at Friends of Public Services.
“Postal banking would be a powerful, low-cost alternative.  And profits earned by postal banking could help keep the post office thriving as a public service and bring returns to communities,” said Mike Palecek, CUPW national president.
The action was coordinated by Delivering Community Power, a campaign backed by over fifty labour, environmental social justice and anti-poverty organizations that envisions a revitalized postal network with postal banking and expanded services to address Canada’s climate and economic challenges.
"We support postal banking for its potential to address economic inequality and climate change in Canada.  Affordable banking, investment in local clean energy projects, and better services for rural communities and First Nations -- let’s make the connections and make it happen.” says Avi Lewis of the Delivering Community Power coalition.
Postal banking is supported by the postal workers’ unions, anti-poverty and community groups, and over 600 municipalities across the country. It’s already instituted in many parts of the world and existed in Canada until 1969.

This idea has been proposed before to enhance services in small rural communities where all such things are gradually being 'centralized' away to the urban centres. Of course when the unionized postal employees go on strike and you cant get at your money it could be a bit of a problem?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rural Vs Urban Hydro Delivery Rates

With the current focus upon Hydro rates initially brought on by a Global News report on the difficulty many residents of my own riding of Bruce-Grey are having in paying their bills I thought I would look closer at the difference costs between rural and urban hydro costs..
To clearly represent the facts I have created a spread sheet showing those costs based upon Hydro Ones published “Residential Delivery Costs”. These figures only show those details for customers served directly by Hydro One, I believe that many city folk served by their own Hydro Utility’s will in fact be receiving their electricity at a lower price at the door than shown here for high and medium density customers.

Residential Delivery Costs as per Hydro One
For “Residential – Low Density.” the distribution service charge is automatically reduced by $31.50 The hydro One chart shows the rate AFTER the discount, the rate would otherwise be $74.82

Delivery Rates2 Kw per month  Urban High Density Medium Density Low Density

Distribution service charge 
($ / month) inc 31.50 disc for LD)

22.86 30.88 43.32

Distribution volume charge
(metered usage - ¢ / kWh)

1.6 2.98 4.27

Transmission connection charge
(adjusted usage - ¢ / kWh)

0.49 o.48 0.46

Transmission network charge
(adjusted usage - ¢/ kWh)

0.69 0.68 0.65

Smart metering entity charge3
($ / month)

0.79 0.79 0.79

Adjustment Factor
1.057 1.076 1.105

The Calculations for 1000 Kwh / Month

Total per Kwh charges -cents/Kwh
2.78 3.66 5.38

Total fixed charges - $ per month
23.65 31.67 44.11

“delivery” cost 1000Kwh / month $ 1000 51.45 68.27 97.91

Electricity cost @ 13.2 Kwh for 1000Kwh $
132.00 132.00 132.00

Grand total before tax
183.45 200.27 229.91

27.52 30.04 34.49

Your cost
210.97 230.31 264.40

Cost per Kwh at your door (at mid peak rate)
0.21 0.23 0.26

The Calculations for 500 Kwh / Month

Total per Kwh charges -cents/Kwh
2.78 3.66 5.38

Total fixed charges - $ per month
23.65 31.67 44.11

“delivery” cost 500Kwh / month $ 500 37.55 49.97 71.01

Electricity cost @ 13.2 Kwh for 500Kwh $
66.00 66.00 66.00

Grand total before tax
103.55 115.97 137.01

15.53 17.40 20.55

Your cost
119.08 133.37 157.56

Cost per Kwh at your door (at mid peak rate)
0.24 0.27 0.32

Most customers usage will be 'adjusted' re 'line loss', their bills will be 5% to 10% more than calculated above. The line loss is no longer shown on your bill, for this rural user it is 1.105 resulting an additional 10.5% usage.
Edit - Note:  Upon asking why the 'line loss adjustment' (for both electricity usage and per Kw delivery costs) is no longer shown upon our bills Hydro One replied.......
The Electricity Charges portion of your bill will now only display the metered consumption in kWh, the price difference between the adjusted consumption in kWh and metered consumption in kWh has been moved to the Delivery Charge line of your bill.”The total Electricity cost will depend upon the time of day used – the above is all at mid peak cost.
Just for interest at 1500 Kw/ month the totals are $302, $ 327, $371 and cost per Kwh 20c, 22c, 25c
At 100 kw /month rural customers would pay about $72 or 72c per Kwh!

According to Hydro Ones own numbers rural delivery rates are scheduled to increase 9.9% in 2016 and a further 9% in 2017, it is difficult to get exact details but according to one intervenor at the OEB hearings
Hydro Ones proposed a fixed delivery rate of $141.12 by 2017 for rural customers, this before the cost of actual usage! The volume based delivery charge will be phased out so that the less hydro you use the greater the cost per Kwh at your door will be (even more so than at present). So much for conservation and those struggling with hydro costs already.
I note that on my own personal hydro bill the cost of “delivery” already exceeds the cost of the power used which in our case through careful attention to TOD rates is slightly below that touted by Hydro One as “average”. I can see how those with electric heat, or stay at home mums with several kids, or for that matter low income seniors will be severely impacted by these proposed changes and the measly 8% reduction just proposed by Winne will do little to alleviate the hardship.

Typical one month bill for City residents using 1,000 kWh / month effective May 2016
Ottawa ON $165.37
Halifax NS $158.83
Saskatoon SK $146.49
Regina SK $146.45
Moncton NB $124.98
St. John's NL $119.64
Saint John NB $111.71
Calgary AB $111.70
Vancouver BC $107.03
Edmonton AB $105.08
Winnipeg MB $84.29
Montreal QC $72.26

Couple of points here, it can be clearly seen that Ottawa Hydro rates (at the door) are well below the high density rates for Ontario Hydro ($183.45 before tax) and also clearly seen that Ontario electricity prices in general are far to high. If any number of provinces can deliver 1000 Kwh for around $100 why are Ontario rates at least 50% higher?
Finally for a full comparison try this link, it still does not fully reflect the Ontario Hydro prices but does give a good idea of the various different charges per province.

FYI - How many overpaid public service workers does it take to make Ontario the province with the highest electricity rates (excluding PEI which imports most of its power)? Well, at least 148 who made more than a quarter million dollars per year in 2014. See http://www.ontario-hydro.com/salaries-2014

I note here that I have no problem with high hourly rates paid to Linemen who regularly work with high voltage lines often up in a bucket in the middle of a winter storm, non of whom make anywhere like the amount taken home by these executives and supervisors.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Full of it....

There are many ways in which we are supposed to conserve our resources, save the environment and move towards a sustainable planet and I generally support these moves but not all are as effective as they are said to be. From wind turbines that need to be backed up by other means of generation because they have no storage capacity to some urban centers banning the use of a renewable fuel (wood) forcing folks to use a non renewable fuel (oil or gas). Such things are open to debate as to their overall contribution to both sustainability and fighting climate change, it all depends upon your point of view.

When it comes to water conservation which could become a more pressing issue with the drought / flood cycles that seem to be an increasing reality its the same kind of trade off. Here in SW Ontario a recent news article pointed out the millions of gallons of water that bottling companys take from our ground water at a minuscule cost per litre to put in plastic bottles only some of which are recycled. In my own case I have recently become aware of another mandated water conservation move that simply does not work.

Simply put, low flush toilets do not save water when you must flush them 2 or three times to remove the waste! The only thing I can say about our 4l low flush toilet is that I wish I could flush it down the toilet! At first I thought that there was something wrong with said situpon but upon examination and cleaning the flush holes around the rim (the first thing to do if toilet becomes slow to flush), removing the unit and checking for plugged pipes or other build up I finding nothing obviously wrong. Next move was to increase the volume of water per flush, the tank level was adjustable for less water but not more but manually filling it as high as possible proved that with sufficient water it worked .....most times. Part of the problen appears to be the almost 3 feet of bends and twists in the pipe on the toilet BEFORE it even gets to the sewer pipe, presumably to try and make the damned thing flush on insufficient water volume. There seems to be just enough water to move the waste from bowl to this maze of pipe (sometimes) but not down the pipe to the septic tank so that in the next use its partially plugged and its plunger time (again).

Wishing I had never replaced the old toilet I went on line looking fo a full flush toilet, apparently there is no longer such a thing in North America it now being illegal to manufacture a toilet that uses more than 6 litres .....shit! It appears from the hundreds (if not 1000s) of complaints on line by both customers and plumbers looking for solutions that I am far from the only one with this problem.

Although it would indeed save water I am not really keen on using the old outhouse down the bottom of the garden so will just continue my efforts to modify the tank float level and keep the plunger handy but to say that I am not impressed with this water saving devise is putting it mildly!

I note that looking at the model number that it is a “4L flush”, not something I was looking at or aware of when I bought it, with modifications to the float mechanism and the overflow tube it is now closer to an “8L flush” and has greatly improved its waste removal if not 'water saving' qualities!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Chatsworth Community News Letters

With the long ago demise of local community newspapers and the ensuing difficulty of spreading the news of community events and news I have been pleased to see a couple of quarterly community newsletters spring up. Voices In Print put out by Chatsworth Taxpayers For a Safe and Healthy Environment has been going for a couple of years now and features a variety of views and information from across our township. The most recent edition may be viewed here thanks to Trevor Falks efforts at Shining a Light on Chatsworth blog, for more information contact printvoices@gmail.com .

The second more recent newsletter that I have become aware of is the Desboro Community Newsletter which is focused upon the Desboro area in general and the Community Center and Arena more particularly, they can be contacted at desboronewsletter@gmail.com. I am not aware of any on line copies of this newsletter at this time. The Township of Chatsworth's annual 'newsletter' may be found here.

My thanks go out to these folks who are trying to keep us all in touch with what is going on, keep up the good work! Unfortunately such efforts are largely a one way street with the newsletters informing us of stuff happening but permitting only limited feedback from the rural residents unless they have an opportunity to meet with other of the same mind at some community event. In my view small rural community’s such as ours need more two way communication, brainstorming ideas to keep our businesses and villages thriving and viable, finding ways to provide local employment for our youth and their families.

I have long thought that one such way to enable such an open discussion about such ideas, as well as provide an additional way to promote local events would be an Online Community Forum where anyone can post their events, ideas or concerns and others from the Chatsworth area can respond with offers of help, better ideas and alternative points of view. Despite promoting such a forum here on my blog, through the W.I. Rural Voices initiative a couple of years ago, and more recently with some of the Chatsworth Taxpayers For a Safe and Healthy Environment members I have yet to see any great enthusiasm for such a forum despite my offers to build and initially moderate such an on line communication tool.

In this particular case I have learned through long experience it is NOT a case of 'build it and they will come', in another such place which I moderate that has a membership of over 100 no one seems interested in talking about that organizations problems and future. It is the lack of conversations that is self defeating, successful and active forums are those where members are regularly posting information and ideas and responding to same. Given the above to start such a forum, which I believe would be a great asset to our area, we need half a dozen people or more who can commit to doing just that in order to get those conversations started.

If you are a member of a local club, group or organization with information to share, an individual with views about our local environment, township services, council decisions and the like, or just have a bird or flower sighting and gardening ideas to share then perhaps this idea is for you.

Lets talk about it. Email me via the 'contact' link in the sidebar or use the blog comment utility below.

For those unsure as to exactly what a “forum” looks like or how it works here is a link to one active forum in Ontario this one about Lake Nipissing

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mud Puppies

As regular readers will know we try and maintain our 33 acres of grey county mixed bush in a sustainable manner and operate under a “Managed Forest Plan”, we keep lists of forest flowers, ferns, trees, shrubs, birds and animals we see on our property and try to learn a little about each new species we see. It is possible to know all that we have on this diverse hideaway, we do not list the butterfly’s, beetles and insect 'pests' that some years stress our variety of trees, the pine budworm, the forest tent caterpillar, the pine sawyer, etc etc. Nor do we track the snakes, frogs and other reptiles on our property, this does not mean that we do not take note of such encounters. Each and every new 'find' is exciting and important to us!

This week we are pleased to have our grandaughter visiting and along with her mother (our nature loving daughter) she was exploring around our small (6 x 8) man made pond in our visitor woodland 'gardens'. This is simply a semi- wild area close to the house to give folks who are unable or unwilling to take a hike a glimpse of what can be seen if you walk the extensive trails back in the bush area, but hardly a 'wild' area. We were really please to have our granddaughter come back with half a dozen newly hatched Mud Puppy’s scooped from said pond. My regime of letting the leaves from the trees that shadow the entire area accumulate in the pond each fall and rot down each winter seems to have paid off. Sure we do have to scoop a few wheelbarrows full off the bottom each spring or it would soon become totally full, but we always leave a good layer of sediment on the bottom for the frogs that help keep the mosquito larva in control.

The confirmation of this came when in looking up details on 'mud puppies' we learned that they do not normally travel more than a few hundred feet from water and take 3 or 4 tears to 'mature' (and will eventually grow to 12 or 14 inches) but will then lay several hundred eggs. It seems that despite the little pond being a 1000' feet or more from the next closest water somehow a mature Salamander (Mud puppies are a particular species of Salamanders who only exist in this small area of north America it seems) has found its way here and found my man made pond to its liking. The pond does not look particularly 'pretty' to those who want a 'manicured look' but obviously it looks OK to natures creatures ...... and that to us is far more important to us than an urban humans 'approval'!