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.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Planning for an Uncertain Future

Recently the 2016 population figures have been released and although the overall population in Grey Bruce has increased by 1% to 3% some communities, including the City of Owen Sound have declined. Given that the details of age, work, income and such will not be available for some months I am not sure that we can read much into these initial figures in so far as our rural economic and social stability is concerned.


A number of municipalities are currently reviewing their “Official Plans” as is Grey County, this is perhaps a necessary exercise every so often but given that upper levels of government policy, in particular provincial government, have an enormous impact upon what lower levels can do to control their own destiny I wonder if its an exercise in futility. What particularly comes to mind at this time is the ongoing pressure to close and 'centralize' community schools thus gutting several small communities of one more local 'resource'. Both the residents and the municipalities themselves seem helpless to stop this process in spite of offering some very generous and innovative ways to improve the financial stability of said schools.


My own take upon efforts to stabilize the general decline in rural populations and financial viability of rural areas across Ontario and Canada, that I have previously labelled “The Forgotten Minority” in these pages, is to somehow provide stable employment. To be clear I have no clue as to how to accomplish that! It is clear that with larger and improved farm equipment that few jobs will be created 'down on the farm', perhaps part of the answer is value added farm products via local co-op enterprises. In 10 years or so perhaps the SWIFT internet initiative will enable tech and internet dependent company to locate in our area, but will they leave the big city for rural Ontario?


All of the above being said there are a couple of ways you can have your say regarding the 'plans' for our area. Firstly Grey County is reviewing the County Official Plan through a project called Recolour Grey. A group of University of Guelph Rural Planning and Development Master’s students are investigating age related issues in Grey County as part of the Official Plan review. They will hold small-scale community engagement sessions with both youth and older adults and outreach to community groups and key stakeholders to determine the needs of Grey County residents.
Further information and a short questionnaire of your views can bee found at https://www.grey.ca/news/age-friendly-communities-survey


In Chatsworth Township a meeting for a round table discussion with the Community to discuss their Strategic Plan has been scheduled for February 22, 2017 at 7 p.m. at the hall at the Garafraxa Hill Funeral Home located at the Corner of McNab St and Garafraxa St in Chatsworth.  At the time of writing few details about this meeting are available but we must assume that citizens will be given an opportunity to share their concerns and ideas about the future of out township with municipal staff and councillors. Check the Township website over the next week for further information.


I do hope a few citizens take the time to give input to what goes into these 'Plans' and that some positive and innovative ideas are identified and adopted to help maintain our rural communities as a viable place to live and work.
Readers who attend are invited to submit a synopsis of the issues discussed to the Rural Canadian in the comment section or for publication via email




Thursday, January 26, 2017

Gravel Pits, OMB & MPAC and Rural Communities.

The following was received from the Chatsworth Taxpayers For a Safe and Healthy Environment and is reproduced here as a community service.


Cornerstones Standards Council (CSC) is the Aggregate industry's professional agency trying to raise the standards of aggregate producer practices to be more considerate of Communities hosting pits/quarries.
Because we (The Chatsworth Taxpayers For a Safe and Healthy Environment ) are actively opposing a current pit application (Bumstead Pit), CSC want to meet with us as well as with other municipal and public groups/agencies to hear concerns as more and more pits/quarries apply for licenses:
Saturday, February 4th in Owen Sound at the Bayshore Community Centre.   1 PM - 3PM.  Shoreroom #1  Registration is required. For further Information contact chatsworthtaxpayers@gmail.com


Background:
 It's important to go to this meeting with a strong contingent of our group and make emphatic statements of our concerns and what we will not tolerate (haul routes & costs to taxpayers, cumulative impacts on quality of life, environment,  health & safety, property values, risks to Source Waters, wildlife, agricultural lands and so much else.   Here's a few thoughts to start with:

Ontario Stone, Sand & And Gravel Association (OSSGA)

comments on Ontario Municipal Board appeals by aggregate companies (one day it'll be the Bumstead appeal):

"Limits on Appeals of Official Plan Decisions Would not Adequately Protect the Province’s Interest in Aggregates
"In our experience, municipal decision

-makers can be susceptible to focusing on local interests at the expense of broader provincial interests when it comes to aggregates. Despite the importance of aggregates to the Province as a whole, individual communities or local stakeholders may prefer
that the extraction of such resources take place elsewhere. In these circumstances, appeals to the OMB are essential, as the politically expedient decisions of a municipal council or approval authority, may not represent good planning in regard to the provincial interest in aggregates."


6. Essential materials for building a strong Ontario
The Role of the Citizens’ Liaison Office Should be Expanded
"While OSSGA believes that funding citizen groups would not be an appropriate use of resources..."


Clearly, OSSGA is not amiable towards the concerns of host Communities.  Our questions and comments to the CSC Feb. 4 can include questioning its relationship to OSSGA and how it can possibly mediate Community concerns when OSSGA, this powerful industry association, is such a negative force.

https://ossga.com/multimedia/2017-01-04-091516-35933/dec.16.16-omb_review_submission.pdf

In the above link you'll read another comment by OSSGA which is of concern to us.  Please note that the bolding of the 2 items is OSSGA's emphasis is theirs, not ours.  This indicates the strength of their opposition to any considerations to the Communities hosting gravel pits. That's why we have to pay attention and go to this meeting.....
-------------------------------------



I note that MPAC has retroactively reassessed gravel pits to a lower value and this is substantially effecting residential tax rates in rural municipalities. I expect to be writing more about this in the near future however here is is a short article about the impact upon one rural community. https://www.puslinchtoday.ca/2017/01/12/county-councillors-digging-in-to-oppose-gravel-pit-assessment-change/




Friday, January 6, 2017

CRTC Promises the Impossible.

In December the CRTC stipulated that Internet service providers should strive to provide speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds for fixed broadband Internet access and offer an unlimited data option.
“Access to broadband Internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive," said CRTC chairman and CEO Jean-Pierre Blais in a news release. "Canadians who participated during our process told us that no matter where they live or work in our vast country — whether in a small town in northern Yukon, a rural area of eastern Quebec or in downtown Calgary — everyone needs access to high-quality fixed Internet and mobile services.”

A lofty goal indeed given that many Canadians currently have NO access to internet services in their homes and those that do have a connection generally are limited to 10Mbps by both technology limits and cost. In SW Ontario governments both municipal and provincial are touting what they are going to do under their SouthWest Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) initiative which promises an “open access network that will provide up to 1 Gbps service for under $100/month” and “ build an ultra high-speed fibre optic regional broadband network for everyone in Western Ontario.”
I have no doubt that SOME Canadians and SOME SW Ontario residents will benefit from the above but what really gets me pissed off is the rhetoric that ALL Canadians are going to get 50 Mbps connections or better at some unforeseeable point in the future. To also say that the cost for such a connection will be below $100 is simply fantasy.
The reality that those who live along major through routes or in a community along those routes, who in all probability already have cable or landline broadband DSL of 10 – 20 Mbps available at under that $100 threshold, may well be able to upgrade due to these initiatives to ultra high speed, and that may well assist businesses along such routes to expand or be more efficient. However if anyone thinks that every rural resident will see a fibre-optic line being installed along their concession road anytime in the next 20 years they are dreaming. Some may, most will not. So the very folk who have difficulty getting a decent connection, or any connection, will without a doubt be largely left wondering what such words such as “all Canadians” and “broadband network for everyone” really mean.

I have no great objection to these initiatives, in fact they will hopefully bring more businesses and the associated jobs to those previously under serviced rural towns and villages fortunate enough to be included in these upgrades BUT perhaps the aim should be to bring affordable average speed connections to those who are left just wishing for something better than a 50k dial up connection, that almost useless connection being their only real choice.
Just for those in the big city who are saying “what the hell is he talking about, everyone can get internet cant they?” here are the comparisons.....
Typical DSL IF within a couple of miles of a major telephone switching station OR have access to cable ......5-25Mbps unlimited $40 - $80, - Available to almost 100% of urban residents!
Typical wireless IF you have line of sight to a providers tower ....... 2- 20Mbps unlimited $50 $250, please note that considerable outlay may be required to get a line of sight location for the wireless receiver such as a 60' tower ($2000 installed) and many providers do not provide unlimited connections and may charge for 'overage' above their set limits.
Satellite .......5Mbps limited 50GB to 10Mbps limited 500GB $60 to $120 , again note that line of sight to the satellite is required if trees or buildings are in the way you are SOL, also the dishes are large and heavy and may require special mounting infrastructure to install.

The preferred choice for rural folks would be that wireless hook up however in many areas the available suppliers and the number of transmitter towers is very limited, and I suspect in some place more isolated than here in SW Ontario, non existent. It is this service that needs expanding NOT providing those with already available 20Mbps service even faster speed. If “High quality and reliable digital connectivity is essential for the quality of life of Canadians and Canada’s economic prosperity.” as these folks keep saying then let us work on that for ALL Canadians not just a few.

My apologies to my one or two regular readers if I seem to be focusing on this subject a little too much, it just annoys me when such things are sold as being all inclusive when in reality we out in the sticks know they are not!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Those Google 'Stats'

For those who do not have their own blog it should be noted that when you have a free blog on Google Blogger they provide a basic overview of visitors to your blog, where they are located and, if following a link, from where that link originated. Many of us like to look at this to see if we are being read and by whom, most bloggers are after all a bit of a self centered lot, myself being no exception.  Trouble is like any statistical information the criteria when assembling the data can be misleading depending upon what and how its being counted.
According to my Google Blogger stats my site here has received a little better than 7,000 "page views" in the last month, if that were accurate I would have a hard time getting my head through the door! I actual fact 99% of these "page views" were unsuccessful  'bots' visits blocked by Google but still counted as 'visits'. Digging deeper, and with the ongoing debate about if or when outside sources stole the U.S. election, I see that 1700 of these visits were from Russia closely followed by 1600 from U.S. addresses, seems both countries have their problems with 'hackers', government sponsored or not.
The visits from those who may have some actual interest in my scribblings, those in Canada, are somewhat more accurate so far as I can tell, that being a total of 10 individuals over the last month. Talk about a deflation of ego!
It bothers me not (much), like most writers I write more for myself than others. If you have stuff on your mind, write it down, start a blog, have a rant, even bend the ear of someone willing to listen..... its so much better that bottling it in and letting it build into something far worse than a minor irritation, hence this rant!

PS. I do note that Google has a 'full service' stats utility which can be installed on any web site but what a hassle to set it up particularly if you want to see the visitors to the various pages on your site.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Labour Force Survey Misleading.

I have had a go at this before.....
Just noticed a piece in the Sun Times titled “Region's unemployment rate drops”, the first line says “Part-time job growth drove November's unemployment rate down to 3 per cent in the economic region consisting of Grey, Bruce, Huron and Perth counties.” This may be true in that its the “Four County Labour Market Planning Board” serving “Grey, Bruce, Huron, Perth” and all the statistics for that area are lumped together. In fact I am told that separate statistics for the various counties and/or economic areas within them are not available, this to me makes this information not only all but useless but highly misleading.
That generally work found is in “the precarious types of employment – i.e. part-time, casual, entry-level, low-pay” jobs. Nor does it “reflect the degree to which people are under-employed” and “they don't reflect how many of those employed part-time would rather work full-time.” further adds to the problem with the “Labour Force Survey”. (A full time job lost is equivalent to a part time job gained in this and most other “employment” statistics.)
The survey goes on to say that 3,200 jobs have been “gained”, however it seems that 90% of these are those “part time precarious employment” positions so across the entire region from Tobermoury to Stratford just 300 full time jobs have been found and no one knows whether these were in Owen Sound, Goderich, Collingwood, Walkerton or Hanover areas.


Then there is this bit “The top two gains were in the services-producing sector in "accommodation and food services" (read waitressing) and "wholesale and retail trade" (read cashier) categories, which gained 1,200 each. Employment in the goods-producing sector saw gains in all categories the highest gains in that sector were in "agriculture" with 1,100 jobs. “ (make me wonder what positions are included in that sector) Losses were all in the services-producing sector, 900 jobs, in "other services," and 800 jobs in "finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing,". Reading between the lines it would seem that blue collar workers are SOL, a quick look at local Grey Bruce job listings would seem to confirm that.


My biggest problem with this whole thing is that it lumps completely disparate areas together and appears to assume that the job market in southern Huron - Perth is the same as that in northern Grey - Bruce. I strongly dispute this, I believe from my own observations of various employment “opportunities” web sites that the situation varies greatly across “the four counties”.
If the Four Counties Labour Force Survey is to be taken seriously and to be of any use in assisting LOCAL employers, the unemployed and organizations in addressing the issue of the LOCAL economy then we need LOCAL statistics.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Is Internet an Essential Service?

I have previously ranted here about the difficulty faced by many rural residents to get any affordable internet connection to their home let alone a 'high speed' one. For those who do not have a 'line of sight' to an internet suppliers transmitter tower they are left with just two options (dial up internet now being all but useless except for email use due to 'heavy' content of almost every site) those being satellite connection or Cell phone connection, both being expensive and with low volume thresholds. In some cases the physical location negates even these options.
For those who take their connections for granted or those who think an internet connection is an unessential frill I offer this clip from a letter to The Owen Sound Hub from one Shane Patey,


The last few years have seen a major shift toward content held exclusively online by outlets that would have previously delivered the same content through both print media and television. The area is enjoying a major increase in new year round residents. Living here should not mean that we can not access the same information as our city based counterparts just a few kilometres away.
This move to online content and other resources for engaging citizens (learning portals, health supports, and more) is not happening alongside similarly robust development in physically situated and accessible by the public resources, and far and wide is replacing many that have previously been physically accessible. Also, recognizing the challenges of engaging many who feel marginalized and vulnerable related to various physical and mental health experiences, publically funded entities like NGOs and community health outlets are being funded specifically to deliver content and education online by both federal and provincial funding bodies including but not limited to Ontario's Ministry of Health and Longterm Care, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Funding arrangements are continuously evaluated for their reach and impact and the last year and a half has seen the addition of evaluation criteria specifically pertaining to an organization's capacity to engage stakeholders via traditional online outlets, and social media.
Shane is of course correct, government is increasingly 'centralizing' services and seems to think that making these services available online make them available to those distant from those urban centers where face to face service is available. Unfortunately many rural residents do not have, and often cannot get, reliable affordable internet connections and given the difficulty of servicing some areas with either cabled service or wireless service this will not change much in the foreseeable future despite all the hype about bringing “high speed internet' to Grey County. Some of those in community's already served by such connections may well get improved service but those away from major arteries will continue to struggle to get any reliable (affordable & unlimited) connection.






Sunday, November 6, 2016

Changing the clocks

I hate all this buggering around with the clocks every 6 months, not only does it make me even more out of sync with the rest of the word and mess with everyone elses internal clock but it is totally unnecessary in today’s world.
Brought in 100 years ago to......” minimize the use of artificial lighting in order to save fuel for the war effort during World War I” I think that that war is over! Modern almost 24hr a day work / life habits negate any 'savings' of any kind and may in fact cost us by disrupting folks circadian rhythms. “Clock shifts sometimes complicate timekeeping, and can disrupt travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices, heavy equipment, and sleep patterns.”......and piss off old men!


So as I contemplate waking at the same time as I always do but an hour earlier according to the clock & sit around for hours waiting for for the sun to emerge from behind our forest of trees at 9.30 or so, (or is that now 8.30 or 10.30, I dont know, I get so confused by all this back and forward thing,) I say why dont we just leave the bloody clocks at one setting or the other.


They say old folks dont need as much sleep, I dont know about that I could USE more sleep I just dont GET more sleep. As I struggle to keep my eyes open for a couple of hours after the evening news, a fight not helped by the absolute crap on the box during that period, I contemplate waking up to see the clock saying 4.30 instead of 5.30 and thats if I sleep in for a bit! I think perhaps an afternoon nap may be in order but will that mean I get even less sleep at night, however without one I could be falling asleep right after supper .....or worse do a face plant on my plate!


Zzzzzzzzzzzzz