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, October 17, 2014

A Thankless Task?

With municipal elections now underway and many of us struggling to select the best candidates for the task my thoughts go to why these candidates have put their name forward for what must be a largely thankless job. No matter what decision individual counsellors or council as a whole make there will be those that disagree, and some that voice their disagreement quite forcefully. There will be groups of citizens that come together to oppose or support this issue or that initiative who present to council their particular point of view. Counsellors must take all this into account and try and come to a conclusion that in their view is best for the Municipality bearing in mind that on many issues they are constrained by not only funding issues but provincial or federal constraints or mandated programs.

As I said a thankless task, so I thank those who have in the past, are now, or are seeking to fill this important roll in making these decisions on our behalf. That said lets take a quick look at some of the issues and difficulties they have, or will, face in my own municipality of Chatsworth, Ontario.

The issues highlighted by the candidates in their flyers and at all candidates meetings include:-
Accountability & transparency
Policing costs
Infrastructure upkeep and upgrades
Taxation & fiscal responsibility
Biodigester operating costs
Business development and zoning issues

Accountability & transparency seems to be a recurring theme through most (but not all) of the candidates 'platforms' with a fair bit of focus on the Chatsworth Township Website which is for many of us the only source of information on what issues are before council at any given moment. In days long past when small local papers sent reporters to council meetings and reported on them the following week we had a largely independent synopsis of such things, this is no longer the case, we must rely upon official documents published by township staff. Unfortunately the minutes and agenda documents tell us almost nothing of the details and are 'hidden' in PDF documents which must be fully downloaded to find out that they do not contain the information you are seeking. If council is to become more open and accountable reports on council meeting and associated issues must become much more comprehensive & accessible.

Policing costs is obviously a major item in the budget and we have just learned that “The OPP billing formula means the township will pay about 125 thousand dollars more next year, than the 772 thousand dollars it cost for policing coverage this year.” This is one of those thing that council can do little about other than continue to question the criteria of the OPP billing formula, little is to be gained in spending a great deal of time on fighting such costs when council has almost no control over same!

Infrastructure upkeep and upgrades and Taxation & Fiscal responsibility sort of go hand in hand it is a balancing act to maintain our 'infrastructure' ( read roads & bridges &?) as costs for everything increase whilst keeping taxes from escalating but in most cases its a case of fix or maintain it now or see vastly increased costs to do it later. This is another area where municipalities are damned if they do and damned if they don’t!

The Biodigester........ any one who has been taking notice knows this is the elephant in the room right now and whilst mistakes may have been made when making the original decision, which was based upon what can only be called incorrect and misleading information provided by the engineering firm that first proposed this project. That the projected annual surplus of $300,000 has turned into an expense approaching that amount and that several pieces of equipment had to be replaced a considerable cost shortly after it came into operation says more about the engineering than the operation. What to do now given the shared ownership with Georgian Bluffs is going to be a major issue with the new council but I do note that “Ministry of the Environment officials are prepared to declare the facility a provincial pilot project”, what this means in regard to operating costs and other issues has yet to be seen. For a detailed study of this issue go to Trevor Falk's blog at http://shininglightonchatsworth.wordpress.com/.

Finally on development within the township, or for that matter within any rural municipality, the challenge is to bring in (or keep) businesses that provide jobs, goods & services to local citizens whilst still maintaining our rural look, feel & lifestyle that so many of us value. I for one do not want to see development at the cost of turning us into an industrial wasteland but if we are to maintain our community as a viable place to live and work we must have local jobs, particularly for our youth, or we become part of the general rural decline.

So here is what I am looking for from the new council. An openness to new ideas, working together to solve problems, more information available to taxpayers, and more opportunity for more citizen input because non of the issues outlined above are simple and no one person or idea is going to solve them.
In other words Communication, Compromise, Consensus

PS. Today, Oct 17 is the last day to mail in your ballots however you may hand deliver untill election day Oct 27th.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chatsworth Township Candidates - Eriksen

The following candidate has taken up the offer of the use of this blog to highlight Chatsworth Council Candidates on these pages and submitted the following text for publication, I invite other candidates to submit a short bio and statement for publication by contacting me via the email link in the sidebar. These submissions are published here as a public service, I do not necessarily endorse this or any other candidate standing for election.

Joshua E. Eriksen
*Born in Williamsford, Holland Township, and raised in Keady, Sullivan Township, Joshua has lived most of his 37 years of life on the family farm in the heart of our own naturally beautiful Township of Chatsworth. Enjoyed growing up out in the country, just south of Keady, balancing both academics and athletics at WHSS, then graduating at OSCVI, with work on the family farm. Earned the BAHon. double major honours in history and political science, with a criminal justice minor for pre-law at the Redeemer University in Hamilton Ontario. Has been political involved on various levels of election campaigns as youth chair, policy advisor, and campaign manager. Joined his father Gerven, who has over 25 years of service in the Real Estate profession buying, selling, and listing property here in the Grey-Bruce area, residential, farms, and all types of rural country properties in the surrounding area, at RE/MAX Grey-Bruce Realty in the Owen Sound office. Eriksen believes we as a municipality must remain competitive with those around us, while continuing to work in cooperation with our neighbours, thus we need to expand business to raise more revenue to pay for costly expenditures we have incurred over recent years. Chatsworth, with its naturally beautiful place at the heart of Grey-Bruce and the hub of Highways 6 & 10, can begin doing just that by returning back to its roots of fiscal responsibility right here right now today. Three points to start with have been identified below, we look forward to working on these goals as soon as Joshua's elected to council, as there is much work to be done to start building Chatsworth bigger and better into the 21st century.

Preserving Our Past
* Return to respecting the ratepaying citizen and their hard-earned tax dollars, while preserving our essential services without the waste and continuing the proud history and heritage of this township.

Protecting Our Present
* Allow our current businesses to grow within our towns, both attract more businesses and retain our population with economic development and job creation, while working with our farmers and their needs out in the country.

Preparing For Our Future
* Build and expand our tax base via a business park in Chatsworth at Highways 6 & 10 to ship consumer goods south to Toronto, Hamilton, and other southern centres, which can immediately bring economic growth for the town through job creation and strengthen infrastructure such as high-speed internet, which in turn attracts and keeps young working families in our municipality and rural schools much safer from any future closures.

Our Chatsworth 2.0 Action Plan
* Our Chatsworth 2.0 Action Plan for the future needs your support to make it happen, I humbly ask your consideration in allowing me 1 vote of your 3 choices for Councillor on Chatsworth Township Council in this municipal election, together let us build a better Chatsworth!

Message from Joshua
You get to vote for 3 people to sit as your councillors-at-large this municipal election in Chatsworth. Allow me to represent you as 1, as your councillor, I promise to do my utmost to put your matters of the community to council to start building a better Chatsworth together. I pledge to always be accessible to the public on any issue or idea, no matter what it is, that is my personal guarantee.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Little guy screwed again.

I have just learned that hidden in the Federal 2013 omnibus budget was a clause that increased the tax that Community Credit Unions pay to the same levels as the big Banks. At first glance this may seem like a fair thing to do but those of us who have long given up on the banks poor service and high fees in flavor of far more personal attention at local Credit Unions know better. There is no comparison.

Just like banks, credit unions are required to hold large amounts of capital, but unlike banks, credit unions rely primarily on retained earnings to meet these requirements. By increasing taxes on credit unions alone, the 2013 federal budget has made it harder for credit unions to grow and support local families, farms and businesses. Credit unions are proposing a new tax credit to re-establish a competitive balance between credit unions and the big banks. Based on growth in retained earnings, it is estimated that this tax credit will generate nearly $700 million in new lending to help businesses, farmers and families invest.”

Nor I might add do they have overseas operations primarily created to take advantage of a tax loophole that lets them avoid paying taxes on millions of dollars of 'profit', nor do credit unions pay their 'shareholders' and directors millions in compensation. As 'members' we do get a very modest profit share as part of our membership of the Credit Union and no doubt senior staff are compensated for their expertise but nowhere near the level that the banking bigwigs get.

Credit unions are the only financial institutions in over 380 Canadian communities and offer essential financial services that help to strengthen those communities and support local jobs. Meanwhile the big banks are closing branches which 'are not profitable'. A CFIB study of small business lending showed credit unions having an almost 20% share of small business lending across all financial institutions.

In short this is another case of lets tax the little guy and ignore the big guy whose tax accountants do everything in their power to hide income and avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Support you Local Credit Union

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chatsworth Township Municipal Election

The following people will be standing for Council in Chatsworth Township to be held on Monday October 27, 2014.  The Township of Chatsworth 2014 Election is a Vote by Mail Election,

Mayor (one to be elected)
PRINGLE, Bob (incumbent) 216732 Conc 4, Chatsworth On, N0H 1G0 519-794-2579
SMITH, Ron 796420 East Back Line, Berkeley On, N0H 1C0 519-270-5260

Deputy Mayor (one to be elected)
MACKEY, Scott (councillor) 777697 Hwy 10, RR 1, Chatsworth On, N0H 1G0 519-794-3356
MCKAY, Terry (incumbent) 134 Crawford St, Box 116, Chatsworth On, N0H 1G0 519-794-2837

Councillor (three to be elected)
DOWNEY, Jerry 824027 Massie Rd, RR 5, Chatsworth On, N0H 1G0 519-794-3121
ERIKSEN, Joshua E 116819 Grey Road 3, RR 2, Desboro On, N0H 1K0 519-371-2502
GAMBLE, Brian (incumbent) 236053 Conc 2B, RR 2, Chatsworth On, N0H 1G0 519-794-2952
GREIG, Shawn 158 Boundary Rd, RR 3, Chatsworth On, N0H 1G0 519-794-4053
PANKRATZ, Helmut 736031 West Back Line, Markdale On, N0C 1H0 519-986-1468
SIMMONDS, Trina 396666 Conc 2, Chatsworth On, N0H 1G0 519-794-4813
SMITH, William 703140 Walker SR, RR 1, Chatsworth On, N0H 1G0 519-794-4307
THOMPSON, Elizabeth 776761 Hwy 10, Holland Centre On, N0H 1R0 519-794-2308

Councillor Cornelius Vlielander will not be standing for reelection.

You should receive your voting form in the mail shortly. You may contact the  Municipal Office @ 519-794-3232 or visit the Municipal Office at 316837 Highway 6 to confirm that you are on the Voter's List.
See the Township Website for further information.

The Township of Chatsworth is holding an All Candidates Meeting on Thur Oct 22 from & till 9.30 pm at the Williamsford Community Center.

As usual this information is hidden in a PDF file on the township website, I have yet to hear any mention of it on local radio........ best kept secret?

As a service to township residents I offer this space to those standing for election to publish a short resume and statement should they wish. See the contact link in the sidebar.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Kinder Morgan Not Responsible

Once the oil leaves the dock, Kinder Morgan holds no obligation or responsibility, even 10 metres out – that’s the carrier’s liability.”

The Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in 1989 dumping hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into Prince William Sound.

In 1994 a jury’s verdict announced Exxon would have to pay a massive $5.3 billion dollar fine.

Exxon appealed this settlement 4 times in the next 3 years and eventually paid out just $500 million.

If a U.S. Court has difficulty prosecuting a U.S. company, how would a Canadian court fair prosecuting a Chinese (shipping) company?

More at DesmogCanada

Federal scientists estimate that between 16,000 and 21,000 gallons of oil remains on beaches in Prince William Sound and up to 450 miles away. Some of the oil does not appear to have biodegraded at all.

What more needs to be said?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Health Canada Says Citronella Must Go..... but DEET OK

Health Canada is pulling the last of citronella-based bug sprays off the shelves by the end of December because of "the absence of adequate safety data.” The essential oil has been used as an insect repellent in Canada for decades.
The move has left scientists who advised Health Canada on the issue befuddled by the ban. So are many consumers who prefer natural bug sprays over ones with synthetic chemicals like DEET.
'It's the basis of the ban that I don't really understand'- Sam Kacew, Toxicologist
"It's the basis of the ban that I don't really understand,” says toxicologist Sam Kacew.
Insect repellents are considered pesticides so they must meet strict safety standards. In 2004, Health Canada proposed phasing out citronella-based bug sprays because of new questions about its safety.
Small manufacturers who couldn't afford to submit detailed safety data saw their lines discontinued at the end of 2012. Those who submitted what data they could and tried to challenge the ban are now to see their products phased out at the end of this year.
In 2005, Kacew sat on an independent scientific panel to review Health Canada’s position. He says the panel believed the study that led the government to question citronella’s safety was flawed, in part because it examined what happened when rodents ingested the oil. “Humans are not going to drink citronella,” he says.
The department told CBC that “the panel supported Health Canada’s approach,” but Kacew refutes that. He says the team of scientists concluded that citronella was safe as long as it didn't contain methyl eugenol, an impurity that could be a potential carcinogen. “In general, most of these citronella oils that were available for us to examine did not contain impurities, and they were regarded by us to be basically safe,” he says.
More here

Once again the small producer using time proven natural products looses to the multinational chemical companies because they cannot 'prove' their product is not harmful. Meanwhile said companies continue to churn out more pesticides that approved after very limited and less than independent testing. Wonder when the Citronella plant will become a 'noxious weed' or illegal to grow?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Emerald Ash Borer

From Bayshore News “The Emerald Ash Borer continues to migrate north, now the infestation is reported in Kincardine. Officials say they have received confirmation that the destructive bug has reached the community.
In a news release, town officials say the response plan will address the removal of infected trees on municipal land that may present a hazard to public safety or property.”

This is not the first report of EAB in Grey Bruce but does show that it is becoming more prevalant in the area. Whilst previously efforts were made to 'control' the spresd of the pest by removing all ash trees under municipal areas is has become evident that the spread CANNOT BE STOPPED and that the removal of trees is simply for safety and liability purposes. Also efforts were made when they were first found in southern Ontario to restrict the movement of firewood and lumber from infected areas to non infected areas, such restrictions still exist but in that the 'control area' now encompasses all of Ontario north to Sudbury and beyond it is not a consideration for the average landowner in Grey Bruce.

In that this insect has been a problem in many northern states for many years there is quite a bit of information available but there are NO METHODS TO CONTROL it. I have been unable to find any information as to if it effects young regrowth saplings except that “the female lays numerous eggs in bark crevices and between layers of bark” so presumably until the tree is mature enough for such crevices exist they will not lay their eggs in then. However it is noted that they will kill a tree “before it is mature enough to produce seed” so long term they could eradicate the ash tree in North America.

As a landowner with 1000s of ash trees in my bush and millions more on surrounding properties what can I do about it all? Nothing except keep my head up when working or hiking in the bush. I will be trying to select ash trees, particularly those showing signs of dieback, for firewood rather than other species and leaving the Maple, Cherry and other unaffected trees to fill in but given the amount of ash regrowth it will be beyond my lifetime before it makes any significant impact in my bush.

All that said here is a little information from various sites giving details on the Emerald Ash Borer:-
The adult emerald ash borer emerges May - July and the female lays numerous eggs in bark crevices and between layers of bark.
The eggs hatch in 7-10 days into larvae which bore into the tree where they chew the inner bark and phloem creating winding galleries as they feed. This cuts off the flow of water and nutrients in the tree, thereby causing the tree's dieback and death.

Signs & Symptoms of EAB
The most visible sign of infestation is crown dieback. Branches at the top of the crown will die and more branches will die in subsequent years. As the tree declines, ‘suckers’, or new young branches, will sprout from the base of the tree and on the trunk.
The bark may also split vertically and woodpeckers may feed on the beetle leaving visible damage on the bark. Successful treatments with insecticides are limited but continue to be studied. All ash trees near any new infestation will most likely become infested and die.
Adult beetles emerging from trees will leave a unique “D” shaped exit hole. This is a small 1/8 inch diameter distinctly “D” shaped hole that may appear anywhere on the trunk or upper branches.
Follow this link for some good pictures of the life cycle of the EAB and some of the damage it does.

As of today, most of the areas currently regulated to control Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in Ontario and Quebec are now consolidated into one large regulated area. This will enable authorities to better protect Canada's forests by focusing on preventing EAB from spreading into new parts of Canada.
It is prohibited to move firewood of all species, as well as ash trees, ash nursery stock or ash wood (including wood chips, wood packaging or dunnage), out of this area without written permission from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). These materials could be infested and spread EAB. Moving these materials from the regulated area without permission could lead to fines and/or prosecution.

Infested ash trees become extremely porous and are at risk of breaking or falling, posing a danger to residents, adjacent buildings, vehicles and property. For landowners, businesses or municipalities who have prized ash trees, the inoculation treatment is a natural, biological compound called TreeAzin which degrades naturally in the tree tissues.
Prices for the treatment vary according to the tree size as well as outside conditions such as temperature, wind speed and the level of humidity.  Prices can vary between $100 - $500.  The process must be done between June and mid-August and must be repeated every 2 years for full effectiveness.