Originally posted over at Democracy Under Fire it is reproduced here for my handful of rural readers.
With the Ontario election now history and a slight uptick in the
voter turn out I will relate a few of the problems various voters
have encountered whilst trying to vote in an effort to make both the
voters and those that run the system aware of impediments to voting
during said election. Most of these stories are specific to rural
areas and related to poll location and rural addressing issues, it
may be that in urban areas such things are not such a problem and it
would seem that Elections Ontario either is unaware of such problems
or considers rural voters as less important than their urban
counterparts. Non of the stories are new to the 2014 election but
have been ongoing throughout the last several Ontario elections, some
are relevant to the federal electoral system also.
Let us first look at a couple of lads who were first time voters
and who lived across the road from each other one of whom had found
out where to vote and took his buddy along to also vote. Trouble was
that his buddy was to vote at a different poll, not one across the
room or even a couple of blocks away but 8 or 10 miles away. These
lads had already travelled 10 or 12 miles from their home to get to
the poll and unfortunately it being 8.45pm had no chance of getting
to the other poll location before closing. Not a good first time
At the same poll a number of seniors some using walkers came to
the poll location situated just a few houses away only to be told
that they could not vote as their poll was in a village some 10 to 12
miles away. To add insult to injury the entire village where they
lived was directed to the distant location despite there being more
than enough room to accommodate more polls at their local hall. This
issue is common to many rural polls and has been well
documented in my personal blog during the
At an advanced poll a fellow came in to vote and pulled out his
recently renewed drivers licence for identification only to find that
the address did not match, his drivers licence still showed lot and
concession instead of the now required road and fire number (rural
equivalent of street number). Seems that the word has not reached
licence renewal folk that lot and con is no longer a valid address!
At the same advanced poll a fellow came in to register and vote as
no voter card was received, not a problem except that he had not
moved in the last 10 years and had corrected his information before
the last two elections and his information on the voters list was
STILL not corrected on the list. Third time lucky perhaps?
A number of voters either declined their votes or deliberately
spoiled their ballots. How do we know this? To decline a ballot the
voter must hand the ballot back to the clerk and tell them they wish
to decline, anyone nearby can hear and see this transaction. By the
same token at locations where a tabulating machine is used (as in
most advanced ballots) the machine will reject an incorrectly filled
out ballot, the voter must then tell the clerk that they want the
vote processed as filled out. There is no 'Declined / None of the
above' box on the ballots!
These are just a few of the 'difficulties' that I have been made
aware of most of which in my view are not that hard to fix or at
least make less of a problem. The addressing problems can only be
corrected by keeping an up to date database which requires those
moving to somehow get that data input into the system, how is that we
must update our drivers licence immediately after moving but this
does not filter down to voting lists and that rural addressing
conventions are still not being observed despite Canada Post recently
declaring that they will soon stop delivering rural mail unless it
has the road and fire number on it.
Finally how is it that at advanced polls anyone from within that
riding can vote at any poll but on voting day you MUST vote at a
specific poll location? The major impediment here is that the voter
lists are still being distributed to the polls in printed form and to
wade through some 80,000 names on hundreds of loose leaf pages is a
major chore, just ask an advanced poll clerk about that. At the very
least the riding list should be on computer as a read only file with
a search utility (the feds have done this at advanced polls) but
should not updates and the fact that the citizen has voted not be
instantly updated via computer? As it stands it takes 24 hours or
more for the written changes to go to the district office, be entered
and new printed lists to be produced and sent out to the advanced
polls. If someone wanted to vote multiple times it would be
relativity easy and whilst it would probably be picked up eventually
and (presumably) the perpetrator taken to task, the votes themselves
could not be cancelled as no vote is coupled with any particular
Whilst so many of us are calling for election reform in the way in
which our votes determine the composition of the legislatures, the
way in which we actually cast our vote is at least as important if we
wish more citizens to make their wishes known. Its a difficult thing
to ensure that any system is not subject to manipulation by those who
would 'cheat' but we must try and make it less of a chore and
eliminate as many problems as possible so that ALL citizens can and
will vote. In my opinion whilst paper ballots must still be an option
the use of technology can only help with this despite the perhaps
increased possibility of voter fraud and the difficulty of conducting
a 'recount' in such situations.
I note that information as to where to vote and identification
required was available on line or by telephone but for many folks who
do not use the internet or were unaware that they had a problem until
they went to vote it was too little too late. I wonder how many folks
actually read the bulk mailing that went out right after the election
was called and how many thought to take action when they did not
receive a voter card. The above difficulties are not ALL the systems
Let us know about your Rural Election Stories!
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.
Sunday, June 1, 2014
This is the conclusion of a 3 part article by guest Nathan Carey.
Some Thoughts For You to Take Home
Agriculture is, of course, a primary industry, since it takes seed and soil and produces something of intrinsic value – food. This food, in turn, can result in a thousand secondary off-shoot industries. Think about a canning factory, a distillery, a community delivery service, or a candle manufacturer from Bee's wax? The possibilities boggle the mind, and every community will be different based on the needs and desires of its residents.
Small farms trade back the destructive relationship between fossil fuels and efficiency for the creative relationship between human labor and resiliency. Farms need year-round labor, and if you’re not riding the wave of a commodity grain, that means job stability. Stability means a stable local economy, but also stable families and households. There are as many opportunities in or around small-scale agriculture as you and your neighbors have energy for.
What does all of the above mean for you right this moment? Well, it certainly adds a lot of weight to the phrase, "buy local". The idea of buying local has allegedly been accepted and embraced by mainstream commentators, but they use it as little more than a catchy slogan. Instead, it should be understood as something radical and revolutionary! Resilient food producers out there are challenging the food system on all fronts.
So you’re not just reducing your carbon footprint and enjoying the tastiest, most nutritionally dense food, but you’re also -and perhaps most important of all- ensuring the long-term viability of your own community. If you're an investor, then why not put your money into a small-agricultural business or related industry? One of the largest barriers for new farm businesses is start-up capital. Banking institutions generally don’t understand the benefits of this kind of resilient endeavor, because they see no immediate profits to be gained.
The bottom line may look decent, but the return on investment (ROI) is very long-term and the interest might come in the form of hams, lettuce mix and soup stock instead of cash. But if you’re a frequent reader of The Automatic Earth, then you probably understand why nutritional food is a much better ROI. Instead of looking for a quick monetary profit, we can be satisfied settling for delicious food security.
It is obviously important to learn the proper skills and gain experience. There are certainly a lot of folks out there trying to farm without the proper business sense or agricultural knowledge to succeed. With access to online or community resources, though, it is never too late for people to get started on their rural revitalization education. The cities of our nations are where we have focused our attention, but I believe it's in the "empty spaces" where the room for creativity and reinvention of a more equitable and prosperous society will find its roots.
Innovation at the "human scale" is happening at the end of hoes and around micro-brews in a small town watering hole. Food is a basic need, it is non-negotiable and come rain, shine, deflation or inflation, we must eat! As the uncertain future looms large over all our lives, we need to be prepared both to survive and to thrive. For now, it is clear that people in some rural economies are feeling hopeful about agriculture for the first time in a generation.
The fault lines are shifting, as the fastest growing segment among farmers is young women! What better statistic to reflect change from the "traditional farmer" in our culture’s iconography, and the agricultural landscape in general. "Eating is an agricultural act," Wendel Berry famously said, and we are all engaged in this agricultural act every single day. Whether those acts benefit a few multi-national corporate networks or our next door neighbors is entirely in our hands.
To end this discussion, then, I will turn to the extremely informative and insightful book, The Town That Food Saved, written about Hardwick by Ben Hewitt.
The Atlantic Magazine interviewed Mr. Hewitt about the book last year, and he made clear that none of the things happening in Hardwick came without great patience and effort from the people and businesses of the community.
It is not easy to revitalize our rural economies after decades and decades of mis-allocation and mismanagement of resources. Still, with enough effort and imagination, Hardwick proves that this revitalization can be done.
"In the course of researching The Town That Food Saved, Hewitt found that the issue of food systems was far more complex than he had first thought. "I wanted to ask what it really means to create a localized food system," he told me over coffee, one of the few items on his daily menu he does not produce. "It's hard—culturally, economically, and in terms of people's habits. Readers looking for empirical answers should look elsewhere. In a way, this book is more about questions than answers."
Still, Hewitt comes away feeling that Hardwick's recent history may be providing a template for a food system that could save all of us. "The fact is that our nation's food supply has never been more vulnerable. And we, as consumers of food, share that vulnerability, having slowly, inexorably relinquished control over the very thing that's critical to our survival," Hewitt writes. What is at risk, he contends, is the entire model of the way we nourish ourselves. Fixing this broken model is a matter of national urgency.
Should our industrial food system collapse, the Hewitt family (which includes his wife and two young boys) will have far less to worry about than most of us. They raise 80 percent of the food they eat: in addition to all their vegetables, they produce milk, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs, blueberries, raspberries, apples, and maple syrup. Their house, which they built with help from friends, gets its electricity from solar panels and its heat from wood stoves.
Where does that leave the rest of us? "For 100 years food production has been headed in one direction," Hewitt told me. "The people I profile [in Hardwick] are all articulating steps to get us going in a different direction."
This is the final part of a 3 part article by Nathan Carey, see part 1 here and part 2 here.
Nathan raises a variety of animals and grows organic vegetables in a sustainable manner on his 'little piece of heaven' near Neustadt, Ontario. Visit http://www.greenbeingfarm.ca/