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, October 28, 2017

Growth Beyond Cities

As I subscribe to the Rural Ontario Institute news feeds I get occational links to their recent reports on rural issues the moast recent being the Rural Ontario Foresight Papers which discusses a wide range of issues from rural growth to econimic issues to broadband infastructure.

I wont even atempt to sumerize the content of this 130 page “paper” which typicaly for acedemic reports goes on at great lenth to say what can be said in a much more readable lenth but non the less highlights a number of rural issues. That said here are a couple of extracts from the report which perhaps show the diffrent perspective rural and urban folks have on some important issues.

Renewable Energy and Rural Electricity
In recent years, Ontario has invested vast sums of money in renewable energy. At the same time, there has been a significant consolidation of power supply in the province, with most small municipal elect ricity systems being absorbed by Hydro One and electricity rates being harmonized across the province. In this process, electricity costs have sky -rocketed for many rural customers. This reflects much higher delivery charges, as well as higher cost generation. Ironically, renewable energy is far more likely to be generated in rural areas than was the case for coal or oil -fired power stations, which were sited close to cities. Now a rural household next to a large wind generation site may have an electricity bill much larger than an urban dweller for the same quantity of electricity because of large transmission and distribution charges, even though the urban household is hundreds of kilometers further away from the place the power was produced. Further, rural households have less scope for reducing their electricity bill. The existing rural housing stock is older, household incomes are lower, there is less op portunity for switching to gas and new, better -insulated homes are not being built. The result is a growing incidence of fuel poverty, especially in northern Ontario where more homes are heated with electricity and winters are long. Moreover, businesses in rural areas tend to be major electricity users, because the service sector is less important, and high electricity prices are affecting their ability to be competitive. The result is a provincial policy that has placed a disproportionate burden on rural citizens and regions.

I note that recent decisions by the current Ontario govenment have substantialy reduced rural home owner hydro costs however there may be a substantial price to pay later for these reductions acording to some observers.

Gasoline Taxes and Rural Households
Cars in rural areas are a more of a necessity than is the case in a city where public transit or taxi services are readily available. For a low - income rural household, operating a car is a major share of their household bud get. A major element of this cost is the price of gasoline. High provincial taxes on gasoline are justified, in part, as a way to fund public transit systems and encourage their use, and to reduce emissions associated with congested urban roads. Rural residents pay these taxes but do not have access to public transit and rarely experience congested highways. To be sure, rural residents tend to have relatively long distance commutes from their place of residence to work because in rural labour markets jobs are typically not available in close proximity to where they live. While they tend to drive more miles in a year than city residents, most of this travel is part of rural life where stores, schools, public services and jobs are dispersed. Gasoline taxes also fund roads and this use is clearly beneficial for rural residents, but perhaps some other form of tax might be a fairer way to address the problems of urban congestion

It must be pointed out that there is a substantial difference between 'in town' rural and 'out of town' rural on this issue, particularly for those for whom there are no alternatives to reliable vehicle ownership and such is a necessity not an option.

Access to Health Care by Rural Citizens
Dealing with rising healthcare costs and a growing number of older people are major challenges for the provincial government. In rural areas the problem is especially acute because aging is taking place at a faster rate and the population is widely dispersed making it more expensive to deliver health services. Moreover, the presence of a hospital in a commu nity, just like the presence of a high school, is a significant factor influencing economic attractiveness and quality of life. Places that lose these essential services become less desirable locations for firms and households. A big challenge is the trad e- off between ready access, which requires a large network of hospitals to allow proximity, and the lower cost of operating a smaller number of larger facilities that can capture economies of scale and that have higher utilization rates. Hospital consolidation, like school consolidation, imposes longer travel costs on users. Thus, part of the saving for the province from consolidation is offset by higher travel costs for citizens. In the case of health care , these costs can involve worse health outcomes, as well as additional monetary costs, if it takes too long to get to a treatment centre. For example, the large new regional hospital in St. Catharines offers more advanced care than was available previously at the old smaller hospitals in the Niagara Region . But, for the more remote part of the southern portion of the Region, the resulting loss of easy access to local hospitals has led to much greater travel distances, which makes it possible that access to health care is now worse than in the past. For people in the distant north, where roads are limited in number and distances are large, access to emergency health care is a particular challenge.

Health services are increasingly being 'consolidated' and 'centralized' and whilst basic services can in most cases be found 'locally' the specialization of many such services often necessitate a trip to distant urban 'heath centres'.

The ever increasing proportion of urban dwellers to rural residents will no doubt continue to increase the need for those rural residents to travel to or move to urban areas to receive services previously available localy. Are those who chose to avoid the big cities going to become second class citizens I wonder?


The Mound of Sound said...

I believe it was in a recent Harper's magazine that I came across a growing trend in the United States to allow secondary rural roads to revert to gravel. The asphalt is not maintained and allowed to degrade. I guess it plays proper hell with everything from windshields to suspensions but somebody has to pay for those tax cuts for the rich.

Rural said...

Having lived for many years on a gravel road I find its not that bad provided it is graded once in a while and no large potholes develop, I have traveled on patched up paved roads that were worse! Keeps the rich city folks with their fancy new wheels from invading our quiet hideaway LOL.