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, November 27, 2009

On No Work & Blank Screens

A couple of updates to recent posts….

The Recession is over …. NOT!

If you thought the July & August figures were discouraging try these on for size.

In Ontario, the number of EI recipients more than doubled in 10 of its 41 large centres between September 2008 and September 2009. In the southern part of the province, Hamilton and Kitchener saw the fastest increases in the number of beneficiaries. In Hamilton, the number of EI recipients rose from 4,800 to 10,400, while in Kitchener, the number increased from 3,900 to 8,400. At the same time, the number of EI recipients in Toronto rose from 46,300 to 86,600.
The full report is here


More on that Broadcast / Cable fight!

“Fee for carriage is only part of the story, as broadcasters are also seeking to: block U.S. signals; leave some Canadian communities without over-the-air television; and delay the transition to digital television transmission until 2013.”

“The broadcasters also confirmed some Canadian communities will lose their over-the-air signal as part of the transition from analog to digital. For decades, Canadian broadcasters have used spectrum to transmit over-the-air analog broadcast signals; estimates indicate 10 per cent of Canadians still rely on over-the-air TV signals.”

“The broadcasters are not willing to invest in digital transmitters for all communities, leaving residents of Kingston, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Kelowna (among others) without over-the-air signals. Moreover, the broadcasters admit they will not be able to complete the transition by the Aug. 31, 2011 deadline. “

From The Toronto Star -Broadcasters want more

T/H to Blast Furnace Canada

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rose Coloured Glasses

I recently heard Elizabeth May once again repeating the anti nuclear message of the Green Party calling nuclear power “a sink hole” regarding money. Its hard to disagree with that, but what are the alternatives? In the same interview Ms May promoted wind power as one of the alternatives but given that wind power projects are receiving several times the price per Kwh than are “conventional” powers sources, is this any less of a sinkhole? I note that one recent solar project just coming on line is getting 40c per Kwh (guaranteed for some years) for its output whilst the current price for “conventional” is less than 20% of that! What price are you prepared to pay for what may be an unreliable source of power? Whilst many of us in rural areas can (at considerable capital cost) become somewhat self reliant, how many apartment dwellers in the city have any viable alternatives? Are you ready to pay 5 times as much for the same amount of hydro, are you prepared to buy “dirty coal” power from the U.S. when wind and solar cannot keep up? The questions are many and the answers are not easy but those rose colored glasses seem to be obscuring many folks view of the future!

As someone who believes that we must indeed embrace new technology and move away from old polluting methods of hydro generation I never the less have great difficulty in the “ra, ra wind and solar is the answer” crowd who have yet to satisfy my question as to where does the power come from on a cold, dark, windless night.
Do you prefer damming of rivers, run of river generation, gas fired generation, clean coal, or some other form of generation each of which comes with its own problems, opponents and supporters. I know, I know, conservation is a big part of this debate and I agree with those that say we are wasteful but we must be REALISTIC in our desire to improve things. Just because due to the “downturn” and the closure of many manufacturing plants demand has recently reduced we cannot expect the demand for hydro to remain low, the electric car is coming, the hydrogen car (requiring hydro to generate hydrogen) is coming, hopefully industry (even producing wind turbines and the like) is coming and all these things will require power. Very few of these “requirements” will be limited to a sunny or windy days so get real folks, wind and solar is a great PART of our hydro supply but we still need a great deal of base supply that we can rely upon.

One thing I will agree with Elizabeth on, and that is the need to reduce the impact of wind farms upon our rural communities, this is a case of where the few are bearing the brunt of the move to wind power - to benefit the many (mostly urban) users. The use of more “offshore” installations makes a great deal of sense to me, less impact upon individuals (particularly rural individuals), all but eliminates the visual pollution across the countryside and places them where generally the wind is the greatest. Of course the usual objections will come from both the “developers” re cost and the “environmentalists” re wildlife but each and every means of generation and each and every location for said project will have the same consideration. Is the heath and welfare of a nearby family any less important than that of the birds, fish or other wildlife that will be affected in varying degrees by each and every wind turbine, solar array, power plant or hydroelectric installation? Its where we each find the balance acceptable is the question and it is important that we do so in a logical way based upon ALL the information not upon one-sided “spin” from one group or another.

That’s my view, many will not agree, some will call me “not green”, but the debate must continue without those “rose colored glasses”!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Getting the Rural Vote - Some Issues

Recently a fellow blogger asked me “what can (governments or partys) do to get the rural vote”? Having been blogging myself about rural issues for some years now I was surprised to find that I did not have a substantive answer ready in regard to either federal or provincial jurisdictions.

Before going much further I must make clear that the rural population is no less divided in our preferred choices of government than the urban population, we may in fact be more divided in that the mere definition of “rural” perhaps covers a much broader range of “lifestyles” and situations than does the definition of “urban”. I will try and answer the question above at a later date, it will of course be a personal view and cannot represent what all the “rural” citizens may want or think. In the meanwhile my best response is to give readers a crash course in some of the issues that effect us here in the cities, towns, villages and countryside that comprise a “rural” riding. I will do this not by regurgitating information and opinions posted elsewhere but by pointing you to each of those articles along with my reaction to them in various posts over the last two or three years.

The first question is “What is Rural”, a question I have previously attempted to answer (unfortunately that piece has disappeared into electronic hell) and a question asked by many other including in some of the reports below. It is a very difficult definition to pin down with as many views upon it as there are writers!

One of the best outlines of rural needs is “The Senate Report on Rural Poverty” and my reaction to it. It covers a great deal more than just “poverty” issues and says that Rural Canada “lacks a voice” in the Federal Government.

Also of interest is the report on “ The Federal Role in Rural Sustainability” and my post on that.

A National Symposium on How to Build a Sustainable Rural Canada was held in Edmonton my post reflects the theme of One Vision, Many Voices at that gathering.

My view that rural populations are rapidly becoming “The Forgotten Minority” may be worth a read.

The ever increasing rules and regulations to be followed by food processing operations that make small operations non-viable impact the rural areas more than most. Farm “value added” operations are becoming ever harder to start or maintain.

Also of interest a discussion on property taxation and how a small municipality with a limited tax base cannot compete with a larger one in regard to providing services to their citizens.

The move by the Ontario government to reduce the need for environmental assessments for “Wind Farms” and the impact they may have upon rural residents heath and property values is a big issue in some areas. Overriding residents and local municipal concerns to benefit mostly urban hydro users is not acceptable.

Then there is the other side of that coin where property owners can be negatively impacted by the EPA without compensation for their work to preserve a species or loss of land use arising from such action.

I will try in a future post to bring all these things together in a more concise overview but if you have visited just a few of these links you will begin to see the difficulty in answering that question we started with. At this point it would seem that the best answer is to move “universal services” such as ambulance, policing, social services etc off the municipal government (but maintain and improve those services) and give more local say in what can be locally unique issues like land use, small industry regulation and environmental protection.

As is recommended in that Senate report, the use of local Post Offices to supply Government Services would do much to make rural folks life easer, this sort of initiative should also be considered for our rural schools which are also once again under threat of closure and “centralization” in the name of “efficiency”. Our rural schools have in fact been under almost constant “review” since my children started in the school system 20 years ago resulting in the gradual decline in the number of local schools and the ever increasing time our kids must spend on the bus each day.

You will note that I have made no effort here to separate the various levels of government responsibility, it is rather difficult to do so when responsibilities for delivery, funding and regulation is so often a mix of two or more government bodies.

I will end with one recommendation from the report One Vision, Many Voices

”The best ideas about rural Canada come from rural Canadians.Municipalities need to ensure that senior levels of government are listening and not providing solutions in absence of local representation.”

This final Priority is probably the most important, and the one which most rural folks feel strongly about. Made in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton or Ottawa solutions not only rarely work for us but are rarely acceptable or even practical to those living far from the city. Whether we “the rural” residents can agree on what those solutions should be, or get Government to listen, is another whole issue!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The good news is.....

Rick Mercer always gets to the heart of things in his rants, this extract from Oct 13 is worth repeating again …………… and again!

But the good news is, the same guy who said that we could never go into a deficit, now says we will pay off that 60 billion dollars without raising taxes or cutting spending. Imagine for a moment your fiancé comes home and tells you that when you weren't looking he or she dropped 150 grand that you don't have at the casino. Now imagine the same fiancé says, "Don't worry, we'll pay it back without making a single change to our lifestyle: I stand on my financial record." I think piano playing or not, we'd all start looking at other options.

Now don't get me wrong, just to be clear to my Tory friends, I am not saying that I believe Michael Ignatieff is better suited to manage this economy. No. I'm saying that based on the past twelve months, Porky Pig is better suited to manage this economy. Because as it stands right now this country has a 60 billion dollar wake up call coming and for the record, not a single leader has come even close to being honest.