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, March 26, 2010

Its about time.

The Ontario budget that just came down has called for a wage freeze on all “non union” public workers and Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has said that the government “will not fund” any wage increases in the unionized sector. Given that so many Ontarians, indeed Canadians, have been laid off, have run out of unemployment, are having difficulty finding new employment or are reduced to a part time job this is a quite reasonable and prudent thing to do.

Unfortunately the unionized sector will continue to get their “negotiated” raises and as the contracts come up will no doubt continue to demand “more” and threaten to walk off the job and disrupt services if they do not get their way. That government “will not fund further raises” is a bit of a non starter given that in both the heath and education sectors the government does not negotiate directly with those employees, so when, that’s when not if, these public employees with secure jobs and above average wages and benefits demand “more” where will it come from? Simply really, it will come out of the already stressed Hospital or School Board budgets and thus something else will suffer to pay for them.

This is not speculation, it is history folks, it has been this way for years and there is no reason for it to change. The union folk will cry “our members deserve a decent wage” whilst raking in two, three, four and even five time that received by those folk in those minimum wage jobs that for many are the only choice left. The teachers, nurses, technicians will decry cuts to services that may be needed to pay for their generous compensation but will they direct their unions to reduce any of their “demands”? Not a chance!

Bottom line, with an ever increasing demand for more government “services” and ever increasing demand by those providing those services for “better compensation” and an ever increasing percentage of our population working directly or indirectly for government, only two solutions exist. Increased taxes or reduced services.

Would that reduced compensation, reduced waste, and increased efficiency was in the government and union lexicon, and that the public reduce their ever increasing “need” for non essential services from government.

And that how it looks from one of the many who has been making do with less for some time now……

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Province of Toronto

Recently rural MPP Bill Murdoch created some attention to the disconnect between the majority of urban voters and the minority of those who compose citizens outside of major cities by suggesting that Toronto should become its own province. Whilst this may have been a somewhat tongue in cheek comment the idea that our provincial government is city centric is indeed something of great concern to many of us who do not belong to that majority. Be it wind power, water source protection, species protection, forestry management, agricultural practices or any other issue affecting rural landowners and residents the majority urban representatives have a much greater impact upon decision making than those closer to the land. This is no less true for Federal governance than Provincial, with 4 out of 5 Canadians living in urban areas it is understandable that those folks will have a greater impact upon decision making than “The Rural Minority”

What follows is the text of an article I wrote some 4 years ago on this subject and is no less valid now that it was then.

We, the rural population, are in my view, rapidly being viewed as irrelevant by both much of the urban (particularly large urban) dwellers and many of our Provincial and Federal Leaders. We have seen of late very little attention given to our farm families despite a few vocal rallies at Queens Park and Ottawa, many of the urban population and indeed our leaders have the view that if you cannot compete in the “global market” dominated by the multinationals then you should simply quit! The “clean water” initiative to protect source water is at first glance a great move but if one looks closer we see that Conservation Authorities and rural municipalities are expected to regulate and police the new rules with little or no funding from upper levels of government. There is at this point no indication of how our cash strapped farmers , as willing as they may be to protect our streams, can afford the time or money to comply with these changes. Many small communities are already struggling with the increased testing and filtration required for drinking water systems. In the past few years the formula regarding tax incentives for both farm and forest land have been changed to put an increased burden upon our local municipalities (and thus our rural taxpayers) to pay for this. Many programs mandated by the provincial or federal government are being funded in whole or in part at the municipal level and this often disproportionately impacts the less populated townships. There is much more, but in short, there is an ever increasing move to download the costs of programs and changes that benefit all citizens to the rural areas that have to implement them.

The above is hardly a surprise, we are after all governed by an electoral system that favors the majority and much as our representatives may endeavor to make rural points of view known when these changes come before parliament, but they too are a minority. If we look at some figures from StatsCan it can be seen just where things are going………

Across Canada the “rural” (StatsCan defines rural as centers with a population of less than 1,000 or with less than 400 persons per square km) population is just 20% of total population. In Ontario that drops to 15%, here in the Grey Bruce area it is slightly above 50%, which is why I suppose we are known as a rural area, but note that nearly half of our residents are in fact urban dwellers.

If we look at those that really comprise the working rural folk and attempt to make that area outside the urban areas productive and of benefit to us all, the story gets worse.

Farm families comprise just 2.4% of our total population and 1.6% in Ontario and the numbers are steadily declining total numbers being down 10 – 15% since 1996 (5 years, all the above being from the 2001 census being the last available info)

See http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/ for more information.

It can be thus seen why many of our political leaders who rely upon the MAJORITY to vote for them in order to get into power do not give much thought or effort to supporting rural and farm communities despite their importance to the health and sustainability of our Country.

How can we change this………………

Firstly communication, we must educate both our leaders and the urban population as to the importance of the wellbeing of our Farms, Forests, Streams, Natural and Open areas and those that care for and own them. Most Farmers and rural landowners are very conscious of the heritage that they own and try and maintain in a sustainable and ecological manner as much as possible, but unless their income and lifestyle is sustainable they cannot sustain that which they care for. We must tell them that the Family Farm is crucial to the survival of many small rural communities, each are interdependent. We must tell our fellow citizens that the multinational corporations that would have control of our food supply from seed (or birth) to market to processing to retail, MUST have some limits put upon them. We must tell governments that regulate (and the corporations that compete with) the small farm cooperatives and farm gate / farmers markets out of existence, that it is these places where the best product and value can be found and that every one gains not just the “middlemen”

We must support our rural communities by shopping at such places and encouraging what few independent food stores left to “buy local” wherever possible. Use those small local businesses whenever possible so that our cash stays in and supports our community, avoid those “big box” stores (easy to say but harder to actually do) whose profits not only do not stay in the community but often do not even stay in the country. Encourage and educate those tourists from the big cities who come to see our beautiful countryside, show them the crops, the cattle, the forests and the flowers, tell them how we care for this land that future generations may continue to enjoy the abundance that it provides. Tell them that we cannot continue to do so if we cannot sustain our community’s economy, if we must all travel to the city to find jobs for ourselves or our children or if our ability to care for our environment is compromised by a lack of resources.

We must start to beat our own drum and LOUDLY, we must get the attention of all those that would forget about us, not by demonstrating at Queens Park or blocking highways, but by constantly telling what we do for the area, Province and Country, even if that is only maintain a small forest to clean the air or a visiting garden to provide escape from the city. We must understand that by its very definition rural folks will always be in a minority (not everyone can, or wants to, live outside urban areas) and thus we can only change things by garnering support from those that do live in urban areas that understand the importance of sustaining our rural communities.

We must not become the FORGOTTEN MINORITY.

“Murdoch also cited the Liberal-created Green Energy Act, along with the Endangered Species Act and Ontario Water Resources Act as causing hardship for rural Ontarians. He said his latest criticism of Toronto speaks to bigger concerns with democracy at Queen's Park. Murdoch said the premier of Ontario's office holds too much power. Cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and parliamentary assistants should be selected by caucus, he said, and MPPs should not be forced to vote as the party dictates.”

From some of the on line commentary and less than complementary posts about both Bill and rural residents in general it would seem that both sides need to get some more perspective. Democracy is, or should be, inclusive not exclusive. For more of the rural perspective and Bill’s views see these owensoundsuntimes articles

Monday, March 15, 2010

Access to information cut by Feds.

This from The globeandmail is very troubling particularly for the rural communities and those for whom internet access is a luxury they can ill afford. The internet is in my view one of the few tools left to keep tabs upon government actions, both good and bad, federal or provincial, and is increasingly becoming essential in order to dig out the truth. That many of those who’s funding has been cut are those trying to help the less fortunate in out society, or those providing internet services to those who may not otherwise have it available for one reason or another, simply reinforces the belief that those in power to do everything they can to block information access from the general public. To eliminate funding for such help groups whether within 25km or within 1km of a library or not, particularly given the very modest amounts quoted, shows a total disregard and understanding of the operation and needs of such groups.

“The Conservative government is quietly cutting funding to hundreds of community groups and even hospitals that provide free Internet access to Canadians who might not otherwise have a chance to get online.

Organizations that benefit from Industry Canada's 16-year-old Community Access Program began receiving letters last week informing them that sites located within 25 kilometres of a public library would no longer be eligible for cash.

Groups had been receiving between $4,000 and $5,000 a year to buy computers and other hardware, such as printers and wireless routers; to pay for technical support and skills training; and sometimes to pay for the connection bills.

Organizations that have used the program include employment and youth drop-in centres, English-as-a-second-language programs, libraries, and seniors groups.

In rural areas, such organizations are often clustered in the middle of town and near the local library, meaning they are the most likely to be hit by the change in funding criteria.”

I said in a recent post that “the austerity program is about to commence” and I believe that there will be MUCH more along these lines, its not that government does not need to control spending but more about where those spending cuts will take place. We must take very close notice of the disconnect between what our governments at all levels say and what they actual do. I for one believe that past and current actions speak much more clearly to the direction our leaders wish to take us than the spin and BS that they feed us on a daily basis.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Shorter throne Speech….

The Regime that has been busy cutting funding to woman’s programs now wants to give them “equality” by changing a couple of words in the National Anthem.
Upon returning from their 3 month “recalibration” holiday they wish to reintroduce EXACTLY the same legislation that THEY killed by proroguing parliament by regurgating previous promises using phrases like "Our government will continue," or "keep" or "reintroduce".
Freezing the already generous salaries of MPs and Senators but nothing said of their pensions which we pay 90% of.
Nothing about their unkept promise of several years ago of being “Open and Accountable”, or of Climate Change issues, but they have 19 Billion “infrastructure stimulus” left to bribe us with and spend on ads telling us how well they are doing!

In short, more of the same.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New Infrastructure Projects??

"Mr. Harper, who announced 15 new infrastructure projects at a news conference yesterday with B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, weaved Olympic themes throughout his comments, including those about the economic recovery."

Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t they say that 99 / 95% of the funds were “committed” some months ago and that the deadline for “applications” has passed?
Could this be more “renouncements”, they were previously lying, or simply more PR on the backs of our Olympians?

Update – I knew I had seen it somewhere these are direct quotes from the government web site in Oct of last year from my post from Oct 11th 2009, naturally those pages no longer exist but I am sure some enterprising individuals can find other quotes from new articles of the period.

Our Government …..ooops, sorry, Harpers Government says that “90 per cent of the stimulus funding for this fiscal year has now been committed” - “More than $7.6 billion in federal funds have been committed to more than 4,700 provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure projects” and “Our Economic Action Plan is helping create or maintain an estimated 220,000 Canadian jobs by the end of 2010."

Ok, I get it, that was LAST YEARS stimulus now we are working on this years stimulus, wonder if we will be keeping better track of it this year?