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, May 16, 2010

Who is in control?

I spotted this at Bruce on the Bruce and thought it worth repeating, particularly the bit about how much control the Province has over our Municipal councils decisions.

People living here and those who live here part time have expectations.

The Province controls the Municipality legislatively. They control the revenue the municipality achieves through MPAC and through transfer payments.

They control new construction and housing through regulation and or the building code produced by NGO’s as well as through legislation the Province introduces.

Engineering standards are set by the Province and the NGO”s by regulation.

If the MOE decides that we need sewers or that our existing infrastructure needs updating they are mandated to do so at their will.

If a group of taxpayers want a street paved or a bridge improved or a new Medical Center built and demand it the city fathers are faced with election issues should they decline the request. Or in the alternative should the majority of Council vote to give it it gets done.

Now if going through the tunnel the Province cuts transfer payments for what ever reason the Municipality is forced to increase the tax base or go broke.

Now if the area wants to attract tourists to the area to develop an economy thus generating more tax revenue, they must make investment into infrastructure according to the parameters set out by the Province or the NGO”s.

Yes the Council has input but they are really driven by the Province who denies that they are responsible for Municipal tax increases.

The problems associated with the demands of locals both part-time and full-time combined with the Provincial direction which is contingent upon who we have elected Provincially really dictate the actions of Council.

Having said that, if you don’t want local tax increases then stop demanding new roads, more services, new medical centers etc.

There is only so much money both from a consumer stand point as well as a government stand point.

To expect all the services that Toronto has in Grey Bruce without the tax base you are dreaming unless you are prepared to continue paying additional dollars to provide those services etc.

Case in point Owen Sound and their rec center. In my opinion we need this like we need a hole in the head but yet they are building it or in the case of TSBP a Medical Center.

It comes down to stupid is as stupid does! You cannot have things both ways. Our elected reps are at the mercy of their masters, that is you and me and the Province. Damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Food Sovereignty negotiated away

The Canada-E.U. Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiations are based on commitments to place corporate rights before social and economic justice, democratic control, and ecological sustainability. Negotiations are progressing quickly and with little public scrutiny until now.

Trade Deal Attacks Seeds, Farmers, Food Sovereignty

Agriculture is a critical economic sector that will be severely affected by the proposed trade agreement with Europe. The trade deal will concentrate even more power in the hands of corporations, at the expense of farmers and food sovereignty.

Corporations Get Powerful New Tools to Control Seeds

The trade deal would give biotech, pharmaceutical, pesticide, seed, and grain companies powerful new tools to force farmers to buy seeds at high prices, on corporate terms. It would give corporations even more power to ultimately decide who farms and how.

Eliminate the Right to Save Seed?

The trade deal would almost entirely eliminate the rights of farmers to save, reuse and sell seed.

Plant varieties can be protected as intellectual property through Plant Breeders Rights as well as patents on genes. The trade deal would give rights holders an unprecedented degree of control over seeds and farming by committing Canada to adopt UPOV'91, the draconian 1991 version of The International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties. The inclusion of UPOV'91 in the deal is completely unnecessary and is excessively harmful to Canadian farmers. Seed breeders would have the right to collect royalties on seed at any point in the food chain!

The draft of the trade deal also says that biotech corporations could seize the crops, equipment, and farms, and freeze the bank accounts of farmers who are deemed patent infringers, like farmers who find unwanted contamination in their fields.

End Supply Management?

The deal would commit Canada to reducing or eliminating agricultural subsidies and other government supports to farmers over time. Supply management systems that have allowed farmers in the dairy, poultry, and egg sectors to earn a decent living are under attack. The Canadian Wheat Board (a farmer controlled grain marketer) is also very likely under threat.

From - http://www.tradejustice.ca/Food-Sovereignty?bl=y

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Rural Tax Rates Rise!

Recently my local municipal Council has, like many other rural municipalities set their annual budget and have noted that due to lost revenue from the Provincial Government have had to raise our taxes. This has been an ongoing problem for such municipalities for four or five years now due to the “downloading” of the Farm Tax rebate and Managed Forest tax rebate program costs to said municipalities. Prior to 2006 the province paid for these tax discounts directly and promised to compensate the townships for such costs when they changed the manner of administering the program for the 2008 taxation year.

Since that time there has been a steady dwindling of funding returning to rural townships to cover the reduced taxation on these properties (such rebates are MANDATED by the province should property owners apply for same). The Association of Municipalities of Ontario says that “Today it pays only $65.8 million, about one-third of the original amount allocated” and that “ the total amount of the tax rebate that municipalities would expect under the original plan, because of higher assessments, has ballooned to $253.2 million, almost four times what the province pays rural municipalities now. Municipalities have had to come up with a whopping $187.4 million from other tax sources to make up the difference.”

More specifically - North Dundas a municipality “heavily dependent on agriculture which collected $13.1 million in taxes in 2009, is short $800,000 in tax revenue because the province has reneged on its promise to pay the full tax rebate.”

“North Dundas is not alone. SDG collected $31.2 million in taxes last year but lost $4.4 million or 14 per cent of the revenue because of the decreased farm tax rebate.”

“Prescott-Russell County is losing almost as much as SDG. Areas with an agricultural base are highly affected. Some of the rich agricultural counties like Middlesex in western Ontario have the same problem.”

“In the Municipality of Brighton, (they) get nothing from the province. The reneged deal means the township has to collect $140,000 more through increased property and industrial taxes.”

“Kawartha Lakes collected $908,789 from eligible farmland and managed forests in 2009. But if the land had been taxed at the full tax rate, the city would have received $3.6 million. The consequence was the $2.6 million shortfall that Kawartha Lakes believes should have been paid by the province was charged to local property and business owners.”

And in my own Township of Chatsworth, Mayor Greig says “They lost 273 thousand dollars in Ontario Municipal Partnership Funding and another 400 thousand from the farm tax rebate program. ……. the shortfall translated to 12.7 per cent of their budget.”

“He says the province's new funding formula is seriously flawed and "it's almost criminal what they're doing".

For those that are unaware of this program and the way such tax rebates work here are a few details:-

Farm properties satisfying the eligibility requirements are taxed at 25% of the municipal residential tax rate. The farm residence and one acre of land, surrounding it, will continue to be taxed as part of the residential class.

OMAFRA has the responsibility to determine and report eligible properties to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation from property owners submitting the multi-year application.

To be eligible for the Farm Property Class tax rate, the following criteria must be satisfied:

The property must be assessed as farmland it must be part of a farming business generating over $7000 of gross farm income and be reported to Canada Revenue Agency. The farm business operating on the must have a valid Farm Business Registration number. More than 50% of the property must be owned by Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada. If the property is owned by a business which is a sole proprietorship, the owner must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

To receive the Managed Forest tax rebate the property owner must submit an approved forestry plan (renewable every 5 or 10 years) and the plan and forest must be reviewed by a licensed forestry technician for approval and renewal. The plan can only be applied to properties over 10 acres and a minimum of one acre surrounding any residential areas cannot be included. It cannot be applied to “commercial operations” and a minimum density of trees also is required.

Until recently Townships have been quietly lobbying the Ontario government to stand up to their promises to fully compensate municipalities for said rebates because “.It’s an issue we hate to bring up because it can reverberate back on farmers. Some people think farmers should pay the full tax rate." No doubt some of our urban cousins will be of that opinion, but such a point of view shows a lack of understanding of the plight of our farming community (particularly the family farm) and perhaps a lack of acknowledgment of the need for the preservation of forested lands for future generations health and well-being.

I submit to you that our farms and forests are critical for the future of all citizens in Ontario, indeed Canada, and not just the “local municipality”. If we are to have a tax incentive for these lands to continue to produce the food we eat and clean the air we breath (and I believe we should) then the cost of such programs must be spread across all those that benefit, and that includes residents of both rural AND urban areas. The rural population and farming population is steadily declining and such extra costs spread out over a small sparsely populated(by urban standards)area can be considerable.

It seems that the Ontario Government has already made their choice, rural municipalities are to be ignored, don’t fund their costs for provincially mandated programs, override their zoning bylaws and motions regarding wind turbine installations, enforce expensive water testing regimes and food processing regulations without regard to the effect upon the struggling rural areas. After all those rural folk are totally outnumbered by the urban population so their vote counts for little. By the time oil prices go through the roof, terminal seed terminates our crops, countries cease to export food in order to feed their own and urban populations look to us rural folk to feed them it will be to late. Multinationals will own all the land, our villages will be “retirement communities” and few will be left to care for our farms and forests.

Pessimistic, you bet, but it’s increasingly looking like a more lightly scenario.

I’m “Rural” and will do everything I can to remain so.

With extracts from



A request for further information from Chatsworth Township did not receive any response.