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.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Rick's Rant

As is usual Rick Mercer hit the nail squarely on the head....

I like it when light shines on the Canadian Senate. Because there's no doubt about it, it is a very strange and unique place. And let's face it, it has been a dumping ground for political hacks and bagmen since Mackenzie King was in short pants.

We all know it needs reform. So why is it such a big deal that Tory senators killed a bill? I mean the senate has killed bills before, right? Well not really, not like this. Because they didn't just kill a bill, they killed a bill without any debate. And that is the entire reason the senate exists. They are, despite the fact that Mike Duffy is a member, the chamber of sober second thought. And the Tory senators took a bill that had been voted on and passed by a majority of the duly elected members of the House of Commons – the people we actually vote for – and killed it without a debate. To put that in perspective, the last time it happened was the 1930s.

Think about this: Jean Chretien, who we all know, would have sold his own mother to get his own way and embarrass the opposition, he never tried this.

It’s one of those things; it's so undemocratic nobody actually believed any Canadian Government would do it. It's one of those things that’s just not done. And so when Marjory LeBreton, the senate leader, was asked about this, she just laughed and said, “Ha, it's legal."

Oh, that's a great defense there Marjory. It’s legal. It’s also legal to walk up to a veteran, stick a quarter in his poppy box and take all the poppies. But people don't do it. Because most of us, we like to think about what’s right, not what’s legal.  And if you're dealing with people who go through life and don't care about right or wrong and don’t care about democracy as we know it and only care about what they can get away with? All the reform in the world won’t make a difference.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Superhighway to nowhere!

It's the superhighway to nowhere if you don't live in a city or town” So says Connie Woodcock in the Toronto Sun , having written about this issue in the past in my blog here and here it was good to see this article published in a big city newspaper. The comments it gleaned showed the enormous divide that exists between rural and urban citizens, something that was also raised in the senate report on rural poverty referenced here . I will let Connie take it from here:-

“In six months of house hunting in rural Ontario, we’ve come to one conclusion that has become more inevitable the more we look: We have to move into town. We’ve looked and looked and looked but not a single rural property for sale in our area has the one essential without which we can’t work — high-speed Internet access.

That puts us on the wrong side of Canada’s digital divide.

Virtually all urban Canadians can access broadband easily and inexpensively. Thousands of rural Canadians — and not those who live in remote areas — can not. Urban Canadians can use their cellphones wherever and whenever they want. The rest of us can’t.

The CRTC held hearings last week into the future of broadband in rural Canada and whether it should be a basic service that must be regulated and available to all. The first people the CRTC heard from, naturally, were those who don’t want to do it — the big telecommunications companies like Telus and Rogers and Bell. You can guess what they said: Can’t be done; too expensive; market forces will take care of it … blah, blah, blah.

Several service providers said it was impractical, unnecessary and would cost $7 billion. A Telus vice president said the cost was too high and there are other alternatives. It’s enough to make you laugh, unless you don’t have service available and then it’ll make you cry. It’s the kind of argument which, in an earlier age, would have kept rural folk from having electricity or telephone service.

Indeed, Bell Canada, once the only phone service provider, dragged its heels offering private service, leaving many rural residents with party lines as recently as the 1980s. Having tried to do my job as a reporter doing fire and police checks on an eight-party line, I can tell you it was all but impossible. Bell finally finished upgrading just in time for the Internet age to begin.

And nothing much has changed. Now the big companies think I can get along without the kind of Internet service 95% of Canadians expect as their right. My house does have high speed access but I’m one of the rare lucky ones. Few others in my area do. Satellite service is available but it’s costly and unreliable and experts say it’s unlikely to improve significantly. Cellphone technology is even more expensive and unreliable. Yet we’re only a two-hour drive from downtown Toronto.

Ironically, the Internet is probably more important to people in rural and remote locations than it is to urbanites who have easy access to the whole gamut of cultural experiences. It evens out the playing field. Some kid in Iqaluit isn’t ever likely to see the inside of the Art Gallery of Ontario, but with broadband, he can tour the best in the world or get access to the same vast store of information urban kids take for granted.

This is also huge for rural people who need to be able to have the same business opportunities everyone else has. My husband and I couldn’t do our jobs without high speed. If you want to know just how desperately it’s desired, all you have to do it go into town to my local library any afternoon and watch the librarians refereeing use of the free wireless service.

This week, Liberal MP Marc Garneau, with whom I’m amazed to find myself agreeing, told the hearings if rural people aren’t guaranteed access, they’ll be second-class citizens. “All Canadians should have equal opportunity to succeed, no matter where they live,” he said.

He’s right. The CRTC must regulate broadband access and force compliance. Government subsidies would help and the sooner the better. Broadband needs to become the same basic right telephone service is to make sure everyone can access the future.

Republished by permission of the author.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Biodigester online soon

The Chatsworth and Georgian Bluffs biodigester, the first of its kind for a municipality in Ontario, is now producing gas and the hydro produced is expected to begin to feed the grid later this week This seems to be a win - win for local residents, not only does it provide a safe method of disposal of septage and other wastes but will, through tippage fees and hydro feedback tariffs, pay for itself and eventually make some money for the townships. Way to go Councilors, once again the little guys show how it should be done!

The Owen Sound Sun Times says:- The organics-to-energy facility was originally intended to be a solution to septic sludge disposal, which the province planned to ban from being spread on agricultural fields. Municipal officials now plan to quickly expand the list of acceptable waste to ensure a reliable supply of raw material. Fat, oil and grease from restaurants, leftovers from slaughterhouses and vegetable and fruit scraps from kitchens are expected to be added to the list.
Georgian Bluffs council authorized the township to take out a $1.2-million, 15-year debenture from the Bank of Montreal to pay for its share of the project's cost. Chatsworth also secured a $1.2 million loan. Revenue from the biodigester, expected to be at least $322,000 a year, will be used to pay back the debenture, township officials say.
Earlier they reported that :- Chatsworth and partner Georgian Bluffs will receive two-thirds of the money needed to build a biodigester for waste disposal. The municipalities are getting $1.66 million of the $2.5 million needed from through the communities component of the Canada Builds program.
The other $833,333 will be split equally between the two neighbouring municipalities. The biodigester will be built just south and east of Kilsyth, at a Georgian Bluffs-owned property about four kilometres north of the boundary with Chatsworth. The location was chosen because Georgian Bluffs had a ready site.
There seems to be a little confusion as to exactly how much the townships are on the hook for but either way its a great initiative and may actually help to reduce our taxes in a few years.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Where to draw the line?

The following was a response to a blog post by E May on the Green Party web site...

With municipal elections over and many having taken place using “alternative” voting methods, some of which enabled voters to make their choices over a period of a week prior to closing, I recently mused whether, should this trend ever get to Federal voting, whether opinion polls should be banned during that period. It seems that like political party advertising, opinion polls have a overly strong effect on voter preferences, particularly in the last few days before the polls close.

We SHOULD be voting for the best person to do the job, bearing in mind the overly strong influence that party politics has upon the actions of that individual after he or she is elected, that is not however how it works. Negative advertising, strategic voting based upon the latest polls, and Party Politics has a far greater influence than it should, but can we eliminate or reduce these things? In an open and democratic society (and I am starting to wonder if we can continue to describe Canada as such) can we dictate who says what and when?

Drawing the line between free speech and political interference with election processes is a very difficult line to draw but given the direction that such things are going is one that perhaps needs to be defined. When the ability to blast the airwaves with advertising has a measurable outcome as to the results (even if that outcome is to not vote) it is time to reconsider the rules, if for no other reason that the less affluent amongst us may well be disenfranchised by not being able to heavily fund those partys that may better represent our interests. Recent revelations that publicly funded utility companies are funding political campaigns reinforces my belief that we must look at restricting the manner in which such advertising is used and funded.