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, December 22, 2011

Green Christmas

Having just returned from a hike around our woodland trails, the first at this time of year without snowshoes that I recall, and all signs of previous snowfall totally disappeared I believe it is indeed going to be a green Christmas here. The bush is rather drab this time of year but the green of the mosses and lichens stand out in stark contrast to the browns of the fallen leaves and the bare trees and the bright overcast skys allowed for some really nice pictures.

Green, brown or white I wish all my readers a Very Merry Christmas and a Trouble Free New Year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rural Counties & Districts Demographics

In considering what information should be included in any online Rural Network I thought that any county or community pages on such a web site should contain the basic demographics of the area. In that the Network we are considering is aimed at rural communities I thought that for any given County that population figures should be broken down into rural and urban (as defined by Statscan). Thinking that these numbers should be easily available from Statscan, especially given that they have just announced that all data will be 'free' I went looking, but after much digging could find no such breakdown.
I can get the numbers of urban verses rural for all of Canada or for any Province but I am danged if I can find it for Counties or other 'census areas' . Much information is available in the 'Community Profiles' tables, population, area & every thing from income stats to type of housing and much more is all there, but not a break down by rural or urban. It must be available somewhere, after all I must presume when we refer to a 'largely rural riding' or county it is based upon the numbers not just a wild guess. One could I suppose figure it out by taking the total population of the county and subtracting the population of those towns or 'urban' areas with its boundaries but this would involve both local knowledge and viewing, and extracting data from, many separate tables.

There is, I believe, a way for researchers to query the raw data and produce a customized report but so far as I can see this not only involves large downloads of data (not a option on limited connections) but is, at this point, still being charged for. The cost indicated for such data download is considerable $35, $50 or more per chart, we wonder if Statscan is going to survive what with budget cuts AND, if the promise to cease charging for data includes such downloads, the loss of other income. Is this a move by a government, now renown for its disdain for scientific data and those that produce it, to weaken the availability and viability of such data. Guess I am getting cynical, I wonder why!

So my little research project to document the percentage of rural & urban population in each Ontario County has gone down the tubes....... unless someone can point me to a source for this information or has previously extracted from Statscans raw data.
How about it, anyone have any idea where such data may be found on line without cost?.

UPDATE – Ok I have found the data for 2006 here. Found by a google search, still dont know why it was so hard to find directly on the statscan site!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Collaboration and Communication

Regular readers will know that I try and keep an eye on rural issues, reports & initiatives and that I do so largely via information available on the internet, I had though until now that I was reasonably up to date with such things. I was wrong! In communicating with the RVN and with Samara (the democracy research folk) I became aware of The Rural Ontario Institute and this in turn lead me to their resources and links pages where I found that not only are there more than 100 Rural Research Centers, Networks & Organizations listed there (with links to each) but that there are also dozens of 'reports' on rural issues listed that I did not know about or have not read.

My first reaction was 'Thats great, so many folks trying to get a handle on rural issues' but then after a little while and visiting a few of the links I began to think 'How is it with all these organizations and reports that rural communities are still going down the tubes, how is it that rural issues are still all but ignored by upper levels of government?' Of the (admittedly very small percentage) reports that I have read and organizations that I have checked out I see very little difference in either their objectives or their conclusions, each has a slightly different perspective or focus but the similarities are striking. In fact the words Voices, Vision, Collaborate and Communicate appear in so many of the report titles and organizational outlines that its easy to get mixed up between them all, but are those latter two things happening? At this point I am not convinced of it!

The other thing that struck me was the difficulty of 'engaging' the rural community at large in the studies and indeed making the rural population aware of such things. Many of the reports are based upon 'focus groups' and meetings held in a very limited number of (usually small urban) locations, I wonder then exactly how representative such studies are, not that I substantially disagree with the conclusions and recommendations of the few that I have read. It is for this reason that I believe we must engage rural communities on line where location is less of an issue.

Folks that have read some of my other posts here (and elsewhere) will know that I think that the internet has a immense potential to both enhance and develop business opportunities in rural Canada but to also to allow rural residents to interact without the need to travel, often considerable distances, to attend meetings or have input into community initiatives or decisions. It is by no means the magic bullet but is, I believe, going to be a major key in maintaining our rural towns, villages and farms as viable entity’s and not just bedroom communities for some large urban center upon which we are increasing forced to rely upon for jobs & services.

With that in mind here are a few extracts from some reports and my thoughts on this specific subject..

I could go on about the availability and cost of High Speed Broadband Internet in rural areas (and that is still a major issue in many areas), how it is now almost essential for any business to be 'connected' and how so many 'service' industries with the right infrastructure no longer need to be physically located in those expensive urban office towers but, in this post at least, I will finish up by concentrating on the possibility’s within the social and community aspect of internet communications.

First cost & affordability
“It has been noted in several circumstances that an acceptable price for high-speed residential connectivity is less than $50 per month, any higher than that and the demand for services falls off dramatically. The economics of supply and demand is such that suppliers (ISPs) are not willing to supply the service in some areas as their costs are greater than that $50 / month maximum fee clients are willing to pay” (And many charge additional fees for usage volumes) “We should not assume that once broadband is available, users will be able to afford the service.”

The vast majority (97%) of households in the top income quartile, those with incomes of $87,000 or more, had home Internet access. This compares with a rate of 54% of households in the lowest quartile, those with incomes of $30,000 or less.” This report also says that those outside major population areas have 10% 'less access', with 1 in 5 of the Canadian population 'not having access from home'!

Secondly, how are we going to get the rural community, those that are on line, to use it as an alternative means of communications within both the local community and the broader rural population. There seems to be a real reluctance by many, both urban & rural, to 'interact' on line, thousands use it to get information but relativity few join in on online forums and discussions. Why is that, limited forum choices, technically challenged, privacy issues, or simply not interested? I dont know, but I do know we must 'get over it' and start communicating with each other if we are to save both our rural communities AND our democracy!

The use of community portals has been identified as being an important contributor to the local economy. These ‘portals’ should be set to view local stores, organizations and businesses with the information well-organized and up to date. In the instance of portals, the responsibility for updates may have to be delegated to an individual / organization.” Which is exactly why I am so interested in the RVN initiative in that one of their goals is to (provide / develop?) a “Web portal designed to foster a living ‘Rural Voices Network’ to facilitate community engagement and collaboration through online forums.”

In my view the provision of an over arching web site providing a set of pre formated information pages and open interactive forums for rural Ontario with the availability of separate but integrated pages available for those communities who wish to join would go a long way to knit both the local community and the whole of rural Ontario together. A one stop 'Portal' for rural Ontarian's and possibly in the future for all rural Canadians.

This post already being rather lengthy I will expand upon MY vision of how such a site could be arranged and what it should incorporate should such web space become available in future posts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rural Voices – Questions.

A month ago I wrote about the Rural Voices Network and the efforts to to understand why and how people participate in the common life of their communities. With all but one of the public forums now behind them they have published the list of questions on which these forums were based at their On Line Forum. Unfortunately these are not publicly viewable unless one registers and logs on (something which I urge rural ontarian's interested in community building to do), however in the interests of creating a little more response to this initiative than currently seems to be the case I have published those questions and my responses to them below.
Not you typical response I would suggest, are you more involved or have a differing opinion? Why not register and have your say. Or, of you prefer let us know your thoughts in my comments section!

Important note:- Since writing this piece the questionnaire has been removed from the forum, no response has been received from RVN as to why this is so or if it will be reinstated. Never-the-less I will publish it here along with my intended responses for the readers interest.
UPDATE:- I am pleased to report that the forum questions are now posted in a publicly viewable area of the forum at http://ruralvoicesnetwork.ca/forum/questions/

I am deeply concerned with the viability of rural communities, family farms and other rural enterprises across Ontario & Canada.

Almost none physically, I try (mostly unsuccessfully) to keep up with local issues and maintain a blog about local & rural issues.

  1. Imagine you are in an empty room, and the closer you stand to the middle represents more active participation in your community. Standing by the outer periphery represents less active participation. Your can also move around the room if you choose. WHERE WOULD YOU STAND TO REPRESENT YOUR CURRENT LEVEL OF PARTICIPATION, AND WHY?
I have my back against the wall, most probably near the corner! Why? Lack of alternate methods of participation.

  1. Now move to where your desired level of participation is, given all limits of your current circumstances were removed. WHERE ARE YOU STANDING AND WHY?
About half way towards the center of the room with occasional forays to the center..

Maintaining local services both governmental and commercial, protecting the rural lifestyle, protecting land use & stopping misuse.

Enabled by knowledge of local issues via radio, newspaper, mailed flyer or internet.
Barriers many, include-
No local newspaper (or news sheet) reporting council or social meetings or issues
Minimal local information available via internet
High speed internet either unavailable or very expensive in many rural areas.
Minimal feedback mechanisms except by travel to meetings.
Reluctance to travel to meetings, particularly evenings and nights.
Few means to communicate easily with other residents on common issues.
Personal reluctance to leave our rural 'retreat' for anything less than really good reasons.
NOTE (Armchair critic? But does that make my input less valid to the community? Catch 22 – you cannot be involved in the community if you do not know what is going on and you cannot know what is going on unless you are involved with the community!)
7. Identify an issue, enabler/barrier, or theme that is affecting your community and/or interests you personally.
Not being one to join clubs, socialize outside of close friend and family or attend meetings it is difficult to even hear about things or organizations that may increase my participation. As one who obtains 90% of his information either via local radio (from city 25 miles away) or the internet (very little LOCAL information available) I feel communication is the key to involvement in rural areas (particularly outside of settlements or villages) where one rarely meets other than ones close neighbors informally. I strongly believe that rural communities can be brought much closer and lively discussions, notice of social and community meetings, local governance issues etc can be greatly enhanced by the increased use of internet tools. The use of a local web site / forum / blog / public space where residents can both read and opine about local issues would in my opinion then foster more face to face meetings, be they formal at one of the ever decreasing 'parish halls' or informal at local residences. Many citizens seen reluctant to embrace this method of communications, why is that?
In my view we need a common platform 'one stop' web site for both individual communities and rural communities in general where communities and rural individuals can interact without the need to travel (in this riding) 50km or more to attend meetings of interest.

Unfortunately this project in and of itself is demonstrating all to well the difficulties of communicating with rural citizens, with a google news search turning up but one news item on the recent public forums and with the online forum seeing but 2 or 3 citizens participating thus far. This is hardly unexpected but is a great disappointment to me, I do hope that the mail out survey which this initial process is intended to produce receives more attention.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I'm Done, I'm Done, I'm Done!

Fall is always a busy time what with finding & putting away all the gardening tools left in various hidden corners, leaning against this tree or that or, surprise surprise, back where it actually belongs! Gathering those tender pots of plants just hanging around, dragging the citrus trees grown from seed saved from fruit eaten many Christmases ago back into the greenhouse, and doing all the little thing that the onset of winter dictates that we must get done NOW adds to the list!
This fall in addition to the usual chore of transferring 6 or 8 cord of wood from the 'woodyard' to the woodshed and then felling, moving and cutting up a number of damaged, twisted or dieing maples for next years firewood we cut about 20 pine for lumber. It is now all sawn thanks to Dennis and his portable sawmill and 2000Bd ft or so of pine lumber is put away to dry ready for next summers building projects, and the mostly maple logs are all blocked ready for splitting come spring.
The old Fergison tractor is serviced and blower hung on back, pails of soil brought in ready for feb / march seeding of more perennials (though where we will plant them when grown is a bit of a problem). A gentle stroll around our bush trails  reveals many recently blown down small dead limbs to be picked up for firewood or moved off the trails but at this point in the year that is yet another job for after winter has added to the pile.
Meanwhile both the wood box and the rum bottle are full AND the sun is out .......life is good.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wind Wars

As some urban dwellers in Ontario rail against a gas fired generating station intended to provide power for their area continuing to be built in their neighborhood despite election promises to move it, the war between rural communities and wind farm advocates also continues. The difference is that a gas fired plant provides power 100% of the time and a wind turbine perhaps 30% of the time, the gas plant provides power within the community in which it is built whilst the wind farms covering large areas of rural land are intended to serve primarily the needs of distant urban communities, the urban area has sufficient population to provide objectors with enough 'clout' to make politicians at least listen whilst the rural populations are but a whisper in the wind!

Much of the problem that has arisen is purely due to the “Green Energy Act” which removes any meaningful control of the location, size or even very existence of wind farm projects from both the local population and their local councilors, it overrides any land planning, environmental or atheistic considerations that would normally be part of the planning process. It is not that wind power is all bad, just that (as I have said before) its ability to provide relief from using other forms of hydro generation is severely limited until and unless high capacity storage solutions are part of such projects. That such an intermittent source of power should find strong support from large corporations is not a surprise given the governments guarantee price (for 20 -25 years) of the electricity that is generated at what is currently many time the going rate for hydro.

MPP Chris Bentley the man in charge of this file “promises to listen to suggestions about how to make wind turbines more acceptable in rural areas. But Ontario’s new energy minister, who doubles as the Liberal government’s point man to make peace with rural Ontario, says science shows turbines pose no health risk and he has no plans to let their location be returned to local control.”
Given that “Another 2,000 turbines have been approved.” I don’t thing there is going to be too much “ peace with rural Ontario” any time soon! Do the math, at a typical 500m spacing that is another 1,000sq km of rural Ontario covered with these things, and proponents of the projects wonder why rural dwellers oppose such developments. We wonder what would be the reaction were every park in Toronto had a wind turbine erected in it .........!

Since it seems that the fish and urban folks have more clout than either the birds or rural folks and have stopped the proposals for offshore wind farms its seems to me that other forms generation such as tidal / wave action projects should be considered. The latter may well be suited for the great lakes given that being relativity shallow they develop a great deal of wave action with little excuse. Ice may create some limitations in fresh water locations but I suspect that it would be at least as viable as wind. The long term answer would, at least given Icelands experience with it, seem to be geothermal however as of yet I have seen little appetite in Canada to develop such high capital cost ventures. It remains to be seen whether the change from a majority to a minority government will mean any changes to Ontarios GEA that will encourage other innovative and perhaps less intrusive way of supplying our power hungry society.

It is not that any of these types of energy supply should not be part of our system but that consideration must be given to both the impact upon the environment AND those living near such installations.
And thats the way it looks from my neck of these rural woods!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Rural Voices Network

The Women’s Institutes of Ontario very recently launched a project to develop a “Rural Voices Network” (RVN) and whist it is early days yet it gives me some extra hope that our rural voices will become more audible in Queens Park and Ottowa. I have written extensively about rural issues, government reports about such issues and even tried, unsuccessfully, to better define exactly what 'rural' encompasses , this initiative then is one which I fully support. The WI has long been active in rural communities, far more I suspect than in urban areas, and thus may well already have more insight than most into the challenges that rural communities face.

Activities within this initiative include creating a Project Advisory Committee, a literature review, ‘Let Your Voice Be Heard’ public forums, online forums, public survey and establishing collaborative networks.  The RVN project is sponsored by a $140,200 grant from The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF). The purpose of the RVN Project is to examine what enables rural citizens to participate in the common life of their community, and to identify barriers to rural civic engagement.  The Rural Voices Network is driven by the mandate to give rural citizens a space to have their voices heard, and to collaborate with charitable organizations and leaders in all levels of governance. 

They will be holding several Public Forums commencing Nov 10th 2011 in 7 communities to understand why and how people participate in the common life of their communities. All community members are welcome to participate in the forums. The aim of the public forums is to have rural citizens ‘voice’ their opinions, life experiences and ideas to be key influences for a Province-wide survey relating to rural civic engagement.

They also have an Online Forum where citizens can initiate discussion and forward ideas or respond to other interested rural residents without the need to participate in a face to face Public Forum. I for one expect to be quite active in said space over the next few months as this idea progresses.

Finally a Tip o the Hat to The Guelph Mercury for publishing an article on this and thus bringing it to my attention.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Election numbers

Just a quick observation on the Ontario election numbers and the percentage turnout. I dont know how the percentage turnout is calculated when large numbers of voters amongst those who chose to vote were not even 'on the list', we wonder how many who did not vote are also missing from the voters list. My contact at one particular rural voting location tells of complaints about long line ups due to so many revisions being required, perhaps as many as 50% of those voting either were not on the list or their address contained errors and thus did not match their identification. Many did not receive their voter cards due to these address anomalies and, as I said in previous posts, many had to drive some distance to vote and thus were already somewhat frustrated. A considerable number of voters left extremely upset without voting or were turned away due to being at the wrong location, we wonder how much effect this had upon the outcome, with the tight numbers at some polls it could make the difference between one candidate or the other being elected.
Elections Ontario does not get any accolades for this one, given that we now have a minority government and thus  they may NOT have four years to prepare (we wonder what they have been doing for the LAST four years) for the next election  there is MUCH work to be done in the next little while.

All in all it seems that my first impression was correct it was indeed a CF!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Elections Ontario Responds

Having written to Elections Ontario to express my concern with the voting locations which some rural residents are asked to attend, that being some distance beyond several closer polls, I was surprised to get a quick response. Here is what they had to say on this issue:-

Returning Officers must consider a number of criteria to find the most suitable voting locations including convenience for electors; the location’s capacity; the extent to which electors are likely to be familiar with the location; any significant barriers that electors will encounter in reaching the location; and any other factor that may be relevant to the proper conduct of the election.
Additionally, recent amendments to the Election Act require that all voting locations are fully accessible. To meet these new requirements, Elections Ontario has developed comprehensive Site Accessibility Standards to help Returning Officers find the most accessible voting locations in their electoral district.

The changes we have made to selecting voting locations mean that some buildings which have held polls in the past are no longer used. In some instances, electors may therefore have to travel further to a voting location than in the past.

In the examples you have cited, it is true that in some instances there may be other voting locations that are closer geographically, however these locations are already at capacity. The electors would then be assigned to the next closest accessible location”.

I have a couple of comments regarding this, firstly how is that Elections Canada managed to find locations with sufficient capacity and access to have us vote locally, secondly I view the distance we have to travel to vote a significant barrier to many voters, and the fact that we drive past an open poll to get there a significant disincentive to vote.

A poll clerk at one of the advanced polls told me that there is already considerable discontent with the voting locations (this not from the area mentioned in the original post), as another who worked in previous polls said “It’s broken on all levels and no amount of tweaking is going to fix it – it needs a major overhaul.”, Whist talking about the federal election it is clear that the same hold true at the provincial level.

Its long past time for 'electronic voting' be it by phone, on the internet or by machine at a poll location – preferably all three! Elections Canada is working on such an initiative I believe. Let us hope that any system devised is shared across the country with both the provinces and municipalities- or will everybody devise their own system each different from the next? I think we all know which way that will go!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ontario Election Cluster F**k!

Having just received our “Notice of Registration” card in the mail we were surprised and dismayed to learn that we did not vote in one of our local communities of Chatsworh or Desboro or Wiliamsford but were expected to drive some distance to Holland center. Upon checking where others around our area were required to vote it became even more bizarre in that some folks would be driving practically past our door to vote at a CLOSER poll whilst other (including ourselves) would be driving PAST an OPEN poll in order to get to the one specified by Elections Ontario.

Is this a concerted effort to discommode rural voters or are the folks who set this up totaly unaware that maps exist that would tell them where these locations are?

Just for you interest here are a few of the WEIRD decisions in this regard:-

Let us take those at the North end of Concession 4 near County road 40 just a mile out of Chatsworth they are asked to vote miles away at
Address: R.R. # 3,  777346 HWY 10,  HOLLAND CENTRE,  ON  N0H 1R0.

...... as are many others just to the west of Chatsworth, However those a little further to the west on the North end of Concession 8 for instance get to vote at
Location: LOUNGE
Address: 112 SALTER ST,  WILLIAMSFORD,  ON  N0H 2V0.

....they like ourselves must ignore the closest poll at
Address: 76 MCNAB ST,  CHATSWORTH,  ON  N0H 1G0.

.......... and drive way down the road to Williamsford. We on the other hand must ignore the nearby Chatsworth poll, drive practically PAST the Williamsford poll and travel all the way to Holland Center.

If this is typical of how the polling locations are figured out then I predict two thing, 1) Many folks will ignore their cards and go to the nearest poll (if they are aware of it through others) and get turned away. 2) Many will look at the distances involved in getting to their poll and simply not bother.

Whilst I really do encourage folks to vote option '2' is looking increasingly attractive particularly in that the advanced polls, whilst open anywhere from 5 to 10 days depending upon where you go, are even further away.

You can check thing out for yourselves at this search form provided by Elections Ontario
but don't even bother to try it unless you have a great deal of patience as it is hardy 'user friendly' , is slow to respond, and there is no fuzzy search here, one minor thing wrong and it goes tilt! Additionally it seems that many of the lots and concessions do not exist according to the search engine.
Have fun checking out your voting location, you may have to book some extra time off to get there.........

UPDATE - I now learn that there is also a polling station in nearby Desboro (where we voted for the federal election), the excuses that Elections Ontario has given for the unavailability of local polling locations is thus total nonsense!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Broadcast TV stations in Ontario.

A few weeks ago I wrote of the difficulty in finding out the current and future status of various Broadcast TV Transmitters in Ontario with regard to which were or were not switching to Digital transmissions as of the end of August.
Whilst we will find out by default very shortly the following link to a list of ALlocated, APproved and OPerational transmitters directly from the Industry Canada database thanks to Jon LeBlanc is a good indication of current and future plans.
It also gives the Latitude and Longitude and the height of the transmitter site which is helpful for those wondering where to point their antenna or if they are within range. It is unclear how often Industry Canada updates said list.


Another useful site for rural folks is this one, which allows you to input your location and then produces a list of stations close to you and the direction to actually point your antenna.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Crude but Effective

Its been a little thin here this summer, there is always another thing on the list ahead of blogging. One of those things is now dealing with the glut of apples and pears on our trees just now becoming ready for picking and deciding what to do with it all. Having always wanted to try making cider but not sure how to effectively crush large volumes of fruit ready for pressing I recently came up with a quick and easy method of doing just that.

Use the wood chipper! Yes, thats right give that chipper a good clean out, remove the screen, place a polly feed bag over the outlet and dump a ½ bushel of fruit in the top and 15 seconds later you have a bag of pulp ready to be pressed, my press takes two such bags per pressing and yeilds between 2 and 3 gallons of juice.
So I now have several liters of Pear and apple juice (suitably heated to kill the wild yeast) in the fringe, an experimental gallon each of cider and perry bubbling away in the corner AND some pear butter made from the squeezed pulp (waste not want not) on the go in the slow cooker. Biggest problem is that this was all done with a couple of bushels of early 'fallers' and I already have 2 or 3 bushels of pears ripening in the basement, many, many more on the tree and have not even started on the apples.

Given that I also want to make some pear wine and only have enough equipment to make about 20 gallons in total it looks like I will be once again giving away fruit to anyone who drops by as we hate to see stuff go to waste and the chickens and peacocks (who love fruit) are already overloaded with the left over pulp. Apple pie anyone?

Oh, then there are the grapes which are also loaded with fruit..........

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Broadcast TV in Grey Bruce

You have all seen the bits on your screen saying that you MAY have to change your old tv for new or get a 'digital converter' if you want to continue to watch station that you receive via an antenna rather than satellite or cable. For many of us cable or satellite is not an option for reasons of cost or unavailability so we are left wondering if we will have to buy one of those converters or not. I have spent many hours trying to find out if the stations I receive here just south of Owen Sound are are going , a) to continue broadcasting from the local transmitters, b) Continue broadcasting in 'analog' format as they are now, or c) switch to broadcasting in digital format on a new channel.

In some cases that information is easy to find and the stations involved will readily give you that information when requested, in other cases they are no so forthcoming.

What follows is the result of my inquiries in this regard.

Channel 2 CTV 'Georgian Bay' transmitter north of Wiarton will continue broadcasting as is, no change.
Channel 8 CTV / CKNX 'Wingham” transmitter will continue broadcasting as is, no change.
Channel 12 TVO 'Owen Sound' transmitter from Keady will continue broadcasting as is, no change.
Channel 20 CBC 'Owen Sound' transmitter from Keady - unable to get definitive answer, presumed to continue broadcasting as is.
Channel 45 CBC “Wingham” transmitter - unable to get definitive answer, presumed to continue broadcasting as is (see below).
Channel 4 Global 'Owen Sound' transmitter from Keady – unable to get definitive answer despite multiple requests via internet, email AND phone, presumed to continue broadcasting as is but I start to wonder what they are hiding!

What follows is a little more information on some of the above...

An email inquiry to CTV resulted in a speedy and definitive response indicating that both channel 8 Wingham and channel 2 Georgian Bay would remain unchanged.

Conventional TV stations like TVO will be allowed to continue broadcasting in analog beyond August 31, 2011 in markets where we do not make the conversion to digital.
High-and Medium-Powered TVO transmitter sites that will continue broadcasting in analog include: Peterborough, Owen Sound, Sudbury, Kingston, Penetanguishene, Sault Ste. Marie, Hawkesbury, Huntsville, Timmins, Pembroke, Parry Sound, Kenora, McArthur Mills, and North Bay. TVO will also continue to transmit an analog signal via more than 100 Low Power Repeat Transmitters across the province.

"The Corporation will continue to offer analogue service beyond the August 31, 2011 shut-off date established by government in all markets not identified by the CRTC as mandatory for digital transmission."

There are some markets, such as London, which are mandatory for Digital Transmission, and CBC does not operate a station there (but does operate a transmitter). In these cases, CBC will shut down the analog rebroadcaster and not replace it with a digital rebroadcaster.

After the analog television shutdown and digital conversion, which takes place on August 31, 2011,[13] CIII-DT-41 will move from channel 65 to its current analog channel number, 41, following transition, because of the phaseout of channels 52-69.

Global intends on transitioning its CIII-TV Paris and CIII-TV-6 Ottawa transmitters to digital by August 31, 2011. CIII-TV-7 Midland (serving Barrie) is also required to broadcast in digital by August 31, 2011 or cease broadcasting. Global has decided to transition Midland's transmitter after the deadline and by 2016. CIII-DT-41 Toronto will increase coverage area to serve the Barrie area between the transition deadline and when the Midland transmitter begins broadcasting in digital.

CIII-TV-55 Fort Erie is required to vacate its channel frequency as of August 31, 2011. Global has decided to shut down this transmitter. Coverage to the areas in Canada served by the Fort Erie transmitter will be provided by CIII-DT-41 Toronto.

Global plans on transitioning all of its transmitters to digital by 2016.

NOTE this is from wikipedia, neither Global or their owner Shaw has ANY information available regarding individual transmitter sites and both the web site and phone number supplied on air will not lead to further information.

There are many rural residents and cottage owners who receive broadcast TV in the Grey Bruce area and they should not replace their analog TV or purchase a digital converter on the assumption that their signal will be unavailable in analog as of august. For the most part it would seem that thing will remain as is for the next several years in this area, at this point in time the only questionable broadcast that MAY be changed or discontinued is Global as broadcast in analog format on channel 4.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Too darn hot!

After having to light the wood stove just a few days ago to take the chill off in the house I hate to complain but with temperatures inthe shade over 30c and a humidex of around 40 we are hiding in the house with all the dooors and window shut today, its still over 70 in the house but better than outside. Most time we enjoy being so sheltered in the woods that we get little wind but today a cool breeze off the lake would be very welcome. Ah well there are compensations and last weeks blossoms on the apple and pear trees was wonderfull despite the cool wet weather. I have added a pic of them to the photo page. (tab above).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Woodland Walk

This morning I took a walk around our trails between showers and saw that the number of Trilums in flower continues to increase. A little beat up by the recent rains some of them are huge (click on the 'Todays Photo' tab to see a pic), there are also a much greater number of Red Trilums this year. The violets are mostly all now out, I have seen Common blue, Dog, Long Spurred, Smooth Yellow & Canada violets on my stroll, the Trout Lilly are done flowering but the Toothwort and Bellwort are now out. A wonderfull showing this year.

The 'Todays Photo' tab is a new idea to give dialup users a choice as to wether they wish to take the time to view the pictures or not and pictures will change with time rather than be added to. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rural Returns.

Having been fixated upon the state of our democracy and the federal election things have been pretty thin here at The Rural Canadian but now having decided that for my own mental heath I must step away from political commentary for a bit and realizing that with the current majority government talk of democratic or electoral reform is but a distant dream I will be returning to my rural roots and posting a little more here.

The first part of that healing process is well in hand now that spring has finally arrived, a few walks around our bush trails to view the woodland wildflowers quickly puts thing in perspective. Getting down in the dirt creating new flowerbeds and doing battle with the never ending twitch grass in the existing beds is very therapeutic. Simply sitting out in the sun recharging my batteries whilst checking out the latest birds to arrive from parts south does wonder to push thoughts of more weighty matters to the back of my mind.

The long list of jobs to be done nags at me a times, those trails need cleaning up and branches fallen by winters wrath need picking up and cut to fuel the camp kitchen BBQ where an ever increasing number of meals will be prepared in the coming weeks and months. Customers drift in to disturb my daydreaming with mowers to get ready to trim the greening grass, traded equipment needs to be dug out and check over for sale, the veggie garden needs tilling ready for those tomato plants that have been stretching up seeking the light in the greenhouse, the list is long but I don't mind, whilst the political winter may be yet to come the Canadian winter is over.

Although my old bones do protest a little more each spring it is good to get out and DO something, to see a flower bed without weeds (even if the next one in line offers the next challenge), getting that chain saw running and making short sticks out of long ones, putting the first few beet seeds in the recently warmed ground. Even just wandering around LOOKING at jobs to be done outside is a wonderful way to spend an hour or two, after all we cannot rush into these things now can we?

So my philosophy for now is to relax, puddle along at my own pace, let the world largely pass by whilst keeping a few locals from having to go get a new piece of junk to trim their grass, share our woodland hideaway with a few nature enthusiasts and simply enjoy the summer.

Much of the equipment I work on may well be like the guy working on it, a well used oldie, but I hope with proper maintenance they both will go for a few more years yet, but please use us gently eh!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Anti-democratic News Media

It has been reported this morning that the news media barons have decided that you shall not hear from all the political leaders in any upcoming debate, but that Elizabeth May who had the support of over 900,000 voters right across Canada in the last election will be excluded. This is particularly galling when a regional party, the Bloc,with only a slightly higher popular vote and NO representation outside of Quebec is included. Who gave them the right to decide who you can and cannot listen to, who gave them the right to effectively pre-decide who should have the opportunity to put their views before the public, why should we allow a few corporate big wigs to artificially spin the odds in favor of the incumbent partys.
It matters not which party you support this is once again an affront to democracy, not this time by the Harper regime but by the corporate media barons, it is unacceptable to exclude a party who represents the wishes of so many Canadians.
I have no doubt that there will be the same outrage that a similar decision last time brought about, it was eventually changed to include Ms May and any citizen who truly cares about democracy must once again let these media types that pre-filtering the news and political debates is no less a measure of contempt for democracy than the Harper regime has shown of late.

Elizabeth May MUST be included in the debate if it is to have ANY legitimacy in helping us decide who REALLY cares about our parliamentary democracy.

Sign the petition at http://demanddemocraticdebates.ca/

And so it starts, the Victoria Times Colonist reports -

"The consortium's decision was met with disagreement from at least two parties. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters in Vancouver that May "belongs in the debate.
"Of course she's welcome . she was there last time," he said.
A spokeswoman for the New Democrats' campaign said the party is "fine with her in the debate."
"We believe in open debates that are based on consistent and understood rules," said Kathleen Monk. "If certain leaders are not invited to participate, I think it is reasonable for them to know why."

Also see E Mays piece in the  Globe and Mail  and Andrew Coynes twitter comments as collected here.

The television companies, while admitting they have no rules for who participates in the leader’s debate, have attempted to overrule Canadians by barring Elizabeth May. She learned of the decision from a Canadian Press reporter and not from the TV companies.

“They are trying to silence the voices of one in ten Canadians,” said Elizabeth May.
  The Green Party has retained legal counsel and will be making an application to the court in the next few days should the TV companies continue to deny democracy. Details of the legal application will be provided soon.

“The House was brought down on contempt. This is contempt for democracy,” said Deputy Leader Adriane Carr.

Show your support for democracy and contact the news directors of consortium members CBC, CTV, Global, TVA or email party leaders Stephen Harper, Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe

The Montreal Gazette reports that - Earlier in the day, Duceppe said he agrees with Elizabeth May, the Green Party leader, that she should also participate.

Meanwhile Mr Harper seem to prefer to debate just the Liberal leader, seems the other partys 'don't matter' in this election!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hub Good, Cost High, Usage Data Bad

As the few readers I have may know I have long whined about being stuck on dial-up at 28K and the unavailability of affordable options out here in the country, recently I stepped up to the Rogers Rocket Hub. Far from ideal, it does free up the phone line and give me up to 200K (must spring for that $150 external antenna to try and improve that some time) even if it does triple my basic Internet costs, there are however a few wrinkles which despite weeks of research and several conversations with Rogers representatives before committing to the two year contract necessary to get the Hub at the reduced price of $150.
As some of you may know both Bell and Rogers hub wireless plans have a threshold of 3GB, 5GB and 10GB which if exceeded takes you the the next level, the cost being about $45 for 3GB (taxes and other costs included) and rising to abt $55 for 5GB and over $70 for up to 10GB (with a per MB charge beyond that). For old folks like us that is hardly the 'affordable' Internet that our government is touting that all Canadians should have but if we are to move on from dial-up it is the best of a very limited choice.

As you may imagine it is our wish to keep our usage as low as possible and monitor it to try and stay below the thresholds. With that in mind I signed in the the Rogers customer pages where I was told we could check our usage – well yes you can, sort off! After checking said pages several times I could not figure out how my usages was increasing in large jumps after minimal or no use, so I call Rogers customer service (nice guys who actually are in Canada by the way) and here is what I learned.

The wireless usage shown on your customer page is up to 48 hours or more out of date!! Rogers will tell you that said data is updated every 4 hours and that may be true but the data posted is from several days before meaning that the usage in the last couple of days is not reflected in those numbers making it all but impossible to know when you are approaching a point where your monthly charges are going to jump.

Now that little wrinkle is bad enough but let us say that despite the lack of accurate information you want to check your usage regularly, this of course will use up a little of your basic usage but that should only be a few hundred K. Wrong!! Simply accessing your usage on the Rogers site (going there directly after a redirect to sign in) is around 2MB (plus the uplink data which is counted in wireless usage) and if you enter via the usual page after signing in around double that. Now to those with unlimited high speed or some of the more generous plans may scoff and say two meg is nothing, but given that my secure banking site takes less than 500K to sign in, view my account synopsis and get a detailed up to date view of my payments and deposits I have to ask is this a deliberate ploy to send our usage over the edge?

The funny thing is that said pages are very simple in appearance, almost all text with a few logo links, no high rez pictures, no marquee's scrolling across the page or stuff like that. It just reinforces my belief that many IT professionals simply have no conception of the limits some viewers are working under, they have the latest and greatest, have T1 connections and it does not even enter into their personal hard drive (the one above their shoulders) that unnecessarily 'heavy' pages not only slow things down for those on less than speedy connections but add to the general congestion that is starting to emerge on the net and penalizes those of us that must pay big bucks for bandwidth.

Nuf said..... Rant OFF.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gardening Time / Seed Swap

With the sun emerging for a few days and despite the snow still on the ground and the minus 10 temperatures us northern gardeners are getting that 'spring itch' to get something growing.
I have recently started 3 or 4 trays of perennials in our heated growing cabinet constructed of two 4lamp florescent fixtures stacked and insulated. The ballasts put off more than enough heat to bring it up to 70f when the lights are on (6am to 9pm) even when the temperature in the cold green house drops to around freezing. When the sun out and temps rise to 65f or so it will overheat if I do not open the door up wide!

Meanwhile my daughter reports that she has 92 variety's of perennials seeded !!! and scores of tomatoes and peppers, most already up. Think I will wait a bit before starting mine!

For those interested she would love to hear from gardeners who have unusual seeds to swap and I have been already asked to gather seeds from our woodland flowers for that project. You can visit her newly formed web site at http://haskinshorticulture.webs.com/

Happy gardening.... is it spring yet?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mercer for PM.

There are days when, as I get sidetracked writing a new piece for Democracy Under Fire , I fail to connect as usual with my good friend and brother in all but bloodlines. Despite all the writing I do I cannot compete with his way with words inherited I suspect from from his Newfoundland roots. Here is how he responded to my excuse that I had been busy blogging and so was late with my morning email.

To Me Bloggin' Brudder....
Blog I shall, till rooster crows
Frost to fingers so cold me toes
Spread the word so voter knows
Canada games, we have a-new..!
He said, she said but noted wrong
Words to paper, sometimes too strong
Wish they could all just get along
Rick Mercer , can do the job.
Rick for Prime Minister we must chant
  We've watched him in his glorious rant
But what party you may say...
Start another..no, Greens on its way.
Put Rick in Green with Suzuki too
This country soon returned to you
With dollars spent here at home
 Pensions, investments are left alone.

WallyGuy -Jan 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shitty pickings - Shitty service

Another flawed tenet of right wing ideology is going to be tried yet again by the mindless Harper Conservatives. Here is the plan ... give Billions of borrowed dollars to the largest corporations (banks, car manufacturers, etc.) and these dollars will be invested in the economy by the big capitalists creating jobs and prosperity. Problem is that this ideology has failed time after time after time. Essentially, the concept is that if you give a bushel of oats to a big old horse, the oats will work their way out of the arse end of the horse and the little sparrows can pick through the crap and find some of the oats to eat. Trickle Down Economics is a pillar of the Right's failed ideology. It basically feeds the corporate sector with borrowed money that the taxpayers have to repay. It works VERY well for the Corporate sector. It doesn't work that well for the little sparrows .. I mean working taxpayers.

Cheap, cheap ....this tastes like shit......

Belgium's much-reviled phone company Mobistar was elaborately pranked by a program on VRT Belgium; the pranksters hid themselves in a steel container, which they had dropped directly in front of the gates of a large Mobistar office at 5AM. The container had a prominent customer service number printed on the side of it -- a number which rang the pranksters inside the container -- that was promptly called by a series of Mobistar employees who wanted to get the container moved off before 2,000 Mobistar employees reported for work and found the parking lot blocked off.The pranksters proceed to put the Mobistar employees through a high-art comedic phone hell, disconnecting them, subjecting them to terrible hold music (performed live from within the container on a little synthesizer), gradually ratcheting the misery up in a Dante-worthy re-enactment of every terrible, awful mobile phone company experience. The program was a huge hit in Belgium

Now where did you say Bell corporate offices are?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Medical Officer of Health Outraged !

Dr. Hazel Lynn, chief medical officer of health in Huron and Bruce counties, was outraged when the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment sent out a media release that suggested she had disavowed the link.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Lynn, who estimates between 10% and 15% of people living near turbines in her area say their health has been affected.
It’s not clear if turbines cause physical harm or stress that brings on poor health, but concerns are real and need to be examined, she said.
“Many people, in many different parts of Grey Bruce and Southwestern Ontario have been dramatically impacted by the noise and proximity of wind farms. To dismiss all these people as eccentric, unusual, or as hyper-sensitive social outliers does a disservice to constructive public discourse and short-circuits our opportunities to learn and benefit from their experiences as we continue to develop new wind farms,” she wrote in a report to her health board.
“It is apparent that a minority of those people living or situated near Industrial Wind Turbines may experience dramatic, negative impacts. We cannot pretend this affected minority doesn’t exist. A determination has to be made as to what level or extent of negative impacts is tolerable.”
Those findings weren’t mentioned by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment when it issued a release that highlighted two lines from Lynn’s seven-page report — that most people don’t complain of ill effects from wind turbines. (Which is akin to saying that most people don't complain about the affects of lung cancer or poor air quality)
“Forty years of science suggests wind turbines do not harm human health,” wrote Gideon Foreman, the group’s executive director. He linked Lynn’s report to a review done last year by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, a review Lynn publicly objected to because it excluded a section on community harm.
“The study found the scientific literature ‘does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health’ effects,’ ” Foreman wrote.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Haircut

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut.

    After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, 'I cannot accept money from you , I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop.

    When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

    Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I cannot accept money from you , I'm doing community service this week.' The cop was happy and left the shop.

    The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

    Then a Member of Parliament came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I can not accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The MP was very happy and left the shop.

    The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen MPs lined up waiting for a free haircut.

    That, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.

Sorry,  could not resist sharing this one!

Monday, January 3, 2011

On the soapbox again!

Its been a while since I dragged out my rural soapbox but the following article struck a chord with me. I was particularly struck by the reference to the difficulties that less affluent rural residents face regarding transportation to larger centers where we are directed for various services. This was highlighted when watching the local news on new years day and hearing the father of the New Years Baby in London, Ont say that they had driven from Goderich. Whilst there may have been a pressing reason for them not getting delivered in their own community I doubt it, there is an ever increasing centralization of services of all sorts and I am aware of a number of mothers being told to drive to London or Kitchener because there “are no obstetricians” at the local hospital wherever that may be. Childbirth should be the most basic of services in most cases and families should not have to drive to a hospital one to two hours away with birth imminent, this is but one example of how rural residents are increasingly becoming second class citizens. The squeaky wheel get the grease and there is a lot more noise coming from the more populated areas!

Read on for another perspective......

Imagine a community with no soup kitchens, no Out of the Cold programs and no homeless shelters. No support groups, community counseling, legal aid clinics or social assistance satellites.
Only a food bank and the Ontario Provincial Police.
Welcome to Wasaga Beach. Home to the world's longest freshwater beach with 14 kilometres of white sand beach. Located on Southern Georgian Bay, it's one of Ontario's favourite four season tourist and vacation destinations.
"Our quality of life and our safe and friendly community has attracted a steady stream of new residents and season dwellers to our town over the years," said Cal Patterson, Mayor of Wasaga Beach, in the 2010 Wasaga Beach Visitor's Guide.
Like other small communities across Ontario, Wasaga Beach also has its share of homeless and poor people trying to survive without the resources that are available in large urban centres.
"In a rural community, fighting poverty is so much harder because it thrives in silence and lacks the resources necessary to get people back on their feet," said Amy MacPherson, founder and executive director of Wasaga Cares, a recent not-for-profit startup trying to help people living in poverty gain access to a broad range of social services. MacPherson said the Salvation Army will provide shelter in a motel room for up to three days "but even that is in a remote location with no transportation and you'd have to find your way to Barrie, ON (50 minute drive) for emergency accommodations after that."
For a family, the nearest shelter is located in Newmarket which is 1.5 hours' drive away.  "So if you have no vehicle you can either hitch a ride along the 400 Hwy with the kids underarm... or... beg I suppose," she said.................
Read more of this article at http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/johnbon/2011/01/fighting-rural-poverty-poses-unique-challenges