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, January 13, 2012

Gathering Rural Voices.

Regular readers, the few that I have, will know that I have been encouraging rural folks to become involved in the Ontario Womens Institute Rural Voices initiative, unfortunately whilst they did get a great response at their recent public forum in Ridgetown the on line participation can only be described as disappointing. I suspect that this is in part due to the fact that it often takes months or even years for users to 'find' a new web page, blog or forum of interest to them given the enormous volume of 'stuff' on the internet. (There are just over 100 mentions in the last 3 months according to a Google search and 3 or 4 % of those are MY posts!) I will even go further and say that even the WIs own members seem to be avoiding getting involved, at least in the on line comments and survey questions. Very discouraging!

I am aware only too well of the challenges faced by many rural citizens to get connected to the internet and that only a small portion of those that are will seek such information or involvement, but given the rural population of Ontario is around 1.8 million you would think a few would find it and use it.
As I said above part of the problem may well be finding such sites of interest to rural folks and in that regard I have a proposal, some of you may be aware of a number of 'Aggregators ' on line which collect posts from blogs, news sites, or other on line sources and post a short clip of each new article along with a link to the full post as and when they appear. Such sites are usually directed to a specific subject like the CanadianGreens or ProgressiveBloggers for example.

My proposal is to create a Rural Aggregator that would collect feeds from rural bloggers, rural support and advocacy groups and similar on line posting related to rural things not only across Ontario but across Canada. Unfortunately Feedcluster is not accepting new accounts at this time but I imagine there are other such sites out there, if not independent software certainly is. The problem of getting the rural folks to be aware of such a one stop resource is still there but given time this could become a major resource to bring together the 6 million Canadians that live outside of urban areas. Perhaps such a site already exists but if so I have not found it!

We also wonder if the RVN should consider such a thing for their project. What do you think, calling all rural bloggers and organizations if you think this is a good idea let me know either by commenting here or by email (link in side bar) and if I get six or more bloggers or other who want to participate I will 'give it a go' and try creating such a site. Perhaps it could even be called 'Rural Voices' and promote the WIs other efforts in the main header?

As I say on my other Blog 'Democracy requires Dialog' but so does the sustainability of rural Canada – TALK TO US rural Canada!

UPDATE: I have been made aware of two sites that provide links to various web sites concerned with rural matters. They are not exactly what I have in mind but may be of interest to some of you, particularly researchers.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rural verses Urban populations in Ontario

Having located the data showing the rural and urban population split I though I would share a little of what I have learned, make of what you will because statistics can be manipulated to show almost anything and my selection of where to divide one area from another is purely arbitrary......

The data is for Ontario is divided into 48 Census Districts corresponding closely (so far as I am aware) with County, District, or City boundaries. These 48 areas are further divided into at total of 584 Census Sub Districts which very loosely reflect community, town or township boundaries.

Of the 48 Census Districts, Toronto has 0% rural population and just 7 more have less than 10% 'rural' population (as defined by Statscan) those being

Durham 10%
Ottawa 8.3%
Hamilton 7.3%
Waterloo 6.5%
Halton 5.7%
York 5.7%
Peel 2.7%

A further 5 fall below the 20% threshold namely

Brant 15.1%
Essex 14.4%
Niagara 12.1%
Sudbury 11.3%
Middlesex 10.9%

If we discount these large Urban populations the remainder of Ontario has a rural population of 41% verses the overall percentage of just 15%. It can be seen that when it comes to getting the ear of upper levels of government where the majority rules (as it probably should) large geographical areas of the province are at the mercy of small (geographical) but populous urban areas.

Breaking this down even further the Sub District data reveals that of the 584 sub-districts listed there are 101 'communities' that have a population of less than 20% 'rural' residents (over 80% urban) whilst the number of 'communities' with more that 80% 'rural' residents is 333. There is little doubt that some of the 100 or so largely urban community’s are considered 'rural towns' but it also includes such places as Barrie, Kitchener, Mississauga and of course Toronto, which clearly are not. This once again highlights the number of smaller 'communities' verses the number of larger Towns and cities, make of it what you will, I just like to see the actual figures so that when I say 'rural' or 'urban' I know (somewhat) what I am talking about.

All this started off with my efforts to come up with a suitable introduction page for a community web site which over the next year or so I am interested in helping develop, and desperately hoping will lead to a one stop rural data base and interactive 'portal' for all of rural Ontario.

Here then is a sample of the sort of thing I think a visitor should see at the top of each county or district page.

Grey County

Grey County forum - List of Municipalities - List of communities - Other resources - Video & Audio

You are here – Ontario – SW Ontario – Grey County

Stretching from Georgian Bay and the City of Owen Sound in the north west to Meaford and the Blue Mountains in the North East and to the towns of Hanover and Dundalk in the south. It has a population of 92,411 (2006) with almost 55% being considered rural residents. It has an area of 4,508 sq km (1740 sq miles) and is approximately 50km from east to west and 70km from north to south.
There were 2867 farms in Grey County in 2006 totaling approximately 2,300 sq km (888 sq miles) about half of which were under 53 hectares (130 Acres), more than one third of the farms were primarily beef operations.

A public forum with a variety of topics related to rural matters would be inserted here.

The Municipalities pages would be similar each with their own separate public forum.
I will be developing and sharing MY vision of such a network in future posts, suggestions and comments are welcome.

If such an Ontario wide forum were to be created would you use it? Let us know either here in my comment section or over at The Rural Voices Network forum. (please join and encourage this group in their efforts to bring our rural communities together)