Editorial: Fall 2016
A rural voice
By Colleen Cross
Being a rural Canadian can sometimes feel a bit like being a second-class citizen.
Since industrialization, there has been an opposition between city and country most memorably illustrated in Aesop’s fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.”
This country was built on the backs of rural residents. However, rural Canadians have undergone a reversal of fortune since government began keeping population records: In 1851, 87 per cent of Canadians lived outside of cities and towns. Around the time of the First World War, urban and rural populations were balanced. But by 2011, the year for which the latest numbers are available, that ratio had flipped, with a mere 19 per cent of Canadians living in rural settings.
The city mice now have a louder voice, and with so many decisions made in cities by those who know only urban life, we country mice may feel our voice is little more than a squeak at times.
We’ve all seen stories in the news with David-and-Goliath overtones: Jessica Ernst struggling with oil company Encana’s fracking activities in Alberta, rural communities fighting the dumping of city garbage in their landfills, concerned people opposing what they see as excessive development on environmentally sensitive land.
Far too often, we hear of First Nations communities that have slipped under the radar and suffer from a lack of clean drinking water. As a recent Human Rights Watch report says, “The water supplied to many First Nations communities on . . . reserves is contaminated, hard to access, or at risk due to faulty treatment systems. The government regulates water quality for off-reserve communities, but has no binding regulations for water on First Nations reserves.”
As the federal government spends serious money to help rural folks get connected to high-speed Internet, there’s no doubt rural Canadians need a voice.
For your consideration we present a David-and-Goliath news story that, if not assured of a happy ending, at least has created awareness among the public and got the attention of the Ontario government. Craig Stainton and the Ontario Ground Water Association have been fighting the good fight with citizens’ activist group Water Wells First in Chatham-Kent to get the Ontario government to recognize and mitigate the risk vibrations from wind turbine construction and operation pose to water wells. The residents want to prevent a recently approved wind turbine project from rendering local well water not fit to wash in, let alone drink.
Read the story on page 8 of our Fall print issue and contact the Ontario Ground Water Association to learn more about this very real issue and to see what can be done when you don’t hesitate to voice concerns and when you have both science and common sense on your side.
As well drillers and pump installers, you already advocate on behalf of rural residents daily. For this we applaud you and encourage you to continue being a strong voice for rural Canadians.
There are some relatively simple ways to do this. With fewer people buying rural properties and putting in or maintaining water wells these days, it’s more important than ever you provide them with the support and information they need. Train all of your staff to inspire confidence in rural homeowners by answering their questions with authority.
Make sure everyone from your most senior driller down to your newest hire can clearly communicate a well owner’s responsibilities. Arm them with fact sheets and contact numbers for others who have worked or will work on the well (see Jim Clark’s “Life of a Water Well” document in our Summer issue).
By treating all customers like first-class citizens, with professionalism, respect and patience, you will become a trusted voice in your community – the one they listen to for advice and turn to for service.