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Rural vs Big Cities and a Solution... October 2015

One of the biggest problems in small towns in Ontario is their inability to attract commercial companies to locate in them. Big cities seem to be the winners in being able to attract commercial ventures. Because of this, people are more willing to locate to larger cities. This is causing an imbalance in the economic structure of our province.

The problem is that cites are getting overpopulated and the cost for services and infrastructure for the overpopulation is getting out of hand.

The solution could be as simple as both federal and provincial governments providing financial incentives to private businesses willing to locate in municipalities whose populations are less than 50,000 and employ greater than 50 permanent employees.

Both the rural municipalities and large cites can be winners. The rural municipalities would increase their tax base and large cities would have growth slowed. The cost of such a plan would certainly be not as expensive as it is presently.

My suggestion is that governments should slow the present spending for infrasture costs for roads, sewers, education and transportation in large municipalities and give small municipalities money to attract commercial ventures to locate.

Joe Lor - Editor
tdc's FarmGate

Farmers’ Markets in Eastern Ontario - July 4, 2015

I was asked recently what I thought about the state of Farmers’ Markets in Eastern Ontario.

Prior to answering, I thought about the present state of the many present vibrant markets and the number of new ones that have appeared recently and how people have flocked to these markets as an alternative to the big box stores. Yes, they look great and the citizens of the area have taken to them in droves even though their item prices are higher than the crops sold in the big box stores.

Are these markets sustainable?

The answer might surprise many people – No they are not!

The reason for this negative response is that present vendors and growers are disappearing and younger people are unable or do not want to take the place of their parents to grow and market primary crops.

So if we want to maintain or grow our beloved Farmers’ markets what can we do?

The answer lies with the government committing resources into funding educational programs at the community college and university level into teaching those interested how to grow and market primary crops that can compete profitably against crops grown elsewhere.

Yes, it will take time and some of the goals of such programs should be to provide knowledge to:

Make capital investments into high tech greenhouse field growing technology,
Purchase and maintain automatic growing, harvesting and packaging equipment,
Decisions on growing organic or traditional crops
Competitive marketing strategies for Farmers’ Markets.

With such new emphasis, we could again have a vibrant agricultural economy in Eastern Ontario.

Joe Lor - Editor
tdc's FarmGate

Trade Deal Threatens Rural Economy - October 18, 2012

Canada has officially joined the trade talks with the Trans-Pacific Partnership - or TPP - a group of 11 countries including the US, New Zealand, Mexico and Chile.  Negotiations are secret, but we DO know that our agriculture supply management system is “on the table” because other countries want it to end.

Supply management is the system where the producers of milk, eggs and chicken manage production levels to match Canadian demand.  It protects both consumers and farmers. 

Farmers expressed concerns at a recent Town Hall about the trade negotiations in neighbouring Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.  Speakers at the Town Hall were Ron Versteeg from the Dairy Farmers of Canada; Malcolm Allen, the NDP Agriculture critic, and Wayne Easter, the Liberal Critic for International Trade.  These are the key points I heard at the Town Hall.

Producing fresh food is not like producing hardware.  Milk and chicken are perishable; before supply management surpluses were dumped into the market, causing prices to fall.  Then farmers would produce less and the shortages would cause prices to skyrocket.  Food production cannot be increased on short notice: cows cannot work a second shift.

The resulting cycle of shortages and surpluses caused wild price swings that were hard on farmers and family food budgets alike.

Critics – who are mostly theoretical economists - prefer a free-market approach but  ignore the fact that no major country has a truly free market for these food products.  The US gives huge subsidies to farmers - paid by taxpayers - and New Zealand, which is cited as a free-market example, has a system of farmer-owned cooperatives that controls all milk processing.

Canadian farmers make a profit of only 10 cents per litre.  Supermarket prices include processing, packaging, distribution and retail.  Canadian milk is safe and free of artificial hormones used widely in the US.

The Town hall participants urged the industry to better communicate the benefits of supply management to both rural communities and consumers, and to make their voices heard about these secretive negotiations.

Marjory Loveys

Policy Chair

Leeds-Grenville Federal Liberal Association


Globally Traded, Corporate Organic Food - April 18, 2006

What is organic? Officially, organic means produced without deliberate synthetic inputs. That’s all. Nothing about local economies, fair trade, family farms, less energy, and so on. That is very unfortunate. Don’t ask me… just look at the organic standards approved in Canada, USA and elsewhere.

I believe the solution is not to debate the supposedly genuine definition of organic that could privilege small farms and local economies. The word organic is already defined and it would be counter-productive to argue that someone’s organic food is more organic than someone else’s organic food. To conduct a discussion on the definition of organic at this time would be similar to describing the beauty of a red house when a dozen people have different definitions and appreciations of the colour red.

Instead, I believe that we must separate the debates on the sustainability of food production versus the sustainability of international corporate food trade, more specifically separate the ecology of farming versus the business of agriculture and food. Therefore, food can be produced conventionally or organically, and food can be local or corporate and global. And we can have combinations of the two. For example, conventional food can be locally traded while organic food can be globally traded. Both situations only address half of the requirements for sustainability. Ideally, we want local organic from family farms, but we are quite a ways from that.

Both elements are tightly linked as both have elements of energy consumption, resources, pollution, etc… But we can still have separate discussions and establish separate action plans. By integrating the two elements in any discussion, then people get into a debate on priorities over local conventional versus imported organic. By mixing the two discussions, then we end up with confusing marketing statements that try to marry components of both, such as local pasture based beef with some grain supplements, but the grain is genetically modified, and so on.

Let us leave the word organic to the narrow standards of food production, mostly because we cannot change a definition that is already cast into law in most countries. Then we need to undertake a separate debate about the sustainability of the business of agriculture.

By separating the two issues, then both organic and conventional farmers can work together on issues of common concern without getting into arguments about pesticides and fertilizers: the viability of the family farm, local economies, the revenue crisis, corporate concentration and control, etc…

The National Farmers Union has done an effective job of separating the two issues. People often wonder why the NFU advocates practices that sound like organic (non GMO, reduced inputs, etc…) but they do not use the word organic. That is because they are mostly focused on the business of agriculture: trade, marketing systems, farm income, corporate control of inputs and markets, etc… They do that because many of their members have not fully adopted organic production methods, but they are all concerned with the sustainability of the local family farms.

Having separated the two issues, we can rely on voluntary standards and markets to develop organic production methods, in a bottom-up, grassroots approach that the organic sector has developed for the last decades. The government need only intervene to normalize organic standards and help with enforcement.

However, the effort to address the sustainability of food trade and family farms is a very different approach. To work on a large scale (small farms can still market a local distinctive product, organic or conventional), then national and international governments are involved. This is much more a political top-down approach to affect anti-combines legislation, the cost of fuel, import regulations, supply management, orderly marketing, etc…

Tom Manley

e Mail Tom at

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Grand Dad's Gift

I think that when you are 66 years old there is not much left to surprise one in the way of a gift for Christmas
except possibly winning the lottery.

Christmas 2005 and I again became frazzled with the materialism, politics of who, where and when families would be spending the day,
being politically correct on whether or not one should wish people a 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays' and what would be the proper gift
for aunt Nellie, uncle Ted, mom or dad or whoever.

I am blessed by being able to boast that I have three grandchildren. One wonderful delightful girl Avery who is eight, a lively boy
A.J.- a lover of trains who is three and a beautiful little 4 month girl whose dark eyes are causing global warming by melting
the hearts of everyone she looks at.

For the past three years since my daughter and her husband have come back to Brockville, I have been attending Christmas
eve service at our local church that I went to as a child. I enjoy the candle light service and the especially the music which
for some reason brings me back to the real meaning of this festive season. It was here this year that I got my best
2005 Christmas present.

Avery, who has been taking singing lessons was chosen to lead the congregation by singing solo the first verse of Silent Night.
She was called to the front of the church by the minister who said "Now I ask Avery to come up here to help us sing Silent Night".
Avery went right to the front of the church, up to where the Minister had called her, adjusted the microphone and listened to the
organ as it started to play and then began to sing that blessed song. It was a defining moment for her mom and dad and
everyone in the Church. But although wonderful, it was not my best Christmas gift.

It happened perhaps ten minutes later, when the service was finished and Avery was being congratulated
for her solo by various members of the congregation and I was on my way out the door.

I heard someone say to Avery... "Who is that?" pointing to me.

"It's my Grandpa!" she proudly said.

I turned and smiled as I made my way out of the church knowing that a little girl had made
her grand dad happy with a gift from her heart.

J.S. Lor

Earthkeeper Poem: 'twas the night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the land
corporate farming was here.
It was grand! It was grand!

Hogs were raised.
waste was spread
the future looked bright.
The salvation of farming
now seemed in sight.

More factories were built.
The money rolled in.
If you were an investor
you wore a big grin.

But clouds started gathering
on this happy scene.
Neighbors were calling
the big barns - obscene!

The air in the country 
which had been so pure,
had become permeated
with the stench of manure.

The rivers and streams
that had been pristine
were now choked with algae
and resembled latrines.

But the good folk of the country 
fought back.
Instead of retreating
they launched an attack.

"Bigger is not always better"
they cried.
And together they worked 
to turn back the tide.

So into the future
when Christmas rolls 'round,
will the powers that be
move to limit the harm?

Or will they stand idly by
and not give a darn
as the life is torn from 
the family farm?

Larry Powell - Founder, Citizens Against Factory Farms.

December 3, 2003
Joe Lor


They say that the dinner of choice in Le Belle Province de Quebec is Poutine. You know that great dish of French fries covered with a layer of cheese curd and hot beef gravy. Well the great menu item for Eastern Ontario palettes is a Hot Chicken Sandwich with French Fries.

It seems that you can only get a great hot chicken sandwich in the little towns of Eastern Ontario now. You know the one that comes with two slices of white bread covered with gravy with French fries, green peas and a slice of tomato all on one dish.

In the cities they try to fancy it up a bit and have an open faced sandwich with only one slice of bread and with a piece of parsley sitting right on top of some the gravy. They told me once that the reason for only one piece of bread was that it was to show that they only used white meat.  Well, it certainly is not the same.

Well, a real Hot Chicken Sandwich is prepared by taking some left over chicken or turkey and putting it in some boiling water to heat it up. Then put a slice of bread that has all the crust cut off of it on a hot plate, put gravy on the bread, put the chicken on the gravy covered bread, pour some more gravy on the chicken, cover with another slice of bread with no crust and then top it up with gravy so that it just dribbles down the side of the slice onto the hot plate

Now get some frozen green peas and put them in the hot water to thaw and cook. Don’t leave them too long in the boiling water because it will take all the taste out. Frozen corn doesn’t cut it – it has to be green peas with maybe a little bit of cole slaw on the side. 

The French fries must be
hot… As cold French fries just don’t cut it with customers who love Hot Chicken Sandwiches. Besides cold French fries taste like larded cardboard. Hot French fries are yummy covered with vinegar, salt and maybe some ketchup.

Now make sure that if this dish is served that the plate is hot. And I mean really hot! Hot enough that it has to be served holding the plate with a towel.  Really, that hot!

Poutine be damned. We have great Hot Chicken Sandwiches in the little towns in Eastern Ontario. 

And if you are on a day trip here – You just have to try one. 

Click here if you know Where to Get Some Great Hot Chicken Sandwiches with French Fries
and we will print your preferences here.

August 27, 2003

By Tom Manley
Chair - Ottawa Chapter
Canadian Organic Growers

The intense debate over the benefits and risks of intensive livestock operations (ILO), especially large hog farms, has clouded the real issues. The media has not helped either, preferring to highlight entrenched positions, neighbours against neighbours. 

The argument over ILOs is not about food, farming, nor simply odours. It is about excessive concentration. The large concentrations of food, that we do not eat, leave the area through vertically integrated supply chains. The large concentrations of putrid manure threaten our environment and our quality of life. They are treated as waste and not as valuable sustainable resources. The government focus has been on containment instead of quality.

Farming cannot concentrate like other manufacturing industries because we are dealing with biological systems and not widgets. Biological systems react to our management practices. The contemporary practice of monocropping of either field crops or concentrated animals creates a breeding ground for disease, reliance on antibiotics, and the massive displacement of nutrients. 

People want food and people want farmers, but not any kind of food nor farms. People want diversity, quality, great taste, and excellent texture produced in a countryside that is appreciated as much for its food as for its beauty and its lifestyle. 

There are ways to produce pork or any livestock that are friendly to the animal, the farmers, the environment, the neighbours and the consumers. The mixed farm, both small and large reduces the concentrations of single species. The diversity reduces the farmer's risk and leverages complement the enterprises. Direct marketing improves the margins on smaller herds. Local economies put people in touch with each other and they work together for a common goal. Local slaughterhouses and processors facilitate the links between the producers and their markets.

Dry bedding packs bind the nitrogen and carbon and eliminate the odours. Proper composting manages the valuable manure resource without environmental impacts. Diet changes that favour more forages and less grains solidify the manure and reduce the odours. Putting hogs on pasture improves the health of the animal, reduces the use of antibiotics, and improves the flavour of the meat. Selecting species for both meat quality and outdoor production wins friends everywhere. 

Let's drop the limited arguments over ILOs. Let's work on better ways to produce good food in a local economy. 

Because small is beautiful.

Tom Manley
Chair - Ottawa Chapter
Canadian Organic Growers

PO Box 39, Berwick Ont, K0C 1G0
Tel: 613-984-0480 / Fax: 613-984-0481 

By Astrid Strader

I want my garden to be
I use it as a device to remove myself from the world
Where I can create poetic moods
Get energy - feel alive

The garden doesn't exclude people - just as music doesn't
I can sit quietly and look
Like through a dream window
Dream is symbolic of my inner life
Window is symbolic of the outer life
The windows are vistas created by rooms in the garden
different heights - shrubs, trees and earth contours

What I see is always changing - just like life
"Gardens are constructions of space….
Music is the art of time"
I can see the layers of time through
Rocks - a stable presence
Plants that change with the seasons - come and go
Enveloping it all - the earth and sky
Sometimes it rains
Sometimes it snows

I try to design my garden like music - fast - slow -
Like the weather changes
So much of our lives are spent in constant motion
Seemingly moving towards a certain goal in life
Sometimes I lose sight and wonder what progress I'm making, if at all
At such a time I find it best to sit down in the garden
To rethink the path I'm taking

The garden touches my heart - goes to the soul
No words are needed
It's where I find real knowing and wisdom
creativity and delight in living

By Astrid Strader, Oasis Gardens

Washrooms - The Good, Bad and Ugly

In Italy, just past the French border near Modane, there’s a toilet that’s not much more than a hole in the floor with little foot-shaped indents on either side. I know, because I stood puzzling over it one summer day three years ago trying to figure out how I’d use it. 

Right here in Victoria British Columbia, there’s a washroom with lighting so yellow that it strips all the colour from your skin. Glance in the mirror, and you’re confronted with a ghastly black and white version of yourself. The city uses the special lighting to keep away drug addicts.

My enduring public-washroom memory is neither of those, though, but of a blur of washrooms throughout my lifetime that shared in common a long wait for the women’s toilets. Oh, the incalculable hours I have spent standing in washroom lineups. It was one of those very lineups a couple weeks ago that got me thinking about washrooms. 

There we women were, politely lined up like always and being careful to hide our true thoughts, which were that we’re damn sick of lining up. The topic of the moment was whether it was better to have the next person in line prop the main door open or line up outside a closed door to ensure more privacy for those inside. 

Our male partners lurked uncomfortably across the way waiting for us to join them, their own washroom needs met without a wait. 

This, I said to myself, is a story. Washrooms are unusual things. Biology, sociology, gender issues and a little bit of misplaced shame over bodily functions all come together in the bathroom. Crafting a decent public washroom in the face of such complexity takes finesse and a solid understanding of human behaviour. In a culture that prides itself on equality, public washrooms stand solidly and proudly segregated. I am told of washrooms in Japan where women walk past men at urinals on the way to their own bathroom stalls, but that isn’t how things are done here. Here, we like our washrooms gender-specific. We will spend a substantial portion of our lives in them, but we’ll rarely talk about it. Some of us will keep personal lists of where the good ones are, to refer to when we’re out and about. We love some. We hate others, and not always for reasons that are easily understood. 

There’s a washroom downtown, buried deep in the belly of a building at the end of a dark and menacing hall, that I’ve nicknamed the Bathroom of Death. I avoid it whenever possible. Beyond the widely acknowledged phenomenon of lineups for the women’s washroom, neither sex really knows how it is for the other one inside their private space.

During a recent interview with an architect who specializes in public washroom design, I mentioned that sometimes women go into washrooms to cry. He said he never knew that. For my part, I learned only recently that men sometimes get ice in their urinals, and that once in a while there’s a men’s washroom with no doors on its stalls. 

The most obvious public-washroom issue is simple availability. In downtown Victoria, the two civic washrooms both close at night. It solves the problem of nighttime vandalism, but at a cost.“ Go into Centennial Parkade and it’s like the elevator is the bathroom,” says Victoria city manager Joe Martignago. 

“People go in the bushes, on the buildings. There was one night I was sitting in my office and I could see a guy clear as a bell, urinating up against the mayor’s window.”

The seminal document on public washrooms in North America came out of Canada in 1975, when the National Research Council released The Use of Washroom Facilities in a Theatre Complex. The study found that women -- lining up even way back then — made up almost two-thirds of the audience, and that men used urinals rather than toilet stalls 96 per cent of the time. The findings led to a recommendation that
more space be given to women’s washrooms in the future, and that the female-male toilet ratio be set at a minimum of 2:1 in building codes to reduce lineups outside the women’s room. 

Two decades later, it finally happened. Codes in Canada and the U.S. started being revised to require new buildings to install a greater number of toilets for women. “This will do much to dispel the long-held belief that long lines at women’s restrooms are an inevitable fact of life that must be stoically endured by more than half the population,” noted the American Society of Theatre Consultants as various states introduced “potty parity” laws.

Even without the lineup, studies have found that women take about twice as long as men to use a public washroom. Maybe it’s because we have a lot of snaps and buckles, or spend time primping in front of the mirror. Maybe it’s because we get talking to the woman next to us about her fabulous shoes. But that’s not all that’s going on. 

University of Chicago law professor Mary Anne Case, who’s collecting public-washroom anecdotes for her paper on public toilets as gendered spaces, says that urinals make a big difference.“ Count urinals as well as toilets, and you’ll find that men often have more places to go,” says Case. “Women are standing in long lines assuming that what has generated the line is them just taking longer, or chatting. And those may be contributing factors, but the fact is that sometimes there isn’t equal excreting opportunity.” Case got into the washroom issue after hearing once too often in the course of debate over U.S. gender-equality laws that “if this goes through, the next thing they’ll be wanting is unisex washrooms.” She set out to test whether the statement was true and if so, whether that was necessarily bad. “When I started this work, I wasn’t aware of what I would find, which is that square footage is often the measure of equality,” says Case.

The B.C. Building Code lays out the minimum number of men’s and women’s “water closets” required in public washrooms based on how many people use the building, but architects familiar with the results say a wise building manager puts in far more than the code allows for.

Blair Morris, technical director at the Royal and McPherson theatres, says there have been washroom expansions in both theatres in the last couple of years, and there still aren’t enough facilities. “If we were building a new theatre, you’d probably see 20 to 40 per cent more washrooms than we’ve got in either site,” says Morris. “These days when you’re running a public facility, it’s customer service.” Up until renovations 18 months ago, intermission at every McPherson performance for eight years steady ended late because of a lineup outside the women’s washroom. The lineups at the Royal are legendary, and will remain so until more women twig to the fact that extra washrooms have now been added in the balcony, says Morris. Not only does a lineup make the customers cranky, it’s potentially costly.“ 

If you get something like the symphony kicking into overtime because the theatre couldn’t clear the lineup at the women’s washroom fast enough, you’re talking another $8,000 to $10,000 for that next chunk of the symphony’s time,” says Morris. Laws in 10 states that provide for double the number of women’s washrooms came about largely as a result of desperate women at entertainment events opting to use the men’s washroom rather than wait in line any longer. A decade ago, a Dallas secretary arrested after using the men’s washroom at a George Strait concert fought back and won, and potty-parity laws were brought in soon after. California’s laws got a kick start following one fellow’s unsuccessful attempt to sue a group of women who had burst into the men’s room during a rock concert as he was using the urinal. But getting it right on public washrooms isn’t just about the number of excreting opportunities. 

Use of space and accessibility are also important criteria in washroom design these days, says Vancouver architect Ben Ostrander. Toilets and sinks have to be both plentiful and well-placed. People in wheelchairs have to be able to get in and out easily, and reach all accoutrements. The new trend is for “family” washrooms, which let people of different sexes — parent and child, elderly person and caregiver — use the same room. 

Hygiene has also moved to the forefront, prompting the proliferation of “touchless” toilets that flush themselves and motion-activated faucets. An added benefit of the systems is a significant reduction in water waste. Everything but the towel dispenser is now touchless at the Victoria Eaton Centre main washrooms, recently revamped into tiny enclaves.“ Our bathrooms weren’t inviting in the past,” acknowledges centre operations manager Pat Bannan. “So we went looking for ideas on creating a more inviting atmosphere. At the same time, it gave us a chance to look at water conservation.” Details count. The Eaton Centre renovators picked a high-end soap for the dispensers, warm lighting, an anteroom so people wouldn’t end up feeling crowded around the stalls. Women have been particularly delighted with the changes, says Bannan.“ My only mistake was putting paper towels in and not a touchless blower,” he notes. “We’re doing the upstairs ones next, and they’ll have both.”

Elsewhere in the downtown, public washrooms are vanishing at an alarming rate. 

The Douglas Street McDonald’s has closed its upstairs washrooms and now requires customers to get a key for the lower one. The 7-Eleven farther down the street has shut its public washroom altogether, as have several other retailers in the neighbourhood. The problem is injection drug use, the same issue that prompted city hall to install yellow lights in its Centennial Square washrooms and Market Square administrators to put black light above the toilets in the square’s washrooms. Only the toilet paper glows in the deliberately dim and murky cubicles. Injecting is so common in the Centennial Square washroom as addicts look for a place out of sight of the police that the city has installed disposal tubes for used syringes in every cubical. If drug users make it past the yellow lighting, at least they’ve got the option of being tidy. 

Predictably, merchants aren’t happy at the growing use of their washrooms for drug use. They don’t want customers to have to deal with the sight of someone injecting, or have children come across discarded syringes. So the yellow lights are going up, the locks are going on, and the access to public washrooms is increasingly being restricted. “We basically don’t have a public washroom anymore,” said one 7-Eleven clerk.

“If a police officer or a transit driver comes in looking for a place to go, we’ll sneak them in. But that’s about it.”

In the U.S. cities where the move is toward self-cleaning washrooms on street corners, doors automatically open after 20 minutes to discourage drug use and loitering. But that doesn’t always work. In San Francisco, which will soon have 50 of the automated washrooms, a man was found dead of a heroin overdose inside one of them two years ago.

In a more recent incident, homeless people ended up knocking out the automated toilets city-wide after jamming the door open on one of them in an attempt to sleep inside without triggering the self-cleaning mechanism. The incidence of drug use in public washrooms would likely drop with the introduction of supervised injection sites. Addicts would instead take their drugs to staffed sites where they could inject safely and cleanly. But that’s a controversial subject that’s only now winning the most cautious support from provincial and federal governments. “The previous provincial government came around to supporting it, although they couldn’t bring themselves to do anything about it,” says B.C. medical health officer Dr. Perry Kendall. “Still, we’re inching forward.” Until then, downtown washrooms will likely remain a popular option. And closing them as a solution unfortunately makes it that much tougher for anybody else to use them, a particular problem for those who live on the streets. 

The Centennial Square washroom closes at 4 p.m. in the winter months, and few downtown businesses let anyone but paying customers use their washrooms. But everybody has to go sooner or later, which explains why city parkades so often smell like urine.“ Personally, I think there ought to be quite a few more public washrooms in the city,” says city manager Martignago. “ The question is how to put them in and not get them abused.”

In Seattle, city council recently approved spending $638,000 US over the next 10 years to install and operate five self-cleaning washrooms downtown. The city had planned to charge people to use the toilets until staff pointed out that Washington state law prohibits pay toilets. It seems that back in 1977, state legislator Rep. John Bagnariol — desperate for a place to go during a trip through Snoqualmie Pass — had found himself outside a pay toilet without the right change. A law banning them was passed soon after.

Mary Anne Case, the Chicago law professor doing the washroom survey (, went into her study thinking that the answer to achieving true washroom equality would turn out to be public washrooms modelled after the kind that airplanes use — unisex, private cubicles.“ I’m less sure of that now,” says Case. “It’s certainly not clear that the culture is ready to give up sex-segregated washrooms. There seems to be a fair amount of attachment for them, particularly on the part of women.” Some women believe they’re safer in women-only washrooms, although Case notes that the Ladies sign on the door didn’t stop a Las Vegas man from pursuing his victim into the women’s washroom and killing her there, out of sight of security cameras.

Others appreciate the social aspects of segregated facilities, the chance to “be alone with one’s own” for a little while, says Case. Venting about the boss, having a good cry, sharing a laugh -- public washrooms are where it all happens.

Former B.C. reporter Miro Cernetig once buttonholed then-premier Bill Vander Zalm on some pressing issue of the day while the two of them stood alongside each other at the legislature urinals. U.S. journalist Hunter S. Thompson once found himself sharing a urinal with Richard Nixon, and seized the moment to lambaste the disgraced president. I’ve witnessed nothing so dramatic in the women’s washrooms of the world, although I’ve certainly exchanged many an important weight-loss tip, travel highlight and anecdote about my children. Even the inevitable lineups aren’t so bad if the conversation is interesting enough.

“Of course, the good of sex segregation is also the bad if you never know how the other half lives,” notes Case. “What are women, and men, missing out on by the fact that they are using sex-segregated space?” Case would rather have used other people’s data on public-washroom attitudes for her study, acknowledging that as a law professor, “I’m no social scientist.” But the data wasn’t out there, so she’s having to come up with it herself.

Participants are being asked to keep track of their observations in public washrooms — the cleanliness, special touches, graffiti, sexual activity — and to quiz their opposite-sex friends as well for the full picture. So far, she has found that men’s washrooms frequently have more of those all-important excreting opportunities, but women’s washrooms typically have more frills — tissues, lotion dispensers, couches. Women are more prone to socialize in the washroom; men stick to the task at hand. And while women are willing to use men’s washrooms in a pinch, the reverse isn’t true. But the lengthy waits that send women sneaking into the wrong-sex washroom are rarely a problem for men anyway.

I asked architect Thom Weeks, who revamped the McPherson washrooms, for his favourite washroom. He named Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre. “Nice lighting, good arrangement of sinks.”

TC movie critic Michael Reid, rare among his peers for having an immediate response when asked what public washroom he likes best, cites Bartholomew’s restaurant in the Executive House Hotel. The urinals are separated by partitions with the current day’s newspaper tacked to them, which Reid finds a pleasantly civilizing touch. My favourite was one in the upper levels of Canada Place in Vancouver, so luxuriously appointed that I briefly experienced the feeling of being rich enough to have the best bathroom ever at my disposal. 

Better still, there was no lineup. It restored my faith in the possible..

Jody Paterson - e-Mail Jody

Victoria British Columbia Canada - Times Colonist Newspaper Columnist 

For More About Public Washrooms: 

Check out tdc's FarmGate's

Ottawa Washroom Evaluations
Toronto Washroom Evaluations
New York Washroom Evaluations
Los Angeles Washroom Evaluations

Nutrition and Food

As a nutrition and foods educator, I am often frustrated when having to explain food labeling to my students and private clients. Why? Well, read further on to four points that I would like to make. In a world that is difficult to navigate, having to make simple food choices should not cause a headache...or worse. I would like to appeal to all of you out there who also find they are in the doldrums when it comes to food and nutrition issues and that, as a responsible consumer, we want nutrition information that is clear and that we can make responsible food choices for ourselves and family, for our health and wellbeing (that includes foods used in restaurants, etc.) Here are four issues and questions to raise with the candidates running in your area:

1. Canadians want comprehensive, easy-to-read nutrition information on all food labels so they can improve their health and reduce their risk of diet-related disease. Currently, just over half of foods have any nutrition information and those that do, often conceal the amounts of important nutrients , for example, trans fat, fibre.

(a) Does your party support mandatory, standardized and complete nutrition labelling for all foods, yes or no?


(b) What will you and your party do to ensure that Canadians get this important public health information about all of the foods we eat?

2. Private food advertising and public nutrition education: Canadians are bombarded with over $700 million in commercial food advertising annually urging us to drink caffeine-laden soft drinks, alcohol, greasy burgers, sugary cereal and candy, salty processed foods, and foods high in saturated and trans fats.

We and our children pay for this advertising -- the cost of which is included in the price of food -- pay again in the GST charged for many of these types of foods, and pay, ultimately, with our health. Meanwhile, the federal government spends a fraction of one percent of this amount on disseminating balanced, independently produced nutrition education messages.

(a) Does your party support earmarking a portion of the GST (and, in Nfld., N.B., and N.S., the federal share of HST) revenues collected on snack foods and soft drinks to fund independent nutrition counseling (perhaps under medicare) and nutrition education programs to offset the negative impact of the commercial promotion of junk food, yes or no? If so, how much?

3. Genetically modified foods: Canadians want the federal government to ensure that genetically modified foods are approved as safe before GM foods are sold. In addition, most Canadians want genetically modified foods and GM ingredients to be identified on package labels.

(a) Does your party support pre-market testing and approval procedures for GM foods that are open to public scrutiny before GM foods are sold, yes or no? and

(b) Does your party support mandatory labelling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients, yes or no?

4. Food, Poverty and Kids: 78% of respondents to a recent national survey say they are concerned about the issue of hunger. 60% say that the federal government should take responsibility. More than 726,900 people used a food bank in March 2000. That's more than double the 1989 total. 40% of these people were under the age of 18. Experts agree that good nutrition improves performance in school and is much more cost effective than medical treatment after the onset of illness.

(a) What will you and your party do to ensure that the physical and intellectual development of Canadian kids doesn't suffer for lack of something to eat?

Astrid Strader, Prescott, Ont.
Oasis Institute for Healthy Living Inc.

613) 657-4688

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For most of their eighty-five year history 4-H clubs have been associated in the public’s mind with farm life – kids raising cows or other animals. However, major changes have occurred in 4-H clubs since the Seventies. Unfortunately, the public image hasn’t yet come close to catching up with the private reality. 4-H in America has gone urban! 4-H in Canada still seems to be mostly down on the farm. This could be an opportunity missed.

More than half of the U.S.’s 4-H five million members now live in urban areas of 10,000 people or more. To some extent the shift is attributable to the decline of family farms. This could account for the decline in rural membership, but the upsurge on the urban side?

Part of the urban answer may be the increase in home schooling and the need for parents to augment the bare bones curriculae of their state public school offerings. Nor do no frills, formal school environments offer the array of extra-curricular activities which educators have long argued are necessary to give hands-on real experience of the vicarious materials provided by textbooks and electronic instruction. Youth concern with their own neighborhood environments may also be a factor.

With that, however, the guiding philosophy of 4-H has an important appeal that can speak to kids wherever they may live. 4-H has travelled to more than eighty countries with widely different cultures. The quick commute down the interstate from rural to urban America should, therefore, come as no surprise.

To "Learn By Doing" and "To Make The Best Better", the 4-H slogan and motto respectively. The 4-H Pledge:

I pledge

My Head to clearer thinking

My Heart to greater loyalty

My Hands to larger service

My Health to better living,

for my club, my community,

my country, and my world.

This is heady stuff, easily transferable to about every locale in the world. 4-H programs, which give flesh and form to the philosophy are not so easily transferable. In recognizing this and having local clubs determine for themselves appropriate activities and programs, 4-H leaders facilitate very relevant expressions for the philosophy.

In New Jersey, 4-H’ers are involved in activity which includes bike care and safety, go-karting, aerospace and rocketry, consumer education, and animal sciences. In Washington State, outdoor discovery activities, food and fitness, teen leadership, and gardening are in the mix. So, too, are cycling, climbing, and cross-country skiing. Utah, where the majority of 4-H’ers are urban, also has similar activities. In Minneapolis, special program activities have been developed for new immigrants in low income housing neighborhoods. In California, Iowa, and Tennessee, 4-H’ers are involved in learning computer literacy, as well as website design and maintenance. Significantly, almost all urban 4-H’ers are involved in community vegetable gardening, food and nutrition activities, and community beautification and ecology projects.

Canada certainly has the preconditions for decline in its 4-H membership; notably, declining number of family farms and/or agricultural land being taken out of production.

Canada also has the preconditions for an upsurge in 4-H urban membership; notably cutbacks in extra-curricular activity support in our school systems, increase in home schooling, and, of course, that shift in population to more urban areas which occurs when the family farms are absorbed into multinational agri-business or transformed into housing developments and industrial parks. Add to that increasing interest in urban agriculture, particularly organic food production, and increasing interest on the part of young people in environmental matters – certainly here is an opportunity for 4-H to find a fit for its philosophy and resources. We may need to do more than point to one or two urban 4-H clubs, such as that which meets in Riverdale Park in Toronto, to say the matter is being worked on. 4-H came to us from the U.S. Why not, therefore, replicate some of their most successful club activities?

Raising calves for exhibition at the annual town fair is still OK if you live on a farm in the country. But along with that we should be mindful that 4-H is moving into the 21st Century well positioned to have a tremendous positive influence on the next generations of city dwellers. 4-H may be the natural vehicle to develop urban gardening into an urban practice as widespread and relevant as recycling.

Art Montague

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Art Montague has written for Canadian trade journals and newspapers, and co-authored a criminology textbook still in use. Through his volunteer community work, he has become involved in urban vegetable gardening and the study of food sustainability issues worldwide. He enjoys writing for Themestream about his adventures in grandparenting a three-year toddler nicknamed K.C.

Some Other articles on the Web by Art Montague

Meet the Urban Farmer
City-bred, I associated vegetable gardening with the country. That is, until the past few years.
Rooftop Gardens: The Sky's The Limit
The rooftops of St. Petersburg, Russia, are made to order for rooftop vegetable gardening. One expert suggests enough could be grown to supply local needs with a surplus for export.
Garbage To Live By
In some parts of the world, where survival is at stake, one person's garbage is another's salvation.

Farmers Today

Farmers don't have a small voice in political issues, we are just not skilled in how to use the powers we do have.  Farmers are the food producers.  Farmers make up an industry ranked 2, 3 or 4th in provincial income generators (depending on whose numbers you use), and yet we do not do a very good job of lobbying our concerns to either the government OR the people of the province or country who we feed. What we need is to change this!  What we need is some political willpower!

We have to do like the American farmer - get the public on our side.  It isn't just Willie Nelson who is supporting the American farmer - it is their society who supports them!  Why are we such a quiet and polite farmers in Canada?  Why aren't we getting
people on our bandwagon? Everybody knows who feeds them, and if we did it right.....the Canadian public would get on our side too! We need professional help, and at this point, I don't mean psychiatrists!

We need lobbying in the worst way, even though I don't like the tactics used sometimes, but big business is in there like Flint and we are big business's just that we don't have a single "corporate voice" that is pushing hard enough.  We need to
hire a professional lobbyist or two - or get a good AALP grad hired to do the job!   Any volunteers?  OFA - do you have the funds to hire such a person?  CFA - can you hire another dedicated lobbyists?  If we don't do something soon, the prices are dropping out the bottom for commodities and we may not have an industry to save at that rate!

Richard Buck
Speaker to the agricultural and tourism industry 
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Certified Angus Beef

The demise of the corner butcher shop is a real shame and speaks volumes of the changes in "affordability" of goods over the last 20 to 30 years.

Locally we have The Village Grocer, who do carry the real thing and our local Loblaws does carry a limited selection of Angus 'choice', so does the local IGA.

I can remember when we used to buy most of our meat direct from Bradley's and later The Steak Shop was pretty good, but they're gone as a consumer presence. I understand that some people are desperate enough to buy freezer-friendly cuts (or more precisely, freezer-friendly packaging of consistent portions) that they'll even buy the stuff that M&M sells (I don't know anyone who ordered more than once from Sealand). But NOTHING beats the quality of what a good butcher can deliver when he knows you want quality.

In the early '80s there was a decent butcher in Briddletowne Mall, and I still had to special order, sometimes a couple of months in advance, to get the right barbecue cuts.
While I never liked Omaha's cuts (often too big and they over-trim), I'll admit to buying McIntosh (Chicago), Judith Christ Select (Houston), and Balfour's (Boston) when I was making the big money: but now it's an affordability/value question, and that's what I was hitting on in my note - but packaged meat/seafood does make a great gift; and, like Dale implies, if you don't go into a butcher's shop every week, then you get what he wouldn't sell to his regulars; so, that's when I'd use Dale's service.

The "cheap" revolution has come to dress-makers, painters (sure, you don't use College-Pro if you don't do it yourself), tailors, garages, and carpenters too. Geez, I can remember when only people starting out bought made-to-measure at Harry Rosen's, now manager-types by off-the-rack at Moore's.

PS, don't waste good money on buying expensive cuts for children, I can hardly wait until my little one gets to be a teenager and can appreciate a big T-bone on the barby.

Phill Giles
Woodwright & Trim Carpentry
Unionville - (905) 479-1781

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