Rural residents matter

Dear Editor:

RE: Wellington North prioritizes broadband over natural gas, March 19 issue of the North Wellington Community News.

I was disturbed to see some of the comments attributed to Mayor Lennox in this article. He accurately pointed out that the vast of the township’s population are residents of Mount Forest and Arthur.

However, this apparently led him to then question what role the township should have, and whether it should be spending our tax dollars, in providing similar services to the rural residents given that those in our town and village are already well served by these utilities.

Firstly, I’m sure Lennox appreciates that he was elected to serve the interests of all the residents of Wellington North, not just those in Mount Forest and Arthur. I am a rural resident and I suspect I am not alone in being stunned by the ongoing increases in my property taxes, so permit me to believe that rural residents should receive equal consideration to our friends in town.

Further, if you carried Lennox’s apparent perspective to its logical conclusion, you would question why we also “waste” money on providing any service to the rural minority, be it school buses, waste collection or road maintenance – since none of those may be of obvious benefit to our urban majority.

Secondly, I would point out that the history of Canada, as a large and sparsely-populated nation, is replete with examples where our governments appreciated the need to extend infrastructure and utilities to minority populations in remote areas.

They realized that the private sector could not be permitted to have virtual monopolies on the provision of such services while only “cherry picking” the most profitable areas and ignoring the rest, and legislated and conducted procurement processes accordingly.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that the township should be setting up a public fibre-based internet utility to serve everyone – clearly the private sector providers are best equipped to do this. I believe, though, that the private sector service providers should have been required to extend their services beyond the borders of our urban communities (perhaps as a later but committed phase) in order to win these contracts in the first place. And I find it galling that they are now approaching our local government to essentially perform market research on their behalf, on the taxpayer’s dime.

Clearly our local government is not responsible for the sweetheart deals these utilities and service providers have been permitted by their regulators, but I believe that our township’s elected representatives should not now be balking at conducting whatever additional work might now be required to redress this if it is simply redirecting staff to perform research at the expense of other intended work.

I do not begrudge the costly capital works projects this township undertakes to rebuild the infrastructure of Mount Forest and Arthur, but I would also like to see my tax dollars address my immediate needs as much as those of the residents of our urban communities.

Steve Bowley,
Wellington North