The Phony Safety Issue in the OC Transpo Strike

It is not because safety is not important that I say that this is a phony issue. It is a phony issue because there was no concern raised by the city before the strike began, or even at the start of the strike, or at least no concern that was made public, and Mayor Larry has shown no inclination to keep such concerns private.

The concern was only raised after OC Transpo, and Mayor Larry's, financial arguments about their scheduling position were discredited when the public learned that the current scheduling system was proposed by OC Transpo and that the workers took a pay reduction to pay for the additional costs of the system.

It was simply an attempt to justify the unjustifiable.

However there is a problem with OC Transpo not being under any safety regulations regarding bus drivers' working hours. This is because of the federal government's blatant disregard of their responsibility for inter-provincial (and international) municipal public transit and the lack of appropriate safety regulations. Requests were made, and granted, to have municipal transit services exempted from the federal regulations because the federal regulations were designed for long distance trucking and bus systems and were not suited to municipal systems. The fact that the federal government has jurisdiction over inter-provincial municipal transit systems and does not provide appropriate safety regulations is inexcusable.

The ideal solution would be to recognize that OC Transpo is essentially an Ontario transit service and have a federal-providential agreement giving the province regulatory powers so that OC Transpo would be under the same safety regulations as other Ontario public transit systems.

In the interim I would suggest an agreement (outside of the collective bargaining process) between OC Transpo and the Amalgamated Transit Union to have OC Transpo operate as if it was covered by the provincial regulations.

In the meantime the scheduling system could be referred to mediation, the financial issues could go to arbitration, and the buses could go back into service.


How Progressive is Progressive Bloggers

The Fifth Column is a Member of a blog aggregator or blogging community known as Progressive Bloggers.

Progressive Bloggers describes itself this way:

Progressive Bloggers is a group of Canadian bloggers who firmly believe that this great country needs to move forward, not backwards. Be they Liberal or liberal, New Democrats or democrats, Green voters or voters who want a green country, or even Red Tories searching for a home, these bloggers believe that Canadian politics should move in a progressive direction.

On these blogs you will read about the importance of the environment, the need to preserve Canada’s social programs and its multicultural mosaic. You’ll see posts on why national unity is important and on why there are worse problems than letting two people who love each other marry.

If you have a progressive blog, be sure to join this group. If you enjoy reading progressive blogs, then you’ve come to the right place.
When I first started my blog, The Fifth Column, I set out to find ways to increase my readership and I discovered a number of blog aggregators that post your blogs, or the first few paragraphs, together with other blogs, and Progressive Bloggers was one of them.

At that time I really did not think too much about just how progressive many of the bloggers on Progressive Bloggers are.

My political background is on the left of the New Democratic Party, having been on the executive of the Sudbury New Democratic Party Riding Association when I was in university and having been a member of the Waffle and the Left Caucus. I represented the riding association at Ontario New Democratic Party, Waffle and Left Caucus meetings of various kinds.

For myself and my political contemporaries progressive started with the left wing of the New Democratic Party and moved leftward. Liberals and Tories were Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee and definitely none of them could be called progressive. Neither could the NDP establishment be considered to be progressive.

Then of course came Mike Harris and Stephen Harper and the Canadian political compass seemed to shift to the right making those on the centre right seem to be moderate and even progressive. But I think it is a mistake for those really on the left to buy into this.

I have certainly noticed in recent weeks some very non-progressive posts on Progressive Bloggers, in particular, some very anti-worker posts, but not limited to that.

And I am sure today, after Iggy's announcement of his “difficult decision” that Progressive Bloggers will be filled with posts justifying why the discredited Harper government should be allowed to remain in power.

For myself I will remain a member of Progressive Bloggers because there are still quite a few progressive voices here and it allows me to reach a broader audience but I will no longer be blind to the fact that many of the bloggers here are far from progressive.


OC Transpo Strike – Who Is To Blame

It is really easy to blame the drivers, mechanics and their union for the strike. However the facts do not support that.

The strike was called when the employer, the City of Ottawa and OC Transpo, presented a final offer and stated that they were not willing to negotiate any further (and they have not moved from their bottom line position since then). That left the workers with the choice of accepting an unsatisfactory offer or going on strike. Further negotiations were no longer an option (although the union indicated its willingness to accept the federal mediators proposal as a way of ending the strike within days of it's start).

We could still blame the workers and their union if the strike had been the result of unreasonable demands by them. But it was not.

The strike was precipitated by an attempt by the City of Ottawa and OC Transpo to rollback previously bargained for benefits relating to the scheduling system. This was a system that was proposed by the employer and negotiated in a non-confrontational interests-based bargaining process over an extended period of time. It was also a proposal that, despite the rhetoric (lies?) of Larry O'Brien and his cohorts, did not cost the City and OC Transpo anything because the workers took a reduced pay increase to pay for the extra costs.

The strike can be settled immediately if City of Ottawa and OC Transpo would accept the workers and their union's reasonable proposal to send the financial package to arbitration and the scheduling issue to a mediation process. The system was developed in a non-confrontational process over an extended period of time. If the city believes it has problems that need to be fixed that is the process to use, a process that may be able to find improvements that benefit both the workers and the employer.

The facts make it clear that it was the City and OC Transpo that that caused the strike and it is the City and OC Transpo that are responsible for it continuing.


Why Mountain Biking Should Be Allowed on the Greenbelt Trails

Submission to the National Capital Commission Greenbelt Master Plan Review

By Richard W. Woodley, environmentalist, hiker, mountain biker, snowshoer, cross country skier, kayaker

The following statement, contained in an email from an NCC representative, dated May 12, 2006, makes it clear that the current NCC policy banning mountain biking on the Greenbelt trails is unenforceable.

We know that there is a lot of interest in off-road riding on Greenbelt hiking trails. On the other hand, section (16) of the NCC Traffic & Property Regulations states..."No person shall ride a bicycle on property of the Commission other than a driveway or on a bicycle path set aside by the Commission for the purpose...". While we have not actively tried to enforce this particular regulation, we do not condone the practice. There are long-term impacts on the trails and surrounding area, particularly rutting, trail erosion, trail widening as users veer off the designated route to avoid ruts and muddy surface, and destruction of adjacent vegetation. In the winter, we want to discourage bike riders who may travel across groomed ski tracks.
What is apparent, when one examines the facts, is that there are no legitimate reasons for banning mountain biking on the Greenbelt trails. In fact, there are numerous reasons why it should be allowed, and indeed encouraged.

There is a certain irony, some might say hypocrisy, for the NCC, an organization that is known for what I call the “NCCification” of trails, the flattening and widening of natural single track trails, and an organization that regularly uses heavy equipment and tractor-like lawn mowers on the trails, to claim that mountain biking damages the trails.

Even more than my desire to see the NCC adopt a policy of allowing mountain biking on the Greenbelt trails is my desire for them to adopt a policy of leaving all trails in their natural state and to do as little damage as possible to the environment when creating trails.

It is the creation of trails that has potential to do environmental damage, not the responsible use of them. Trails should be designed and built in a sustainable manner, a practice that interestingly enough has been developed and promoted by mountain bikers, and in particular the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

Trails can be of great environmental benefit. First, by keeping trail users away from environmentally sensitive areas. Note that hikers are much more likely to go off the trail and do environmental damage to sensitive areas than mountain bikers are. Secondly, trails bring people into contact with the environment, learning to love and respect it and often becoming advocates for the environment.

People can be a great threat to the environment, the biggest impact being from development, bulldozing and paving it over, blasting and replacing forests and meadows with parking lots, buildings, and roads, a practice that the NCC has been known to be a party to.

On the other hand people hiking responsibly through the forest have no greater impact than deer or bears running through the forest, particularly when they are on a controlled trail system. The same applies to mountain biking where the scientific evidence indicates that hikers and mountain bikers and hikers have equivalent impacts on trails. See for example the reviews done by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

The other argument against allowing mountain bikers on the Greenbelt trails is user conflicts.

In various places, including the Greenbelt, hikers and bikers regularly share the trails with each other with few problems. I can personally attest to never having had a conflict with hikers on the Greenbelt trails while riding them regularly (several times a week). I can also attest to hiking and mountain biking in the South March Highlands and always having other trail users treat me with respect, whether as a hiker or a biker.

The majority of outdoors persons considers themselves to be, and indeed are, environmentalists. The best way to raise environmental awareness is by getting people out into the environment, enjoying it and learning of it’s importance and the need to protect it. That is where the environmentalists that we need to fight the real threats to the environment - development and habitat destruction, are born.

Getting people out into the environment, onto the lakes and rivers and into the forests builds healthy lifestyles, and healthy lifestyles improve our health and reduces our health care costs. This is important at a time when obesity, and childhood obesity in particular, is at epidemic levels. We need natural spaces and trails to teach our children the benefits and enjoyment that can be had in the great outdoors. The National Capital Region is fortunate that we have a population that celebrates healthy lifestyles and rises up to challenge those that want to take our natural spaces and trails away from us. Allowing mountain biking on the trails is one more way to encourage people to get out and enjoy nature.

Young people need the type of challenges the outdoors can provide as an alternative to spending their time in a sedentary lifestyle centred on electronic devices, or other even worse, but seemingly exciting, activities like gangs and drugs. Youth can be attracted to these things by the very risks we want to protect them from. Outdoors activities such as rock climbing and mountain biking can provide exciting healthy risks that build character and a healthy body.

Mountain biking is the perfect activity to get young people active and out in the environment. It combines man and machine (or boy and machine) with a sense of adventure, all in a natural setting. The Greenbelt trails are the ideal location as many are closes to neighbourhoods and they have a wide variety of levels of riding difficulty and challenge.

The other very important reason for legitimizing the already existent practice of mountain biking on the Greenbelt trails is that it would provide an opportunity to undertake a public education program on environmentally friendly and sustainable trail use, including respect for other trail users - share the trail. The education campaign should stress that trail users should stay on the designated trails. As well it should encourage trail users to avoid wet muddy trails but advise them to use the centre of the trail, not go alongside and widen it, if they do need to go through wet muddy sections. It would be very difficult for the NCC to undertake an education campaign on the responsible way to do something that they officially prohibit.

A good place to start with trail education are the IMBA Rules of the Trail.

For more information on mountain biking see the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) website and the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) website.

There are, indeed, no legitimate reasons for prohibiting mountain biking on the Greenbelt trails.


City of Ottawa Does Not Believe It's Own Rhetoric – OC Transpo Strike

Special Saturday Fifth Column

The Amalgamated Transit Union has made a proposal that could end the OC Transpo strike almost immediately by sending the financial offers to binding arbitration and submitting the scheduling issue to a mediation process.

Mayor Larry O'Brien, the City of Ottawa and OC Transpo claim that they have made a fair and reasonable offer to the Amalgamated Transit Union and claim that their new scheduling proposals are better for the drivers and are just not well understood by the drivers and their union.

If that is true why are they afraid to send their financial offer to binding arbitration without preconditions and submit their scheduling proposal to a mediation process where it can be explained to and understood by the union and it's members.

There is a word for it when you tell other people something you do not believe to be true.


Should Public Transit Be Declared An Essential Service

As an environmentalist, I am inclined to say yes to that question because of the extensive environmental benefits provided by public transit systems, the main one, of course, being the fact that it reduces automobile use considerably and in some cases can make car ownership unnecessary.

But the first question we have to answer is what does that mean.

If public transit is essential, like police and health care services, then it must be provided. There must be legislation requiring municipalities above a certain size to provide a public transit service.

If public transit is essential, then it must be publicly provided. It cannot be left to the whims of the private sector that will only provide service where it is profitable.

It must be a meaningful service so the legislation must provide standards of service that must be provided.

It must also be affordable to all citizens, especially lower income citizens. In order to do this fares must only be used to cover a portion of the costs, no more than fifty percent.

Since municipalities have the least effective and least equitable taxing powers of all levels of government, funding must be provided by all three levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal.

And for it to be effective in getting people to make permanent lifestyle changes it must be reliable and provided without interruption.

This would require removing the right to strike from workers and the right to lock-out workers during labour disputes from management and replacing it with a fair system of compulsory arbitration when negotiations and mediation fail. It should also be noted that despite whatever legislation may be in place strong unions always maintain the ability to strike if the alternative measures are not applied fairly.

Legislation declaring public transit an essential service must include all of these factors if we are truly treating it as an essential service. It has to be a lot more than just taking rights away from workers.

While we are discussing declaring services essential for their environmental benefits, I would suggest that a comprehensive system of commuter bike routes also be declared an essential service that must be provided by all municipalities.


NCC Greenbelt Review and Mountain Biking: Part Three

This is the third part of a series of blog postings on the National Capital Commission's Greenbelt Master Plan Review as it relates to mountain biking. The last posting will be my personal submission on Mountain Biking in the National Capital Greenbelt.

This link will take you directly to the Review of the 1996 Greenbelt Master Plan.

Managing Recreation and Mountain Biking

In this post we will look at the NCC document entitled Managing Recreation as well as other information on their web site relating to NCC policies on trails, cycling and mountain biking.

The document Managing Recreation states:

Over 100 kilometres of trails have been developed for recreational use in the Greenbelt (skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and birdwatching), and the Greenbelt Pathway is under development with links to the recreational pathway system (in the Capital region), the Rideau Trail (Ottawa to Kingston) and the Trans Canada Trail (across Canada). A number of recreational facilities such as campgrounds, riding schools, municipal sports fields, golf courses and two leash-free areas for dog walking can also be found in the Greenbelt.

The Greenbelt Pathway

The Greenbelt Pathway is planned to be a continuous 56-kilometre recreational pathway that will provide a unique experience from Shirley’s Bay in the west to Green’s Creek in the east.

Its objectives are:

- to connect key visitor attractions and link with other pathways in Canada’s Capital Region
- to provide a unique rural experience along the Capital’s integrated Recreational Pathway Network
My understanding is that cycling is only officially allowed on the “recreational pathways” and not the “trails”. We will examine the document Biking Country to try and find a clear statement of that policy.

The document The Capital Pathway states:
Canada’s Capital Region is home to one of North America’s largest networks of cycling pathways — the Capital Pathway network. More than 170 kilometres of recreational pathways link superb natural areas, parks, gardens, museums and attractions. The paths are great for cycling and many other activities such as walking, jogging and in-line skating. Come and fill up on fresh air!
The Map of the Capital Pathway makes it clear that this only includes paved and hard packed surface pathways and not the natural trails in the Greenbelt.

The chart of recommended activities on the NCC Greenbelt Map indicates that “biking” is only recommended on the “pathways” and on none of the “trails”.

Nothing in the review documents that I have seen indicates that these specific policies are under review, but everything I have seen in the documentation so far has been very general.

The only reference on the NCC website to mountain biking seems to be the section on Mountain Biking in Gatineau Park.

So the clearest statement of current policy we seem to have is the email that we received from an NCC representative dated May 12, 2006:
We know that there is a lot of interest in off-road riding on Greenbelt hiking trails. On the other hand, section (16) of the NCC Traffic & Property Regulations states..."No person shall ride a bicycle on property of the Commission other than a driveway or on a bicycle path set aside by the Commission for the purpose...". While we have not actively tried to enforce this particular regulation, we do not condone the practice. There are long-term impacts on the trails and surrounding area, particularly rutting, trail erosion, trail widening as users veer off the designated route to avoid ruts and muddy surface, and destruction of adjacent vegetation. In the winter, we want to discourage bike riders who may travel across groomed ski tracks.
I will be watching for further information on the Greenbelt Master Plan Review to be posted on the NCC web site and for notices of public meetings and will report them on my blog. I will now begin drafting my personal submission on Mountain Biking on the Greenbelt Trails.


NCC Greenbelt Review and Mountain Biking: Part Two

This is the second part of a series of blog postings on the National Capital Commission's Greenbelt Master Plan Review as it relates to mountain biking. The last posting will be my personal submission on Mountain Biking in the National Capital Greenbelt.

This link will take you directly to the Review of the 1996 Greenbelt Master Plan.

The Backgrounders and the Process

In this post we will look at the Backgrounders provided by the NCC on their web site.

These references to trails and cycling are found in the backgrounder entitled The Greenbelt.

It is a key recreational and tourist area. Over 100 km of trails within the Greenbelt pass through its conservation areas of Green’s Creek, Mer Bleue, Shirley’s Bay and Stony Swamp as well as through the Pine Grove and Pinhey Forests. Greenbelt trails for walking and cycling in the summer, walking, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter, link to parts of the Trans Canada and Rideau Trails and the Capital Pathway Network.

Many people decided to leave the farms that were on poorer soil instead of leasing them back from the NCC. This prompted the NCC and the Government of Ontario to re-forest much of that farmland. The Pine Grove and Pinhey forests of today largely resulted from that initiative. By the 1970s, steps were taken to protect natural areas such as Mer Bleue and Stony Swamp. Walking and ski trails were created and the Greenbelt became recognized as an accessible oasis for outdoor recreation in the capital.
Note no details as to what trails “cycling” is allowed on are provided in this document.

These references are found in the backgrounder entitled The Master Plan. Again few details are provided.
As an example of its impact, the Master Plan directs how and where pathways should be built to provide a connected and varied experience for walking and cycling. The current Greenbelt trail system extends over 100 kilometres.
The backgrounder entitled The Update Process/The Review provides details on the review process time line.
What is the process for updating the Master Plan?

The process will consist of a number of steps that begin in 2008 and end in 2011.

Step 1: Research (Fall 2008 to Spring 2009)
This step will include a review of background information, site visits and discussions with a number of groups with a stake in the Greenbelt. These groups include all levels of government, residents, farmers, the business community and the general public. A Public Advisory Committee that will be established during this step will also be consulted. The public can also provide input through the NCC’s website.

The result of this step will be a common understanding of the current status of the Greenbelt.

Step 2: The Vision (Spring 2009 to Fall 2009)
During this step all involved parties, including the public, will participate to help improve the vision statement for the Greenbelt. The existing vision as set out in the 1996 Master Plan will serve as a starting point. There will be a national workshop and three public workshops in the eastern, central and western parts of the Greenbelt. The Public Advisory Committee and the interactive website will continue to play a part.

The result of this step will be a clear view of how the Greenbelt should look at least 50 years into the future.

Step 3: Concept Plans (Fall 2009 to Summer 2010)
This step involves developing what is called a “concept plan.” A concept plan is the first step in applying the vision to physical reality. It sets out principles and objectives. It describes the functions of different areas of the Greenbelt and sets the types of use that may occur on the lands throughout the Greenbelt. The concept plan will also set priorities and give direction for the Greenbelt’s long-term use and development. During this step two or three concept plans will be developed as options. Comment on these options will be obtained through discussions and meetings with stakeholders and the public. There will be three public workshops in the eastern, central and western parts of the Greenbelt. The Public Advisory Committee and the interactive website will continue to play a part.

The result of this step will be an evaluation of two to three options for making the vision for the Greenbelt a reality with a recommended land use concept plan.

Step 4: Sector Plans (Spring 2010 to Spring 2011)
The background data, vision and concept plan of the three previous steps will then direct revision of the 11 sector plans. A sector plan applies the Master plan to specific parts of the Greenbelt, such as Mer Bleue, Pinhey Forest or Conroy Pit. During this step the sector plans will be updated to ensure they reflect the revised direction of the new Master Plan. These options will be discussed with stakeholders and at public meetings. There will be three public workshops in the eastern, central and western parts of the Greenbelt. The Public Advisory Committee and the interactive website will continue to play a part.

The result of this step will be a renewed set of recommendations for how the Master Plan will be applied in specific areas of the Greenbelt.

Step 5: The Master Plan (Fall 2011)
During this step the final Greenbelt Master Plan will be prepared and approved. Individuals and groups interested in the Master Plan will be able to obtain copies of the final version, once approved.

The result of this step will be an updated National Capital Greenbelt Master Plan that will preserve and guide the Greenbelt in the future.

Although the evaluation process continues throughout the plan review, a Strategic Environmental
Assessment report will be completed at this stage. This assessment compares the proposed plan sections developed at each phase of the study against the guidance provided through the Plan for Canada’s Capital and against sound and established environmental principles.
In the next post we will look at the NCC document entitled Managing Recreation as well as other information on their web site relating to NCC policies on trails, cycling and mountain biking.


NCC Greenbelt Review and Mountain Biking: Part One

I am starting a series of blog postings on the National Capital Commission's Greenbelt Master Plan Review as it relates to mountain biking. This will be the first posting in that series. The last posting will be my personal submission on Mountain Biking in the National Capital Greenbelt.

This link will take you directly to the Review of the 1996 Greenbelt Master Plan.

Just as an aside, an interesting thing I discovered in starting this review is that the airport is part of the greenbelt. And I thought including a golf course as part of the Kanata Lakes environmental lands was pushing the envelope. Do they paint the runways green.

The NCC's current policy on mountain biking on the Greenbelt Trails was expressed this way in an email sent to us, dated May 12, 2006:

We know that there is a lot of interest in off-road riding on Greenbelt hiking trails. On the other hand, section (16) of the NCC Traffic & Property Regulations states..."No person shall ride a bicycle on property of the Commission other than a driveway or on a bicycle path set aside by the Commission for the purpose...". While we have not actively tried to enforce this particular regulation, we do not condone the practice. There are long-term impacts on the trails and surrounding area, particularly rutting, trail erosion, trail widening as users veer off the designated route to avoid ruts and muddy surface, and destruction of adjacent vegetation. In the winter, we want to discourage bike riders who may travel across groomed ski tracks.
Hopefully this review process will allow the NCC to become more enlightened about the environmental impacts of mountain biking and the benefits of allowing mountain biking on the Greenbelt Trails.

Greenbelt Master Plan Summary (1996 Master Plan)

The first thing I looked at in my review of the NCC documents on the current Greenbelt Master Plan Review was the Greenbelt Master Plan Summary (1996 Master Plan).

In reviewing the 1996 Master Plan Summary I found references to trails, including this reference:
What is the Greenbelt?

As the Capital’s principal rural landscape, the Greenbelt offers a welcome breathing space between the Capital’s inner and outer urban areas on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River. The Greenbelt is a crescent shaped mosaic of farms, forests and wetlands complemented by ski and hiking trails and dotted with federal and private institutions. Its rural character, along with the wilderness setting of Gatineau Park and the Capital’s many riverside parks and urban green spaces, creates a uniquely Canadian setting for the Capital that symbolizes the vast and diverse landscapes of this great nation. It is the only greenbelt in the world that is publicly owned in its entirety, and it helps make Canada’s Capital one of the most beautiful and enjoyable capitals in the world.
A search for references to cycling or biking found no references except one reference to providing bicycle parking:
Infrastructure Corridor

This designation identifies lands that are used to move people, services and goods through the Greenbelt without fragmenting valuable cultivated or natural areas. Appropriate uses include roads, transitways and sewers,water mains and natural gas pipelines. Infrastructure such as hydro lines will be as unintrusive as possible, and public access to the Greenbelt will be improved via such facilities as bicycle parking or farm produce stands at transitway stations. Most infrastructure corridors or will be owned by levels of government other than federal.
Obviously, the Master Plan requires updating to take into account the extensive interest in cycling and mountain biking in the National Capital Region.


The next thing I examined were the announcements relating to the review.
The revision will be done in two phases. Phase I will run from now through to the summer of 2010 and will focus on developing a comprehensive assessment, a vision statement and a land-use concept. Phase II will span from the spring of 2010 through to the fall of 2011 and will help to specify work needed in each area, including the development of policy statements, designations of land use, recommendations on the National Interest Land Mass (NILM), and requirements for guidelines and design. Once these are established, the final draft of the Master Plan can proceed.

The review process places particular emphasis on consulting the public in the very early stages. Other partners and stakeholders to be consulted include the Public Advisory Committee, affected municipal, provincial and federal bodies and various interest groups. This extensive consultation will complement and inform activities of the NCC’s existing groups of experts including NCC staff, its Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Real Estate (ACPDR) and the NCC Board.
The NCC site also included this statement:

The NCC is encouraging the public and other levels of government to participate in planning the future of the Greenbelt. There will be extensive public consultations and workshops during the process of the updating of the Greenbelt Master Plan (see “The Update”).

During Step 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the process there will be numerous opportunities for members of the public to participate and contribute to the review. Those opportunities will be advertized and posted well in advance on this website. As the study proceeds, members of the public can share their views on this website.
So far the only opportunity provided on the web site, that I could find, for the public to participate is a survey form here:.

An email address for more comprehensive submissions does not seem to be provided, though perhaps one could send a submission to info@ncc-ccn.ca and request that your submission be forwarded to the appropriate person.

The Backgrounders

Coming in the next blog posting.


Solidarity Forever: It Is Time For OC Transpo to Negotiate in Good Faith

In the late 1990s working conditions and morale at OC Transpo were such that it was described as a poisoned workplace, which culminated in the tragedy of the Ottawa Massacre.

Both union and management knew that something had to be done and that the usual confrontational approach to labour-management relations was not working. They sent their negotiators to Harvard University for training and embarked on what is called interest-based bargaining.

That process resulted in the current scheduling system, a proposal that originated with the management negotiators. The union agreed to take a 2 % lower pay increase to pay OC Transpo's added costs due to the system.

As a result of this new approach to labour management relations, working conditions, employee morale, and customer service improved and there was a steady increase in ridership levels over the years.

Then Larry O'Brien was elected Mayor of Ottawa.

It is no surprise that Larry O'Brien does not have a clue when it comes to labour-management relations. What is a surprise is that OC Transpo's top management seems to be eager to join in Larry's union busting strategy. What is not a surprise is that his attempt, bordering on bargaining in bad faith, to go over the heads of the workers elected bargaining committee and appeal directly to the workers has been overwhelmingly rejected by the union membership.

And now, apparently, the city is considering embarking on an all out labour war by using scabs to drive OC Transpo buses.

Do they really think CUPE is going to sit idly by while the city goes after one union at a time. I would not expect to see one snowplough on the road, or any other unionized City of Ottawa worker on the job, the moment after the first scab sets foot in an OC Transpo bus. Larry and his cohorts underestimated the workers solidarity once. Let us hope they do not do it again and cause even more havoc for the residents of Ottawa.

The weather is nice down south. It is time to send Larry O'Brien and senior OC Transpo managers on a vacation and bring in some professional negotiators who are willing to bargain in good faith to go back to the table with the union.

The workers have been on strike for over a month. They are anxious to negotiate a fair agreement. All that is required to settle this dispute is for OC Transpo to bargain in good faith. A little of the co-operative spirit of the 1999 negotiations might help too.


Three Simple Reasons Why Israel Is Not A Terrorist State

1. They are the "good guys".

2. "God" is on their side.

and most importantly

3. They are on the "winning" side.


Bracebridge-Gravenhurst-Muskoka Mountain Biking Trails

The following is a document I put together in preparation for a possible mountain biking vacation this summer. I have not been to any of these places. The information below is based on Rider Mel's Guide and Internet research.

If anybody wants a printer friendly PDF version with clickable links or a GPX file of the waypoints on the maps please email me at richardw.woodley@gmaii.com

Click on maps to view enlarged versions

Muskoka – Bracebridge Area Mountain Biking Sites

Core Area Trails

Buck Wallow

Fee: $7 day
Location: near Gravenhurst
Overview: 20 km trails, intermediate to advanced, very well maintained
Directions: Take Hwy 400 from Barrie north to Hwy 11, Hwy 11 north to Gravenhurst Parkway (exit 175) and follow briefly to Reay Rd, turn right and look for signed parking area on left, other side of road from KOA campground.
More info, map: Rider Mel's Guide
Crankarm: Buckwallow Trail Map
Mountain Biking at Buckwallow Cycling Centre - Canada Trails

Porcupine Ridge

Fee: $2 day
Location: Santa's Village, Bracebridge
Overview, 20 km trails, intermediate to advanced, “northern shield riding”
Directions: Take Hwy 400 from Barrie north to Hwy 11, Hwy 11 north to Hwy 118, Hwy 118 west to Bracebridge., go through the first set of traffic lights and turn left at Santa's Village Road, continue about 5 km. Porcupine Ridge is on the right hand side of the road, other side of road from Santa's Village.
More info, map: Rider Mel's Guide
Ecclestone Cycle: Porcupine Ridge Trail Map
Mountain Biking in Porcupine Ridge Trails - Canada Trails

Bracebridge Resource Management Centre

Fee: none indicated
Location north of Bracebridge (8 km)
Overview: 15 km trails, multi-use, easy to intermediate. double track loops
double track loops with interconnecting single track over rolling terrain in a forested area.
Directions: Take Highway 11 N. from Bracebridge past the turn off for Highway 117. The entrance is on the east side of Highway 11, 2.4 km north of High Falls/Hwy 117 bridge. The entrance is clearly marked by a large sign.
More info:
Doitinmuskoka.com - Bracebridge Resource Management Centre
Tourism Bracebridge - Muskoka Trails

Devils Gap

Fee: none indicated
Location: west of Gravenhurst
Overview; 6 km, 40 km, singletrack and fire roads, all skill levels. Great photo opportunities such as beaver dams, expanses of Canadian Shield, vast marshland and open meadows.
Directions: Trailhead is found 6.9 km west of Gravenhurst on Hwy 169. Turn left onto Snider's Bay Road… travel 1.3 km to Muriel Crescent to the Trailhead on the right. (look for the pole in the ground which starts the trail OR continue just a few seconds further and find parking on the right, open rock area great for parking, 2nd entrance to the trail there)
More info:
MTBR: Devils Gap Trail Reviews
Gravenhurst Hiking Trails

Torrance Barrens

Fee: Free
Location: Between Gravenhurst and Torrance
Overview: 15 km, easy, lunar landscape, dark sky reserve
Directions: Take Muskoka Road 169 north from Gravenhurst, Turn south on Southwood Road (Muskoka Road 13) and travel 7 kilometres to the Torrance Barrens sign. Park on the flat rock. The trail is marked with stone cairns, white marks on rocks and metal signs.
More info, map: Rider Mel's Guide
Ecclestone Cycle: Torrance Barrens
Trail Peak: Torrance Barrens

Peripheral Area South Trails

Hardwood Hills

Fee: $12.50 day
Location: near Edgar
Overview: 50 km trails, easy to intermediate, quick drying trails
Directions: Take 400 extension North from Barrie, north of Barrie, take first exit (exit #111) onto Forbes Rd (County Road 11), turn left at stop sign, follow Forbes Rd. NE for 10 km, Hardwood Ski and Bike will be on the left hand side of the road.
More info, map: Rider Mel's Guide
Hardwood Hills Ski and Bike
Mountain Biking at Hardwood Hills - Canada Trails

Eight Wander, Seventh Heaven

Fee: free
Location: near Edgar, east of Hardwood Hills
Overview: single track, mixed reviews
Directions: Oro/ Medonte, Near Horseshoe Valley (sugarbush).Trails located in between Horseshoe Valley Road (south of) and Old Barrie Road (north of), in between 2nd and 8th lines of Oro/Medonte.Minutes past Hardwood Hills on Old Barrie Road.
More info, location map:
MTBR: 8th Wander, 7th Heaven Trail Reviews

Pineridge Loop

Fee: free
Location: near Coulson
Overview: 13 km, intermediate
Directions: Take 400 north from Barrie to exit 117 East, turn right on Horseshoe Valley Rd. and look for the Pineridge signs just past Horseshoe Heights
More info: Rider Mel's Guide

Peripheral Area East Trails

Haliburton Forest

Fee: $15 per day
Location: by Kennisis Lake, near Algonquin Park
Overview: 100kms trails, , 300km of MTB and wilderness trails, easy to advanced note, includes wolf centre, some negative comments on Dirt world) see last link)
Directions: At West Guilford cross the bridge, and take County Road 7 for approximately 20 kilometres (12 miles) to the Base Camp. For
More info: Rider Mel's Guide
Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve
Mountain Biking at Haliburton Forest - Canada Trails
Dirtworld: Haliburton Forest Mountain Bike Trail

Sir Sams

Fee: none indicated, (Half Day: $8.95
Full Day: $12.95 at Ski Hill site)
Location: close to Sir Sams Ski Hill near Eagle Lake
Overview: intermediate to advanced, fast ride with some moderate technical challenges. (From Sir Sams Ski Hill website: We have been busy mapping out and cutting Mountain Bike Trails to be open for Summer 2009. (Not certain if Ski Hill is taking over all trails)
Directions: From the town of Eagle Lake,go through Sir Sams Ski Hill parking lot to Deer Lake Dr. Several trails lead off the road marked with orange.
More info:
JaggedPath: Sir Sams
SirSams.com - Sir Sam's Ski Area
SirSams.com - SirSams.com - Mountain Bike Trails and Rentals

Silent Lake Provincial Park

Fee: park admission fee
Location: 24 km south of Bancroft
Overview: 6, 12 and 19km trails, intermediate to advanced,
well marked, and operate from the 2nd Friday in May until Thanksgiving Monday, trails have extremely muddy portions during the spring to mid June season.
Directions: The park is 25 km southwest of Bancroft on Highway 28
More info, map: Rider Mel's Guide
JaggedPath: Silent Lake Provincial Park
Silent Lake Provincial Park
Mountain Biking at Silent Lake Provincial Park - Canada Trails

Peripheral Area West Trails

Three Stage

Fee: none indicated
Location County Road 19 south west of Collingwood.
Overview: 40 (80?) km, intermediate to advanced
Directions: ???

(Rider Mel's Guide)
From Main St. in Collingwood go west to the Hwy 26 intersection and turn LEFT. Go to Sixth Street and turn RIGHT. Go to Osler Bluff Rd. (Hwy 19) and turn LEFT. Stay on 19 turning RIGHT onto 9TH sideroad. It will head up the escarpment. Turn LEFT at the 2ND line and follow the rough road to the dead end. Pick up the 1-track to the right of the parking area (on the cross roads) and follow the map.

From the west take Grey Rd. #2 south to Grey Rd #19, then east to the Collingwood 4/5 line. Go south to the 6/7 sideroad, then east to the intersection of the 2/3 line. The road basically ends here and you can park off to the side and access the upper entrance. Riders coming from the east may prefer to use the lower parking lot on Grey Rd. #31 near the intersection of the Collingwood townline.

From the 400 follow the 25 passed Collingwood to the 19. Take the 19 south and watch for the Bruce Trail on the right side of the road. You'll find an unnamed road across from this on the other side of the street which will lead you to the small parking area and the entrance to the trails.

More info: Rider Mel's Guide
Mountain Biking Central Ontario North
Crankarm: 3 Stage
Mountain Biking @ Three Stage May 2004 (photos)
Jolley's Alternative Wheels - Three Stage

Loree Forest

Fee: free
Location: near Victoria Corners
Overview: 8 km, beginner, short flat singletrack, great view of Collingwood and Georgian Bay
Directions: From Victoria Corners on County Road 2 take Sideroad 21 for approx 4 km, parking area is on right, trail entrance on left.
More info: Rider Mel's Guide
Jolley's Alternative Wheels - Loree Forest
Mountain Biking Central Ontario North

Kolapore Uplands

Fee: none indicated
Location: Kolapore, below Lake Huron
Overview: 50 Km, intermediate to advance, forested, The map is available at the Ravenna General Store 6km north of the parking lot
Directions: The main entrance is approximately 6 km south of Ravenna on Grey Road 2, 15 km north of County Road 2 and County Road 4.

More info: Rider Mel's Guide
Mountain Biking at Kolapore Uplands Trails - Canada Trails
Mountain Biking Central Ontario North
Kolapore Uplands Wilderness Ski Trails

For Future Reference: Further East Trails, Bruce Peninsula etc.
Jolley's Alternative Wheels - Mountain Bike Trails
Mountain Bike The Bruce


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