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Occupy This!

This week let’s discuss two vital services that Guysborough County residents rely on, electricity and telephone.


Although our service maintenance, often under difficult conditions, is greatly appreciated, my beef concerns corporate policy and direction, NOT the commendable efforts of our faithful local technicians, the few of those that remain on duty for us.


We are all too aware of NS Power’s role in the NewPage and Bowater troubles that have put many Nova Scotians on EI. This column deals with residential service issues, but the culprit is the same, as we’ll see.


Most rural Guysborough County households receive far less reliable electrical service from NS Power than our neighbours in Pictou and Antigonish Counties. In fact, most residents find that service has degraded seriously over the past two decades. Less than a decade ago, in the wake of hurricane Juan, I recall the few gasoline generators in our community being shared by neighbours to maintain frozen food in their freezers.


Today most of our neighbours have purchased their own generators and installation hook-ups that provide a backup power supply during frequent and lengthy power failures. These failures certainly can pose serious expense, health and safety issues for our residents, making backup power systems no longer a luxury here.  


Yet we still pay the same rate as those who receive much better service, and furthermore we’ve just been hit by another substantial rate increase. Does this seem fair?


I have another beef with NS Power, this one regarding wind farm development opportunities. There are several wind power generation projects in eastern NS, but none in the District of St. Mary’s, even though it has suitable locations. Why not? Because, I’m told by reliable sources, NS Power’s transmission “infrastructure” in St. Mary’s is inadequate.


Although both municipal Districts in Guysborough County investigated or pursued the available government incentives to develop small wind farms, only the District of Guysborough’s proposal was deemed viable. While St. Mary’s badly needs economic stimulus we are denied the opportunity to produce green wind energy by NS Power. Doesn’t St. Mary’s deserve better?


Now for Bell Aliant. After being a telephone customer of MT&T for 45 years we decided to switch our internet, long-distance, payment processing and mobile services to other providers. Last year, despite no service modification or usage, our monthly Aliant bill crept steadily upward from $80.57 to $96.39, a 20% increase in 12 months! I’m hearing others complain as well, so it’s not just us.


We’ve kept Aliant’s basic landline service (about $30 + HST) because of business considerations. We need it to maintain a reliable security system and because we want to keep our Aliant telephone # and directory service. That’s all, and I look forward to the day that I can bid Bell Aliant farewell.


Other providers claim that we can switch to their service and keep our Aliant phone #, but we discovered that this is not the case in Stillwater because Aliant won’t permit that in some areas of Nova Scotia. In Antigonish or New Glasgow we’d have no problem, but not here. Same rates less service; sound familiar? Another “infrastructure” problem?


There’s a host of internet-based services eagerly waiting for your telephone business. They are full-featured and cheap. For the technically inclined, this is called VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). Frills like 911 support, call-display, message centre, and free long-distance calling for North America are all there. Two popular examples are MagicJack and Vonage, and there are many others. If you check them out you’ll find that web services can provide great value.


Nothing’s perfect though, and that includes VOIP. Be aware that you may lose your Aliant phone#, directory listing, and the reliability of your security system. Plus, since these services are web-based, no internet or no power means no telephone, including 911 services. But that’s where a mobile phone comes to the rescue.


A charged-up cell phone can continue to provide telephone and internet services during the many power failures we endure. There are cell phone plans that include features like free North American long-distance, message centre, text messaging and call display. It is also possible to seamlessly use a mobile phone to access the long-distance services of your web-based telephone service via a toll-free #.


A growing number of households are dropping landline services entirely and doing everything by mobile phone. For some, that’s a great solution, but for our business mobile phones currently provide only part of the solution. By making the improvements we did, we may not actually save on combined monthly fees, but, more importantly, we are getting a lot better value for our money.


My message to Bell Aliant and NS Power;  your customers don’t like it, and your corporate greed may eventually be your undoing. At the speed that new technology is developing and being accepted by your customers, that may happen sooner than later.


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Please stay on the line …


River Magic's Fly Tying Workshop on Saturday, January 7, 2012.

Clockwise from left - Reid Anderson, Damian Welsh, Ralph Jack, Gwenyth Boutilier, and Brandon Lowe.


Our fly of the week is one developed for fishing the lakes of New Zealand. Called “Matuka style”, it really is a style of tying featherwing streamer flies that can be used for many different patterns. See http://globalflyfisher.com/staff/petti/matuka.html for more.

River Magic’s Saturday PM fly tying workshop featured our Matuka, and celebrated fly tyer and author Damian Welsh led us through his method of tying a Blue Charm salmon fly.

It was a hot session for a cold day!

Olive Matuka


Hook:               River Magic 4XL Streamer Hook sizes 2 - 4

Thread:           Black

Tail:                 Tip of the wing feathers (later)

Rib:                  Oval silver tinsel    

Body:               Diamond braid

Throat:            White calftail or marabou

Wings:             Two hen saddles, back-to-back,

                         with fibres stripped off bottom of feathers

                         where they are be lashed

                         to the body by 7 or so turns of ribbing. 

Cheeks:          Silver pheasant

Eyes:               Jungle cock

Head:              Black