We’ve got the power, some­times

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey

The new year has be­gun on a dis­cour­ag­ing note, with dis­turb­ing num­bers on im­paired driv­ing, a dire school clo­sure pre­dic­tion, power out­ages and a rather glum eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment up­date. On the other hand, all is not lost, be­cause we must re­mem­ber that we are not to­tally pow­er­less, most of the time.

For starters, what is wrong with peo­ple who still drink and drive? “With the many al­ter­na­tives avail­able in this day and age, it is alarm­ing and un­ac­cept­able that driv­ers would take such po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing risks,” de­clared In­spec­tor Mike Mul­hearn, the com­man­der of the Stor­mont-Dun­das-Glen­garry On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice de­tach­ment. He was re­act­ing to a rise in the num­ber of im­paired driv­ing charges laid in the coun­ties over the party season. There were 11 mo­torists charged dur­ing the 2016-2017 Fes­tive Re­duce Im­paired Driv­ing Ev­ery­where (RIDE) cam­paign in SDG, com­pared to five in 2015-2016.

Across On­tario, six peo­ple were killed in im­paired driv­ing-re­lated in­ci­dents over the seven-week period. “Over and above th­ese tragic, pre­ventable deaths, many in­no­cent road users were in­jured in some 270 OPP-in­ves­ti­gated col­li­sions dur­ing the cam­paign, in which an im­paired driver was a fac­tor,” the OPP re­ports. No less than 610 driv­ers, in­clud­ing 22 who were drug- im­paired, were charged with im­paired driv­ing be­tween Novem­ber 21, 2016 and Jan­uary 7, 2017. The dan­gers of get­ting be­hind the wheel after drink­ing al­co­hol or con­sum­ing il­licit drugs are ob­vi­ous. Apart from be­ing il­le­gal and dan­ger­ous, drunk driv­ing has be­come so­cially un­ac­cept­able. Pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns have de­creased the car­nage caused by im­paired mo­torists. But in­cred­i­bly, the “Do not drink and drive” mes­sage is not heeded by ev­ery­one. What is the an­swer? Peer pres­sure may help. For ex­am­ple, the “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” cam­paign has been hugely suc­cess­ful. This should not have to be re­peated, but the OPP is re­mind­ing On­tar­i­ans that they all have a role to play in end­ing im­paired driv­ing-re­lated deaths. Make a com­mit­ment to never drive after con­sum­ing al­co­hol or drugs. If you sus­pect that some­one is driv­ing while im­paired, call 9-1-1 to re­port them to po­lice. You could be sav­ing lives.

Eco­nomic blows

In our Jan­uary 11 edi­tion, we re­ported that North Glen­garry would lose $8.5 mil­lion if the Up­per Canada Dis­trict School Board closes Alexan­dria’s Glen­garry Dis­trict High School and Maxville Pub­lic School.

That fig­ure is based on a study that stresses that job losses alone would be bru­tal. With 25 full-time jobs be­ing elim­i­nated, a sum of $6.9 mil­lion would be pulled from the lo­cal econ­omy, in ad­di­tion to a de­crease of $750,000 in gov­ern­ment pay­outs. The rip­ple ef­fect of school con­sol­i­da­tion does not stop there.

Re­tail busi­nesses would see their rev­enues plunge, and the town­ship’s ef­forts to at­tract new res­i­dents would be sti­fled.

The study projects the cost of 20 fam­i­lies leav­ing the area could be $750,000 out of the area. Imag­ine the fall­out if the school board shuts down all five of the Glen­garry schools that are on the chop­ping block. Gulp. On the other hand, the dark eco­nomic pro­jec­tions ought to bol­ster the ar­gu­ments ad­vanced by the many who are im­plor­ing the school board to heed the “Save Our Schools” en­treaty.

Pow­er­less

Sadly, prayers for a ro­bust, weather-proof elec­tri­cal network have yet to be an­swered.

Once again, high winds and freez­ing rain proved to be a lethal com­bi­na­tion for the Hy­dro One dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem last week.

About 150,000 cus­tomers were af­fected by power in­ter­rup­tions across the prov­ince. Alexan­dria and Cas­sel­man were par­tic­u­larly hard hit Wed­nes­day, with ser­vice be­ing in­ter­rupted in the early morn­ing and not be­ing re­stored un­til late af­ter­noon. Schools and busi­nesses were shut for most of the day in the af­fected ar­eas.

For future ref­er­ence, cus­tomers look­ing for in­for­ma­tion on power out­ages can call 1-800434-1235 or down­load the Hy­dro One power out­age app.

Cus­tomers can also reg­is­ter to re­ceive proac­tive per­son­al­ized texts or email alerts about power out­ages, and reg­is­ter for Out­age Alerts on­line at Hy­droOne.com/MyAc­count.

Yet, de­spite all the best ef­forts of ded­i­cated Hy­dro work­ers and the ca­pa­bil­ity of tech­nol­ogy, the sad fact re­mains that Mother Na­ture al­ways has the fi­nal word.

Re­mem­ber in the wake of the Ice Storm of 1998 when ev­ery­one agreed that buried lines were the way to go? Wires tucked away un­der­ground would be pro­tected from the forces of na­ture. But the cost would be ex­or­bi­tant. Thus, we must live with wires, poles and pieces of equip­ment that are ex­posed to the el­e­ments. And those el­e­ments can be strong, as wit­nessed by the havoc wreaked by high winds and freez­ing rain.

In the af­ter­math of the most re­cent black­outs, we were re­minded that we are now more de­pen­dent on elec­tric­ity than we were in 1998. Tempt­ing as it is, go­ing “off the grid” is not a vi­able op­tion for most peo­ple and busi­ness op­er­a­tors. We are hooked on elec­tric­ity. And there are so many en­ablers out there, flaunt­ing new en­ergy-re­liant de­vices that prom­ise to make our lives bet­ter.

You may think you pos­sess the best ever, to­tally awe­some doo-hickey ever, but, wait, a new im­proved up­graded ver­sion will be avail­able any minute now.

If we do not con­stantly seek a “smarter” phone or a faster some­thing or other, there is some­thing wrong with us.

While we will never be able to com­pletely sever con­nec­tions with Hy­dro One, there are ways to di­min­ish our de­pen­dency.

We can re­duce our re­liance by em­ploy­ing al­ter­na­tive sources of en­ergy. So­lar-pow­ered cell­phones, any­one? We can cut back on con­sump­tion, al­ter our lifestyles, wear more sweaters, buy more can­dles. Or we can sim­ply grin and bear it. See? We are not en­tirely pow­er­less.

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