We aren’t obsolete. It’s worse.

If I read the tea leaves correctly New Brunswick has become the latest province to ban the use of handheld devices by drivers on provincial roadways. The legislation provides no exemption for the use of amateur radio equipment prompting “hysterical outpouring” from at least one local ham and snarly comments by readers in response that are appearing in the letters to the editor section of the province’s Times & Transcript newspaper.

This comes as no surprise.

We feel passionate about our hobby and are quick to defend it but as I counselled when I was VP of Public Relations for Radio Amateurs of Canada: This is not a fight we can win in the public arena.

Individual amateurs should be discouraged from firing off letters to the editor of newspapers or demanding petitions be sent to politicians.

The public and, in turn, the politicians don’t care about a bunch of ageing radio nuts who want to use their CB sets while driving to the beer store. Remember the general public just lost its own ability to talk freely on their precious cell phones (and in fact still do breaking the law in many jurisdictions) and have no sympathy for a bunch of hobbyists who want to talk to their friends.

Arguments that point out Amateur Radio’s long history of public service are long on vague references to participation and short on details which would add some credibility to our claims.

We aren’t obsolete. It’s worse. We’re considered irrelevant if considered at all.

It’s the same thing for the lame argument that provinces can’t legislate the use of radio equipment in motor vehicles. Whether they can or can’t is of no importance. The fact is they have and there’s nothing we can do about it (short of launching a million-dollar legal challenge). Repeating this dream in letters to the editor just muddies the waters and confuses the public.

What we should be doing is demanding our national organization mount a proper public relations campaign personally delivered by local regional directors or executive vice presidents who live in the affected regions to their politicians and other community leaders.

This isn’t rocket science folks.

We should be providing information to help guide legislation in those provinces which are considering banning handheld devices and creating a case for a permanent exemption in those provinces where legislation has already been passed. This requires someone to sit down and write out an argument supported by facts (such as a list of all the American and Canadian jurisdictions that exempted Amateur Radio along with supporting documents showing why).

Sending a letter, which RAC has done, is just not enough.

If fact, it’s less than enough, as it gives the impression that something is happening when in fact sending a letter like this is just a waste of paper.

If you want to write hysterical (or any other kind) of letters write them to your RAC executive and tell them what you think but don’t involve the general public in the discussion. They don’t care and nothing we can say will change their minds on this issue.

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About Peter West

I am retired. I'm invested into bike riding, guitar playing, yoga and Ham Radio. I am a former photojournalist, newspaper and magazine editor and public relations practitioner with national, regional and local experience. A long-time member of Toastmasters International and an active Amateur Radio (Ham) operator here in Canada I am taking on new challenges.

2 thoughts on “We aren’t obsolete. It’s worse.

  1. Points well made and very pertinent, Peter.

    It certainly would be time well spent by the RAC were its officials to take your advice.

    Hmmm…déjà vu (all over again)?

    73
    Bob
    VE3BDB
    RAC Member #606

  2. This issue is the Amateurs of Ontario’s problem firstly and RAC’s secondly. If the Amateurs of Ontario can not come together on this issue, then why should RAC. RAC has publicly stated their opposition to the bill. RAC has offered suggestions on ways to exempt amateur radio.

    It is time for the amateurs of Ontario to stand together and voice their concerns. RAC will stand beside them and help fight their battle, but RAC will not fight it for them.

    RAC represents all amateurs in Canada, every province and territory, not just Ontario. RAC has done everything it can at this point and will continue as best as it can. But, the Amateurs in Ontario need to step up to the plate as well. Voice their concerns and their solutions as a unified group, not as irate individuals. Each club in Ontario should voice their concerns to their local ministers to the Minister responsible for the bill and the minister responsible for Emergency planning. Explain the consequences of no Amateurs around to help in a time of need.

    For the sake of repeating ourselves – RAC has given many suggestions on what to do. It is time for the Amateurs to do the work now.

    RAC’s suggestions worked in every other province, and the amateurs in those provinces banded together and were successful. Why are the Amateur Radio operators of Ontario just sitting back, arguing about why RAC is not doing anything for them?

    I am willing to help the Amateurs in Ontario, all they need to do is ask and commit to doing.

    A very well written letter (which you have a copy of) by Bill VE3MEW makes the point to the Minister of Transportation for Ontario, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne. This letter explains why Amateur radio should be exempt. Many letters like this were sent to Ministers of Transportation and to the Minister of Emergency measures in the other provinces by the ARES group’s the local clubs and by concerned Amateur Radio operators. The letters explain what Amateur radio is, what Amateur radio have done (listing specific emergency and public services events) and why Amateur radio needs to be exempt from any distracted drivers legislation. Third party letters from municipalities who have had recent disaster events and used the services of Amateur radio, were asked to send in their letters support for an exemption. I and two other amateurs personally requested to speak to the legislative committee tasked with Manitoba’s distracted driving bill. We also made sure the other users of mobile radios, were aware of the bill and their associations also voice their concerns to the bill, including the loss of revenue if the bill went through and the loss of tax dollars.

    All of this these above have been forwarded by RAC to Ontarians and Amateur Radio operators in all provinces where distracted legislation came up. Every other province now or will have an exemption. It is only Ontario, where the Amateurs appear to just sit back and do nothing, expecting one organization to do it for them — RAC. If you really want to help out, then elect someone to represent Southern Ontario on the RAC board. That person will then need to go out try to band the various groups and clubs in Ontario together. And then help them to work together for the greater good. Stop complaining about RAC not doing anything.

    Comments like yours about writing to RAC will not solve the distracted driving issue. Would it not be better time spent, talking to each other about how to solve the issue. How to work together. How we can take RAC’s advice, (the same advice that worked in other provinces) and work with RAC to get an exemption to the bill.

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