RAC Bill 118 Committee in Action

Credit where credit is due.

Bill Unger, VE3XT, north east Ontario RAC director; Jeff Stewart, VA3WXM, southern Ontario director and Steve Pengelly, VE3STV, former RAC honorary legal council met with Bob Chiarelli, the newly elected Ontario minister of transportation, in regards to Bill 118 and the time-limited exemption given to Ham Radio operators.

Seems the RAC team got to the minister on his first day on the job. This is the kind of action and urgency that’s been missing from RAC for years and Bill, Jeff and Steve should be congratulated for taking the time and making the effort on behalf of all amateurs in Ontario.

Read all about it on the RAC site.

So, whether we win our case or not, nobody can say RAC didn’t do something both positive and effective and we can thank all three of these guys.

Well done.

The Futility of Bill 118

While we wait for some word from Radio Amateurs of Canada about their action plan to enshrine the time-limited exemption that Ontario hams now enjoy from Bill 118, technology has made the Bill unenforceable.

Apple IPhones equipped with the new voice recognition software called Siri (currently not available in Canada but just wait) allows car drivers to text while never touching the device.

Ham radio manufacturers are already offering limited Bluetooth connectivity for some of their VHF/UHF equipment and anyone wearing a headset using VOX or even push-to-talk that locks on will still be on the air while driving as Bill 118 won’t affect them. (Although I suspect you’ll still get charged by local police who won’t be well enough trained in the nuances of the Bill to get it right. A good lawyer and $3K will get you off.)

Very soon i suspect you’re going to see a smartphone app that will allow you to control your HF or VHF/UHF rigs at home from anywhere in the world…including your vehicle.

Meanwhile we wait for RAC to announce it’s next new plan or just wait until they too are superseded by technology….hmmm.

Bill 118 and RAC’s Plan of Action

Bob Chiarelli, MPP for Ottawa West – Nepean is the new Ontario minister of transportation and infrastructure.

He’s the guy who can grant amateur radio operators in Ontario a permanent exemption from the distracted driving legislation contained in Bill 118. Our current time-limited exemption ends January 2013.

That’s one year and two months from now.

Back in May of this year I published a post asking for Ontario hams to support north/east Ontario RAC director Bill Unger, VE3XT’s efforts to lobby the provincial government.

In August of this year I published another post this one proclaiming that RAC under Bill Unger’s direction was launching a “task force” to take on Bill 118 and secure a permanent exemption for us.

So where are we now?

I have no idea. I do know we have a new minister. I do know that RAC says it’s got a “task force.”

What I don’t see is any action.

What would action look like?

  1. Meet with the new minister right now! Next week wouldn’t be too soon.
  2. Bring supporting documentation from other jurisdictions that have granted exemptions to their Amateur Radio communities.
  3. Bring letters of support from Ontario organizations (and municipal governments) which we’ve helped.
  4. Start contacting Ontario MPPs in person (here’s a job for the task force) and presenting them with the same information as being given to the minister.
  5. Remember to dress up. Shower. Leave the call sign ball cap at home and read How to Win Friends and Influence People.

7-Band Portable Dipole Antenna

Bob Rice VE3HKY, has a wonderful hi-def video on how to build a 7-Band Portable Dipole Antenna for $35.

Yes you read that right: $35.

If you’re new to Ham Radio you might not realize that all antennas with very few exceptions are merely dipoles. A dipole is an antenna that has two poles 🙂

Beams are dipoles with add reflectors and directors. A vertical antenna is a dipole with one pole buried in the ground. A VHF whip on your car uses the car body as one pole. A G5RV is essentially a dipole.

There are lots of commercial antennas that cost hundreds of dollars which are fancy variations on the dipole theme.

The unwary or uninformed can end up shelling out hundreds of dollars for something that looks good but doesn’t work as well as two pieces of wire fed in the centre with either coax (which will limit the antenna’s ability to tune on different bands) or open-wire feed which (when used with a tuner) will allow the antenna to tune up on multiple bands.

One of the issues with erecting portable antennas especially when on vacation is there maybe no trees or other supports at your vacation location. That’s where a self-supporting multi-band antenna can be really useful.

Bob’s hour long video will walk you though the construction process.

Tracking Notch Filters

I know some of you are really p.o.’d listening to me rave on about my FlexRadio 1500 but tough.

I mean where for $600 can you get a rig with a front-end that’s world class and at the top of its category?

Also where can you get a rig that gets better with time?

Case in point: I downloaded a new version of the software for the Flex 1500 and I immediately noticed that my rig control layout had two new buttons. Well this is cool but what do they do? And sure they do it on the big Flex radios but do they work on my little 1500?

Seems these buttons allow operators to bring in multiple tracking notch filters. Not sure how cool this is? Watch the video from FlexRadio here.

The Role of the Chairperson

With the call for an annual meeting to revitalize the Oakville Amateur Radio Club next month, there has been some confusion expressed about the role of the chairperson for that meeting.

Regardless of who chairs the meeting the main responsibilities are pretty simple:

  • The chair calls the meeting to order on time;
  • They are responsible to ensure that every member who wishes to speak to a motion on the floor has that opportunity and to allow for a civil discussion to take place;
  • They help the assembly make decisions in a democratic way on the issues at hand when it’s time to vote;
  • They end the meeting at the time dictated by the assembly.
The chairperson must act in a neutral way. They have no say in the debate. Nor can they indicate a preference for what is decided. They don’t align with any individual or faction. The chair can’t shape or distort the discussions. They simply help the assembly make decisions based on consensus as arrived by the democratic process of voting.
Under Robert’s Rules of Order the chair ensures fairness by allowing each person an opportunity to speak without interruption or intimidation for as long as the assembly says is acceptable.
Robert’s Rules don’t suppress discussion or give one individual an advantage over another. Members don’t need to know Robert’s Rules so long as the chair knows how to apply them to create an atmosphere of fairness and to foster an open discussion.
Once everyone who wishes to speak has spoken, the assembly can tell the chair if they are willing to hear a second comment from people who have already spoken once. Comments should be limited to a member’s opinion and not a comment or criticism about previous speakers.
In this way the club can avoid fractious debates that often end up in hurt feelings and raised voices.
Some issues are best moved to a committee (in this case the newly elected board of directors) to discuss at length and then bring new motions back to the club for a more a discussion and vote.
Once the basic will of the club members is expressed through voting, the members can get on with the real business of the club and future business meetings can be limited to one annual general meeting a year.
Revitalizing the Oakville ARC isn’t about attending an seemingly never-ending series of business meetings where the loudest angriest voices prevail.
It’s about having fun together as a group.*
*BTW a good example of this working together was in evidence this Saturday when the members of the Oakville Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and other groups and individuals participated in the Ontario-wide Simulated Emergency Test. 

How many Hams in Canada?

Who knows?

Industry Canada lost track and interest years ago and nobody has picked up the slack so it could be 40,000 live licensed hams. (Notice I didn’t say active.  I settled for breathing.)

Problem is the number could also be 15,000 or less. Maybe as low as 6,000.

In the United States the newly published number is 700,000!!!!!!!!!!

This is an all time high for the U.S. and the ARRL reports that the growth of Amateur Radio over the last 40 years has risen at a remarkable rate from an estimated 285,000 in 1971 to the current number released this week.

If we were keeping up our number should be about a tenth or 70,000.

Does anybody else wonder why Amateur Radio in Canada is failing to grow?

12 Meter Opens

Just in case anyone was sitting around wondering what to do….there’s a huge opening on 12 meters. All of Europe is pounding in and just worked 4Z1UF with 40 watts into a G5RV-JR at 40 feet.

Anybody with a 12-meter dipole or vertical and 50 to 100 watts should have no problem working 100 countries in a day or so with an opening of this magnitude.

Here’s a link to a do-it-yourself Moxon beam for 12 and 17 MHz.

Here’s a PDF of a trap dipole for 12 and 17: Trap Dipole 1217RevA-1




Where to start

There was much talk about revitalizing the Oakville Amateur Radio Club at the Saturday 6:30am breakfast at Coras. Also there has been a flurry of phone calls and emails going back and forth. All of this is positive and indicates an interest in what’s happening with Amateur Radio in Oakville.

I am going to suggest that if you have some thoughts that you share them with all as opposed to just a few friends.

If a meeting gets organized (and I do know of one paid-up member who is moving in that direction) and a few paid-up members attend (membership dues can be paid at the door of the meeting) this would be the best place to share your thoughts.

As I wrote previously the first order of business should be to vote in someone to chair the meeting.

This person’s job would be to remain neutral and ensure that everyone who is a paid-up member was treated fairly and had an opportunity to participate fully. Guests (those who haven’t paid for a membership) who attend may or may not be allowed to participated depending on a vote of the paid-up members. Regardless non-paid up members can’t move motions or participate in the voting. (This allows for technical experts and others to give advice but not influence the outcome.)

Second order of business would be to appoint a recording secretary. The secretary only needs to record the fact that a meeting took place and record the motions plus who made and second them and the outcome of the voting. At the conclusion of the meeting the secretary makes note of any information about a future meeting and circulates the minutes (via email or posting on a blog or web site).

Third order of business would be to agree to use Robert’s Rules of Order. Again without Robert’s Rules the chairperson ends up dictating the flow of the meeting and can disregard the wishes of the assembly. In the same way aggressive or loud members can dominate the meeting.

Once these conditions are met the meeting can unfold as the members desire so long as all discussions begin with the moving of a motion.

Without a motion on the floor the conversation is essentially formless and pointless. It might serve those who like to hear themselves speak but it does nothing to allow everyone to participate fully.

If I was asked what I would do next I’d suggest either reaffirm the club’s bylaws or declare them null and void.

My preference would be to declare them null and void for a couple of reasons.

First Robert’s Rules essentially offers the same guidance on how to proceed with matters that affect the club (motion, second, debate, vote) so there is no danger of any sudden change to how we do things.

Second is the original bylaws call for a board of five members to be elected from the membership. Currently the OARC has 20 paid-up members. These will be the people who will be able to participate in any revitalization meeting and will be only ones who can stand for office and who can vote.

The incorporation act for Ontario non-profit organizations such as the Oakville club only require that three members be elected to a board. This might work better for us considering the limited size of our membership.

Third, the original bylaws allow the board full control over the finances of the club. They can “purchase, lease, eliminate, sell, exchange or otherwise dispose of shares, stocks, rights, warrants, options and other securities, lands, buildings and/or other property…

By the way none of this legalize means anything in real life. This is stock gobble-gook and should be struck from our bylaws.

What I’d recommend is the board be given a discretionary amount to spend and for expenditures that exceed that amount they need to put a motion forward to the club members (who after all, it is their money we’re talking about) that needs a two-thirds in favour vote to pass.

Before someone says this is too complicated remember (a) this is your money that’s getting spent and (b) the club has managed to keep assets like the repeaters going for the last couple of years without any issue because the money for the rent and repairs was previously authorized.

Fourth issue I have with the bylaws is they allow for proxity voting. I’d strike this out as it allows for the formation of block voting by cliques or special-interest groups. It’s hard to control and can lead to unfortunate outcomes.

On another point: Speaking of the repeaters, a motion for this or another meeting, would involve reorganizing the repeater committee. This could be done by a decree from the board members but all club decisions of this magnitude are best made by open vote of the members. After all, if you paid your $20 this is your repeater. It’s not someone else’s, it’s yours.

The current license holder (Harry, VA3EC) has to be asked if he wishes to continue to hold the license. If not, a new license holder needs to be voted in. The key to the repeater site needs to be surrendered to the club directors and depending on what the members decide, a new repeater support committee should be struck.

Another motion for a future meeting might involve the design and implementation of a club remote-controlled high-frequency station. Experiments by Mike Walker (VA3MW) and others suggest to me that such a club project is not only desirable but achievable. Think what a club asset this would be to have an HF station workable from a remote computer from anywhere (even mobile from a cell-phone). No longer would every member need antennas or even equipment to get on HF.

I bet the ARES crew have some ideas they’d like to see happen and these too should be brought before the club so resources and support can be provided to those projects that meet with the approval of the general membership.

This is a very exciting moment for the Oakville Amateur Radio Club IMHO and I encourage everyone who is interested in seeing this revitalization proceed do two thing:

One is pay your membership dues if you haven’t already;

And two is make yourself available to attend any future meeting that is called. (And bear in mind that regardless of what day or what time not everyone will be able to or make themselves available to attend. That’s just the way it is.)