Davies: Last year

By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online

We have no choice but to go headlong in to 2023. That’s the way time works. But tradition dictates first we look back at 2022. At least media tradition does.

Column header for publisher Jake Davies' column indubitably.

So, with our first column of the year, and a New Year’s resolution to finally, consistently share my opinion with you, perhaps even monthly (you’re welcome), let’s come up with a plan to do just that. To do so, I’ll have to work smarter, not harder. We’ll return to a style that worked so well, for me anyways, in the early days of a now 22-plus year career in journalism by focusing on multiple subjects in a single column. Boiling down complicated issues in to a few short sentences avoiding words and phrases that might convince readers to do research of their own and proving me wrong. I’m not. I’m right. Always. Don’t bother checking.

Instead, sit back, scroll and enjoy, as I take strong positions on the topics of the day, or in this case, 2022.


What a year it’s been. Crazy locally, nationally, globally. One of the craziest years on record. Freedom Convoys, global pandemics, war, misinformation, division, political shenanigans, I could go on, but I think I will start with that.

Those who read West Carleton Online every day will be surprised to know we actually do follow a style guide. Rules of writing that not only includes grammar, but sentence style, word usage, honourifics, symbol use, all to save space in a newspaper and make reading easier. My Canadian Press Stylebook, 16th edition, is more than 500 pages long. Its companion, CP Caps and Spelling, is an additional 220 pages.

Following it precisely (as precisely as I can, anyway) makes reading easier through consistency. Amazingly, this word and topic is not found in those books. Perhaps not as flashy as Oxford’s 2022 word of the year (Goblin Mode), for me it’s the word ‘that.’ ‘That’ is the most overused, least needed word in modern writing, especially in journalism.

Every column, press release, op-ed, Letter to the Editor etc. I receive, I can guarantee I remove at least one ‘that’ from the text. Every one for the last five years. Regularly several, and no word of a lie, occasionally numbering 20 times or more. Every news story I read be it in the local rags, the city papers, the national news, and especially those sketchy Internet news sites, they stare out at me, separating themselves brilliantly from the word soup in front of me.

I don’t even think writers realize. Probably because they didn’t have Shelly Easton as their journalism instructor in 1998. Nowadays, reporters write their subjects ‘explained that,’ ‘joked that,’ ‘prayed that,’ whatever happened, happened. Drives me nuts. I can explain to you right here the first word in that list is all you need.

What does ‘that’ even mean? You tell me. While, yes, ‘that’ does have its place, it’s not nearly as often as today’s writers seem to think. In 1998, Easton pointed this lesson out to me, and obviously I have never forgotten. She said, if you ever write the word ‘that’ read the sentence back to yourself twice, once with the word and once without, and if it still makes sense without, get rid of it. I do that 5,000 times a day, every day. In fact, I am so accustomed to doing it, I will give a free subscription to the first person to find a superfluous ‘that’ in this column. Comment below, we will debate, and if you win, that free subscription is yours. I could go on for days on this subject, but I think I will leave it at that.


That word could be good or bad depending on who you are. If you are a mayor who is promising a roughly two per cent tax rate increase each year that mayor is in office, and you don’t want to go bankrupt, development is a good word.

If you are a resident, and those construction signs go up in your backyard, you don’t care how much tax relief development gives you, it’s a bad thing. Development kind of puts your municipal politician in a bit of a pickle.

West Carleton is being slowly surrounded by development. Arnprior is bursting at the seams as one of the province’s fastest growing communities. You can see one of the largest developments being built in the town from inside West Carleton’s borders, as Phase 1 of Neilcorp Homes rather large development kisses the border from Arnprior on Madawaska Boulevard just across from Herrick Drive (the official border).

Travel east down Huntmar from Carp still within the borders of West Carleton, and the massive development of Kanata Lakes and Richardson Ridge Phase 4 takes up a huge chunk of your sightlines. Carleton Place and Almonte, to the south are also growing. Carleton Place isn’t recognizable from the tiny community I remember in the ‘90s.

It’s happening inside West Carleton too. Carp’s largest ever development project is set to get underway in the very near future as Inverness Homes’ Huntley Hollow will be a 193-unit residential subdivision between the Carp Fairgrounds and Huntley Centennial Elementary School. The project has been years in the making and is expected to move forward any time soon.

There’s plenty going on already as well. Just south of the village, West Capital Development and Diamondview Estates continues to grow around the airport. Lots of new commercial development along the Carp Road Corridor and other smaller projects dotted throughout the ward.

New Coun. Clarke Kelly ran on a platform that includes respecting the “natural rural beauty and history” of the ward. While the platform doesn’t come out and say he’s opposed to development in West Carleton, he does say he “will fight for development practices that are less destructive to natural habitats including tougher restrictions and limits on clear-cutting and ensuring developers integrate quality, usable and healthy green space into our communities.”

That will be a challenge because those are the kinds of developments the city needs to offset tax increases. The city, and pretty much all Canadian municipalities, are addicted to development fees. They are huge amounts of real cash the city can put to work immediately. The city, and the province through the recently passed More Homes Built Faster Act are working hard to build as many homes as fast as they can over the next several years, and they are certainly needed based on growth projections. The province hopes to build 1.5 million houses in the next decade. The need won’t be solved by infill building, So, trying to convince the other 23 councillors to take on the responsibility of development projects in their own wards while sharing the tax relief with the entire city will be a tough road to hoe. Nobody wants development, but everybody wants development fees. Either that or city council can come up with a brand-new model to either replace the development fee revenue stream with another source, or just cut the equivalent out of the budget. Good luck. I don’t know what the answer is, but those who do can share it with the city next week.

The Year of Returning to Normal

2022 was also the Year of Returning to Normal. August and December were the busiest Augusts and Decembers I can remember in a long, long time. August is normally a ghost town for news and events as residents who attend and the volunteers who organize them are usually on vacation. December is usually nuts, but this year, even more so. More events returned and even more new events popped up as West Carleton resurfaced from COVID. The number one question West Carleton Online asked during its extensive event coverage in 2023 was easily ‘how does it feel to be back?’ You already know the answer.

While legitimate COVID concerns are still there, 2022 was the year we brought our community back. We gathered in groups, ate, drank, danced, Carp Faired, shopped, celebrated, mingled, socialized, and how great was that? The anger developed over two years of pandemic life lifted, not completely, but a lot. It was great to be an observer of it, and we never once got sick of asking community volunteers how it felt to be back. Each answer was unique and joyful and filled with hope for the future.

Top 10 Stories of 2022

In 2022, we had 207,305 pageviews split amongst 63,238 users. That was a slight dip from 2021, but rather than getting in to the anxiety that slight dip causes me, lets instead point out without West Carleton Online subscribers and advertisers, we wouldn’t still be here. Thank you.

Through the tail end of the pandemic and record inflation in 2022, we manage to persevere and continue to provide, what we think, is the best community journalism in, while we claim Ottawa, heck we’re emboldened to say eastern Ontario. I do truly believe that. And we have done that, despite those aforementioned challenges, and without raising our subscription fees or advertising rates once since we launched in 2018. And with community support, we won’t ever have to. That’s a promise.

Can it be better? Absolutely. Way better. But that will take more resources and, hopefully some day soon, more team members. So, if you enjoy West Carleton Online’s content and service, please tell your friends, family and neighbours (perhaps without sharing your password) about us.

Imagine, a self-sustaining, efficient and effective media outlet, contained within a small rural community, owned by that community (through subscriptions), sharing that community’s views and news, capable of reaching the entire world (such as we did during extreme flooding in 2019 and the 2018 tornado). A news outlet that is locally operated, locally owned and firmly entrenched as a small business within the community. That’s what I dream about every day.

But this segment is about last year’s top stories. There are many factors that affect these statistics. Sometimes we make stories ‘free access’ based on their importance to the community or as a marketing tool (like this column, yet it never even finishes in the Top Five stories of the month). Emergency news regularly get the clicks but are rarely a reader’s favourite story. These aren’t the best, these aren’t my favourites, and in many cases, they aren’t event the favourite stories of those who read us every day, but they are the most clicked. And sometimes they do surprise (I haven’t checked yet and am one click away from finding out myself), like in, I think it was 2019, when a profile on a convenience store cracked the Top Four that year.

Let’s take a look-see:

1. Dunrobin’s Convery identified as Calabogie Storm victim (1,397 pageviews, published May 28, 2022): The May 21 derecho was devastating in West Carleton, but the good news initially was there were no reported fatalities or serious injuries reported in Ward 5. Unfortunately, we did lose one of our own who was visiting family near Calabogie. Dunrobin’s Chad Convery was 44 and a father of two.

2. Fastball championship ready for Carp (1,161 pageviews, published March 17): Billed as the biggest sporting event to be played in West Carleton, obviously the community and fastball fans outside of West Carleton, wanted to know what could be expected at the tournament, and this preview with an interview featuring tournament organizers apparently filled the bill.

3. Carp Fair Ladies Night calling for Real Housewives April 22 (1,115, published Feb. 24): Just a short preview story about one of West Carleton’s premier social events. The story’s boring, but people were definitely excited about the return of the popular event from COVID. We can tell you, because we were there, the event was a hit and produced one of our favourite photos of the year. On the catwalk, baby!

4. Crown Point’s Kelly to run for Ward 5 (860 pageviews, published July 20): Clarke Kelly was the first candidate West Carleton Online profiled (because he was the first to declare) in the lead up to last year’s municipal election and ended up winning the Ward 5 election. We call that the West Carleton Online bump. In a rural ward, in a province where municipal voter turnout was less than half, far less in some municipalities, 860 pageviews on a subscription-based media outlet, is voting power. We don’t have statistical data available on our readers (just what they read), but I feel I can safely tell you, if someone is willing to pay for news, dollars to donuts, you can bet they are going to take every opportunity to exercise their franchise they get.

5. Young girl dies following Constance Bay snowmobile crash (796 pageviews, published Jan. 1): 2022 opened with a tragedy in West Carleton and this was one of the first stories we published last year. Cassidy Crompton, 14, was an accomplished athlete in cheerleading and a community leader in her hometown of Airdrie, AB.

6. Canada’s best fastball players in Carp next week (740 pageviews, published July 26): As West Carleton’s largest sporting event drew closer, so did interest, and this story, featuring team and player profiles and an interview with Softball Canada gave readers the opportunity to know which athletes and which teams to watch at the national championship.

7. Tiny home debuts in Carp (707 pageviews, published Nov. 23, 2019): An anomaly. A 2019, story gets the seventh most reads in 2022. People find this story by Googling ‘tiny homes’ and the interest in these micro-living spaces seems to be growing every year. Still…

8. Flood map update rushed victim says (480 pageviews, published Oct. 29, 2019): Another anomaly, if it’s possible by definition to have two anomalies in a list of 10. But a less surprising one, as every spring, West Carleton’s riverside communities are in high alert during the freshet. Record breaking flooding two times in a three-year period will do that to you. When millions of dollars in property is on the line, on homes all approved to be built where they’re built, and insurance companies bailing on providing coverage to these homes, there’s a lot on the line.

9. Cheshire Cat patio popular despite chill (417 pageviews, published Jan. 10): I clicked on the wrong link and saw the stat the average time spent on page was 3:05. The people who clicked on this story, read it to the end. It was a fun little story with a good photo about a pub owner who brought out the firepits and blankets and marketed his patio as a winter wonderland during a time restaurants weren’t allowed to serve guests indoors. It captured the imagination of the public and our readers.

10. McEwen’s first book ode to Dunrobin (393 pageviews, published Aug. 22): There were more of my favourites on this list than I expected. Really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Jim. We both spent serious time tree planting in our past, his much more recent than mine. He is an engaging guy with obvious observation skills.

If you have made it this far, you are a trooper, I will publish a much smaller list of my favourite stories from 2022 in the near future and keep your eyes out for our massive annual poster, a collection of many of our favourite profile photos taken over the last year.

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3 thoughts on “Davies: Last year

  • January 6, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks for all you do to keep our community informed. Happy New Year!

  • January 6, 2023 at 5:57 pm

    Loved your column.
    A comment re – “Nobody wants development, but everybody wants development fees…” It’s been well-established that development fees and new tax revenues do not pay for development. They may cover the costs of roads, water and sewage, but not the total costs of eventually providing increased Police, transit, Fire services, recreation, libraries, etc., etc. The province’s recent Bill 23 provisions to reduce development fees will exacerbate this issue. Further development into the suburbs and rural areas will prove extremely costly for all taxpayers across the City, as we will all pay for these expanded services, which are even more expensive with increased distances. I don’t have the answer, either, but maximizing infill into established neighbourhoods looks like a much less expensive approach to me.

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