One decade

by , on
March 30, 2015

While Joe and I were busy at Progress Summit this weekend we failed to mark March 27.

It was March 27, 2005 that I spent a good deal of my afternoon working myself up to calling Joe and asking him to come over and watch some movies. That night we kissed. And, as they say, the rest is history.

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Though, in actual fact, the rest is ongoing.

If our relationship has done nothing else (and I’d argue, we’ve done plenty) we’ve got claim to this:

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And she’s going to take over the world.

The Language of Campaigns

by , on
March 29, 2015

Joe and I spend the better part of the weekend at the Broadbent Institute’s Progress Summit. (Joe there for work, me there for self interest).

Two of the most interesting talks I saw over the course of the weekend were the ones featuring dissenting voices – Tim Powers and Monte Solberg, who are well-known Conservative pundits, and Philip Cross, an economist speaking out about austerity.

I enjoyed these talks partly because they demonstrated exactly where many partisans go wrong during their campaigns. While these men spoke there was groaning, booing, and heckling from the crowd.

The fact is that you’ll never get anywhere in your campaign if you don’t listen to dissenting opinions and address their concerns.

Tim Powers in particular pointed out that many, if not most, Canadians don’t think Stephen Harper is the devil incarnate.

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Portraying him that way makes a campaign seem ridiculous and out of touch with reality. It’s an approach that’s never going to win over a moderate.

It can also silence the moderate voices who are on your side but fear getting the same outraged reaction.

You have to recognize and remember that some people actually just disagree with you, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re stupid or misinformed. They just have a different opinion that they have come to based on the information they’ve received and how it fits with their own views and values.

It all comes back to the most important thing Tim Powers pointed to in his presentation, the four elements of persuasion: establishing credibility, framing for the common ground, connecting emotionally and providing the right evidence.

What we do not know

by , on
March 28, 2015

I was brought to tears many times during Progress Summit (#prgrs15), but one of the panels that affected me the most was the panel on Canada’s Indigenous peoples. The panel was made up of Marie Wilson, one of three commissioners for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; Perry Bellegarde, the current National Chief of the AFN, and Wab Kinew, who works at the University of Winnipeg and was heavily involved in the #IdleNoMore movement.

Indigenous youth make up a huge percentage of our population. They are a population that we will rely on heavily in the future. They are and will be very important to this country and we are losing them in massive numbers. Many are committing suicide – communities are in crisis.

And many of them are dropping out of school. Too many.

When I asked a question about how we can give these young people hope Perry Bellegarde touched on something that Stephen Kakfwi, the former Premier of the NWT, also brought up in his panel.

The investment in education for indigenous kids, in their communities is so much less than in the rest of the country. They are treated as so much less. If we are not demonstrating to them that education is important by giving them the decent infrastructure and supplies then why should they consider education important for them?

If we actually want them to succeed we need to show them that by investing in them.

It make so much sense, it’s so simple. And yet we’re so far away.

Investing in education is the first step. Education is the first step to solving poverty.

The most powerful statement, for me, came from Stephen Kakfwi, who said simply: “Do something, we’re getting desperate.”

(On a further note, Kakfwi also talked about Canadians for a New Partnership, which is worth checking out).

Take the good

by , on
March 28, 2015

Joe and I are at a conference this weekend, two full days of panels and networking. We were very lucky because this particular conference has child care available, so we didn’t have to arrange our schedules in a way to make sure that one of us was around for bus drop off and bed time and to make sure the kid was fed and entertained.

We opted to take her out of school on Friday so she could spend Friday and Saturday in proximity to us. Fed and taken care of. She’s in the hotel so I’ve dropped in a visited a few times on breaks.

Colouring a schnauzer

Colouring a schnauzer

When I have visited this is what I hear: “You’re not done are you?”

In other words – ‘you’re not here to take me home, are you?’

When we finally went to take her home at the end of day one she was near tears because she didn’t want to leave.

I am thrilled. The people in the childcare room are amazing, clearly love what they’re doing and also seem to genuinely like my kid.

But, you know, I like her too, and I like to spend time with her and have her spend time with me, and not be sad that she’s not playing with someone else. Almost devastated that she has to come home with us.

(Seriously, she wanted to sleep at the hotel).

But, overall I have to thank the people at Progress Summit who organized the childcare, got these people that my kid has fallen in love with over just a few hours, the people that my kid doesn’t want to leave behind.

This is the second day and they have play dough and Spot It. She’s definitely going to cry when we pick her up this time.

BFFs

by , on
March 16, 2015

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Last week the kid announced to me that she had two BFFs. When I asked her what BFF meant she knew and she told me so. She then proceeded to list six different kids that she considers her BFFs.

(And none of them was the kid she declared to be her boyfriend last week).

Now she’s had friends before – kids that she’s comfortable with, that she plays well with, kids that we like. She made some good friends in preschool that we hoped to keep in touch with, but since she goes to a different school for kindergarten than any of those kids it’s not easy.

But now, now she’s making friends that she could have for the rest of her life and I am very excited. There are two little girls in particular that I’m focused on. One is a friend that we adore. When they’re together the house is full of giggles. And they make me laugh and smile too. They play well. They’re great together and this little girl is someone that I would love to see grow up with my daughter.

Then there’s the other little girl. She seems to laugh more at my kid than with her. She plays jokes that my daughter doesn’t think are very funny. She makes weird threats – we had several days in a row that this girl was telling the kid that she was going to tell on her. And when we talked about it, the kid said she had no idea what she had done that would make her friend hurt or upset.

After hearing more stories about the strange things that this child was saying and doing, I suggested to my daughter than maybe this girl wasn’t such a great friend to have.

I don’t want to disabuse her of the notion that people are essentially good. Not yet. But I do want to teach her that she has a right to tell other kids when they’re making her uncomfortable, or she doesn’t like the way she’s being treated. That sometimes she needs to worry more about her own feelings than other people’s.

For now, I will focus on the good kids she’s brought into our lives. The ones that really can be BFFs. The ones to form memories with. I mean, my kid is awesome, she’s bound to surround herself with awesome people too.

Dropping out

by , on
March 12, 2015

After one year of maternity leave I was ready to go back to work. I was very, very ready. I had put us on my city’s centralized waiting list just after I found out I was pregnant and with just a few weeks left before my return to work we had yet to receive a space. And so I started looking on my own.

We were very lucky with the space I eventually found. It was relatively inexpensive ($43 per day) and the caregiver was absolutely wonderful. She loved our daughter as much as we do. But she also kept business hours – 8 to 4 – which made life difficult sometimes, especially considering I was working 7 to 3 and my husband was often traveling for work.

In 2011 my work changed drastically. We became the official opposition and then my boss died. Everything got much harder for me at work and my family became increasingly important. And so in 2012 I became a statistic.

I was one of the women who dropped out of the workforce to stay at home with my child. All I had to do was make half as much working from home as I had going into the office.

The blog post says: “So what caused the decline? It’s not retirement and it’s not fertility — the biggest declines in workforce participation were middle-aged women aged 40-54, and declines were recorded in every province across Canada.”

So what’s happening?

Women, facing years of pressure from caring for their children are then faced with helping to care for aging parents. The money doesn’t make up for the stress of trying to balance everything they’re responsible for. It’s just too much to ask.

That’s my theory, I’d love to hear others.

Famous 3

by , on
March 10, 2015

I had the pleasure of attending the Famous 5 Ottawa luncheon on March 9 that included a panel of women involved in the 2015 federal election campaigns.

This is the first time in Canadian history that the three major campaigns (Conservative, Liberal and NDP) have female campaign directors. The Green Party campaign is also being run by a woman this year.

Jenni Byrne is running the Conservative campaign for the second year in a row, Katie Telford, who co-chaired Justin Trudeau’s leadership campaign, is running the Liberals’ and Anne McGrath, who has been a party president and the chief of staff to the leader, (and who I have had the pleasure of working for) is running the NDP’s.

These women will make very important decisions that will directly affect the outcome of the next federal election.

True to her media-avoiding reputation, Byrne sent Sen. Marjory Lebreton in her place. The Senator has, as she admitted during the Q&A period, that there are few jobs in the party that she has not held. This lead to an interesting moment when Anne McGrath talked about her interest in the behind-the-scenes of politics when Sen. Lebreton did a talk at her university.

The Hill Times had a write up here.

And a story on an interesting question that came from the audience.

Changing media, changing campaigns

by , on
March 7, 2015

The topic in one of my classes this week is campaigning and one of our readings is specifically about the 2011 Canadian federal election. I was excited to read the chapter because it was directly related to my job on the campaign – media and social media – and it brings up some very interesting thoughts about what could happen this year.

It is almost certain that the 2015 federal election will look different and be covered different. Partly because of social media and partly because of reduced budgets, media outlets will be look for different ways to present the campaign to their audiences.

While the chapter in The Canadian Federal Election of 2011 (Pammett/Dornan) talks about how much time and focus the leaders’ tours got, many media outlets just won’t be able to afford the cost of sending reporters out on each of the Conservative, Liberal and NDP campaigns for 36 days. This means that either all the major outlets will be using pooled coverage or reporters will find creative ways to cover local and national issues without being on the tour.

There is also a very good chance that social media will be put to greater use in 2015, with parties talking to supporters, undecideds and especially to the media, or at least trying to get media attention. Around 83 per cent of Canadians are on Facebook and can be reached there is very specific ways. A lot of Canadians aren’t on Twitter, but the Parliamentary Press Gallery is.

There are also other interest groups that will be fighting for attention during this campaign, specifically those fighting for an inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women. The movement has its own hashtag (#MMIW) because more than 1,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis women have gone missing or been murdered in the last 30 years.

I am both excited and tentative. No matter what, it will be interesting to watch and analyze after the fact.

The Scramble

by , on
March 5, 2015

It happens in the blink of an eye. Four simple words: “I don’t feel good,” and your entire day is lost to the ether.

I have class this afternoon, I have an assignment to, I had scheduled a meeting and I was going to pick up some books at the library, maybe even go to the gym after I got the kid on the school bus. All of that was out the window by 8 am when I made the phone call to the elementary school that the kid was staying home.

Quick emails sent to my professor and the guy I was supposed to be meeting, a note sent to the husband. Trying to figure out how I can still eke out some work today.

This kid, you see, doesn’t lie down when she’s sick. She doesn’t do the ‘rest’ thing. She’s still active. She plays, she wants attention. And she talks. So much.

All of this – making sure she’s eating well, drinking fluids, feeling okay, not over-extending herself, not bored – means that it’s hard to sit at my desk and read the things I need to read for next week, or work on the essay I have to start, or do the lab I have due next week.

This is one case where being a working mom or a work-from-home mom was much easier. She’s sick, I take a sick day too, maybe try to get a little bit of work done. These days I don’t have any time to waste. Especially with an essay two in two weeks, another one in three weeks and one in four weeks, which is right before exams.

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I don’t begrudge her. In fact I’ve been missing her a lot lately, with all the stuff I have to do. And she certainly needed the day. But man oh man I wish she was the kind of kid that was happy lying on the couch under a blanket when they’re sick.

 

Balancing: It’s an Act

by , on
March 5, 2015

Scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day came across this tweet:

https://twitter.com/CBCNews/status/573554187373539332

A professor at Dalhousie is concerned about a trend of companies offering to pay for women to freeze their eggs so they can delay having children until later in life. Reading the article where she talks about things like having school and work schedules somehow work together, like having subsidized daycare. In the article she makes sense. In the tweet they say she’s urging “work-life balance.”

She isn’t, and here’s why: This professor is a powerful woman and she’s surely realized by now that work-life balance, when it comes to women who have children, is a myth. It’s bull. It’s doesn’t exist.

If you work and you have children you have choices to make every single day about what is going to be the most important thing to you right now. Some days it will be your child, some days it will be your job, some days it will be your marriage or even yourself.

But this idea that you can find a balance, where things are taking care of and everyone is happy is something that’s totally unfair to young women.

It leads to young mothers thinking that other women have it all handled and they’re the only ones that are failing.

What the professor actually talks about in the article? Those are the things we need to talk about, and not just for women’s sake.

“The workplace hasn’t thought about why the work schedule doesn’t accommodate the school schedule,” said Baylis. “What’s happened to subsidized daycare, aside from the province of Quebec? If society really thought it was important for women to have the same opportunities as men, they would be looking to make social policy changes.”

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