93, 118 or 135

by , on
November 27, 2015

During a town hall with Vice on October 5 Justin Trudeau announced that his Liberals are committed to helping First Nations communities get clean drinking water. He said:

“We have 93 different communities, under 133 different boil water advisories across the country. Chief Isadore Day has called for within five years there should be zero, and I’ve told the chief and I’ve told First Nations many times we agree with that, and a Canadian government led by me will address this as a top priority because it’s not right in a country like Canada that this has gone on for far too long.”

Trudeau’s announcement, though, was a bit of a surprise because the party had just released a platform and that promise, which has an estimated cost of $10 billion over 10 years, was not in it.

The Liberal platform did include $275 million in 2016-17 for Indigenous peoples, and a total over four years of just over $1.6 billion, which includes a stated goal of ensuring that the Kelowna Accord is “embraced.”

The Kelowna Accord, a Private Member’s Bill introduced by former Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2007, did include funding for clean water needs in some communities, but the cost provided was $400 million.

It was also surprising that Trudeau said during the town hall that the Liberals were prepared to work with “all 93 communities.” In March 2015 the number of First Nations’ communities under boil water advisories was listed at 135.

According to APTN, Trudeau was excluding 25 communities in BC because the province, rather than the federal government, now reports on the state of their water. Assuming then that only 118 communities need funding to replace or upgrade their water systems, $275 million amounts to around $2.3 million per community. Considering that money, according to the Liberal platform, is also supposed to support First Nations’ education, other infrastructure in First Nations’ communities and health and mental health services, it would not go very far at all.

The question then becomes whether the infrastructure line item in the platform, worth just over $5 billion in 2016/17, includes funding to help provide First Nations’ reserves with clean drinking water.

That $5 billion is, of course, part of Trudeau much touted deficit. That deficit he says will fund infrastructure and “social infrastructure” projects across the country.

Infrastructure on First Nations reserves is included in the new Minister’s mandate letter. That letter instructs her to work with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities “in consultation with First Nations, Inuit and other stakeholders.” It also includes instructions to work with the Minister of Finance to create “predictable and sustained funding” for First Nations communities, which may allow these communities to invest in their own infrastructure needs.

It remains to be seen whether real steps will be taken. This is a matter of political will, but with record numbers of Aboriginal voters and Aboriginal MPs political will might grow.

Further reading: 

APTN: PM Trudeau to meet with Aboriginal leaders before end of year

Toronto Star: Carolyn Bennett: Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Dear Dad

by , on
November 25, 2015

I’m almost done the first semester of classes in my Masters program. This week I got to do a presentation on my final project for one and in the car on the way home I almost cried because it felt so good. Because I am good at this. Because I know my stuff.

So I guess you were right. When you put it so simply that I should do this program you, once again, knew what you were talking about. And I’m starting to suspect you knew me better than I ever thought. We were a lot alike, I think. Though I supposed I’ve known that for a long time. At least I got a lot of the good.

The universe tried to tell me I was in the right place at the beginning of this semester, when I discovered that one of this year’s professors not only knew you, but has a very similar background – journalism, politics, academia – and a connection to Carleton basketball. Seriously.

There have been so many things over the course of this semester I would have talked to you about. But then I did this presentation and I knew that I can do it. I don’t always know, which frustrates Joe to no end. But sometimes I know.

And for now that feels pretty good.

Three Words, 2016

by , on
November 22, 2015

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It is early to be doing a post about my three words to focus on in the New Year, but the semester is coming quickly to an end and there are things I’ve learned over the last part of this year that I need to transfer to the work I’m planning to move into in the second half of 2016.

The three words that will lead me through my Masters degree and back into my career are: Focus, Clarity and Specificity.

I have noticed, both in myself and in others, this effort to include the most information possible, to expand on things that we say to try and inform or appear informed. I actually had a conversation with one of my professors about a specific assignment that I had done well on, but I had also gotten lost in trying to explain too many aspects of the issue. I lacked focus.

The great thing about this program, and about working in politics is that shorter is better, succinct is desired. People don’t have the time to hear long explanations of the background and process by which you reached your recommendation. They want to know, in bullet points, what they should do and why.

They need clarity. Precision. Specificity. They need the question to be addressed in a document that they can read and make sense of in the car on the way to a meeting. If they need more information they will ask for it, and you should have it readily available. But in the moment they just need to answer what and why, and maybe who and how.

This will be my focus in papers for the rest of my degree and my quest in dealing with clients in the future. I will not waste people’s time.

The gift horse’s mouth

by , on
November 19, 2015

I’ve been reading up on giftedness lately. Since the kid was a wee one we’ve been saying that we suspect she’ll test gifted. The more I read about it and talk to people, the more I realize that the assessment is a mere formality. This kid checks off every box.

And the more I’m reading, the more I’m checking off boxes for myself too.

I was never assessed as a kid. My sister was, and was moved into enriched classes. As a result I always felt kind of like the stupid one.

A little #ThrowbackThursday for you: My first day of school

A little #ThrowbackThursday for you: My first day of school

My grades in school – especially in high school – weren’t all that great. Except that’s just the way it feels looking back on it. I was, in fact, on the honour roll more often than not. But in my family that didn’t feel like enough for me. My family filled with really smart people with lots of education and interests. I felt like the black sheep.

Please note, that this was entirely made up in my own head. No one in my family ever chastised me for not working hard enough or getting better grades. Though reading back through some letters my father wrote to his sister he did have some doubts as to whether I would finish high school.

To be fair though, so did I.

When I was in Grade 11 I came very, very close to dropping out. I don’t remember exactly what I was feeling at the time. I’m certainly glad I never went through with it, because it would have been a long road back. At that time I certainly never imagined getting a university degree and going on to a Masters.

But it turns out, those feelings are not unusual for people who are assessed as gifted. Neither is depression and emotional intensity. Or feeling like you don’t fit in.

Luckily in high school I hooked up with a group of people who also didn’t fit in. They made it easier.

Now that I can see this about myself, it’s easier to explain a bit about who I am and where I’m going. It’s also easier to feel a bit of what my daughter is feeling and where her struggled might lie.

Use your words

by , on
November 18, 2015

Joe has one tweet that I’ve had favourited for years now. It’s one of those things that we have always agreed on and something that makes us both unsuited for academia and probably comes from our journalistic background:

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We resent the use of large words when smaller ones will suffice.

I find that a lot of people in business, especially in person at conferences or meeting, use long preambles to their questions as though they are trying to demonstrate their expertise so that the person the question is directed at knows they deserve to be there.

I, of course, have been guilty of this. It’s part of imposter syndrome – you want to prove that you have good reason to be at the mic. But really?  Most of the room is not there to see how smart you are and why you deserve to be there. They assume that you’re interested and there to learn more about the topic at hand. Just ask your question. You will get an answer without wasting anyone’s time.

The same is true in meetings, in online forums, in blog posts, all forms of communication. Keep it tight, simple, get your point across and move on.

When you’re using big words and long sentences, when you’re writing long preambles and take forever to get to the point you’re not proving anything, you’re just losing people.

Supporting Youth in the Toughest Years

by , on
November 18, 2015

I have a vivid memory of sitting in the corner of my family kitchen sobbing. I was in the midst of one of my worst ever bouts of depression. I was lost. I had graduated college with high marks but couldn’t find a job. I didn’t have any friends in town so I had gone from being social every day to be alone most of the time. I sat there sobbing and hoping someone would find me and help me before I spun into the void even more.

I had been on anti-depressants before. My father knew I was in crisis, had considered suicide at 16, he threatened to tell my mother if I didn’t talk to her. So I did, through uncomfortable tears, and I went to the doctor and she gave me a prescription.

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I got out of that place, but not fully away from that problem. I suffered from postpartum depression, I’ve had struggles since. But I survived being a teenager, and that was probably the hardest part.

So now I turn to those who are still trying to survive the hell that is high school with a mental illness.

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Ottawa’s Youth Services Bureau is creating a tool to help teenagers going through what I went through. When I was approached to support the project I jumped at the chance. The Youth Services Bureau has launched a online chat tool (chat.ysb.ca) as part of their #RealLifeMatters campaign to help kids in crisis reach out and talk to someone where they are most comfortable.

The chat, which was designed after research found that a lot of teens would be more comfortable communicating the problems they are facing that way, is available Thursday to Sunday from 4 pm to 10 pm. The bureau also has a walk-in clinic and telephone crisis line.

The chat line is a safe space for teens to express themselves and talk openly about the tough things they’re going through.

They’re also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, so check it out and share with youth in your life who might need it or might know someone who does.

(Furthermore, right now the Youth Services Bureau is running a text to donate campaign for emergency shelters for youth in need in our community – Text YOUTH to 20222 and you will be prompted to select how much you want to donate).

Christmas morning surprise

by , on
November 15, 2015

There is something the kid wants desperately for Christmas. At first it was no way, then I thought maybe and now I want it for her almost as much as she wants it.

A trampoline for our backyard.

At first all I could think of was the cost, but the more I thought about it the more I thought how that cost would translate over years and years of use.

This is a child that does cartwheels wherever, whenever.

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She’s taught herself acrobatics on the swing set in the backyard, that is now on its last legs.

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She is quickly outgrowing the exercise trampoline that we got her for the basement to help her burn a little energy.

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And she loves the trampoline she gets to jump on at gymnastics.

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She’s been in gymnastics since before she could walk – actually I’m pretty sure that class was one of the reasons she started walking so early. And she still loves it.

She’s an active, full of energy, bouncy girl who deserves her backyard trampoline.

I can only try to picture the excitement on Christmas morning when she realizes she has gotten her wish.

The only problem is that Christmas is in December, and her birthday is in January, and a backyard trampoline is not getting set up in either December or January. So once again this poor kid is going to have to wait and wait and wait for the snow to melt to be able to enjoy the one major gift she gets.

But that Christmas morning? That’s going to be unforgettable.

The apple and the tree

by , on
November 13, 2015

One of the reasons I was scared to become a mother was my lifetime of dealing with depression. It started out as school anxiety when I was in elementary school and turned into full blown clinical depression by the time I hit 16. I’ve been dealing with it ever since.

I’m doing well now. Mostly. I’m on medication that works for me. I’ve learned a lot about myself over the years and what feelings I need to be wary of. I still have that voice in my head sometimes, that tells me my family would be better off, but I recognize it for what it is.

Emotions hit me hard, I am empathetic, sometimes to my own detriment. And that is where my daughter resembles me completely.

I was terrified of this, what’s happening now. Anxiety building up. Stomach aches. Claiming she can’t control her emotions. High highs and low lows. She needs help, now.

We need help to figure out how to help her.

I’ve told people for years that we suspect she’s gifted. Given everything I’ve continued to read, stories from other parents – including my mother-in-law on dealing with Joe as a child – there is no longer suspicion. She is gifted. She is smart and intuitive and emotional and sometimes she gets carried away with herself. And sometimes she gets frustrated in having to deal with people who don’t or can’t see the world the way she does.

A friend said it to me best – these special kids, they don’t understand that not everyone else sees the world the way they do.

At first I was terrified, but now I’m seizing the opportunity. She’s done so much to make me better, and now we can help her be the best she can be.

 

20151106_152127Because she really is the best.

 

Because it’s 2015

by , on
November 4, 2015

Canada has a cabinet with gender parity. Justin Trudeau told us he would do it and he did. For the past several days Twitter has been all, well, a-Twitter, about this and whether it’s right or wrong. I went on a Twitter rant and decided to put it here in blog form:

There is proof that having more women around the table makes companies more successful.

I would like to not need gender quotas or affirmative action, but at the moment there is no other way to achieve some kind of equality.

And if you research these women, they are experienced, highly educated, represent different parts of the country. By my count: 3 Lawyers, 2 doctors, a geoscientist, 1 PhD 2 Executive Directors, a Rhodes scholar…

If equality had been achieved by this false sense of “merit”then it wouldn’t be an issue, but it hasn’t so it is.

Now we still need to achieve many other kids of diversity in parliament and in cabinet.

More women in cabinet means more visible female politicians, means more girls know that they can do that too.

Just weeks ago a national newspaper pointed out that Lisa Raitt has kids, so maybe she shouldn’t run for the CPC leadership. James Moore and Peter MacKay both have children much younger than Lisa Raitt, but their kids were mentioned as a factor.

People judge women in politics. People judge women. There is nothing wrong with giving them a fair shot at proving themselves.

I don’t care whether or not he’s pandering to female voters. It doesn’t matter, because it’s something anyway. It means something.

Further reading:

Globe and Mail: Gender parity in cabinet is more than good optics

Swearing In

by , on
November 3, 2015

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Tomorrow morning Justin Trudeau is being sworn in as Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister. It was not something I foresaw when I started working on the NDP campaign at the end of August. Actually, at the time I don’t know what I expected. I know I expected a minority right up until the moment Peter Mansbridge declared a majority.

Tonight I got an email from the Liberal Party of Canada (I am on their email list, I voluntarily signed up because I like being informed). It was signed by Justin Trudeau and in it he talks about his family and his excitement for tomorrow and he talks again about what his vision is for Canada under his government.

Reading this email I got tears in my eyes.

“On October 19, Canadians spoke loudly and clearly, that they want a government that will bring real change – in both the things that it does, and the way that it does them.

Our platform promised a new, ambitious plan for a strong and growing middle class. And you rightly expect us to fulfill that promise.

Which is why I am going to spend the next four years working harder than ever to deliver on what we promised.

Before the election, I also made a personal commitment to bring new leadership and a new tone to Ottawa. Sunny ways.

The new Canadian government will work together with our allies, with our provincial, municipal, and territorial partners so we can deliver the real, positive change that we promised you.”

I know a lot of people who have great hope and huge expectations. I beg you, Prime Minister Trudeau, do not disappoint them. Do the things you’ve promised for us. Make us better. Stop the cynicism instead of building more.

A lot of men in your position have promised great things and many of them have failed. Please, please Mr. Trudeau, don’t mess this one up. You weren’t my first choice, but I have to count on you, and so I will expect the best.

This is a great country and it’s yours now, keep it safe, make it great.

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