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Two things came together in my various timelines today that made me think back.

The first was a reminder, on Facebook, that on this day six years ago Jack Layton held his final press conference. It is a day I remember vividly, as I had been planning to take it off, but I got a phone call from my boss telling me that she really needed me to be there. When I arrived, another boss came into my office and gave me my task for the morning – to watch carefully for leaks to the media before the press conference started. Memories are faulty, but I’m fairly certain that at that point I hadn’t been told what would leak if we had one, but since that was my job – to be at my desk, watching the news, watching Twitter, watching websites – it meant I was not in the big room where they gathered staff to tell them all at once that our dear leader had cancer again, and would be taking a break from leading the party.

The second was on my Pinterest, a simple message someone saved about leadership. When I talk to leaders I get the feeling that I am important. And I remember. When Jack was my boss more than once he called a meeting with the staff of the whole leader’s office, usually at the end of a sitting, and he asked us what we thought. He legitimately asked us what we thought of how the session had gone and how the party was doing, and then he sat there and listened. He made you feel like he was listening to you and that he cared what you had to say.

I say he made you feel that way, I know a lot of things in politics are fake, but I still believe that he did care. That’s why I loved working for him, and I think that’s why when people ask who I worked for and I tell them they usually put a hand over their heart and say “ah.”

I know that other people feel that way about our current Prime Minister. I have met him a few times and he has that same aura about him. When he’s shaking your hand or taking a picture, it feels as though he’s right there, listening to you.

In the event that I ever become a boss or a mentor, I hope that this is the type of leadership I can provide. It has meant so much to me.

So, Canada celebrated 150 since since confederation last weekend. Living in the capital, this is something we’ve been talking about for YEARS and I had gotten a little tired of it all. (Especially since, in my opinion, if your going to celebrate 150 years for a whole year, at least start on July 1 and end on July 1).

I love this country, I am proud and glad to have been born here. I believe in this country, and I also know that she has many failings and has made outrageous mistakes. I am of the mind that I can celebrate the good and criticize the bad without giving up one iota of my patriotism.

And it occurred to me today, after watching the pros and cons of Canada being debated all weekend, after watching Indigenous peoples stand up and say that this country is NOT okay, that they have NOT been treated fairly, that they and their children are suffering the consequences of these 150 years, that the best way for me to quietly celebrate my Canada is to lift up those voices, and other Canadian voices. To listen.

And one of my favourite ways to listen is through the written word. So here I will share books that I have read, and books that I know I should read – and will read, hopefully by the end of this year.

Great Books I have read, so see these as recommendations:

  • Fall On Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald (when I started reading, I was unprepared for the story and the beauty of it)
  • An Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King (Humour surrounding a history lesson and a serious issue)
  • Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood (One of the first Atwood’s that I read, and my lasting favourite)
  • The Underpainter, Jane Urquhart (I read this years ago, and sometimes still think about it)
  • The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill (Just a harrowing journey)
  • Birdie, Tracey Lindberg
  • Essex County, Jeff Lemire
  • The Right to be Cold, Sheila Watt-Cloutier
  • The Promise of Canada, Charlotte Gray
  • The Game, Ken Dryden
  • The Birth House, or virtually anything else by Ami McKay, even books she hasn’t written yet

Books for Young Canadians, which Canada does so well

  • The Macdonald Hall series by Gordon Korman (I have already bought the full set for my daughter)
  • The Anne series by LM Montgomery (Rilla of Ingleside being my personal favourite, with Anne of the Island a close second)
  • Any and all things Munsch
  • The Beaver, Moose and Bear books by Nicholas Oldland
  • The Hockey Sweater, Roch Carrier (but really the NFB short)
  • Spork, Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault
  • Different Dragons and Mine for Keeps by Jean Little (I read both multiple times. Jean Little has a way of making you feel less alone)
  • All Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella books, but particularly When Stella was Very, Very Small
  • Red is Best, Kathy Stinson

Great Canadian Books I Must Read

  • The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields
  • The Diviners, Margaret Laurence
  • Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese
  • The Cat’s Table, Michael Ondaatje
  • The Break, Katherena Vermette
  • Two Solitudes, Hugh McLennan, and also probably Barometre Rising
  • The War That Ended Peace, Margaret MacMillan

If you have any recommendations for me, I’d love to add to my list. More fiction, history, biographies, I’ll read it all.

Everybody can succeed, all you need is to believe

May 15th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Canadiana | Personal - (Comments Off on Everybody can succeed, all you need is to believe)

It used to be that I would get home from school, get myself a snack and switch on the TV. In elementary school, especially after my sister started high school and we no longer got home at the same time, the TV was mine and I could choose what I wanted. And what I usually wanted was Degrassi reruns.

Last weekend was Ottawa Comic Con, my annual Mothers’ Day present to myself, and the cast of Degrassi was there. Specifically Joey Jeremiah, Caitlyn, Snake and Tessa, who do all have real names but that doesn’t really matter, because I grew up with Joey, Caitlyn, Snake and Tessa, etc.

(Though Snake always seemed like a really nice guy, and Spike was awesome, Lucy was always my favourite).

Degrassi covered all the topics a show for young people should in those days – pregnancy, abortion, teen suicide, HIV/AIDS, drug use, sexual assault, even small things that every teenager thinks that they’re dealing with all alone.

One of the things that has always struck me, thinking back on Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High is that the actors looked like real kids, and the stories were stories no one else seemed to want to tell. The actors on the panel this weekend talked about the fact that grown ups would sometimes question the stories they were telling, but always let them tell those stories.

I cannot say how important that was to those of us growing up with the kids from Degrassi.

And yes, my generation’s Degrassi continues to be the best.

Thanks to Jack, Dad and Gord

August 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Canadiana | Personal - (Comments Off on Thanks to Jack, Dad and Gord)

Five years since Jack Layton died, a year since we buried my father, a few days after watching Gord Downie perform his last concert in his hometown, some lessons that I’ve learned from these men:

  1. Always wear sunscreen. By the end of his life, my father had nine separate moles removed because of skin cancer. He wore big hats, long sleeves, slathered on sunscreen and asked whether we were wearing it.
  2. Choose your words carefully. When I proudly showed my father my first ever printed byline he pointed out the word unique in my lede.
  3. Following on that point: Have the arguments to back up your opinions. Debating with my father was always infuriating. He would ask you to defend your point of view again and again and again. As a kid I hated it. As an adult, I understand what he was trying to teach me. I have strongly held believes, and I can defend them.
  4. Love, hope and optimism can change the world. I’m not particularly good at any of these things, but Jack taught me to strive for them.
  5. Isn’t is amazing what we can accomplish? Every day I look at my daughter and this rings true.
  6. Don’t stop until the job is done.
  7. Canada is a great country. The more people we welcome here the better we are. The ideals we have, we have to defend and build upon.
  8. No dress rehearsals, this is our life. There are no guarantees. Each of these men had less time than any of us would have thought.

We’re all in this together.

That’s what I’m here for

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Canadiana - (Comments Off on That’s what I’m here for)

I would never call myself a huge fan of the Tragically Hip. I owned one or two of their albums, I liked their singles,  I’ve never seen them play live. There was a time in Ottawa when it was almost hard to avoid it.

But it feels like I’ve known who the are forever. And forever they have always belonged to us. I remember they played SNL once, and it was exciting, but they didn’t seem to yearn for greater success outside this country, and we rewarded them for that.

Hip music is Canada. They talk about our places and our experiences. And Gord Downie’s lyrics are poetry. Sometimes completely nonsensical, and sometimes exactly what you need to hear.

Whenever I hear Wheat Kings or Bobcaygeon, I start picturing myself in a movie, driving down a Canadian highway, prairie skylines along the road, and I wonder what kind of plot I would write.

No, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Tragically Hip, but I do believe them to be a constant in the Canadian consciousness. They are part of the landscape. They love this country like I love this country. And when it was announced that Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer it was felt.

I wish I could write like Gord. It makes no sense but it means something at the same time.

I maintain that Canada breeds great lyricists as well as all the comedians who leave us.

And so  tonight Joe and I will join about 30 million others watching the Hip’s last show – probably ever – in Kingston. And I will cry for the loss, not because they are one of my favourite bands, but because it is a loss to my favourite country, and I will miss them when they’re done.

(I have to note that while I searched for a the Wheat Kings video I found this one of the Biebs singing that one. Weird). 

Revisiting

August 19th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Canadiana | Personal - (Comments Off on Revisiting)

We took the opportunity we had this week – me not working, Joe off work, the kid on a break week from her many camps – and took a drive up the 401. We stayed in Belleville for two nights and spend a morning at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

If you haven't been to Sandbanks, you're missing out

If you haven’t been to Sandbanks, you’re missing out

It was a lovely, short trip that I think we all needed, and it was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. We stayed at the same hotel I stayed at when I went back for my college graduation. I visited the old college, much changed since my graduation in 2003. Only one familiar prof was listed on the office doors, and he wan’t in that day. So much has changed since I studied journalism at Loyalist College.

So much happened while I was there.

We drove past part of CFB Trenton where I got to visit Operation Maple Leaf – meant to prepare soldiers from the base who were soon leaving for Afghanistan. When they actually left I was, for a short time, in the room with those same soldiers and their families as they all said goodbye. You could actually feel the emotions in that room. Later I would be on that base to watch four caskets arrive back on Canadian soil. I witnessed history.

During my summer in Belleville I would often drive up to Sandbanks with a picnic and some friends and just be. It was so calming. It was again this weekend, going the same with a husband and daughter that the person I was when I lived there would never have imagined.

So much has happened in the last 13 years that I never could have imagined. For example, I thought I was going to be a successful journalist.

And now here I am. I have used all of those skills and all the new things I have learned along the way, and all of the passion I have to build a new me.

I loved growing up in Ottawa, but going to school with the same people for 15 years can box you into a corner. Before I left for Belleville one of my co-workers told me she thought I was going to go wild when I left home. Though I do have wonderful memories of dancing into the early hours in the town I chose to call home for two years, I didn’t go wild, I just became me. And I’ve kept on building this person ever since.

I read the news today, oh boy

January 20th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Canadiana | Issues | Ottawa - (Comments Off on I read the news today, oh boy)

I have been feeling sick to my stomach almost all day.

I took a nap this morning and when I woke up there was a message from Joe asking whether I had seen what was going on at Postmedia. Mergers, layoffs. Very bad news.

You see, I stopped being a journalist a long time ago. Well, not really – once a journalist, always a journalist. I stopped trying to work as a journalist but I still have a passion for journalism. I was raised on journalism. Both of my parents studied it, it was all around me. People with great respect for the trade and its product.

This is devastation.

And my biggest fear is that a majority of people don’t know what they lost today.

You see, I don’t believe in citizen journalism, and I don’t believe good reporting can be done for free. Just because you have a police scanner app on your phone doesn’t mean that you have access. Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you’re a reporter.

Good journalism, real journalism, is a very special skill. It’s access and instinct. It’s time spent digging. Talking to the right people and asking the right questions.

Too many people don’t understand the real value of great journalism. They want it for free and they think it will be the same.

I have been feeling sick to my stomach all day because a lot of people lost their jobs today, most of them hard-working people who were dedicated to jobs that have bad pay and shitty hours because they saw the promise of what good journalism can do.

I don’t know how we reverse this trend, but we would all benefit if we could figure it out.

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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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It’s all over, the next part starts now. We have a new Prime Minister. So far he’s held a press conference, talked to the public in a public space and walked in the front door of Parliament, so change does appear to be coming.

I have to be optimistic that he’ll stand by the promises he made, just because I have to. And I have to be optimistic that right here is where politics starts to change because it feels like we hit bottom.

I dream of a time when the parties allow candidates to voice their own opinions and disagree with party policies but overall believe that the party they chose to represent is the best choice, because that’s more real to Canadians than sticking to the script all the time. I dream of a time when politicians can change their opinions based on new information and not be accused of flip flopping.

Right now I see opportunity. We have four years to change politics.

I hope to be a small part of it.

GOTV

October 18th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar | Canadiana | Issues - (Comments Off on GOTV)

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Alrighty folks. It’s just about that time. In about 12 hours polls will be open across the country and people will be heading to vote. I have been working long hours and long weeks since late August and I’m exhausted – just think of the people who started right when the writ dropped!

You know what makes it all worthwhile? People getting out to vote. People engaging in democracy makes it so much better.

And I can honestly say I have no idea what will happen when the polls close. I can congratulate BC, you’re going to matter this time. I think, and I know others who also believe, that we won’t have a clear idea of what’s happening until BC polls close.

My class on Tuesday morning should be interesting.

Once again I have been privileged to be a part of history. This campaign was different, this government will be different. I am thrilled to have worked on the campaign and I am thrilled to be able to sit back and study the results of it.

So please, everyone who reads this, please go and vote. Remind other people to vote. Take your kids with you to vote and teach them that it’s an important thing they need to do for their future. Both of my parents worked in politics, other family members demonstrated to me how important the government is in our lives and even more family members are hard working public servants who believe in the good work they can do there.

People who don’t vote because they think the government doesn’t matter to them or doesn’t focus on their issues – I hate to tell you this, but the federal government has a hand in virtually every aspect of our lives. What the federal government doesn’t control the provinces do, and they get a lot of money from the feds to do it.

And if they don’t matter in your life right now they will when you need EI or a pension or a passport or any number of other things.

I don’t know the guaranteed argument to get people out to the polls: f you don’t vote you can’t complain; if you don’t vote then the other guy’s vote counts twice as much; if you don’t vote you’re telling politicians to ignore your issues; if you don’t vote you’re turning your back on all the people around the world and across the ages who have fought and died for the right.

However you vote and for whatever reason, just do it.

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