This column first appeared in the August 2014 All Month Edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm, BC
In light of the imposed strife affecting our education system, I’m thinking maybe I should walk out too. You in?
Not for a moment do I begrudge the teachers or the school district. I mean, seriously, who would trade places?
While I might bemoan my own work day, I wouldn’t consider switching it for the challenges and importance of a class of kindergarten kids. If I were their teacher, it would be all we could do to manage to get our shoes off in time for recess to put them back on time before the bell rang to call everyone back inside. Everyone should have a go at that. Don’t get me started on lunch and the opening of yogourt tubes and granola bars. The fact that I would be mandated to teach the alphabet, the days of the week, the months of the year, the numbers and do it all without a nap time of my own? Not happening. No thank you. But thank you to those who do. It’s magic to watch a teacher get through to a child. Absolute magic.
And I hardly think my day would be any better spent at a school district. The ultimate rubic’s cube. Here’s your challenge. We decide how much money you get and we decide what the curriculum is. Now go. Get it done. Forget about the fact that no two families are alike, no two children learn alike and no two teachers teach alike and no two schools operate alike and no two towns are the same. But please, deliver us, on time and on budget, a sufficient number of graduates to earn the income they need to pay us the taxes to generate the budgets we need to be re-elected. Ugh. I’d rather have a root canal.
Clearly, my real issue is with the provincial government. How convenient of them to forget that the education system belongs to their constituents. We, the citizens and taxpayers of British Columbia are both the consumers of and investors in the education system. It’s a bit like being the dealer and the player at a high stakes poker game. You’d think the odds were in our favour, but no. Nothing could be further from the truth. This particular high-staked game is rigged and the deck is stacked against us.
But if every gambler just walked out. Said enough is enough. There wouldn’t be much of a casino to run, now would there?
If I walk out, I don’t work. If I don’t work, I don’t earn. If I don’t earn, I don’t pay taxes. If I don’t pay taxes, the game is over.
The provincial government is gambling with our money. And every time a school day ends early or doesn’t start at all, we pay for that either in lost wages or extra day care expenses.
The average Canadian family (based on two incomes) earns $44/hour. If you cut my day by 15 minutes – we lose (or have to supplement our income by) $110 a month. There are 1.7 million households in BC. Let’s be generous and assume 60% of them have children in school. Let’s call it one million. Hopefully you had good math teachers because that’s 110,000,000 per month in lost productivity. Per month. And that’s just a 15 minute cut in class time (which is all we’ve had to deal with so far).
By this calculation, next week’s walkout will cost us $154,000,000 as a province based on the lost income (or incurred expense) of one earner per household with children.
I’m sorry but if ANY other industry knocked on Ms. Clark’s door and said “uhm excuse me, if this doesn’t get sorted, we’ll lose 154 million dollars in productivity next week”, I’m pretty sure she’d pick a power suit, find a microphone and offer up a solution on the six o’clock news.
Trouble is, she doesn’t see education cut backs as a productivity issue, she sees them as an efficiency of government resources issue. This isn’t about cost, it’s about earnings. And if we don’t earn, they don’t learn. And if they don’t learn, we don’t earn.
And seeing as the likelyhood of getting a report card or a year end school trip or even a decent recess are getting slimmer by the day, I might as well stay home with my kids and play. That, I enjoy.
Sometimes lessons are best taught by doing, or in this case, not doing rather than teaching.
If that’s what it takes to teach this government a lesson their financial statements won’t soon forget, then perhaps, it’s what needs to be done.
So I’m calling for a parent walk out. When the government sees the lost wages of a single day of our life’s work, they might learn a lesson. We can only hope.
Of all the things I’ve learned, motherhood was the most surprising and as it happens, the most humbling.
It’s not something you can train or prepare for. In fact, if you try to train or prepare for it, you will be sorely disappointed. It’s not something you make happen, it’s something that happens to you. And the difference is important.
Motherhood is a ritual that is passed down from generation to generation and not just from mothers to mothers. It takes a team to raise a parent, regardless of their gender.
When my eldest was born, I admit, I had no idea what i was in for. I worried about the pain. That seems to be the overriding message of pre-natal classes. What they failed to explain was the overwhelming feeling that you would be the ultimate provider for a teeny tiny human being on the planet. I was ready for diapers and late night feedings. I was ready for crying and discomfort. I wasn’t ready for the responsibility.
When my son was born, I was subjected to horrific medical procedures. I don’t even like getting my eye brows tweezed. So you can imagine my horror in the delivery room. Anyway, after a very long day of “monitoring” it was decided that my son would arrive by C section. The call went out to medical professionals across the Shuswap: nurses, anesthesiologist and surgeons, who willingly made their way to my bedside at an ungodly hour. My husband signed a piece of paper acknowledging that if he passed out, nobody could help him. Bless him. He signed.
This column first appeared in the May All Month Edition of the Salmon Arm Friday AM
I always carry a copy of Alice in Wonderland with me. Odd, but true. It’s my go to source of wisdom, inspiration and perspective. You see, Alice had no idea what she was getting into that fateful day. And to some extent, neither do I. Every day is an adventure, especially when you’re a small business owner like me.
You never know who you’ll meet, where you’ll go and what will happen. It’s all very exciting and on occasion, absolutely terrifying. There are cheshire cats, mad hatters and queens of hearts in the business world. There are days where you feel very big and there are days where you feel very small. There are days where you rush around like a mad hatter. And there are days where you might best express yourself with a few swings of a croquet club.
What you might not know is that Alice in Wonderland was not only about words, it was also about numbers. Just like business, as it happens. Both are very powerful storytellers, words and numbers, that is. Lewis Carol was the pen name of a Reverend at an Oxford College. It’s said that Alice’s adventures were a satirical exploration of the mathematical theory of the time. The book was first published in 1865.
It’s my view that modern business is also a satirical exploration of mathematical theory. Despite centuries of commerce, we have yet to find a way to measure what really matters. How much, for example, is a pound of happiness worth? How about an ounce of laughter? Can we benchmark the love we feel for our families and friends? Is there any better key performance indicators than a beautiful sunset followed by a glorious sunrise?
There are, on the other hand, things we are exceptionally good at measuring. Baseball statistics for one (they are more complex than most university level economics courses), debt equity ratios, gross domestic product, trade balances, net worth, interest rates and stock exchange indices. But to what end? I bet Alice would wonder that too. Her adventure was all about finding the answers to riddles as complex and confusing as these. Which is what we all do. And until I figure them out, she’ll be with me enjoying the tea party.
“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar. “I hardly know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.”
And speaking of stories, I hope you’ll take in the new exhibition now open and running through to the end of June at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre. It’s called Saga: The Art of Storytelling in the 21st Century. It’s a collaborative and interactive exploration of our stories, how we tell them and how they unite us as the giant tea party that is our wonderful and adventurous community.
PS – You needn’t worry about the Queen of Hearts, she wasn’t invited.
This column first appeared in the April 2014 All Month Edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm, BC
Does Quebec have any real expectation that it can separate? It can’t do so without the rest of Canada. We would have to separate from each other, ironically, together. Quebecers can no more separate from the beauty of the Rocky Mountains than British Columbians can separate from the majesty of the St. Lawrence River. We are connected by geography, if nothing else, but also by so much more.
While we might want to blame each other for our ongoing discord, the truth is that Quebec’s woes are more about what happened in 1759 when the French failed to make a good showing at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. So blame the British for showing up on time and dragging a cannon up L’Anse au Foulon in the middle of the night to get the King’s job done. And that Canada isn’t all English as some (but certainly not all) in English Canada might prefer, blame France for the hundreds of years it spent colonizing the Americas before you wave your finger at today’s Quebecers. But most importantly, never ever underestimate the power of today’s choices on tomorrow’s problems. That’s the real lesson here.
Yes, of course, the technical issues of a separate Quebec are very complex and include, among many things, roads, airports, ports, waterways, debt, deficits, defense, health care, pensions, taxation, passports and currency. But it’s so much deeper than that.
To reacquaint myself with this deep divide, I looked up Donald Brittain’s NFB series “Champions” about Levesque and Trudeau. If you really want to understand the Quebec question, I encourage you to watch it too. It’s free on nfb.ca. If you can watch the three-part series and still not be persuaded that there is much more at play than a simple “us vs. them”, I’d like to hear from you.
I remember as a child, grown-ups sitting around tables at family gatherings having heated discussion about the future of Quebec. I had no idea what it was all about except that it was serious, divisive, important and oddly secretive. Those conversations don’t happen as often now. I want young people to know that we used to have conversations that involved the value of things rather than the price of them.
I will say this: Marois is no Levesque and Harper is no Trudeau. Neither are champions of any kind in my view, other than championing the saving of their own skin. And we Canadians are the lessor for it.
Being both French and English (or as some call it, bilingual) can be a real curse. In English Canada, I’m a Francophone. In French Canada, I’m an Anglophone, which basically means I don’t always quite fit in. Which is why the NFB series “Champions” is such a comfort to me in these trying times.
Levesque said of the lost referendum “Si je vous comprends bien, vous etes en train de me dire, a la prochaine fois.” Which, translated, means, “If I understand you correctly, you are saying to me, until next time.” I hope the “next time” isn’t now.
I am from Quebec. I am from Canada. I am grateful for and very proud of both. Please don’t ask me to choose because I will have no choice, which is the worst choice of all. Please just ask me to prepare for “la prochaine fois”. That, I think, I can deal with. In fact, it’s really the only thing I’ve ever known how to do.
There are deeply complex and well-hidden agendas on both sides of this persistent debate. As Levesque would famously surmise (and you need to watch Champions to witness it), hidden agendas such as these can have insurmountable consequences. History has much to teach us. I can only hope we can learn to accept her lessons.
This column first appeared in the March All Month edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm, BC
So you think you can spell? We all do. At least secretly anyway. Admit it, you see a spelling mistake like a sore thumb. Red and painful and often unnecessary.
Why is that? Because words are the most powerful tools we have in life. How we use them and what we say with them tell our story. How we parent. How we learn. How we conduct business. How we connect. How we get jobs. How we earn a living. How we say hello and goodbye. How we say please and thank you. How we define our lives.
I want to tell you about LASS, the Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society. This group of dedicated volunteers and their small team of staff accomplish, literally, tomes of change. From books for babies to cyber learning for seniors, this grass roots organization is dedicated to improving literacy in the Shuswap. And literacy isn’t just about learning how to read, it’s about learning how to succeed. LASS will host its inaugural spelling bee fundraiser on May 2 at the Prestige Inn.
I want to ask you a question. Why is literacy important to the community? Because it’s a good cause? Because kids should have books to read and seniors should be able to use the internet? Yes. But that’s not nearly the whole story.
Here’s why I think literacy is important.
1) Canada is a world leader in the service sector. While we mourn the loss of manufacturing jobs offshore, the truth is the service sector is 70% of our economy and where our real future lies. Engineering, logistics, consulting, science, medicine, and even banking. Our strength is a matter of literacy.
2) Canada is a global leader in the non-profit sector, second only to the Netherlands. It’s 10% of our economy. Our strength is a matter of literacy.
3) 60% of business leaders report that low employee literacy is a productivity challenge. Our risk is a a matter of literacy.
4) The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tells us that Canada has a productivity problem. Our risk is a matter of literacy.
It’s all about literacy. Especially in small regional economies like ours. Like it or not, your pay cheque has likely more do to with the work of your neighbours and your neighbours’ neighbours than you might like to admit. Our livings and, in turn, our livelihoods are interdependent. Truth be told, I can’t earn a living without you and you can’t earn one without me. If I struggle with literacy, I pay. So do you.
Now, I want to issue a spelling challenge. Please get a pen and a cheque book and spell out “pay to the order of the Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society the sum of one hundred dollars” in support of this fundraiser. It could be one of the most important investments you make in yourself, in your community and in your economy. When you do the math, it’s the words that really matter. We’re counting on, and spelling for, each other.
Your government raised MSP again?
Why death by a thousand small increases? Why not just triple it, heck, quadruple it, and be done with us for good. And we’ll take those seniors on fixed incomes with us. It’s not like you want them hanging around either.
Wait, that’s not really how economics works is it? You need a working class. You need pensioners. Or maybe, in fairness, you don’t know that. It’s not like you’ve spent much of your working life in the private sector, now is it.
I could not be more disappointed. Unless of course you decide to charge a surtax on moving trucks to Alberta. Because you might want to consider that as a promising source of revenue. Then you’ll have your province full of lawyers, bankers, brokers and resource executives (you know them right, they come to your fundraiser parties I’m told). Just don’t come crying to us when the pantry is bare. We’ll find it hard to sympathize even if we know all too well how that feels.
Maybe HP, the giant US conglomerate you hire to run Revenue Services BC to collect those precious premiums will bail you out. They’ve got to feel sorry for a provincial government that can’t even collect its own revenue. Poor dears.
Shame on you sir. Is it not time you gave some serious thought to precisely which members of the public you were elected to serve? Last time I checked, it was everyone. Or are you needing a refresher course on that too? I might suggest that next year you set aside some government funding for the training and education of politicians in what the rest of us refer to as “real life” economics.
This column first appeared in the Jan 31 edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm, BC
This column first appeared in the December 2013 All Month of the Friday Am in Salmon Arm, BC
I’ve been meaning to write to you for some time but adulthood has been much busier than I had expected. Still, it’s no excuse. I should have written years ago to thank you for the doll I got when I was six, the perfect mandarin oranges at the toe of my Christmas stockings, the yummy and sticky deliciousness of all those candy canes (let’s just forget about the dentist bills for the moment) and, most of all, the joy on my parents’ face come Christmas morning. I know you had more to do with that than you’ll ever let on. So thanks. The happiness of those moments helps to shape the traditions that my husband and I now share with our own children.
A happy childhood is magical, especially at Christmas. I have such vivid memories of the Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade, the Simpson’s Christmas windows, the visits to Toyland in my best outfit for my annual picture with you. I’m afraid to say, we’ve replaced most of those experiences with Walmart commercials. Sad face.
Thankfully, the public domain, or works that are available for the public to use for free, means that Charlie Brown, Rudolph, the original Grinch and It’s a Wonderful Life invade the airwaves this time of year. It saves broadcasters a ton of money (Rogers will need it given the billions they spent to buy our national game) but it also reminds us of what the holidays were like before Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
That aside, In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d write to offer any assistance I could in making other people’s Christmas holiday as happy as ours have been. I hope you’ll check your records to make sure that the Shuswap Family Resource Centre, the Shuswap Community Foundation, Aspiral Youth Partners, the Safe Society and Second Harvest food bank, among others around here, have made it to your coveted nice list. The work they do helping children get what they need to become happy and productive grow- ups would impress even your keenest, most experienced elves.
I’m sure you have WIFI up there at the North Pole. Shaw will, after all, do just about anything to make an extra buck. Telus might even be investing in fibre optics in your neighbourhood too. I bet your facebook and twitter feeds are full of posts about crooked mayors, wayward senators, even a Prime Minister who denies benefits to disabled Veterans. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t even bother with the piece of coal but it’s not my decision to make. Maybe you can get through to them. Lord knows, many have tried. A spot on the naughty list might do the trick.
I hope you’ve blocked the elves from this tomfoolery lest it interfere with their good nature and enthusiasm. While their hard work is most appreciated on Christmas Day itself, their spirit of giving is what helps us grown-ups muster through from Boxing Day to the next Christmas Eve. We need that.
So, dear Santa, my wish is that you and your elves have a merry Christmas. And here’s why. You devote yourselves to making sure you give a merry Christmas. And that, ultimately, is what the season is all about. If you don’t mind my saying, here in the Shuswap, you’ve got plenty of helpful elves who deserve our thanks not to mention a perfect Christmas orange and the sticky deliciousness of a candy cane or two.
PS – if you’d like an extra hot egg nog latte, just tweet me @lwmediability when you fly over Revelstoke. I’ll have it waiting for you in your favourite mug and I promise, I won’t peek or post a picture to facebook. Your secret is safe with me. I will always believe.
This column first appeared in the Salmon Arm All Month Edition of the Friday Am in November 2013
If I understand this correctly, we (and by we I mean you and I and everyone who pays taxes) have spent, on three senators alone, $500,000 in auditing fees. Which, if you follow my logic, means we’ve spent more money on checking into the problem than the actual problem cost in the first place. Now, again, it might just be me, but if my car repair cost me more than its total original cost, I probably wouldn’t have that car anymore. It would have promptly been picked up by the tow truck and sent to the wreckers.
We’ll likely never know how much money the citizens of Toronto have paid their municipal police force to unearth the alleged video of the alleged crack pipe smoking. I’m pretty comfortable alleging that it would be more money than anyone would ever put in any pipe and smoke.
Perhaps it’s the drama that enthralls us. An episode of Coronation Street on steroids paid for by taxpayers. Who said what, who did what, who spent what, who hid what, who got what. Aren’t we really missing the point? The opportunity to repair, redress, correct, improve and move on. I think so.
When the late Edward Kennedy, one of the longest serving and most respected politicians of our time famously said “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die”, he was talking about leadership, not election campaigns. Our politicians would do well to remember this. If you win, and good for you if you do, then lead. And keep the campaigning to the painful number of days of rhetoric we endure every election period.