Postcard from the campaign trail

November 21, 2014 - 8 Responses

In 2011, I ran willingly for municipal council in my small town. I wanted to experience life as a candidate. From the beginning, I knew the odds were not in my favour. Six council seats, five incumbents, 19 candidates. Not exactly a horse race. In hind sight, or as a good friend of mine would say, kind sight, it was a good thing. Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted.

In 2014, I was reluctant. Campaigns, as I learned in 2011, are hard work and hard on the budget. I’ve always wanted to serve in public office. The question I needed to ask myself was should I risk the time and money again or stay focussed on the path that matters most to me, my family, my living, my life. I had actually ruled it out, truth be told, until a friend of mine walked up the stairs to my office with nomination papers in hand. “Here Louise” she said. “We are days away from the closing date and not a single woman has put her name forward for councillor. Please think about it.” It wasn’t the first time in October that someone commented that I should run. “Why?”, I thought. I tried that last time and I didn’t win. What would be different this time? But then, I kept thinking. And ultimately, walked over to city hall and filed my papers.

Twenty or so minutes later, the local newspaper’s facebook page posted something along the lines of  “Louise Wallace Richmond files nomination papers for council. We have a woman in the race.” That’s how small towns work. News travels fast. This had been a matter of some concern in the days prior. Three incumbents, three open spots, no women candidates. Better odds, this time, I thought. But in my career, I’ve never played the woman card. And I’m grateful to my grandmothers and my mother for forging a path that meant I’d never had to worry about that thus far. An odd turn of events. So off we went, designing campaign materials and signs, setting up private appointments and public meetings, updating websites and posting messages on social media, answering e-mails and taking phone calls. Here we go again, I thought. But something changed. In the lyrics of Joni Mitchell “but something’s lost and something’s gained in living life everyday”. I had learned. And I took those lessons with me to the campaign trail.

Running for office in municipal politics in a small town is still, thankfully, not really about your positions or your political leanings. It’s not about left or right. It’s about what you can bring to forward motion. It’s not about slates or party politics, it’s about people. And surprisingly, it’s not always about the candidates themselves. It’s about team work. In 2011, I ran alone. In 2014, I ran with people I care about and people who care about me. My neighbours canvassed the neighbourhood with me. My office colleagues help put up signs, Fellow candidates encouraged me. In fact, they helped put each other’s signs back up after windy nights and wayward sign smashers. Total strangers stopped me on the street to shake my hand in thanks for putting my name forward even if we didn’t share a point of view. I met with business leaders and told them how much the union contributes to the local economy. I met with unions leaders and told them about how important owning a business was to me. I told special interest groups I couldn’t change legislation that was impeding their goal. I told the audience at the all candidates forum that being on council was a job for which I wanted to apply and I thought I was qualified to get the job done. I said publicly, on our community radio station, that our town could be a tough place to earn a living but we are full of talent and good will and we have an important role to play. I chose to challenge them rather then placate them. And it worked. When my mom friends congratulated me on running, I was careful to remind them that if they wanted a mom on council, they would have to do the hard work. I’d filed my papers. The rest was up to them. They took up the challenge. It worked because people want to participate and make a difference. While the voter turnout belies this, I really think it’s because we haven’t done a good job of reminding them of their power and influence. Our fault, not theirs.

On election night, friends showed up to share the news, good or bad. I didn’t do this in 2011. I isolated myself. About 35 minutes after the polls closed, the first text came through “You’re In”. And to be honest, I’m not sure who was more excited, my friend or me. We did this together. In the days following, so many people have congratulated me. I’m careful to remind them too, that even as a candidate, I only had one vote. They did the work even if I won the coveted one spot of six.

On December 1 at 7:00 pm in council chambers, I will take my place at the table. And I owe it to those who took their voting responsibility with honesty and humility. Nobody wins alone. I learned that. And for the next four years, I will never forget it.

Thank you!

Parliament Hill is Canada’s Home Town

October 22, 2014 - Leave a Response

Parliament Hill is a very special place. Few of us have even seen it never mind understand what happens there. It matters because it’s for all of us. Everyone is represented there. Every man, woman and child in this country is there. We want to believe it’s a place where only the politicians loftily come and go but men and women of every walk of life are there too. Cooks, messengers, researchers, writers, journalists, librarians, barbers, stationers, upholsters, carpenters, guards, pages, clerks. Every walk of life. All of us. It’s Canada’s greatest home town.

Something has changed forever. I want our country back. I want our Wednesday back. Where caucus meetings fire up the troops with partisan fervour instead of guns. Where members tear each other’s words, rather than flesh, apart during Question Period.

The Hall of Honour echoed with gun fire. In all its marble and granite glory, the sound must have been deafening. Let that be the loudest and final scream of anarchy we ever experience.

While on guard for our bravest moments as a country, a young, volunteer reservist full of life and promise died of a cowardly act. Now we mourn. Never must we forget.

Adopt a non-voter

October 5, 2014 - 2 Responses

In the last municipal election, the estimated number of eligible voters in Salmon Arm was 12,982. Meanwhile, the number of votes cast was 5,108.

This means – ladies and gentlemen – that only 39 per cent voted while 100 per cent of us live here, pay taxes and contribute as citizens.

What to do? Chances are that 61 per cent reading this column did not vote. I’m not blaming you, but am confused.  Salmon Arm’s budget for 2014 was an estimated $29.5 million. That is certainly bigger than my household budget and business budget. In fact, it’s the biggest budget for which I feel I have some direct ownership.

Granted, it is not the most exciting thing to own. A city is responsible for water, sewer, garbage collection, fire, police, recreation, culture and certain capital projects. But as far as budgets go, it is substantial, and our votes are more than just important. They are critical to how the whole system works.

Could I be so bold as to make a few assumptions about the non-voter?

  • You are busy.
  • You find politics petty and boring.
  • You’re sure your vote won’t make a difference either way.
  • You find that bureaucracy is slow and clunky and you just don’t have time for that nonsense.
  • Plus, you’re not really sure who to vote for and where to vote.
  • You’re not sure anything will change anyway. So why bother?

Fair enough.  I don’t blame you. I’m just asking you to reconsider this time around. Let’s break it down, one by one. We can do this.

You are busy.

I agree. We’re all busy. It’s human nature to fill our days with lists of things to do, places to go, people to see, money to earn. But you’re not too busy to pay for the roof over your head. That includes property tax. You pay either way. You might as well have your say.

You find politics petty and boring.

I have to agree to a certain extent. Some politicians are petty. But the majority of elected officials are people like you and me who care about the well being of their community. We should be grateful for council members who spend their evenings pouring through briefing books the size of the New York city phone book, week after week.

And yes, it might seem boring to you. But they aren’t bored. They like that stuff. That’s why they ran. A democracy is only democratic if due process, as tedious as it might seem, is followed. Better them than you. That’s worthy of vote, is it not?

You’re sure your vote won’t make a difference either way.

That is where I have to disagree. Every vote matters. Every single one. In fact, there are countless examples of people winning and losing by single digit differences. Ask anyone who has run in an election. Ask me. I had 854 votes last time and if I could shake each of their hands in thanks, I would.  It matters.

You find that bureaucracy is slow and clunky, and you don’t have time for that nonsense.

Well, that’s a skewed perception if you don’t mind my saying. It is hard to watch water boil or paint dry. But it still boils or dries eventually. The trick is, you have to let it happen. Patience is critical to politics too. Things done with impatience and hurry don’t often end so well. I’m sure we can agree on that.

You’re not really sure who to vote for and where to vote.

This is a challenge. If you don’t read the paper or listen to the radio or visit the city’s website, this information can be difficult to find.

We could do a better job at this. I’d like to see a non-partisan professionally designed public service campaign address this. We can do a better job of election awareness.

And I don’t mean signs on the highway. These are a necessary evil. We don’t vote because someone has a blue sign or a red sign or a square sign or a rectangle one. We vote because we know them or we trust them or we think that we can. We just tolerate the visual clutter until the day after the election. Then we get cranky if not cleared out at once.

Most candidate will (or at least should) have a web presence or an e-mail address. Go ahead. Seek them out and ask questions. They want to hear from you. Really, they do. And if they don’t, they should not be running and should not be winning.

You’re not sure anything will change anyway?

C’mon now. That’s not really true and, deep down, you know it. Plenty has changed these last few years. On my daily commute from Canoe to Downtown, the landscape has vastly changed. There are new businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, financial institutions, parks, homes, trails and public art. It seems every day something new happens. It is all about awareness. And that is up to you. If you look for new, you’ll find it. If you don’t, you won’t. But you should because it’s delightful.

If you are a voter, I want to thank you. Maybe in your travels these next few weeks you’ll meet a non-voter. If you do, gently remind them of their importance. Help them by adopting them and bringing them to the polls.

Voting is one of the easiest and most powerful things we can do to preserve our democracy. I hope we can at least agree that democracy is worth voting for, especially in light of countries not as lucky as ours where democracy is what they fight for.

Voting really does make a world of difference. See you at the polls.

Twas the Night Before School

September 6, 2014 - 4 Responses

(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore and his heirs)

Twas the night before school, when all through the house,
not a textbook was open, not even by mouse.
No backpacks were hung by the front door with care,
in hopes that the school bus soon would be there.

The children weren’t nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of math quizzes danced in their heads.
And mom in her kitchen, and dad in his cap,
had just resigned themselves to a long summer gap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the late summer glow,
gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but Ms Christy Clark and her tiny Fastbendeer.

With tailor made suits, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment this was going to be slick.
More rapid than twitter, their excuses came.
They whistled and shouted and called each by name.

“Now unions! Now, teachers! You are not alone.
Increases must fall in the affordability zone.
If kids aren’t in class, then fault is your own.”

And yet, on my street, up the hill at the school,
walk teachers and workers not playing the fool.
Determined to find a much fairer way,
spend weeks on the line for strictly no pay.

And the kindies all ready, their eyes how they twinkle.
Excited for school and yet what a wrinkle.
No teachers await them, no cubbies assigned,
no classroom to enter, no morning snack time.

And seniors in high school, all keen to succeed.
A last year of classes to set them on scene.
Their future on hold. Their hopes live in limbo.
They must really think the grown-up a bimbo.

But she’s jolly and chic, and a right smarty elf.
And I scowl when I see her in spite of myself.
With a wink of her eye and a twist of her head.
She could easily put us all out of this dread.

But her caucus is whipped.
Not a word will they say,
or they too might find
that they’re short on their pay.

Then right on cue, to her copter, she sprang.
With her team all set to repeat the refrain.
I did hear her exclaim, as she flew out of sight.
“Forty bucks for each kid, and to all, a long night.”

The Age of Extraction

August 6, 2014 - One Response

This column first appeared in the August 2014 All Month Edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm, BC

In the last decade, Canada has spent most of its time focussed on fixing its economy rather than strengthening its society. 
 
As a result, in my view, we now stare down the barrel of  income disparity like it’s a new danger. It’s not new. It’s just made worse by what’s happened to our economy these last ten years. And while income disparity will always be global as corporate forces search endlessly for cheaper labour and greater shareholder value, now it’s noticeably regional and local as well. 
 
How many of you are separated three weeks out of a month so dad can work away and earn the money in the patch? That sacrifice allows the extra money to fuel the economy with home renovations, new trucks and trips away. Income disparity also means that working and living in the same place is a luxury few of us can afford not just in third world countries but in small Canadian rural communities as well.  Ironically, our stronger economy is also leading to a weaker society. We can’t be there for one another as much as we once were. We’re too busy making money. 
There is a difference between money and wealth. The economy is focussed on money. Society is focussed on wealth. We build a society’s wealth with money from the economy if we use it right. Income disparity tells me that we aren’t using it right. We’ve elected a steady stream of leaders – Harper, Clark, Ford – who promise us more money, rather than more wealth. 
History reminds us that Canada has always been a resource economy. Wood and water once upon a time. Oil and gas now. And, as a society, we’ve always handsomely rewarded those who were prepared to take that risk with money. But in turn, once upon a time, they built wealth – wether it was a foundation, a museum, a hospital, a university or a city park – their riches created wealth. I’m not sure that’s so much the case today. 
Do the rich have an obligation to create wealth rather than just spend money? In the Age of Enlightenment, this was called “noblesse oblige” – the obligation of the nobility to create wealth. Maybe we will call this century the Age of Extraction where we’ll remember all the oil, gas and money we extracted from the economy at the cost of a society of well-being. 
 
It’s not enough to just make money and trust the government to spend the tax revenue appropriately. It starts at the ballot box and it continues at city council meetings and volunteer efforts with community groups. We all have a role to play. If we stand back and complain governments aren’t doing a good job, yet make no personal commitment to the decision-making process, we are the problem. Ironically, some leaders would prefer this laissez-faire approach as 100% of us pay taxes and fewer than 50% of us bother to vote. No wonder the balance is off. 
It’s my suspicion that Steven Harper longs to be the King of the Canadian economy rather than the Canadian society. He thinks it’s his golden ticket to perpetual power. I hear he is a military history buff too. I hope he remembers the fate of those who proceeded him so many centuries ago.
In the 1600s, the conquest of the new world garnered Spain a massive fortune. In fact, they were the richest country in the world but the King of Spain insisted on hoarding all the gold for the rich which led to the entire country’s demise. They’ve yet to recover. In the 1700s, the King of France lost his head because of the price of bread. The price of bread is heavily regulated to this day in France. Seems they learned that lesson, at least. Complex dysfunction can manifest itself in very simple ways. 
No doubt, economics is integral to a society’s well being and worthy of our significant attention. Trouble is, sometimes we get it wrong like Spain and France once did. And when it goes wrong, it goes terribly, terribly wrong and everybody pays. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of paying for those mistakes. Sure we need money but we mostly need wealth. You cannot isolate one from the other. And if you do, you could lose your crown, your country and possibly your head. Are you listening King Stephen?

considering a walk out – you in?

May 21, 2014 - 47 Responses

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.

 

 

The real meaning of Mother’s Day for me

May 11, 2014 - One Response

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.

I was strapped to an operating table and cut open to get the baby out safely. And I have never known so much gratitude in my entire life. He was safe. And our family was born.
 
In the days and weeks that followed, my whole world changed. Suddenly, I understood what I was put on this earth for. And not a day goes by that I don’t think about those professionals who got out of bed, changed out of their pyjamas, jumped in their vehicles and drove to the hospital to save us. 
 
My baby nurse was amazing. We connected on some level that I had never experienced. While her children were grown, she understood that my experience was changing me as a person. A mother was also being born. She was gracious, kind and supportive, for which I will be eternally grateful. 
 
So for me, mother’s day will always be about health care professionals. God love ‘em. You could live in any country in the world, but only in Canada would this happen. We are so fortunate.
 
When you are next at the doctor’s office and you’re waiting longer than you expected, remember, there is someone in emergency who needs them more. Please, take the time to appreciate that if you needed them more, they would be there for you, too. 
 
A  year after my son was born, I stopped into the hospital with some timbits and a cheque for the hospital foundation to say thank you. They were surprised and busy. It seems that some professions are greater than the sum of the acts of kindness they deserve. 
 
That I even have a mother’s day is because of them. Happy making of a mother’s day. My gratitude knows no bounds. 

Down the Rabbit Hole

May 3, 2014 - Leave a Response

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.

 

The Quebec Question

April 7, 2014 - Leave a Response

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.

So you think you can spell?

March 7, 2014 - One Response

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.

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