Dear Santa #thankyou #salmonarm

December 4, 2017 - Leave a Response

Dear Santa,

I really should be writing
You more than once a year
Alas it’s now December
So my Christmas list is here

No shiny wrap required
Nor finely-tied up bow
It’s something more important
I need for you to know

From you this special season
I have a kind request
An opportunity to thank
Our city’s very best

Our awesome volunteers
Who give so very much
Improve community
By the kindness of their touch

And for our social workers
Who give past point of hurt
We really must do better
To recognize their work

For those who build the trails
Delivering without fail
A place for us to walk
And hear our nature talk

And for our fire fighters
Who always put us first
And bravely keep us safe
From flames that do the worst

The mounties up the hill
Barely a moment still
Who watch upon the town
And never let us down

And for our first responders
Who witness oh so much
But show up for each call
And make it safe for all

Our talented musicians
Whose fingers strum the notes
To fill our hearts with music
with joy and song and hope

And to our gifted arts groups
Who battle scarcity
But always paint a picture
We love to share and see

For small and local business
Many a risk they take
A vibrant little city
Gives thanks for what they make

Youth leaders and team coaches
Who give much of their time
And always do it for the kids
And never for the dime

Hard working health care teams
All experts whose esteem
Is well deserved by us
And always will be thus

Our gratitude is deep
For those who climb the steep
This season is for them
And so is this po/em

In thanks for your kind favour
You can expect from me
Cookies from local baker
and a gift to charity

I do please ask for one wee thing
Before I let you go
If not too much to ask of you
Perhaps, a little snow? 

Merry Christmas. Thank you for 2017.

Louise

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The stories numbers tell #census #housing #salmonarm

November 6, 2017 - Leave a Response

This column first appeared in the November 2017 All Month edition of the Friday Am

I love the story of the three little pigs. Three little pigs trying their best to overcome their housing challenges given the big bad wolf. For me, it’s the ultimate story of collaboration. We all try to overcome challenges in our way but in the end, it’s our ability to work together that really defeats any wolf.

Good things also happen in threes – at least that’s been my experience – maybe it’s the universe’s way of reminding us that we need one chance to try, two chances to learn and three chances to win. I love it because it speaks to the importance of trying new things, learning from mistakes and finally achieving success.

So why the focus on numbers you ask? My modest support of the current federal government is largely tied to its decision to make its first order of business the reinstatement of the mandatory long form census. The final numbers will be released at the end of November but we have to date, a nearly complete picture of what our community looked like in May 2015. I can’t begin to tell you how important census data is from a public planning point of view. It’s critical to how decisions are made at the local level to ensure that scarce public resources are allocated as appropriately as possible given the story that our numbers tell.

It’s my observation that all communities are to some extent, afraid of the wolf and as such are prone to jumping to conclusions and making assumptions that the statistics defy. This can lead to significant misallocation of resources. Do we need more daycares or senior homes? Do we need playgrounds or pickle ball courts? Do we need more police officers or more kindergarten teachers? You get the idea. The census gives us a picture in time to help us make sure we spend the money where it needs to be spent.

This census for Salmon Arm might surprise you. It surprised me. The population of Salmon Arm grew by 1.2%. I thought it would be higher because we’re undergoing the largest building boom since 2008 and the schools are nearly full but we live in an integrated regional economy and our city boundaries do not necessarily reflect who is coming to town or attending our schools. Also, most families who move from one community to another do so in the summer, not in May when the census is held.  

What also surprised me is our median age. It increased from 48 to 50 which is significant because, ceteris paribus (my favourite latin saying that means all things being equal), it  could have gone up by five years. So, things did not stay equal. And that’s a good thing. It’s an indication of change. There is no question that Canada is getting older. It’s merely a question of how much older we are getting here, for the purposes of this discussion. 

We have seen a mild bump in the number of 30 to 40 years olds, aka, the millennials. And their presence makes a difference. The 55 to 64 demographic increased as well, aka, the baby boomers. It’s all good. The millennials are at the beginning of their earning stream and the baby boomers are at the end of theirs. It’s balance. And, to bring up another latin term in economics, what we seek is a manageable equilibrium. 

And I suppose that is my point. We like to believe we are singularly responsible for what happens in this town. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are part and parcel of an economic eco-system where young people are seeking more affordable places to live and raise their families while baby boomers are cashing in on their successful careers and property value to fund healthy retirements. So we’re on the upside of two trends and I’m happy about that. 

Having said so, we also have some monumental challenges ahead. When I moved to Canoe nearly twenty years ago, I purchased a home for three times my annual wage. There’s that lucky number again. It’s unlikely I could do the same now. Land is the most scarce of resources and, in my view, it will continue to rise in value. British Columbia has grown by five percent. There is a greater population base seeking out fewer properties. That’s just the math talking. So, how do we continue to grow at a rate that is manageable and affordable? 

I believe that we must take an all encompassing approach to housing. It’s too easy to talk about affordable housing as a younger generation’s problem. It more difficult to look at the whole picture from supportive housing to rental housing, to entry-level home ownership to land trusts and traditional mortgages. What we need is an exploration of the housing ladder where supportive housing clients can move to rental, and rental can move to modest ownership and modest ownership can move to traditional mortgages. It’s a complex question in need of an integrated solution. Housing is a ladder and if one or more of the rungs is broken – either at the top or at the bottom – it cannot fulfill its role and purpose. 

While housing is a need we all share as members of the public, it’s developed, built and purchased with private money. The private sector is infinitely better at allocation private resources with a view to profit and sustainability than the public sector. And profit is a requirement for the sector to sustain itself – not a luxury – a requirement. So it’s not a conversation we can have in public without having the private sector at the table. 

I remember the day I moved to my tiny house in Canoe. It’s worth three times what it was when I bought it (see, that rule of 3 is important). I never thought I’d own a home having moved here from Vancouver and it’s now my most prized possession. So, let me know your thoughts. You see, our contribution to building a sustainable community comes down to statistics and to commitment. We can’t change the stats. We can change the conversation on commitment. Let’s face it, huffing and puffing nearly worked for the wolf, but he didn’t win then and he won’t win this time. That I don’t need stats for. I know my community and I know we’re up for this challenge. Nothing will blow us down so long as we work together.

Reflections on #UBCM17 – from Roots to Results

October 6, 2017 - Leave a Response

The last week of September in municipal politics is very busy in British Columbia. All councils and regional districts are invited to attend the annual meeting of the Union of BC Municipalities. All MLA and Ministers are also invited. For some of you this might seem like a fate worst than an emergency root canal – a week of meetings in rooms full of politicians – but for me, it’s one of the most exciting weeks of the year.

I always go to UBCM full of expectation. I can’t wait for the workshops, the community forums, the expert panels, the opportunity to meet with Ministers and Ministry staff about our community, the trade show displays and the networking of ideas and the experiences. We have so much to learn from one another – the decisions we make in our communities impact the decisions made elsewhere and vice-versa – it’s an important symbiotic relationship.

What most might not know is that local government is a child of provincial government as we’re regulated by the Local Government Act and the Community Charter which are British Columbia legal statutes. That relationship is symbiotic too.  What’s more, municipalities cooperate on dozens of services such as property assessment, municipal insurance and municipal borrowing. We are duty bound to one another. 

So by now, you get the general idea, we have to work together. However, you might also remember that in May, we went to the polls, The Liberal party was given an opportunity to form government, tried the confidence of the House and was unsuccessful. As a result, the NDP was given the same opportunity and found success with a Confidence and Supply Agreement with the B.C. Greens – that’s BC politics for you – never a dull moment.

Which brings me back to UBCM. I’m not sure anyone quite knew what to expect as a result of the change in government. There’s been quite a bit of uncertainty as most major projects come to a halt during an election period and can be slow to ramp up again afterwards. So, this year I arrived in Vancouver with excitement and trepidation. 

The UBCM team is top notch (they’ve been at this since 1914 after all) and the convention went off without a hitch. The theme, Roots to Results, weaved its way through every part of the week long event. I attended workshops on the roots of the housing affordability crisis and the results of important research on the opioid crisis. I heard from many communities about new approaches to economic development (our own Salmon Arm Economic Development Society among the presenters), fire and flood mitigation and the future of forestry. I learned about advances in technology in city services and supplies. I am personally very excited about recent advances in ambient lighting, eco-friendly building materials and tech advances in open data. I know, I’m such a geek. 

The most impactful workshop for me was the “Investing in People” Provincial Cabinet town hall where the new Ministers with social portfolios such as Education, Children and Family Development, Advanced Education, Indigenous Reconciliation, and Health came together to address municipal leaders on priorities and plans. The question and answer period saw members from various communities, backgrounds and experience express their sincere hope that the most vulnerable among us be given the priority they deserve to also have a chance at success be it through access to supportive housing, prevention measures, harm reduction and special needs education. Those without a voice are rarely in the room, but their needs and pleas were heard and more than a tear was shed, which, I can tell you from my limited experience, is not typical of a UBCM Convention. Even now, I feel the need to reach for the tissues. It was the most humbling and powerful ninety minutes of my political career.  

So I arrived in Vancouver full of expectation and some trepidation, but I left a few assumptions behind as I headed east on the Trans Canada Highway back to Salmon Arm. Housing isn’t just about the supply and demand of houses, addiction isn’t just about drugs, economic development isn’t just about economics and forestry isn’t just about trees. It’s all about people. And the people I spoke to and heard from reminded me that when we share, and we listen and we care and we plan, we can make things better. And that’s precisely what I intend to do.

PS – For more information on the conference, the program and the hundreds of resolution considered during the plenary sessions, be it resolved that you visit www.ubcm.ca – and you’ll get that joke if you read through the resolutions. 

Take care and keep in touch. It’s the most important job we have as a community. 

The anachronism of partisanship. Are we over it yet? #canpoli

September 12, 2017 - Leave a Response

In my last column, I alluded to some concerns I had about the public dialogue regarding women in politics.  Upon reflection, what I really think concerns me is the damage extreme partisanship can cause to public dialogue. It divides us. And it needn’t do so. In fact, we may not need partisanship at all. 

I think it’s human nature to be partisan to some extent. We are safer in a cave we share with people we know and trust. But we evolve by venturing out beyond our comfortable cave. Really, we do.

As for me, I am partisan when it comes to baseball (Jays) and hockey (sometimes Leafs, sometimes Le Canadien – depends on the day) and football (Go Argos!). It’s a reflection of where I grew up, who I spend time with and with whom I want to share memories, and ultimately, victories. Sorry Canucks friends. I do still love you.

But that’s the point. We might not like the same teams but I don’t hate yours. The exception makes the rule when it comes to politics. We seem to have set the amplifier to 11 on that front because, I suggest, we don’t always listen to each other as much as we should.

Here’s my challenge. For a world astonishingly adept at advancing in science, technology, arts, business, education, health and environmental research despite mounting global challenges, why is it that partisan politics and their lead personalities take up so much air space. Trudeau wears fun socks. Melania wears high heels. Putin isn’t crazy about hunting with a shirt on. Trump likes the occasional spray tan. Are we really that shallow? Is it the last frontier of conflict? Do our caveman brains still like a scrappy drama? I’m thinking maybe it is so.

So I cast my mind back to the Quebec Referendum of 1980. My dad understood the impact of the outcome for a half-French, half-English family and told me, in no-uncertain terms, that despite my inability to cast a vote, I might have to decide if I was a Canadian or a Quebecer. Would I need a passport to visit my family in Quebec, my place of birth? From that moment on, I was hooked. I knew every name and every portfolio of every Cabinet Minister in the Federal Government. And still do, for the most part. There’s just less room in my brain than there was once upon a time.

I quickly turned my hero-worship to the Honourable Flora MacDonald, which re-inforced my love of the Argos (watch the movie and you’ll understand why). She was a Progressive Conservative. And how progressive she was. There have been many progressive women leaders, I’m just not so sure we’ve been progressive enough to appreciate their work.

As it turns out, I didn’t have to make that fateful Canada/Quebec choice but it gave me a love of politics even those closest to me still don’t quite understand. Shortly after that, I was offered a scholarship as a Parliamentary Page in the House of Commons and spent my in-between first year post-secondary courses observing proceedings in the House, while delivering messages and water to our MPs at work. And I must tell you, never did I see the vitriol I see now in public discourse. Sure, you can blame Twitter and Facebook, but I think it’s more than that.

And it distresses me greatly to the point where I am really questioning the value of partisan politics. Imagine, if you will, just for a moment, that there were no political parties. We elected representatives from our community. This model still exists at the small municipal level and, dare I say, it works. And I say it with a clear conscious: I’ve voted every colour of the rainbow at different times and in different jurisdiction, for different reasons. I’m also an independent Councillor for the City of Salmon Arm. We’re all independent. Collaboration and criticism are key to the decision making for our city. And partisanship is not. Sometimes, we agree. Sometimes, we don’t. Sometimes that’s more important than the vote itself. We have that option and it doesn’t carry any sanctions. You can’t say that about partisanship in higher levels of governments.

It’s possible, all be it remote, that political partisanship is anachronistic, meaning that it’s a tradition that no longer has a reason for being. It’s centuries old and from a time when the masses simply didn’t have either literacy or the permission to access information. While I’m not suggesting we have perfect access to information now, we are certainly more educated and more able than ever in the history of the world to access it.

And yet, despite recent democratic election results at the provincial and federal levels, I continue to witness terrible things said about well-meaning, extremely talented elected officials of all political stripes, who, despite the incredible sacrifice, are subjected to terrible criticism, most of which is driven by partisanship and not based in reality but in the hope the constant blows will weaken their opponents and improve their chances when next they battle.

Sometimes Members are kicked out of the House for unparliamentary language. Is parliamentary language only for Parliament? Does it not extend to the public statements of Parliamentarians, be it household flyers, social-media feeds or public rallies?

I’d like to see the bar reset. If we stopped electing parties, a number of things would happen. One, the party nomination process would be no more. Candidates would be the choice of communities, not parties. Two, we would have a government based on meritocracy and authentic community representation. Three, while It would take longer to form government all questions of electoral reform would be addressed because partisanship is the barrier to elector reform, voters aren’t. Four, MPs and MLAs are elected to legislate in the legislature. All members can present bills to the House. They would have to work collaboratively and collectively to get bills passed for the good of their respective jurisdictions. As opposed to the amount of time used now to oppose new initiatives. It would be transformative to elect partisan-free Parliaments. The work would still get done. There are 425,000 employees in the federal government alone (source: StatsCan 2011). We’re in plenty of good hands. There are 338 Members of Parliament. Isn’t it possible that the partisanship influence is out of balance?

The quality of public dialogue speaks to the strength of our democracy. There’s room for improvement in my view. So in the spirit of back to school, please sit with someone you don’t agree with and ask them why they hold a certain point of view. When we learn something new, it changes the way we think and ultimately, makes for more rationale, compassionate and effective decisions.

And please, listen twice as much as you speak. That’s why we have two ears and one mouth. But we’ve always known that. My question is, and maybe you have the answer, why we don’t make better use of it?

Summer of celebration #canada150 #salmonarm #muni150

June 14, 2017 - Leave a Response

This column first appeared in the June/July All Month Edition of the Friday AM

While summer is always a reason to celebrate in the Great White North, this summer, it’s particularly the case.

July 1 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Lately, I have been wondering if the Fathers of Confederation, whose vision of what this country could be in the world, really understood how momentous their decision was. I am sure it did not come without debate, disagreement or discord because, it’s been my experience at least, that no decision of consequence ever does.

In the intervening century and a half since that fateful conference, we have fine tuned the concept of Canada and continue to do so. During WW1 and WW2 we showed bravery, courage and sacrifice. The world hasn’t forgotten. In 1967 we invited the world to Expo and put them on notice that Canada was a forward-looking force of the future. In 1982, the repatriation of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms sent us on a better course. I’m deeply hopeful our efforts at reconciliation with First Nations will continue to do the same. There is no doubt that we have much work to do. But it’s also been my experience, that anything worth doing means embracing every single opportunity for improvement.

For the next twelve weeks, much of our national attention span will be focussed on celebrating Canada 150. And I, for one, am excited that Salmon Arm is on board.

I am home, just this week, from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Conference in Ottawa. It will come as no surprise that their celebration planning is in over drive. The whole city is wrapped in a shiny red ribbon of events appropriate to a national capital celebrating a national milestone. But Ottawa does not a country make. In towns and cities, some big, some small, across the country, events and projects are planned and underway.

Salmon Arm is a member of FCM and when the call went out to nominate a Canada 150 community champion, I was honoured and delighted when Council nominated me as Chair of our local Canada 150 committee. I was also delighted to receive a letter from the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Melanie Joly, thanking our community for the work we’ve done and continue to do for Canada 150.

Our local committee has been working since the Spring of 2016 to coordinate and support each other in the planning of events and projects. It’s no surprise to me that this community continues to make its mark on the national stage and I’m proud of you for that.

From the Coast to Coast to Coast music concert series, to the Shuswap District Arts Council’s youth led 150 Voices documentary, from Plan B:E’s Volunteer Dinner and the Shuswap Children’s Association Play Box project at Blackburn park to the Shuswap Trail Alliance 150 legacy fund and Shuswap Theatre’s OZONE festival, this community has stepped up in these and many other ways so unexpected and so delightful, it bolsters my confidence in the idea of Canada, an inclusive and optimistic place in which to live.

And it’s not even summer yet. There’s plenty more to come.

On July 1, we’ll celebrate our young people with the ever popular Children’s Festival at the Fall Fair grounds. This volunteer organization continues to amaze me. Please support them with a few hours of volunteer work. Kids remember that. And one day, in the not too distant future, the decisions we need to make will be in their hands.

Later that evening, we’ll gather at Canoe Beach for the city’s major Canada 150 event, the Landmarks of Canada Community Picnic, where everyone is invited to take a virtual cross country trip featuring regional music by local musicians and stations with giant postcards from every province and territory in Canada. So bring your friends and family, your picnic and your camera. Let’s cross Canada and share an evening with one another. You’ll likely find me at the Quebec station enjoying my waste-free picnic of brie and baguette. After dinner in our province of choice, we’ll gather and listen (and possibly sing and dance) to our favourite Canadian tunes followed by a fast and furious fireworks display, the candle on the birthday cake, if you will.

But that’s not it. On July 9, celebrate Pioneer Day at Haney and participate and the opening of the Canada 150 cornerstone project, the Montebello Block Museum. It’s free and everyone is invited.

On July 14, head back to Canoe beach for the Dragon Boat Festival that will feature the original dragon boats given to Vancouver for Expo 86. These teak beauties, which introduced the sport to Canada, have been lovingly restored here in Salmon Arm.

There’s still more. In August, we’ll celebrate 25 years of our home-grown Roots and Blues Festival. In September, join the Salmon Arm Fair as it celebrates its 120th anniversary. The Salmon Arm Arts Centre’s entire year of exhibits have a national theme from tuques, to trains, to renown artist Chris Kran. We continue to punch above our weight in arts and culture.

And even as summer approaches, it’s not too late to add more events and projects because, if Canada has taught me anything, it’s that we all have a role to play, a flag to fly, some maple syrup to sip, and a contribution to make. This can’t be said of every country.

Canada is a gift. Unwrap and enjoy it your way this very special summer. Celebrate 150.

Amities,
Louise

How we launch #startups #salmonarm

May 7, 2017 - Leave a Response
This column first appeared in the May All Month Edition of the Friday AM.
As you read this, the latest round of Shuswap Launch-a-preneur winners will have been announced. Congratulations and sincere thanks to all those who sponsored and mentored competitors in the 2017 edition of this popular entrepreneurial initiative. 


It’s important for me that you know that in the ten weeks proceeding Thursday night’s gala event, all the teams exhibited a winning attitude in participating in 7 workshops, a sneak peek trade show at the local mall and hours and hours of preparation for their 2 and 10; a two minute pitch and a ten minute presentation. 
 
Something to consider is that business ownership and entrepreneurship is, in the grand scheme of history, a relatively new opportunity and privilege.
 
History reminds that in the Middle Ages, the rulers decided who could and couldn’t operate as a business. You might not know that, by definition, a journeyman is someone with a recognized trade who has been given permission by the ruling Monarch to journey from town to town. A brand, something we’re so fond of marketing today, was originally a symbol, on a tool, so that illiterate peasants would be able to recognize from whom they purchased their original tool when the time came to replace it. 
 
Entrepreneurship and business ownership is especially important in small communities and on that front, Salmon Arm is considered, both provincially and nationally, as a very entrepreneurial city and editorial rankings from business magazines support this. 
 
Those of you who have lived in big cities might relate to my own experience of life there. Most of my friends and colleagues worked for someone or something else. I can’t tell you how many jobs I’ve had where I knew my manager, but I did not know my owners; from teenage work at McDonalds, to university shifts at Eaton’s to a stint with Western Living Magazine in graduate school. Owners would fly in and fly out with little time for the employees. 
 
But in a small town, we are in business together. I can’t get through a day without relying on another small business. We are less so competitors and more so collaborators. Because we know our community and we know the job needs to get done. 
 
An important economic metric is what’s called the multiplier effect. By most accounts, the multiplier effect of a small business punches above its weight. It’s a high as 8 to 1 which means that every dollar spent is circulated locally as many as 8 times in the supplies and wages they pay. The same can’t be said for multi-nationals. Not that they don’t make an important contribution, because they do on a national level, but it isn’t quite the same.
 
Case in point, next time you go to a local fundraiser for a cause that you care about, check the logos at the bottom of the event poster. Are there multinationals supporting it? Unlikely. Not because they don’t care but because it’s a different business model run from a different place. Local business understands community in ways that multi-nationals do not. They both make significant contributions overall but the measure of support favours local business. It’s important to remember this. 
 
It’s also important to support them in return. Inclusion and partnership are key to the very thing we love and work so hard for; leisure. Their support is critical to events and projects so that we, as a community, have events and projects to enjoy in our leisure time. We work hard for leisure time. That’s the basis of the economic model; work hard to enjoy leisure. I hope you haven’t forgotten this. It’s important to find a balance wether your leisure is baseball (as it is for my husband Dave), or art and culture (as it is for me) or sports (as it is for my kids and their friends).
 
Entrepreneurs are brave souls – for whom we should all be grateful – for without their appetite for risk and reward – our community would be much weaker, as would our economy. 
 
I will say, as a now entrepreneur, there are days I shake my head and wonder why I take the risk and responsibility of being a small business owner. Will the cheque clear? Will the deadline be met? It can be very stressful. But those moments pale in comparison to the joy and pride I feel for a job well done, a fellow business made better by our work, a positive balance in my bank account and the knowledge that I make more than money. I help to build community. None of which I could do without you. None of which I could have done had I not moved to Salmon Arm going on twenty years ago. 
So to the new batch of Launch-a-preneur businesses, make sure you carve out time for your own well being and leisure. And to those of who enjoy the hard-earned privilege of leisure time as a result of your work, please make sure you carve out time to support our brave local businesses.
 
I am fond of saying that team work makes the dream work. Congrats to all.  I have total faith in you. And if you find yourself a bit short on that front, please reach out. We’ve got more than enough to go around. 

Can we talk about the Quints?

April 5, 2017 - Leave a Response

There are things you remember when you are little. When I was in grade two, my family moved to North Bay, Ontario. My dad wanted us to live away from the hustle and bustle of Toronto. I wasn’t so sure.

You see, I could walk to school, our condo complex had a swimming pool. I could be with my friends while still being close to home.

I thought I had it made. Then, on March break, they took me to the new house in North Bay. New school, new neighbourhood, new town. Exciting on some fronts but scary on others.

It meant that I wouldn’t have to take my bike up the elevator to park on the balcony. It meant I could have my own room. It meant I could take the bus to school. All pretty exciting.

What I didn’t quite understand is that I was living in a community famous for many things. Winter, for one. The Dionne Quintuplets for another.

I’ve been following this delicate file as the now Heritage Commissioner in my own town. The year I left for university, the Dionne home was moved to a “strategic” location on the new bypass to increase its exposure.  A visitor centre was built and managed by the local Chamber of Commerce. Seems it worked for awhile but, of late, the whole thing took a negative turn.

I visited North Bay this past summer for a family reunion. I drove by so many times. Nothing to see here. An abandonned visitor centre and an empty Dionne house.

Wait, what, how could my home town turn its back on the thing that made it famous by proximity. The Quints weren’t actually born in North Bay but in a tiny French Canadian village nearby. That didn’t stop them from taking credit, I suppose. It appears it certainly didn’t keep them from taking responsibility for it either.

It was a miracle they survived. What followed what not so much miracle as opportunism.  The five girls were put on display for all to see. Opportunistic at best and, as it happens, devastating for the girls themselves. What you think brings pride can actually be terribly destructive to those who lived it.

All this BS about moving it to a heritage park upsets me. Move it back to where it should be: in the small village. Those who want to make the pilgrimage can. Those who don’t, won’t. I think about the quints. Only two of them left. Our approach to their impact on history pretty much ruined their lives. Don’t trust me. Ask them.

We commodified five little girls for our entertainment. And we should be ashamed of ourselves. Move the house back to its origins. Tell the real story of a poor family burdened with the birth of five identical children that the government, for lack of appropriate words, f’d up.

It’s a lesson. When I saw the stories (yes, more than one) in the New York Times, I was ashamed that a town that I was so proud of, a town that had shaped me as a young person, could screw up such an important issue, it made me question my origins. Have the Dionne’s been so comodified that we’ve forgotten they are people.

That’s on us. If I had a wish, it would be that the council of the day make a deal with the original property owners where the Qunits were born and return the home to its origin. Then, it’s a history, not a travesty. And we’d learn rather than earn.

On Loss and her Lessons

March 6, 2017 - Leave a Response

This column first appeared in the March 2017 All Month edition of the Friday Am in Salmon Arm, BC

It has been a challenging few weeks for many of us, I think it fair to say.

On February 15, we learned of the death of Stuart McLean, Canadian icon and beloved CBC host.

On February 17, we learned of the death of local man Al Boucher, father, partner, former owner of the Blue Canoe, softball superhero and stalwart supporter of the arts.

On a personal note, while my son is fine and recovering, on February 19, I watched as the amazing staff at Shuswap Lake General Hospital wheeled  him into the operating room for emergency surgery as a result of a ski injury.

When Lorne of the Friday AM sent me my regular e-mail to check in on the column, I knew, in my heart, it would have to be about loss. But also about its lessons.

For Stuart McLean, a great journalist and gifted storyteller to be taken away from us far too soon, reminds me how important our stories are because our stories are the witness to the path we follow, the contributions we try to make. And no two stories are alike because no two humans are the same. We need to remember that because we share a collective narrative that shapes the stories our children will get, or not get, to tell.

For Al Boucher, a renaissance man of only 39 years, whose memorial service drew a crowd of hundreds, many of whom would have never known each other had it not been for him, I’m reminded that it’s not about the years in your life so much as the life in your years. Despite the grief of his loss, we must pay his gift forward and commit to his boys that we will do whatever we can to mitigate this tragic loss. A trust account has been set up at CIBC for them. Please consider making a contribution and, in doing so, honour the incredible contribution he made to this community in his mere decade with us in Salmon Arm.

For my son, for whom a seemingly innocuous sore foot led to an emergency surgery to save his leg, I’m reminded how precious time really is. And how what we think is important really isn’t. We obsess with busyness, with winning, with accumulating. But sometimes, the universe reminds us that winning is really about how you face loss. And when you don’t lose, it’s not a win, it’s a gift of gratitude.

So, in life, you might lose a game, or an argument, or a deal. That kind of loss doesn’t really matter. What really matters, is the loss of a dream – like the loss of Stuart and his stories, and Al and his passion, or my son and his independence.

Humility has graced us these last few days. She has helped us through some dark hours. She has reminded us that we need each other everyday. She is our truest friend. And if we turn our backs on her for the sake of winning, we lose the lessons of loss, even if we would turn back time not to have had to learn them.

With love and humility,

Louise

@lwmediability

Don’t let your obituary be your biggest story – he didn’t #StuartMcLean

February 15, 2017 - Leave a Response

I am so very sad to learn that Stuart McLean is no longer with us.

But I am so very happy for the time he spent with us celebrating the power of storytelling.

When the news came today. I hung my head and cradled it in my hands. “No” was my reply.

I thought back to his earlier message – that he would need more time – and in the meantime, we should take care of each other. I think that was his way of saying goodbye. Without saying goodbye. Because story tellers, by their nature, never really say goodbye because the best stories never really end. And neither will his.

Dave, Morley and Sam (I have a Sam too), will never really end. They will live on in our memories. That was his gift to us. And our opportunity here, in the very sadness of his passing is to remind his family, his friends and his colleagues, that we will never forget him or his stories. Or his love of this place we call home. Or of our appreciation of a good story.

When those we care about and admire leave unexpectedly, we turn inward. My first thought was how fortunate I was to meet him. Once. At a writer’s festival in Sechelt. I told him how much I had loved his day at the Eaton’s Centre phone booth when he told Peter Gzowski about all the people he’d met using the pay phone and the stories they had to share. He was humble and spoke of how his friends at CBS in the US thought he was crazy but still admired his courage to try that angle. But that was his thing, he had a human angle. And so much of our media is void of it now. I have to say, I’m not sure that he left us so much as we left him.

We have so many stories and such little time.

I often read the obituaries in our local paper. I knew many of them, but not all. I admire their stories. I just wish I’d known them before reading them in the back pages of the local paper. And if today has taught me anything, is that we cannot wait for our obituary to tell our stories and the stories of those we love. Stuart didn’t. He wasn’t a front page kinda guy, but unfortunately, he will be tomorrow, and, it’s my view that he’d hate that.

Live your life. Tell your story. That’s what he taught us. I am grateful but I will miss him so.

The Nice List #salmonarm

December 9, 2016 - Leave a Response

This column first appeared in the December 2016 All Month Edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm, BC.

Here we are, approaching the end of another year. The further we go, the faster time flies.

It has been said that experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. There’s truth to that but if experience has taught me anything, it’s that little, if anything, ever comes from complaining. So much more comes from being a champion for what you believe to be important and the commitment you’re willing to make to see it through.

So for this column, I propose to focus on Santa’s nice list rather than his naughty one. Many of you rank quite highly on the nice list for your commitment and contribution. I’ll limit this list to ten but it is by no means complete. Lorne could print a phone book sized version in his Friday AM in that regard, I have no doubt. I only get 600 words. I’ll do my best here.

1. Shuswap Second Harvest
My office is located above Second Harvest. Not a single day goes by that someone doesn’t show up with food for our most vulnerable population. They are quiet and humble in their work. They ask for nothing. They just do what they know needs to be done. Their efforts inspire me to be a better person.

2. Shuswap Family Resource Centre
I am so humbled by the work of this non-profit organization. I can relate to the gift drive for children in need, especially teenagers, of which I have two. We want to believe that families have what they need but in many cases, this is not so. Please consider buying a gift for a teenager. A coffee card, a movie ticket, a swim pass. One day, they will make decisions on our behalf. Let’s remember that our greatest legacy is to let them know that they matter to us.

3. Syrian Refugee Sponsor Groups
This community has sponsored nine families from Syria. This is astounding for a community of our size. And sponsorship means getting them housing, medical and dental care and providing for language training among many other things. At a WOW event this summer, I watched with delight as a Syrian infant was comfortable in the arms of an audience member who as a stranger to her. That only happens in a place of peace. And they have provided that. And we are better for it. I thank you.

4. Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society
This group is committed to the well being of our community. Literacy isn’t about reading. It’s about inclusion. It’s about giving the tools needed to navigate an increasingly complex and changing world. And the more we can come together to support this, the better off we’ll all be. So unplug and play in January and please consider a donation.

5. Child and Youth Mental Health
This is more personal for me. Our family has been through some worrisome situations this past year. The work of these committed professionals helped us find our way. Their kindness and expertise got us where we needed to be. I am now and forever grateful.

6. The Safe Society
Every time I see a safe society poster in a public space, I notice that some of the phone numbers are ripped off at the bottom. This means that women are calling and asking for help. And the Safe Society always, always answers. Domestic violence lives in many unexpected places. If it happens to you, know that you have a safe place to go. And we have the responsibility to make that work. Really, we do.

7. The Salmon Arm Arts Centre
If you know me, you know that I am a passionate advocate for the arts. Not because it makes space prettier but because it makes spaces more meaningful. And we all search for meaning through our shared narrative of life here. This group is so inclusive in its approach – from free children’s programming to regular meetings of the odd socks knitting club and discounted tickets for cultural performances for youth. When we challenge perspectives on the ways in which we live together, culture happens. We are richer for it.

8. Okanagan College students
I am a part time professor at Okanagan College in the School of Business. Ironically, I show up twice a week to teach my students. But I am the one who learns. They share their enthusiasm, vision and hope for what happens next. It’s the most humbling part of my life. I have great hope for the future. Soon, the world will belong to them. It’s time we listened. Trust me, we’re in very good hands.

9. Council, staff and volunteer committee members
By all accounts, I am still a rookie on council. Every single meeting I attend, I learn something new. I hope I’ll always be a rookie. I love what I learn. I am so grateful for the patience of Council, staff and committee members to help me find the tools I need to make a difference. I can tell you that it’s not an easy job. But nothing worth doing is easy. They continue to teach me that and our city is better for them. Thank you.

10. Canoe
I can’t write a column about Santa’s nice list without mentioning my neighbourhood. Two years ago, a neighbour, by the name of Paul Ross decided to invite us all to watch the CP Holiday train pass by and donate to local food banks, even if it didn’t stop here. This year, the CP Holiday Train will stop in Canoe. Fifty communities asked to be considered for this priviledge. Canoe was the only one that made the list. Thanks Paul.

And finally, to you, the readers. I appreciate your time. Much is written. Not enough is read. Thank you and Merry Christmas. 2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday. I hope we can celebrate together.