Archive for the ‘election’ Category

Will the universe unfold as it should?
October 18, 2015

I have spent countless, honestly, a ridiculous amount, of hours pondering this federal election.

I woke up today as nervous as I did the day I was elected to Council in my own town. Why are some of us driven to care so much about the outcome of the vote? Who knows. But I can tell you, my life would not be the same without it. And despite the butterflies and total disregard to household detail, I’m grateful for it.

As the sun sets on another general election, I’m thinking back to the first time I voted. My guy lost.

That’s been the trend (with one exception), I must admit. But if I get any sleep tonight, it’s because I think this time is different. You see, it’s not a general election for me, it’s a generational one.

So I will lay bare all my votes this past so many years. I hope I remember most of them. But I’m getting to the age where the details get a bit fuzzy.

1984 – I voted for Jean Jacques Blais – a Liberal Cabinet Minister. A stand up guy. He wrote me a letter of reference for the Parliamentary Page Programme. When offered six tickets to the Queen’s State Dinner in Toronto that same year, he invited high school students instead of campaign donors – I made that list. All round stand up guy. Got pummelled by a nice guy named Mo. Tough lesson. Something about “patronage” and “not having a choice”. We always have choices.

1988 – As a young economics student, I was enthralled by the possibility of “free” trade. I voted Conservative. The Liberal incumbent, who I would eventually work for, won handily. He understood that serving the constituents was his number one job and they rewarded him for that. Lesson learned.

1993 – I voted for Kim Campbell. Her house was two doors down from my apartment in Vancouver. I learned that being a good neighbour was more important than politics.

1997 – I honestly can’t remember. I don’t think I voted Liberal because the candidate had spelling mistakes in the flyers and I was in the publishing business. Fickle, I know.

2000 – I voted for Joe Clark. I always liked him. Still do. No go.

2004 – Again, not sure. Maybe Jean Charest. He was a Minister when I was a Page. Nice guy. Capable. young, promising. A girl can dream. He lost too.

2006 –  Likely Conservative – I liked (and still like) Colin Mayes, Mayor of Salmon Arm and new federal candidate at the time. They won. Just barely.

2008 – Liberal – though I was uninspired by the local candidate. Was seeing that my 2006 vote might not have paid the dividends I’d hoped for.

2011 – Green – Elizabeth May continues to be a powerful and inspiring voice. I hope tomorrow’s winner remembers that.

2015 – This time, I’ll vote Liberal. And it’s the first time, I feel great about the candidate AND the leader. I feel good about the vote for my parents (whom, I’m sorry to say, haven’t figured greatly in my previous votes). My mom is, to say the least, not a fan of Harper. My dad is unsure about “young Justin”. I hope they don’t cancel out each other’s vote. But I know they’ll vote as they need to because they are honest, determined, smart, kind and considerate. But mostly, I feel good about a Liberal vote for the young people in my life. My kids, my nieces and nephews and their friends, my students, the young people I get to work with every day. It’s their Canada now. And I want them to have that.

So maybe, just maybe, the lesson is that when you cast a vote for you, it doesn’t always turn out as you might have liked but when you cast a vote for the benefit of the people you love and care about, things work out.

Trudeau Sr. was famous for quoting Desiderata by Max Ehrmann “The universe is unfolding as it should”. Here’s hoping.

Please vote.

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I elect to challenge assumptions
October 2, 2015

This column first appeared in the October All Month edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm, BC
 
A federal election is a most excellent opportunity to challenge assumptions. Our news feeds are filled with promises, statements, attacks and assumptions that need to be challenged. The future of our communities and our country depend upon our ability to rationalize all that is put forward in exchange for our precious vote. 
 
My take so far:
 
1) A long election campaign is worthwhile giving Canadians more time to decide.
 
Not so fast. A long election campaign means that the Caretaker’s Convention is in place for the Federal Public Service. No decision that shall lock in the future government to a course of action can be implemented. Seventy-eight days of fewer decisions has a direct impact on the business of running a country, running provinces, and running municipalities. We’re sidelined to some extent during such a long campaign. It’s my view that this unilateral decision is one for which we all pay in the short and long term. Plus, I think we could have done it just as well in 40 days. 
 
2) A failing economy is the fault of government. 
 
That’s false as far as I’m concerned. We compete on a global scale. The price of oil is controlled by those who have the easiest and quickest access to the resource. Our oil takes more time to get out of the ground and to market. The industry knows this, and that has had the greatest impact on the downturn in the Canadian oil industry.
 
It does point to the need for innovation, automation and specialization. Government can foster a climate that motivates business to change. But the change is ultimately up to the market to implement. We are leaders in science, engineering, international development, non-profit management, and resource management but we have to show the next generation that we believe in them by giving them what they need to succeed as early on as possible through education and infrastructure. But there is risk involved. 
 
3) A low tax environment will create jobs.
 
False as of late. Prior to 2008, that statement may have been the case. As it is now, we live in an ultra-low interest rate environment combined with a low-risk business environment. Yet money isn’t moving at the rate it once did. Money is like water: if it doesn’t flow, growth slows. There is, by some estimates, 650 billion dollars of dead money sitting in corporate bank accounts because the appetite for risk is not what it once was.  Unspent money can be expensive, as it turns out. 
 
Ninety percent of the Canadian economy is small business. It’s more difficult to access credit despite record low rates. When the largest share of the market has more difficulty accessing capital, the whole model falls apart. It’s my view that there is a direct correlation between access to credit and economic growth. If you don’t believe me, ask your small business owner friends about their relationships with their banks and multi-national suppliers. If we protect cash at the expense of reasonable risk, we slow things down. Cue the second quarter of 2015 of the Canadian economy. 
 
4) Cuts are bad. Surpluses are good.
 
Again, false. We need to stop talking about cuts for the purpose of surpluses. We need, instead, to talk about productivity. Something as Canadians, according to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), we sorely lack. Some things need to be cut as public dollars need to be spent as efficiently as possible. And a surplus is just another way of saying that government took more than it needed. If a federal surplus goes directly to pay down debt after all the needs are met or to fund reserves for future public projects, then it’s worth it. But it has to be part of the plan in the first place. 
 
5) Canadians don’t understand the complexities of economics.
 
False. We are all economists. Economics is the business of managing households. We make economic decisions—powerful ones—every day. We are the most powerful economists in the system. How you spend your household budgets, what you buy, what you save and where you invest has far more impact on the economy than what any party of any stripe might have you believe. With personal debt levels at record highs, we likely know more than government about the real balancing act that is household management—or economics. 
 
6) Your vote doesn’t matter.
 
False. It always matters. But we like to vote for the “winner” and if we aren’t sure, we don’t vote (that’s just a theory). Running an election for the sake of defining a single winner is only of benefit to the winning party. But all parties represent some risk and some benefit. I don’t believe in the all or nothing approach. I don’t believe we can afford to take that view any longer. 
 
Which leads me to may last point. Please cast your vote for the local representative that you believe will best represent and engage us as an innovative, caring, contributing, and capable community. Some will tell you to vote for the conductor of the orchestra. My preference is that we elect good musicians who are in tune with the rest of us. 

Make a decision. Be proud of it.
May 12, 2015

When was the last time you made a decision of critical importance? How would you feel if the people whose own decision was not endorsed by the voting public used it as an opportunity to slam yours? Not great.

This is how I feel about the collective conservative response to the election of an NDP government in Alberta. Seriously fellows, me thinks doth protests too much.

To be transparent, in my life, I have voted it all. Progressive Conservatives (three times), Liberal (more than three times), NDP (at least three times) and Green (once too). And every single choice I made came from a deep commitment to democracy. As, I suspect, did those of every single Albertan who voted a week ago. And frankly, the hard right should be ashamed of their elitists, we know better, attitude.

I think back to my own childhood. My parents had blue signs, red signs and brown signs (which pre-dates the NDP orange) on our front lawn during various provincial and federal elections. We were engaged. We discussed it at the dinner table. I am grateful for their commitment as well as the risk they took to take a stand in the neighbourhood. They didn’t have to do it. But they did it because it mattered. And looking back, I’m proud of it.

Now, as a city councillor in a very small and still beautiful town on the shores of Shuswap Lake in British Columbia, the election result in Alberta has been somewhat of a rally cry for me. And I didn’t even to get to vote. But my friends did and I’m damn proud of them. Proud of the decision they made. Proud of the recognition that a single focus economy based on forty plus years of “same old same old” came to an end.

As I watched the election results last Tuesday, I was shocked, to say the least, thinking that, in typical Alberta fashion, they might flirt with the newcomer, but ultimately they’d vote with the party that brought them to the dance. How wrong was I? Plenty wrong.

As I listend to Rachel’s acceptance speech I heard words that  I had never ever heard from an elected official. She called business owners JOB CREATORS. Hallelujah! Governments don’t create jobs, businesses do. It’s high time someone pointed that out. Shocking, isn’t it, that those words would be uttered by a New Democratic government in waiting. Leaders who can connect to the risk that individuals make to feed their families, employ their team and improve their communities need to be recognized. And this recognition is not coming from the typical right of centre business community who, for lack of better words, have spent much of the last decade asking for what, more or less, amounts to corporate welfare, in my view.

We have to stop asking for permission to build great communities, healthy neighbourhoods and sustainable environments. It’s not about government. It’s about leadership. It’s about understanding that everyone is part of the solution. So often in “economics”, and I should know as a qualified graduate of an economics school, we talk about profit and shareholder return. In that, we lose the importance of balance, the importance of value, the importance of equilibrium and the importance of respect.

I’m tempted to say – hey Manning Institute – suck it. But that’s not respectful and it doesn’t build community. And it doesn’t make it better. It’s better that we want. Think better. Think compassion. Think respect. And come October, think about voting. Your voice matters. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be bashful. Don’t put up with the ordinary. Reach for the extraordinary. Whatever that might mean to you. And know that your family, your friends, your neighbours will respect you no matter what you decide. And the Manning Institute will bitch about it regardless. But they are not government. They are wannabes. You are not a wannabe. You are a voter and in your pencil is held the future of our country. Make your mark. Kiss your children. And go for it! We are better for you.

Postcard from the campaign trail
November 21, 2014

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!

Adopt a non-voter
October 5, 2014

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.

Voting begins at home
June 8, 2013

This article first appeared in the June All Month Edition of the Friday AM

While I would love to bring to light my sincere suspicion that big oil money paid for the provincial elections, and big city organizers ran them, I do not have the wherewithal to research the issue. I’ll live with the doubt and get on with my life. I fear what I might find out and I don’t have time to be afraid.

What did stand out for me was my voting experience in my neighbourhood so I’ll stick to what I know for sure. I live in Canoe. Canoe, in my view, is one of British Columbia’s best kept secrets. There aren’t many neighbourhoods where you can walk, on sidewalks, under mature trees in a neighbourhood where no two houses are alike. You can walk to school, to church, to the seniors centres, to the pond, to the park, to the ball diamond, to the golf course, to the store, to the post office, to the hall, to the wharf and to the beach and through the trails in the neighbouring forest. We may not know everyone, but we know of most everyone. We wave hello when we walk by.

We’re from all walks of life. Musicians, mechanics, mill workers – and all stages too – moms with wee babes in strollers, fit seniors on vigourous daily walks. We have social issues too. We just don’t have the big garage doors or epic long driveways to mask them as well from view.

On voting day, many of us were out and about in Canoe. As I walked into the Hall to cast my ballot I was greeted by many friendly faces. I knew almost every scrutineer because, well, it’s Canoe, and we’re like that. Now Canoe has no big oil money or big city organizers, and our results (as Lorne so quickly reported in his Friday AM following the vote) were pretty much in line with how the rest of the province voted. So I’ll trust my neighbourhood. If that’s what we agreed upon, then that’s what we must do.

Now it might come up in conversation when we’re out for a walk or at the ball game or at the next fundraiser at the Hall (the last one was on Saturday night for the North Canoe School playground, such fun!), but I doubt it, we’ve made up our mind and we’re back to it. When you live in Canoe, you quickly learn that the most important things aren’t the things that happen on election day, but the things that happen in the days in between and that’s what makes Canoe, well, paddle on.