Archive for the ‘Salmon Arm’ Category

Dear Santa #thankyou #salmonarm
December 4, 2017

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

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.

On Loss and her Lessons
March 6, 2017

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

The culture of complaint and the case for optimism
June 3, 2016

This column first appeared in the June 2016 All Month edition of the Friday AM

I have started reading a book called The Rational Optimist. I am optimistic that I will finish it. Given the twitterverse of 120 character defining statements on all matters of global importance, it’s no small accomplishment to read, never mind write, a book of 500 pages. 

 
The author, Matt Ridley’s thesis, near as I can tell, is that a good case can be made to embrace optimism if you look at the facts over time. He had me at the opening chapter which I did manage to finish. I invite you to check it out. 
 
The part of our caveman brains that still remain in us all wants to believe that the next fire, flood, famine or sabre tooth tiger attack is imminent. And that stress level is not good for the humans. Not good at all. It leads to terrible outcomes; fear, anxiety and worse, bad decisions, especially in the public realm. Truth is, we are very fortunate to live where we do. It’s not unreasonable to state that Canada, and especially British Columbia, have one of the world’s best public service sectors. To say nothing of the strength and commitment of our volunteer and non-profit sector who work tirelessly to promote community, safety, sports, the arts and protect the disadvantaged. They need our support, not our complaints.  
 
So often we react rather than act. This is wrong, this is bad, this won’t do; we are increasingly fond of saying. I’ve seen some terrible and terribly disturbing examples in the public sphere of late. And I have one thing to say. Hold on a minute. Where is the optimism? 
 
Terrible things happen to your brain when you complain. Your nervous system is flooded with cortisol. It’s bad for your blood pressure. It’s bad for your heart. It’s bad for your health. And it rarely improves the situation. Resist the temptation to complain, if not for you, then for those who surround you. Research suggests that the culture of complaint is contagious. When you complain, those around you suffer and react too. 
 
A wonderful thing happens to your brain when you embrace optimism. Dopamine. Say it with me. Do Pa Meen. It’s good for your blood pressure. It’s good for your heart. It’s good for your health. And from it, comes the best ideas, the best intentions and the best outcomes. 
 
I’ll remind you that the Wright Brothers, bicycle builders who wanted to make something fly, could have complained about the buckets of money poured into maned flight by the US government to a competing group. The Wright Brothers were not remembered for their complaints. They were remembered for their accomplishments. If you had a choice, which would you prefer?
 
But in order to make it work, I suggest we need to do some heavy lifting just as the Wright brothers did despite the odds. It’s easier than ever to complain. Social media has been taken by some as a free ride to complaintville. But, if you follow my drift, that’s a one way ticket. nobody, not even you, can afford. 
 
First step. Breathe. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Say no to complaint. Say yes to solutions. It’s not an easy task but it’s an important one. You can do it. I am optimistic. 
 
Criticism is critically important. Of that there is no doubt. But criticism and complaint are two different animals. One is division (complaint) the other is constructive (criticism). Complaints are one-sided. Criticism necessitates a two-way conversation. Constructive criticism moves an agenda forward because it creates useful friction without which neither a car nor a bike, nor a human never mind an airplane for that matter, could move forward. 
 
The harsh truth is (not a complaint so much as an observation) that we don’t get that many chances to make a difference. If you find one, please use it. We all share the promise and potential of constructive criticism, conversation, discussion, debate and ultimately, positive change. 
 
As a final note, I admit, there can come some personal satisfaction, and even some odd fame (think Salmon Arm Salute) from the perfectly crafted single pointed finger of complaint. It’s important to remember, under all circumstances, without any doubt, that the real joy and possibility of making life better, comes from the lending of a whole hand.
Thanks for reading.
Louise

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. 

Art is at the Heart of the Shuswap this Summer
May 1, 2015

There’s nothing like some time away from your community to help you understand all that your community has to offer. This was much the case for me when I attended the Arts BC annual conference in Penticton as Salmon Arm Arts Centre’s Community Development Coordinator. It’s good to get away. Especially for me, as I’ve been hyper-focussed on learning all that I can as a new city councillor. 

The first take away for me was how big this province really is. It’s one thing to jump in a car and get to your destination, but when you take out a map, and give it some serious consideration, you might be surprised. BC is four times the size of the United Kingdom. It’s bigger than Japan and New Zealand combined. It’s all of Florida and then some. It’s big.

For all the benefits of big, it’s not without its challenges. How do we, as a province, made up of individual communities, plan and partake in a provincial cultural plan? Is it even a realistic option? These are questions I took home with me after the conference. We have big island communities, small island communities, northern communities, mountain communities, coastal communities, rural communities and urban communities. We’re a complex place. That’s a good thing. But it’s messy when it comes to provincial policy especially as it relates to culture.

But sometimes, big is just too big. We need to focus on specifics and learn from that. For example, did you know that more people earn their living in the arts in BC than any other province in the country? Maybe it’s the landscape, maybe it’s the sense of place. Whatever it is, it’s exciting. And come this summer, our region is in for some major excitement.

What might seem “normal” to us, is extraordinary in other regions. Both the Roots and Blues festival (23 years young) and Caravan Farm Theatre (now producing four shows per year) have been identified as national treasures in terms of cultural offerings. We’re very fortunate. Roots and Blues brings Grammy and Juno award winning artists to our community on an annual basis. Caravan Farm Theatre, over its long history, continues to have legendary influence and attract national talent in the theatre world.

When that level of talent is attracted to a region, other good things start to happen. Creatives like to cluster with other creatives. That’s how it works. In 2006, internationally renowned installation artists Cardiff and Miller, based in Alberta, moved their Canadian studio to the area. And here’s the small town benefit. The curator at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre, Tracey Kutschker, was a student of Janet Cardiff’s at the University of Lethbridge. When she learned her former professor had relocated her studio to the Shuswap, she began the process of securing a loan of a Cardiff and Miller piece. It took six years to secure as good things take time. This summer,  two Cardiff and Miller pieces, Experiment in F# Minor and The Muriel Lake Incident will show at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre.

So next time someone asks you “should I head to the Shuswap this summer?”, I’ve got an important answer for you to deliver. Say yes. There’s only one place in North America where you can see world renowned artists Cardiff and Miller, award winning performers at Roots and Blues and ground-breaking theatrical talent at Caravan Farm Theatre. It’s all right here.

So, much like me, you might not be an artist, or a musician or an actor. But you still have a role to play in your community’s cultural capacity and that starts with yes, come and visit. Art is at the heart of the Shuswap this summer. And we’re all the better for it. BC might be big, but the Shuswap is a small gem. Just as the milky way is big, ultimately, it’s the small star that sparkles. That’s us. Let’s enjoy it.

In Good Hands
March 9, 2015

This last month on Council has been inspiring to say the least. After part one of a city facilities tour that included the water plant, RCMP station and Fire Department, it’s abundantly clear to me that Salmon Arm is in very good hands.

And by hands, I mean the volunteer Fire Fighters, the RCMP constables, the Auxiliary Members and the Citizens on Patrol but it doesn’t stop there. City council work isn’t just about council meetings (every second Monday, everyone welcome), it’s about committee work. The city has a number of committees that report to Council and Council members are also assigned to community committees. Mayor Cooper has assigned me to two city committees; the Heritage Commission and the Social Issues Committee as well as two community committees Aspiral Youth Partners and the Chamber of Commerce. In addition, all members of Council are members of the Planning and Development Committee (which meets the other two Mondays – again, you are most welcome to attend).

Most things we value as community members and as Canadians, in fact, are as a result of committee work. From Confederation itself to the Vancouver Olympics to Minor Hockey and the Art Gallery, a community has much to be grateful for thanks to their volunteer committee members. 45% of Canadians volunteer in their community. Statistics Canada values their contribution at about 14 billion dollars or 1.4% of the national GDP.

Canada excels in the non-profit sector which is the second largest in the world. Approximately 11% of our workforce is in the non-profit sector. We’re very good at this.

Some might still argue that committees keep minutes but lose hours. Fair enough. I respectfully challenge you to spend an evening at any one of the hundreds of community meetings that are held every month here in town and you might find that your point of view changes. In fact, some studies indicate that a volunteer hour is worth two and half times what a paid hour is worth. If the average wage is $25/hr as noted in Stats Canada records, that makes a volunteer hour worth approximately 62.50. I’ve heard higher. And based on some of the meeting I’ve been to this month, I’d argue it’s more.

There’s something about the communication, conversation and collaboration that happens at committee. Every now and then, the mere act of sitting together around a table, following a set agenda and getting to the business of committee work creates magic. It’s about ideas as much as it’s about experience. We all know things. But something very special happens when we all share what we know on a topic at the committee level. It’s exciting, it’s inspiring, it’s community building and I’m grateful.

I acknowledge that I knew a Council win would bring with it it yet more meetings. As a business owner, I spend much of my working day meeting clients and working with a great team to get the jobs done. What I didn’t expect was to find new meetings that I enjoyed as much  as the ones I already get to go to for my business. This town is stuffed full of talent and commitment.

Please don’t, even for a minute, doubt the capacity of your fellow citizens. The dedication, experience and commitment they bring to the community table is of great value and makes things happen. It’s a formal process and no doubt, it takes time. Sometimes it takes more time that we might like. But the work needs to get done. And most things of value happen through hard word, diligence and dedication which can’t (and shouldn’t, in my opinion) be rushed.

So, as logic would have it, if you want to build community (and I hope that you do), please join a committee that matters to you. Truth is, most of you already belong to one but if not, you have hundreds to choose from in our community – arts, crafts, recreation, sports, business, government, transportation, communication, education, well-being, environment, economy, health – you get the idea.  Whatever you care about, there’s a committee that needs you.

Ironically, we live in a world where we’re often encouraged to “be our own person” and “do our own thing”, but the people we are and the things that matter to us are ultimately about how much we care and how much we can contribute to each other’s well being. In business, we often talk about the free market and the invisible hand. Truth be told and knowing what I’ve learned about our economy and our community day in and day out, it seems to me that the free market isn’t really free and the invisible hand isn’t really invisible. We all have contributions to make and the more we celebrate what one another has to contribute, the better off we’ll all be.

So thank you. I appreciate your time, your meetings, your ideas, your conversations and your commitment to collaboration and community. As a result of what you do as volunteers, I can’t drive down a street, attend an event, walk in the park, or put my recycling out without remembering that we’re all in this together. We all have a say. We all have a role. We all have a share. And as such, we all are what we are together. So thanks for what you have to say and the role that you choose to play. It’s what makes community happen.