The Walrus Talks: Living Better

the WalrusWe recently attended another in a series of “The Walrus Talks” sessions with the theme of “Living Better”.  The sessions are put together by the Walrus Magazine and Concordia University.  On the most recent talk 7 speakers talked about living better from their personal, business, social or scientific perspectives.

Living better was presented though our identity, song, low tech social media, loss, babies and architecture.  Because of the lack of space and to keep the word count down to keep you the reader engaged here are thoughts on the speakers that left the greatest impression on me. Where there was info available I have included some Twitter ID so you might look further into the speakers I have for you.

Our individual Urban Community is recognized as a core to our living better; presented by architect Donald Schmidt, it discussed the science, politics and culture of how we live now.  Exploring Ottawa’s architecture he gave 6 examples of  buildings that bring better living to Ottawa; his list of six included the recent renovations of the National Arts Centre, The Ottawa Train Station, educational institutions uOttawa and Algonquin College, the Science and Tech Museum and the last of the six, but the one with the greatest potential – the new Ottawa Public Library and National Archives building that will rise in Lebreton Flats.

Going straight for the heart, Christa Couture, writer and broadcaster (Twitter ID @christacouture), brought the idea that personal loss can bring a ‘living better’ quality to our lives.  In loss we often think and hope about life getting better, Couture made us think that sometimes life cannot get better, but that life can be different. Different is an alternative to better that sometimes we need to embrace.  Different gives us all a grounded hope, not for better but for different – an alternative to live better.

With enhancements to how we communicate, it was enlightening to hear Nanveet Alang (@navalang) talk about how we can dial back technology. Tech is essential in today’s world but finding the human in technology allows everyone to make decisions that are our decisions, not technology’s or social media’s.  Two options we have to give us the ‘opt in’ decision are the online group chat rooms. The earliest of these group chats was launched in 1983, a very adopter of social media, but the ideas often stayed in the group forums.  In today’s social media, people’s thoughts are too often public, when they should be kept private.  His second roll back in tech communications is the newsletter, they used to be delivered by email.  The newsletter gives us the human reaction od deciding to opt in to receive a newsletter.  Too often, by simply purchasing something we are automatically part of an email group and added to a newsletter distribution – the opt out is something that should part of history. Alang publishes his own newsletter, The Purposeful Object and is available for subscription at

Finally, how about a song to celebrate living better? Sean McCann (@seanmccannsings), former member of Great Big Sea described his days post-alcohol through his song “Stronger” – how now being stronger he is living better.  Have a listen:

Of course, we all make decisions on our personal ways for living better, listening to the others provides insight and perspectives how our community and personal experiences play a part in us living better – if we choose to.

NOTE: For more of The Walrus Talks: Living Better, visit their You Tube Channel for all the speakers of this event and other talks,

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Welcome Back to West Block: The Issues

img_20160902_09532983This is the wrap up post in a series setting up the 43rd session of Parliament. As mentioned in my previous post, the government has set up its cabinet to deal specifically with three issues, the West, the environment and the middle class with a multi-minister approach to each of those three issues.

Since the reveal of Trudeau’s cabinet, the media have been focusing on how Trudeau will manage the West and just how a Ministry for Middle-Class Prosperity will affect the prosperity of the middle class.  There will no doubt be plenty of analysis and political punditry.  Seeing how Minister Fortier will handle the questions during question period will hurt or hinder Liberal attempts at having success much in the same way Minister Monsef, in the last parliament, handled the now gone ministry of democratic reform.  The term “middle class lens” could be a day time drinking game.

But beyond the West, the Environment and the Middle-Class there are issues that were hung out at the end of the last parliament that the government will need to address.

The Health Minister will have two files to take up most of her time. New medically assisted dying legislation is due to be introduced.  This legislation follows a 4th interim report that was released in April of 2019 and there are calls for relaxed rules for allowing medically induced deaths.  The second file is that of a national Pharmacare program.  The liberals don’t have the luxury of a majority government to wait until the 3rd year of a 4-year mandate to roll this out.  Working with the Finance Minister, Health Minister Patti Hajdu will probably be forced to deal with this in the first two years of this minority session.  The NDP promised to have a full plan in place by 2020, we’ll see how much the Liberals will be depending on support from Jagmeet Singh and his team to determine how fast or slow Trudeau rolls this out.

While not much was said about Veterans by the Liberals in the election, Minister MacAulay still needs to deal with gaps in funding of the Liberal Pension-for-life plan from a couple years ago.  Our current serving soldiers will rely on the Defence Minister to follow through on the National Defence Review and renewed calls from the US to pay its full share to NATO.

Even with 9 ministers that have a hand in the economy of Canada, the government will need to look ahead and avoid a recession that is expected to hit the United States ( ) and will have a spillover into Canada.  How will Finance Minister Bill Morneau handle his first “R word” budget?  Considering the amount of spending the Liberals have done in good years, is there anything left to hold off a downturn in the economy in bad years.

There is one final issue that Liberals will need to deal with – and it could be the hardest one they will have to get a grip on.  That is their ever-present need of virtual signaling.  Gone are the days of the liberalization of Canadian policy; think of the attestation Trudeau forced on non-profit and religious groups to qualify for Canada Summer Jobs funding, there is no majority to allow liberal left thinkers to have their way with policy and how we will qualify or not qualify for taxpayer funded programs.

Now it’s all in the hands of the 338 Members of the House of Commons, 157 in government and 181 in opposition.  It’s time to raise the curtain and see how this all plays out.

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Welcome Back to West Block: The Government

20191125_115040.jpgA kinder and gentler Trudeau government?  Is this an expectation of Canadians? It certainly was something that Canada voted for on October 21st, no more of a government that had blinders on, plowed ahead with its values-based agenda all others be damned. The results of the election indicated that the government was expected to work with all parties and all provinces.

What could the government possibly do for an encore to 2015? Based on the new cabinet that was announced on November 20th Trudeau has decided that he has three themes in his new cabinet.  More importantly the government seems more focused on working with the provinces and municipalities, rather than the opposition parties in achieving success in the three themes

The first theme is national unity and ensuring that Alberta and Saskatchewan are heard.   Trudeau has tied several ministries together.  With Intergovernmental Affairs, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Infrastructure and Communities Trudeau has a group of Ministers that will be tasked with making sure each region of the country is heard and listened to.  In a second pool Trudeau has the Ministers of Environment and Climate Change, Oceans and Fisheries, Infrastructure & Communities has closely bound the economy and the environment.  In the third group of Ministries which include Finance, Diversity Inclusion and Youth, Economic Development, Rural Economic Development and a new ministry of Middle-Class Prosperity (seriously that is what is called) will all be forced to work together to “support the middle class and all those seeking to join it”.

For anything else, it will be just be a case of make sure nothing blows up, so we won’t have to divert from out three-pronged plan to govern for the next 3 to 4 years. In simple terms this government will be focused on the Middle-Class, Climate Change and National Unity.

How can we expect the government to stay in power working with the other parties?  I suspect that the Liberals will count on different parties keep them as the government.  On the environment the NDP and Bloc will play nice with the Liberals. Ccount on the Conservatives supporting actions to prop up the middle class as both the Liberals and Conservatives campaigned on massive tax cuts to middle-class for their votes. The tricky file will be national unity but expect the Bloc Quebecois (of all parties) to vote with the government to support efforts that bring the regions together.  I say this because if there is one region that is all about the “what’s in it for me” it is Quebec.  The Bloc will certainly be waving the Bleu et Blanc each day in the House of Commons.

The government has its work set out for themselves and they think they have a plan that will help them get back to a majority.  Will the opposition oblige?

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Welcome Back to West Block: The Opposition Parties

QPBy the time all the votes had been counted and 338 candidates had been declared an MPP-elect the House looked far different that it did when the Governor General disolved the 42nd Parliament.  When the MPs last met in the House of Commons the party standings were Liberas with 177 seats, Conservatives 95 seats, New Democrats 39 seats, Bloc Quebecois 10 seats, 2 seats for the Greens, one each for the Peoples Party and the CCF. There were 8 independent MPs and 5 vacant seats.

Following the election, the party results had a different landscape as Canadians woke up October 22nd with a Liberal minority government – some would call it a strong minority with only 13 votes needed from other parties to support the government to pass legislation.  But it was a minority still.  What Canadians also woke up to a regionalized parliament, the rebirth of the Bloc Quebecois and the absence of the liberals in Alberta and Saskatchewan and the question of how the government could possibly ensure that the west was important to the Trudeau.

Heading into the speech from the throne on December 5th the seat standings for each of the parties is:  Liberals 157, Conservatives 121, Bloc Quebecois 32, NDP 24, Green Party 3 and 1 Independent.  These new standings will have impacts beyond the votes themselves.  The NDP fall to fourth place while the Conservatives remain Her majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Now that there are four parties in the opposition that have ‘official party status’ questions allotted for Question Period are now split between three parties.  In each session of parliament, the number of questions given to each party is based on the proportion of seats in the opposition, in this session Conservative hold 121 of 181 seats.  The NDP will be the loser in QP as they will have to split the number of questions with the Bloc who hold a greater share of the seats than the New Democrats. Conservatives hold approximately 66% of the seats, the same as last session and should be able to ask 24-25 questions each time Question Period takes place.

Through QP and debates each party will have its priorities and will use those priorities to determine how they vote and how successful each party will be in working with the government and their agenda.  The opposition parties will have to find their footing, set their agendas and make hard decisions what they are and are not prepared to support when it comes to Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.  It will be more important for the opposition to know where the line is where they no longer have confidence in the government and will force a new election.   Ultimately though it will be the Liberals that will make that decision, when it suits their purposes best.

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#elxn43 – West Block awaits

20191114_153417.jpgI have been thinking about Canada’s 43rd Parliament.  I’ve been thinking of this since the Prime Minister announced that the House will reconvene  on Thursday December 5th when MP’s will select the Speaker of the House of Commons and deliver the throne speech.   Because of his announcement there are so many questions to ponder before December 5th.

There will be questions about the party leaders, the regional divisions, the province vs Ottawa battle lines and who is going to be doing what.  There is going to be a new cabinet to consider, who’s out and who stays in.  On the opposition side of the aisle the considerations are just as enormous as there are key players not returning.

I fully expect to hear from the parties and the leaders and what they want out of this session.  I wonder how effective the NDP be with a much smaller representation (the NDP is now fourth in the House of Commons), will the Bloc Quebecois eclipse how team orange operates and can the BQ ever think about anything else besides themselves and Quebec?  The Conservatives have a much larger team, but will they be able to keep their focus on the government when everyone else (including some in the party and the House) are focused on Andrew Scheer’s hold on the  CPC leadership? Does three elected Green MPs mean more from them? Finally, what will Jody Wilson-Raybould do to get under the skin of the Prime Minister this session?

Of course there will be the issues,  there will be no shortage of issues to legislate and debate, but who’ll control the agenda in this minority parliament?  While the last parliament was a Liberal majority, Trudeau still struggled at controlling the house and the legislative agenda.  He’ll need a stronger and more congenial House Leader to quarterback Trudeau’s agenda. Bardish Chagger did not demonstrate the qualities of being approachable, accommodating and amiable to working with others, traits that are needed for a majority, – so there’s a chance she will not be asked to do it for a minority.  When the Prime Minister unveils his new cabinet on November we’ll finally see how he plans to stick handle his way through this parliament.

Leading up to December 5th I’ll  look at the Parties and their priorities; the People and their roles  and finally the issues and expected legislation. I hope you’ll catch all three posts leading to the speech from the throne.

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My #elxn43 – Day 1


Blink – Day One – here it is.  Tomorrow is election day. This is my last post before Canadians go and vote.  I started this mini arc of 8 posts back in August on day 53, and here 52 days  I can say we have done all we can do to ensure a win on Monday.

The days have been long and challenging but in the end everyday has been rewarding.  The team of volunteers have been outstanding, I have met and worked with an amazing group of people, most of whom I never knew before I started this back in August – now I call this team of volunteers, friends. As a Campaign Manager I will always want to have more volunteers, however today I am very happy with everyone that has stepped up and played a part in going from day 53 to day day one and to tomorrow, day zero – election day.

Going back on the previous 8 posts I realize that I haven’t mentioned where I have been, mainly because this was a series about the election experience.  Many of you know who I work for, therefore you will have this all figured out.

This past week, has seen long days as the push to be ready for election day for today has been intense.  Today will have our volunteers go out to our supporters with a reminder to vote tomorrow.  50 days of door knocking, phone calls, putting up signs are done.  One last push for tomorrow.

I guess the advantage of me being busy was that I practically ignored Facebook and was never on Twitter.  The most engaged I stayed on Social Media was Instagram, and somedays that for me it was a struggle to not make a comment on some stupid post that was ful of misinformation of the Conservative platform.  It has me even thinking that it’s time to cut ties with Social Media.  The thought of having to fend off silly attacks against my party tells me there are better ways to spend my time.

I have my thoughts on the candidates from the other parties, some were good and there were instances of attacks because my candidate was the “top dog” (as was stated by one of the other candidates) that were over the line and crossed into rude behaviour.  I was frustrated about this more than anything else, but it reminded me that the other candidates will be “how they will be” and that our campaign will be judged by how we reacted to the words and actions of the other candidates, which most times was not to react at all.

There has been much said that this campaign was about more about personalities, in our local campaign it has been about the issues.  The topic of deciding who gets to define the election, the media or the campaigns is for another day, days after this election is done.

That brings this all back to election day, everything that has been done snce day 50 leads to day zero, tomorrow, election day.

As for tomorrow, all I can ask is that you to get out and vote.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at  If you prefer email, please contact me at

My #elxn43 – Day 8

Debate 2I have titled this post as “To debate or not debate, that’s the question” or “Let’s have a debate about election debates”.

Do they work if the only people that attend have already made up their minds on how they will vote?  Let’s be honest, candidates stack a room – they try to fill a room with their supporters so it seems that they are winning the debate. Stacking a room with with people that know who they are voting for does absolutely nothing of which a debate should do – help the undecided decide.

I know debates are part of our democratic process, There is always the decision of whether to attend ot not. Debates are meant to inform the voter and they do; but no a day they inform voters about personaity.  Sometimes as we’ve seen demonstrated in the recent National Leader’s Debates, not much can be heard above the the voices that converge together so not one word can be heard.

I have fought my inner demons on whether to send a candidate to attend or not.  I have kept a candidate from a debate and sent candidates into debates where maybe I should not have. In this election the decision was always to attend and that’s because, and I use the GreenPac 100 Debates on the environment  as the example, we have an plan/platform/commitment  we stand behind and feel is 100% right.  I believe that the Conservative plan for protecting the enivronment was solid and that we couldn’t NOT debate it, what’s the message that conveys?

Here is the BIG problem with debates. How do you possibly fill a room with only the “undecided” voters, when the room is filled with supporters of each colour? Do you have people swear an oath that they are ‘undecided’ before they walk in to the room?  Should these debates take the partisanship out of the room?  This election the GreenPac/Environment debate was the best organized ‘single issue’ debate I have seen.

The question always remains how many debates are too many?  Some area’s only have one, while others have upwards of 10+ debates.  In this 42 day election, dedicating  up to 40 hours of prime door to door canvas time to debates is a very questionable use of ANY candidate’s time- if a candidate denies it, they are lying, especially if it’s a one time, one night debate never to be seen by anyone, except those that attended.  In fact these single issue debates will be tilted towards one point of view and there is no sense in any candidate appearing if they are on the opposite side of the organizers POV.

Is the solution TV?  Local community TV seems to have this down to a fine art.  In my experience with Rogers TV in Ottawa, each of the area ridings tapes a debate in english and in some are in french and then broadcast several times in the weeks leading up to election day.  In Barrie-Innisfil Rogers TV live streamed and then rebroadcast two debates; the GreenPac Environment and the Barrie Chamber of Commerce Debates.  These rebroadcast debates are possibly the best option for ANY undecided voter who needs to hear their local candidates.

Justin Trudeau thought he solved the debate question when he created the National Leaders Debate Commission, sadly he didn’t account for MacLeans/CityTV and the Munk Debates as being an important part of the Leader’s Debate tour in this year’s election.  While he has every right to say no, one english langauage debate is surely not enough for voters.  Allow me to go on a bit more by adding that having debates that are scheduled to start during the afternoon rush hour home in BC, Alberta and Saskatewan is an insult to Western Canadians.  Let’s hope that in the next election the Debate Commission allows for two english debates, one held in Central/Eastern Canada and a Western provice based debate.

There, I’ve had my say on debates…what do you think?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at  If you prefer email, please contact me at