Monthly Archives: October 2016

123: Review – Roméo Dallaire: Waiting for First Light

I do not know war.

Most of my generation and those that followed me also would not know war except what is reported. There are, however, thousands of Canadians that have fought in a theatre of combat who have experiences I will never know. For those who have served and have comeback home, Roméo Dallaire’s latest book should be a textbook for all Canadians to read. It is a testament of what we as a country need to do for our active and retired soldiers.

In Waiting for First Light – My Ongoing Battle with PTSD, Retired Lieutenant – General Romeo Dallaire addresses his life after Rwanda and the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, his struggles to understand what is happening to him and how he separated his public life from the darkness he faced when the lights were off and he was not at work.

Without being able to understand what his actions were doing to his brain, Dallaire dives into wanting to tell of the horrors of the Rwandan genocide almost immediately after being relieved of his duties (at his request). Dallaire believes that this will be the only way to exorcise the nightmares and endless nights of no sleep. It is only the ‘first light of day’ that saves him from any harm he might do to himself.

He writes how his medical release from the army allowed him to dedicate more time to exposing the genocide in Rwanda, fighting to ensure children will no longer be used as soldiers. While retirement from the army was meant to give him more time to heal, that time was used instead for more speeches, interviews and to make sure the Dallaire Institute would be successful in preventing the enlistment of child soldiers. He knows what he is doing is not helping, but he does not know any other way.  It seems only after a widely reported night of an drunk blackout does he fully recognize how his PTSD is affecting him. In one passage writes that after several failed suicide attempts, he knows that killing himself is not how he will go out.

One of the more difficult sections of the book deals with the effects of the Rwandan genocide, even on those who did not serve there. Sian Canfield, a CBC journalist, worked Dallaire, sorting through 1000’s of pages of documents and recorded 100’s of hours of interviews with Dallaire in preparation for the book Shaking Hands with the Devil. She worked the hours he did, long hours.   Sian had been to Rwanda and as a reporter had faced other very difficult scenes of her own. Early morning, June 1st 2002, she left a message saying goodbye. Moments later she jumped into the Don River in Toronto, Rwanda was taking lives long after the genocide ended.

Reading Waiting for First Light started as an exercise for me to better understand what my work on Parliament Hill with the Opposition Veterans Affairs Critic John Brassard should be about, to help MP Brassard in his duties to advocate for Canada’s Veterans.   Dallaire is not kind to former Prime Minister Harper, I am OK with that. Dallaire holds all government responsible to assist Veterans, especially Peacekeepers and soldiers from conflicts going back to Somalia – any theatre of operation Canadians served in after the Korean War. This book will be with me on Parliament Hill, it will be a reminder of what needs to be done to better prepare our soldiers for life after combat.

I have had Dallaire’s book Shake Hands with the Devil on a book shelf for years. I unknowingly have not been prepared to crack it open. Having read Waiting for First Light, I am now ready to read his account of Rwanda and will always have in mind Dallaire’s, unknown to him at that time, struggles with Occupational Stress injury and PTSD.

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 http://tiny.cc/n5l97.

122: Ottawa Centre Election Reform

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Julien Lamarche is the President of the NCR Chapter of Fair Vote Canada. I met Julian via Twitter through several online discussions. Julien attended the Ottawa West-Nepean election reform meeting as I did (you can read my post on that meeting here: https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/120-owns-electoral-reform-town-hall/ ). Julien works as a software developer in the private sector. He is also an advocate for safe cycling. You can follow Julien on Twitter at @cyclingzealot.

I was unable to attend the Ottawa Centre Election Reform meeting this month so I have asked Julien to be a (the first) guest contributor to #RedHeartBlueSign and present his observations of the meeting. I have not edited or changed his words some changes were made for formating purposes only.

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The town hall for Catherine McKenna, MP for Ottawa-Centre, followed the recommended format set out by the Ministry of Democratic Institutions. That is, invite the crowd to break down into groups of 5 to 10 people, discuss the following questions and have someone report back. The questions were:

  1. What is your opinion of our current electoral system? What do you think are its flaws? What do you think are its strengths? Do you feel though your vote is fairly translated through our current First-Past-The-Post system?
  1. What specific features are important to you in our electoral system? Local representation, proportionality, simplicity, legitimacy, inclusiveness, effectiveness?
  1. Many Canadians choose not to participate in our democratic process. What do you think can be done to encourage greater participation?
  1. Should it be mandatory to cast a ballot (choosing “none of the above” or spoiling the ballot would be allowed under mandatory voting)?
  1. Should online voting be an option? If so, do you have any specific concerns and do you think there are ways those concerns could be addressed?

There were 10 tables of about 9-10 people for an approximate count of 150 people, though there are some reports of 200 people. The breakdown into subgroups has many advantages over the town hall format where people line up at an open mic:

  1. It allows for many conversations to happen, sharing knowledge & opinions
  1. It encourages more civility in conversation

The only advantage the open mic format has: it permits clarification to be brought to the entire assembly. But that advantage is quickly lost by the vitriol it also brings. I love giving a passionate speech for voter equality, but any format which diminishes the advantage of the loudest person and encourage knowledge sharing gets my vote.

Question 4 & 5 were the quickest to deal with. Along with question 1, they also make for easy straw polls (who wants change? who doesn’t?). Question 3 and 2 were harder to summarize as the reporter of my group. I discuss how question 2 could be further broken down into subquestions here: https://jlam.wordpress.com/2016/10/15/question-2-of-town-halls/

Opponents of reform or of the Liberal party have reported that Catherine McKenna ended the evening “promoting” ranked ballots. This is a gross misrepresentation. She simply asked the crowd if there was a preference for “ranked ballots” to which I and others quickly requested clarification if she meant Alternative Vote (majoritarian, single member ridings) or Single Transferable Vote (proportional, multi member ridings). The difference *really* matters and it’s one that gets lost with the term “ranked ballot”.

If it matters to you though, she did mean Alternative Vote. This voting system also gets called “Preferential Voting”, “Instant Runoff” and unfortunately, “ranked ballots”.

Most importantly, the question was preceded by questions about voting reform and proportionality. In the context of various straw polls on the crowds preference, to call it “promotion” is an exaggeration.

For more information on proportional voting systems, see http://fairvote.ca/proportional-representation/

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all  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 http://tiny.cc/n5l97.

Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize! — The Immortal Jukebox

In honour of Bob Dylan being selected as the 2016 Nobel Laureate for Literature I am Reblogging one of the very first Immortal Jukebox posts which combines a tribute to Bob with a review of his 2013 Albert Hall concert in London. Some may argue that as a songwriter/performer Bob does not qualify for the […]

via Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize! — The Immortal Jukebox

121: I don’t get that they don’t get it

I am gobsmacked.

This week saw the federal Liberals drop their Climate Change plan on the provinces. It was disguised as a simple motion to have Parliament ratify the Paris COP21 Agreement. In Ontario the provincial Liberals have already started down the road of carbon pricing with a Cap and Trade partnership with Quebec and California. BC and Alberta have a Carbon Levy, with Ontario and Quebec the four provinces have the combined population of 80% of Canadians.

Through generations there have been causes that have had to be addressed; Acid Rain, Reducing waste, Clean Lakes…government has come and done what was needed. Here we are and there is an need to act to slowdown, stall and reverse the changes in our climate. I get that, some people don’t – that’s OK and that is a discussion for another day.

Here is what I don’t get. I don’t get that they don’t get it.

There is a cost to all of what Kathleen Wynne has done to Ontario. Increased Hydro rates, bad Wind and Solar contracts driving up the cost of doing business in Ontario which is driving businesses out of Ontario to the States who – get this – get our hydro for a steal, for next to nothing.

The Ontario Green Energy Plan (GEP) was forecast to create 27,000 jobs. That’s fine, but the 27,000 only represents 0.4% of Ontario’s total workforce of 6.9 million. The GEP will not financially benefit every worker in Ontario. In fact the additional costs we already know about, 4 cents/litre at the pumps, $5/month on hydro bills plus HST on a the Carbon tax will affect every worker in Ontario. Ontario’s plan is not a revenue neutral plan for Ontarians.

Ontario’s Premier, Canada’s Environment Minister (and Ottawa Centre MP) along with Prime Minister Trudeau have not expresssed one iota of recognition that this is going to be tough for many Ontarians, it will hit many in the pocketbook. Sure it may be good for the planet and the earth we leave our children and grandchildren may be better than it is today but while we get there Ontario families are going to hurt financially and the lives they dreamed of having are more and more becoming unreachable because of it.

There has been no real recogition, that the choices being made in Ontario are costing the middle class and fixed income voters of a good lifestyle, from Wynne, McKenna and Trudeau.

As recent as today there were two exampIes that the Federal Liberals have no clue what to say about the impact on Canadians a carbon price will have. In Question Period MP Lisa Raitt tried to relate how taxes keep going up and the impact of higher costs for everyday goods are very stressful. The federal reaction to this quest was for government MP to laugh. The laughter was so loud MP Raitt had to sit and stop for the Speaker of the House to have peace reclaimed.

On today’s CTV Power Play. Host Don Martin asked Environment Minister Catherine McKenna three times about the cost of the Carbon pricing on Canadians, three times! Three times there was no answer except that the provinces will decide how the impact will be felt on Canadians. Catherine was also asked about the impact the Federal GST would have on the price of carbon, again crickets.

The very same On broadcast, Lisa Raitt appeared with Toronto Liberal Adam Vaughan for a panel discussion. Vaughan was asked the same question and gave a response that the if Lisa Raitt was not the calm and collected politician she is I am sure she would have walked out, it was all over her face.

It really is as if they really don’t know what it is going to be like when all the extra costs of a Cap and Trade or a Carbon Tax finally kicks in.

I don’t get that they don’t get that.

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 http://tiny.cc/n5l97.

120: OWN’s Electoral Reform Town Hall

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I attended the Election Reform Public TownHall hosted by Ottawa West-Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld.  As Town Halls go, it could have ended up worse that it was, at least for MP Vandenbeld. She has to report to the Democratic Reform Committee what happened and 95% of what she’ll have to report is not what Minister Monsef might wish to hear.

To be honest, MP Vandenbeld likely knew what she had coming on that Saturday night (Yes, a Saturday night!) and she gave those that wanted to speak all the time they wanted (as long as it did go over 2 minutes) to say their peace. She had planned for one and a half hours for the public consultation, it went a bit over the 2 hours as everyone that stood in line to speak was given the opportunity, that was a good thing. The entire meeting was planned for 3 hours, I did not stay for the 3rd hours as as MP Vandenbeld was pretty well telling her constituents what she did as their MP and was taking feedback on what else they wanted her to do.

While giving everyone that wanted it, a soapbox to stand on was good – did everyone really know what the electoral reform discussion is REALLY about? Minister Monsef talks a lot of the under-represented, the vulnerable and the disenfranchised. The government’s idea of electoral reform is meant to increase voter turnout. Here is the question, does the need to increase voter turnout REALLY need to include how Canadians vote?

I need to say this; if the aim was to hear from the disenfrachised at the meeting it did not work. Though a show of hands was not taken, I would gather 90% of those that attended voted in the last election. Clearly everyone who showed up is a dedicated voter. If only previous voters show up and talk at these meetings HOW will the government hear from the people Electoral reform is meant to represent? As for the percent of voters the meeting reached? With about 175 people in attendence, this meeting reached 0.2% of the voters in the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean. That number is likely less as I counted at least 5 other ridings that were represented at the meeting and spoke.

At the meeting, who knew what reforming our voting system actually would look like? There were no speakers talking about options, there was no one from the Democratic Reform Committee present – and MP Vandenbeld who is a expert on democray did not speak much at all about reform. Who would really know if anyone knew what they were talking about? It was clear in the meeting through that there were many who did their homework and spoke well (for their alotted 2 minutes) about reform or no reform, or a need or not a need for a referendum.

Here is something else, there were NO handouts about refomr from the MP. I was greated at the door of the meeting hall by former MPP Alex Cullen who handed out the NDP platform for voting and Julien Lamarche from Fair Vote Canada also provided reading material. There was nothing, nadda, zip and zilch from MP Vandebeld or the government about reform. MP Vandenbeld did provide feedback forms which could be filled out and dropped in a box or taken home to be completed and sent in to the MP’s office or via email.

What I found interesting was the look I received when I was asked by Fair Vote Canada why I was there – they were quite surprised I was there. My answer was “I have a real and deep interest in democracy.”

Asked what my preference was, the answer was quite simple. “First Canadians must have a say in ANY reform through a referendum. If we change from First Past the Post, I feel a Mixed Member Proportion system is the fairest. For some reason Mr. Cullen gave me the strangest of faces. He might have thought I was a knuckle dragger when it came to any change of our voting system, oh well.”

The next session I will be attending is in Ottawa Centre where my MP, Catherine McKenna will be the host. Hopefully the two hour meeting will have more information from the government about Democratic Reform.

If you are interested in attending on October 11th, the link for the meeting is here: http://cmckenna.liberal.ca/news-nouvelles/electoral-reform-consultation-tuesday-october-11-2016/ , I hope to see you there.

Image courtesy of @TheCapitalVoice

 
As always, thank you for reading this post, I appreciate the time you take to hear me out; 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 http://tiny.cc/n5l97.