Monthly Archives: August 2017

Confessions of a Casual Commuter Cyclist

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I am the most casual of casual commuter cyclists. Riding into work, I now find the 20 minute walk too long. I have no idea how long into the fall I will ride and don’t know what my cold temperature threshold will be for my fingers and face. The moment I have to start bundling up to stay warm on the cycle into the office might be the sign I will need that walking is the preferred way to go.

I have been cycling into work for most of the summer now; I credit that to my pocket book. I paid for over $170 for a $49.95 tune up – mainly because my bike is old and in the 15 or so years I have had it, it never received the care or attention it deserved/needed. This year I did and thanks to the good folks at Kunstadt Sports on Bank in the Glebe I was ready for a summer of biking. Because of the tune up I feel a lot safer on my bike.

Liz and I have made good use of the bikes this year, Monday to Friday and on weekends. The only (small) sacrifice I have made is not to make the daily stop into Starbucks as I would if I was walking to the office. I have avoided so far (knock on wood) getting stuck in a rain storm, colliding with another bike and I have stayed clear of scratching any cars whether it was my fault or theirs.

Generally I am happy with being able to get around the City of Ottawa on my bike. I haven’t had to worry about cars too much as drivers are as polite to me as I cycle as I am to other cyclists when I am driving. The path system is good, there a missing links and from what I can see Ottawa is trying to make the connections. Some intersections are worrisome; the Wellington St. /Sussex Ave. /Mackenzie Ave. at the Chateau Laurier is nerve rattling. We have made it through there a few times, but seeing how try not to get trapped in that area does make you think twice. There is some confusion in the approach the new lanes along Mackenzie Avenue on the west side of the US Embassy, especially as you come from the National Art Gallery of Canada. I still don’t feel at ease on the O’Connor dual lane, I would have preferred lanes that went with the flow of traffic – south on O’Connor and North on Metcalfe St. or Kent St. These examples aside, Ottawa has been doing a good job.

I am not perfect as a cyclist, however as a driver (of a car) I have a good sense of rules and the reason they need to be followed. Being a good and courteous driver makes for a good and courteous cyclist. I have noticed a few things while in the saddle – these are just observations of how cyclists can do their part to stay alive.

Use hand signals correctly. I recently learned that cyclists can indicate turning right by sticking out their right arm. I still use the left arm method to show I am turning right. On the left and right arm pointing signals I have seen too many cyclists pointing to the ground – is that their way of telling me you are turning right or look out for a pothole? Come on, if you are going to indicate turns that way, do it with conviction! Point with pride!

Follow the traffic lights. Not watching the lights is becoming a problem on the O’Connor Street lanes. Cyclists are running reds, not stale green lights but RED lights! This morning at Laurier and O’Connor an incident was avoided when alert cyclists saw the red light running biker before they headed west on Laurier. If that had been a car, there would have been bike bells ringing and obscene hand gestures and yelling at the car, but we don’t care if a cyclist runs a red?

How about that distracted driving law? We don’t allow drivers to wear ear pods and headphones when driving? Somehow this is okay for cyclists? And one armed cyclists travel around the city because the other hand is holding the phone? The same “put the phone away out of sight” should apply as a safety measure for cyclists as well as motorists. Pulling over to the side to check for a missed call or waiting for a text/email should be the rule for cyclists as it is for motorists.

Finally, why the race on Laurier? I am passed everyday by other cyclists on the Laurier bike lane. What’s the rush? The lanes are wide enough to pass, but sometimes the speed they pass me at is incredible. Is there a speed limit for travelling on city bike lanes? I suspect, serious bike commuters can’t wait for cooler weather when casual commuters me abandon the bikes for pounding the pavement.

Since my days on the old and long forgotten Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee for the City of Ottawa, the bike path network has improved a great deal. The city and NCC are doing their part to make cycling safe and accessible for more casual cyclists and turning them to being more serious about using their bikes to get around. Is it time for cyclists themselves to call out others who they see as being unknowingly reckless or ignorant when cycling in the city?

p.s. don’t  get me going about parents that make their kids wear a helmet cycling when they don’t.

 

 

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

They’ll be back soon, what to look for in Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill this fall Pt. 2

 

Last week, part one of this two part blog, focused on the return to Queen’s Park by Ontario’s MPP in the session that will be crazy busy as all parties start to position themselves for the June 2018 provincial election. In part two, a look at the return to Ottawa of MP’s as the Trudeau Liberals hit the halfway point in their mandate.

While a federal election won’t come before October 2019, there is positioning taking place. All three parties will start to think about that election as dynamics have changed. Gone is Rona Ambrose and in comes Andrew Scheer and the NDP start the midway session of the Liberal mandate without a permanent leader.

LPCLet’s begin with the government and what we might expect from the Liberals. First, we’ve been told there will be no proroguing this fall. Main reason is that recently announced new Governor General, Julie Payette, will not have been sworn in. We will have to wait until the New Year for a new speech from the throne. The Liberals will want to get the old speech and promises made in that speech, like electoral reform off the legislative books.   In the meantime, they have big legislation that needs to get through the house, the most important of which, will be the legalization of marijuana. Everyone will be watching to see what that Bill looks like and to what lengths the Bill will protect Canadians, especially young Canadians.

Trudeau and his team will have to continue to navigate through the Presidency of Donald Trump, especially now since NAFTA renegotiations have begun. How will Canada respond while Trump tweets about what he doesn’t like and what he expects to be in NAFTA2? The Liberals have given themselves some breathing space with the opposition by bringing onboard for advice and counsel, former PM Brian Mulroney and most recently with the NAFTA Advisory Council appointments of Conservatives Rona Ambrose, James Moore and former NDP Chief of Staff to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Brian Topp  – an all-star Team Canada approach to the negotiations. How this works out for the government is yet to be seen. It is going to be one of the biggest challenges the government will face leading to the 2019 election.

NDPStill to be determined is who will be leading the third party.  A new leader should be selected by the time the house comes back from its Thanksgiving break. Will it be the familiar face of either Nikki Ashton, Guy Caron or Charlie Angus? Will newcomer to the federal scene Jagmeet Singh be leading the NDP from the balcony of the House of Commons? The deadline for new memberships is August 17th, when those numbers are announced; just who might lead the NDP could be clearer. Until that happens, Tom Mulcair will remain in the front benches leading the NDP. What direction the NDP takes when Mulcair is gone will depend on who becomes leader. Until then, expect to see the NDP fight the fight as the third party and trying to remain part of the headlines until after the leadership is decided.

CPCAndrew Scheer had a few weeks as leader in June following his rise to the leadership in May at the federal leadership convention in Toronto before the House rose for the summer.  Last month Scheer took the first steps in defining what his leadership will look like with the forming of his leadership team, which includes Candice Bergen staying on as House Leader and Lisa Raitt, former leadership candidate, now taking her place beside him as Deputy Opposition Leader. Still to be come is the shuffling of his shadow cabinet and where he plans to place his leadership supporters, leadership opponents and the current members that have critic roles; this will help define an Scheer era of conservatives. With the Conservative caucus set to meet in Winnipeg the first week of September, hopefully the shuffle will take place before the end of August.

Will the Conservatives be an opposition party, or will they be a government in waiting. There is a difference in how strategy will be formed. As a government in waiting what will Scheer Conservatism look and sound like? It cannot be about using ‘elbow gate’ as a reason to show JT is still not ready, nor can they use foreign policy blunders as a means to expecting the world and Canada’s part in it to fall apart. Scheer will have to define what a Conservative government would do, what action would be taken? Will the Conservatives start to work the themes that Andrew Scheer brought up during the leadership? Will we see ideas from other leadership candidates creep into policy? How will the return of the Parliament shape how Canadians and the government see Andrew Scheer? These are going to be the biggest questions for the party to decide. I expect this upcoming session will be all about Scheer showing his teeth without showing his hand.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

 

Back in Session, what to expect at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill this fall

As we wave bye-bye to the August long weekend, thoughts turn to cooler weather coming, back to school and for some the return of politics. In Toronto, the Ontario legislature, Queen’s Park returns on September 11th and federally Parliament Hill will be buzzing again on September 19th. This week I’ll look at what we might expect to see and hear in both Toronto and Ottawa. I’ll begin with Ontario politics and Queen’s Park, as MPP’s will be back in their chamber first.

Make no mistake about it; the 90th day of the 2nd session of the 41st Parliament in Toronto is important, very important. The June 2018 election will be front and centre in everything the will take place in Queen’s Park. All questions, every debate and each piece of legislation is all about the next election and who will be able to reach voters and journalists with their messages. What is at stake for each party and Leader?

ONDPThe Ontario New Democratic Party will be watching, possibly distracted by the Federal NDP Leadership. Ontario Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh could be headed for Ottawa, if he wins the leadership. This will leave a hole for Andrea Horwath.  Singh was the future of the ONDP. If Horwath does not deliver at worst, Opposition status in Queen’s Park she will be out as leader. The NDP has been quiet this summer, maybe even on vacation. They have also lost the thunder of a $15 per hour minimum wage and calls for universal pharmacare to Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals. As the Liberals turn further left in their efforts to make Ontario more and more a social services driven province where do the NDP go? After an end of summer retreat, where will Leader Andrea Horvath take the NDP as she mines for greater support leading to June 2018?

PC logo 2This should have been a summer of love for Patrick Brown , in part it was. Instead, the Ontario PC Party is fighting off concerns about interference in nominations when he campaigned for leader on open nominations and no party meddling. Oddly enough though, while party members and the party executive are battling it, Brown has been on the road across and all over Ontario. I attended a rally in Thunder Bay in July, he filled the room with party supporters and those that didn’t belong to the party. One person, who is not a party member, told me after hearing Brown in Thunder Bay, ‘he has my vote.’ So while some in the party are not happy with Brown, more Ontarians are unhappy with Kathleen Wynne and are starting to listen to what Patrick Brown has to say.

Heading back to Queen’s Park, Brown and the Ontario PC Party will need to start from where they left off in June going after the Liberals jugular vein on hydro rates and selling Hydro off. The bribery scandal will be in the courts this fall and the government is pursuing economic policies that will kill small business in Ontario and drive others out of the province. The message from Brown and his caucus must be aimed at Wynne and how she is adding to the provincial debt, increasing the cost of business and costing Ontario jobs as businesses leave Ontario. Where his advisors send him will be the key to the lead up to Ontario’s 42nd General Election.

LiberalsNever ever ever count the Ontario Liberals ‘out’ in an election. Other political parties strive to be as polished and ahead of issues before anyone else, but the Liberals do it best. A key example of this goes to the 2014 election when then leader Tim Hudak announced a reduction in the Ontario public service of 100,000 civil servants. Before the press conference was over the Liberals had sent out a press release “Hudak to fire 100,000 government workers”. Whatever gains Hudak had, evaporated after that.

This does not mean it’s in the bank for the Liberals; they have a long road ahead to win back support. You can count on Wynne to fire at Brown everyday in Question Period. Her Ministers will aim at Brown in every press conference and Liberal MPPs at local events will hammer away at Brown. BUT, there is something else, there is Wynne, who is going to overhaul work places, put in place basic incomes and increase the minimum wage. The trouble that Wynne will have is that she cannot be trusted. Hydro rates were supposed to come down. While she reduced rates by 25% this summer, the government  not only going to pass on the cost to the reductions to consumers years down the road but hydro producers  have already  applied for increases when the period of reduced rates ends. While Wynne has the impression of making things better, in the background is the question, “who is going to pay for this?” The Wynne Liberals also will need to deal with an energized opposition as the Sudbury bribery court case will be heard this fall and it could affect Wynne in an election that way the Duffy Case did for Harper while he campaigned in 2015.

The Liberals could not escape Queen’s Park fast enough in June, they won’t be moving so quickly to go back.  There is a lot of promise for each party as MPP’s head back to work in 5 weeks. The three factors to watch are: Can Andrea Horwath blaze a trail for the NDP that the Liberals won’t take from them? Will Patrick Brown be able to stop in the infighting and keep the spotlight on Wynne and the Liberals bad decisions? Will Kathleen Wynne be able to avoid not only the opposition, but also the press, as the PCs and ONDP aim to take her out of the Premier’s office?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Book Review: The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew

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The political climate regarding Canada’s Indigenous People is hot, the federal government is trying to make an inquiry to Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women work. There are questions about the government’s integrity to their commitment to reconciliation while Trudeau and Liberals made reconciliation one of four themes for #Canada150 celebrations.

Through all this, it can be a difficult story for non-indigenous Canadians to understand and to wrap their heads around the history and the issues that continue to drive this story to the top of the national news programs. For most Canadians it is difficult to comprehend the pain of the past of residential schools, sub acceptable living conditions, child suicides and losses due to fires and other living conditions not permitted in the mainstream.

For the longest time I’ve been looking for something to read that will give me the sense I was looking for to understand the tragedy, pain of the history of our First Nations communities. There were books of political nature; non-fictional accounts and fiction that told the stories; magazine and newspapers articles were too formal. I searched through the entire bookstore shelves searching there was nothing that I felt was a good introduction for me to dive into.

I stumbled onto The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew; the book only had two rows on the top shelf. The Reason You Walk on the back cover is described as “a father-son reconciliation.” Flipping through a few pages, The Reason You Walk, describes a son, learning from his father about the life his father’s father had and the lessons and how those lessons came from the elders. The father, a residential school survivor is ill and in the months of his life. Wab tells the story of that last year with his father.

While The Reason You Walk is about how Wab and his father are reconnecting, it is also the life of his father, his life before Wab and his live as a residential school student, being taken to Kenora Ontario – away from his parents and community and from the years in school in Kenora, with only a few weeks back home each year. Yes, The Reason You Walk is the book for me that could explain the pain, the suffering and the loss that the residential schools brought, it would be my first step to understanding the importance of reconciliation and truth. The Reason You Walk is the book that opened the door to the first step of wanting, make that being able, to learn more and though I have used the word quite a bit, understand more.

Wab and his father are not perfect, in fact they have had dark periods in their lives, death, alcoholism, divorce and multiple spouses are all part of their lives before the wisdom of the elders is absorbed and accepted. They accepted their responsibility for their roles in the lives of their people, family and children. Wab and his father were exceptional men in their lives; they were a journalist, professor, Chief and activist. Kinew now sits as a MLA in the Manitoba legislature.

The Reason You Walk shares the troubled lives of Wab, his parents, siblings, wives and children. But it shares a message that goes far beyond the teaching of the elders, it is a message that applies to everyone, it is about the reason we walk…as Wab sings the song after his father dies.

“I am the reason you walk, I created you so you might walk the earth.

I am the reason you walk, I gave you the motivation so you would continue to walk,  even when the path became difficult, even seemingly impossible.

I am the reason you walk, I animated you with that driving force called love, which compelled you to help others who had forgotten they were brothers and sisters to take steps back towards one another.

And now my son, as that journey comes an end, I am the reason you walk, for I am calling you home. Walk home to me on the everlasting road.”

The idea that reading the story of a father and son reconciliation can be a mirror for a greater appreciation of the challenges from our First Nations communities is not lost on me. They do not forget or try to rewrite their past, it used to remember and drive towards future goals. This is something that should be considered, when nationally efforts are made to wipe the past from our sights.

As demonstrated in The Reason You Walk, the past is used for a good future and so it should be and governments, Canadians and Indigenous People to move forward from the actions of those in our past.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.