Category Archives: Children

Caring for Seniors post-COVID


Originally, I had planned to have a section on seniors as part of my previous post on a post-COVID world. There was just too much to say and it was important enough to make this topic a separate post.

If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s demonstrated how fragile our senior care sector is in Canada. Massive outbreaks of the coronavirus have caused thousands of deaths, deaths that have not had any family members present when they pass. Reduced care in the name of cost cutting in private care homes left seniors uncared for, unattended.  Actions by the government towards children (daycare, school and student aid) have been generous; the same care to Seniors is almost non-existent.  Ontario and Quebec have called in the army medics to care for the elderly and sick in the worst hit long-term care homes.  Workers in Private care homes are severely underpaid and over worked.  COVID-19 has shown that some workers would rather not show up for work than risk going through a day in poor working conditions.

COVID-19 2

COVID has opened the eyes of government to see that more oversight and regulation in the care of seniors is a must.  Yes, this will have a huge cost to the public purse. The Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care should have a budget reflects this urgency.  Private care providers are not 100% to blame; previous governments have left the sector short of beds, with less accountability and those that cannot pay, live out their last days in less than adequate accommodations.

Like the economy, life after COVID is an opportunity for government to make a statement.  A statement that says ‘our seniors will receive the care they need and where they want to receive it’ is needed by the government.  Greater accommodation to those that care for their parents is needed.  In the same manner parents receive benefits to care for children, those that look after their parents require the same consideration.

For six weeks now, everyone is experiencing what many seniors do every day, social isolation from family and loved ones.  Younger adults have weathered this better than seniors, we have the ability to move around our homes and don’t need the level of care of seniors.  What COVID has created is ‘disiting’*, visiting our elderly parents and grandparents while practicing physical distancing. Window visits.

As governments after COVID study and react to what’s happened, those who campaigned on more beds (all political parties have done this in Ontario) will comprehend that this is no longer the answer – better care and more recognition of the caregivers is the urgent matter.  Questions, like how we make it possible to keep seniors in their homes and how can virtual care help those seniors that live in their own homes.  Proper financial compensation for Personal Care Workers should be the first action taken, Ontario’s decision to create Pandemic Pay is proof of that.

The first act of government in an eased COVID restrictions world should examine the practice of how these care facilities are run, both the private and public. The practice of paying less to make a care home more profitable, reducing staff to part-time and contract staff have proven ineffective and has been part of the collapse of long-term care in Canada these past 6 weeks.  That these frontline workers are forced to work in more than one facility needs to be addressed.  Nursing and caring for seniors is not an easy job, it should not be compensated like it is either.

Unlike the decisions to be made about the economy and Parliament in a post-COVID world, changing how we care for seniors she old be easy.   Governments, federal and provincial, must lead in the change in caring for seniors.  Creating ministerial departments for seniors should be more than token representation on both Federal and Provincial levels.  The health, care and well-being of our seniors and the entire healthcare sector should be reviewed critically.

Past governments should accept the blame, along with current governments, for the crisis that came out of COVID.  It is the current governments that will be judged on how they come out of COVID and the actions they took.  There are very high expectations.


*I did not create the word disiting, I have seen it several times online and in print.

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Keeping COVID-occupied

staying busy

This first image appeared in  

A question for you, readers of #RedHeartBlueSign.  How are your spending your time inside? I know many of you are working from home and likely putting in longer hours that you normally might at the office.  This list does not include the usual things we do: laundry, cooking, grocery shopping (once a week) etc.

For 30+ days now we’ve been asked to self-isolate; work from home; try to teach our children; and minimize our time shopping and non-essential trips.  When we’re outside we have to practicing physical distancing, keeping a hockey stick apart.

Today is a sunny Saturday and when I go for a walk with Liz, I’m sure we’ll see the trees bursting with buds ready to go full foliage.   We’ve been walking every day; an hour out does wonders for the mind, even 30 minutes is a benefit.

I’m impressed with what I’ve been able to get done since we’ve self-isolated.  I have completed 4 books and started my 5th book since the start of March.  I’ve kept up on a 30-day song challenge; today I posted day 28.  I’ve altered the challenge to be 30 days of Elton John songs.  I’ll have to consider what challenge I’ll take up next to post on Instagram and Facebook.

I was asked to contribute to a collection of stories for people getting through this COVID-19 pandemic. Outside of a speech, this was my first long form (2000 word) composition in a long time.  I think it will be published; I’ll keep you updated on this – it is very exciting to think this might happen.

I recently thought that I should start to reduce the number of CD’s I have; this has led to a new project of reviewing my collection of 1500+.  I’m listening by artist by artist daily to CDs and rethinking if I think it was a wise purchase or not.  I’ve been posting on this each day.  After 5 days and 12 CDs I’d keep 9 and could do without 3.  Based on this ratio there could be a number of CDs heading to a used CD shop.  Doing this will be  much more difficult than saying it.

Because of my work, I am attuned to the news a lot, even recreational TV watching is centred around the news.  I realize that I have watched too much news when I recognize the cycle of live/taped newscasts on CTV and CBC.  Radio gives me a huge reprise because almost all of it is live.  I recently re-started receiving the Globe and Mail at my door daily, this has given me so much to read, more about international affairs as our TV is really focused (as they should be) on Canada.  The capacity of TV and radio to present stories from around the globe (pun intended) is very limited.  Getting the newspaper also prevents me to searching and scrolling websites to find these stories – the stories are handed to me.  I recognize the newspaper is a small joy I am glad to have back.

We’re always on the search for different opinions; podcasts and live streaming have given us access to this.  Once a week we’ve dedicated an evening to listening to 2 or 3 podcasts.  The world of podcasting seems endless, so many options and so many streaming services offering everything you could possibly want to listen to. Trying to find interesting podcasts still is an overall challenge.

Some of what we’ve been listening to includes the Munk Conversations, a new live stream that airs weekly, it’s an extension of the quarterly Munk Debates.  The first in the series featured Malcolm Gladwell as a guest a couple of weeks ago and discusses what a post-COVID world looks like.  TEDtalks have a YouTube series of interviews that have had interesting people and topics.  We listened to Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat, Love Pray talk about how “it’s OK to feel overwhelmed” and have subsequently recommended it to others.

In the traditional podcast format, Peter Mansbridge’s “The Bridge” is a good listen. It’s like having Peter in your living room talking to you for 30 or so minutes without letting you stop and ask a question.  I have become a regular listener of the “And Another Thing” podcast with former MP Tony Clement and Broadcaster Jodi Jenkins.  Guest have included Tony’s barber Johnny Awesome in a very entertaining episode and MP’s, Senators, journalists and comedians.

Another I really enjoy is the “Herle Burly”, with former Ontario Liberal campaign manager David Herle.  The podcasts tend to be longer and run an hour or longer so this is a good one to listen to while while sipping on something.  For fun political jousting David has former Conservative Campaign Manager Jenni Byrne and Liberal strategist Scott Reid regularly join in.  It’s like being a fly on the wall in a political backroom session.

Right now, my list of podcasts seems limited and I’m looking for something new to listen to.  Send me your recommendations, please. It will be another way I will stay COVID occupied.

I know that there’s so much more to stay busy beyond books, music, the news and TV.  I haven’t decided how much I want to diversify the free time I have but I am always on the lookout for it.  Tell me what you’re doing in your #quarantime.  As always thanks for reading.  Stay safe.


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

The City is Lonely

“Walking down an empty street, listening to the sound of your own footsteps. Shutters closed, blinds drawn, doors locked against you. And you aren’t sure whether you’re walking toward something, or if you’re just walking.”  Robert E Lee


My last public outing with a large group was on March 11th; it seems like a lifetime ago.

Have you been outside lately?  Have you seen what’s happening? Well, I guess you haven’t because we’ve all been inside, inside to stay safe and keep everyone else safe.  I wouldn’t call it a ghost town, but it is pretty close. There is not a whole lot happening on the streets, in the schools and in the parks and whoa, the malls – let me tell you about the malls!

Busy intersections like Laurier and Elgin in Ottawa are vacant, physical distancing is easy, cars and bikes are few and far between.

Staying safe at home means cars are parked in driveways and garages.  Downtown the street cleaners have been racing through the streets of Ottawa at record with almost nothing to stop them.  I pity the car that’s towed, nothing stops the cleaning of the streets. The sand, grit and salt being swept away, means no rocks being spun up at cyclists, people and puppies – the last vestiges of winter are gone!  Near empty streets leave lots of room for pothole crews to fill-in the ravages of winter (though I am still waiting to see this being done downtown).

Schools were once filled with the sound of screaming during recess, unleashing energy that’s been waiting to explode. School yards are empty, play structures are off limits.  School yards are closed, throwing  a football, tossing a baseball or kicking a soccer ball is now done on empty streets.  The call of “car” is the only thing that can stop the the activity. All I hear at schools are the echoing sounds of bells that signify the start of the school day, the end of lunch and recess.

The noise, and bustle of construction has stopped cold.  Projects that should be nearing completion (and are not an essential infrastructure) are at a standstill.  While there is no work being done these structures are more modern art that a work on progress.  Highway overpasses being built are stalled in a state of concrete and bare rebar and traffic jams are no more.

Main streets are dark, it is sad, businesses have turned off the lights and locked the door.  Some businesses are attempting to survive with a shop and drop model, or a pick online and pickup at the door. Restaurants are relying on food delivery services to create revenues, and to keep some employees on the payroll.

Now I look at the dimmed lights and the “sorry we’re closed until further notice” signs on doors.  Some of these signs were hastily handwritten while others were created on a computer. I wonder if this is a sign of who’ll survive and who will re-open when this is (mostly) all over.  For now I crave a quarter-pounder bacon & cheeseburger , it happens when I walk past a poster in an empty bus shelter, never has it been so mouth-watering (don’t worry, I was more than 6ft away from the nearest person when I was salivating).


Malls are a now just a reminder of past sales, shopping and retail therapy sessions.  From bus shelters to buses to trains, reduced schedules and empty busses and trains zip by.  We have turnstiles that are not turning, the only people in LRT stations are the red-vested helpers to guide people through the system.  They wait to be helpful.

I yearn to hear the bagpipers and drummers rehearsing in Confederation Park and watch the Ultimate matches. Will COVID-19 kill Pokémon Go?  No more are the groups of people wandering with there eyes on their small screens looking for the hotspots where elusive Pokémon character live.

The march of the Governor General’s Pipes and Drums Ceremonial Guard from the Cartier Drill Hall to the great lawn of Parliament Hill has been halted.  The military precision which was on display daily, starting at 9:45am and ending with the march back completed at 11:15am sharp now is a memory.

The quiet of the city is our new normal; the absence of people is the new normal of the city, the City is lonely. The city wants its people back.  We want to be back as well.

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

Crisis? Yes and an Emergency!

Crisis? Yes and an Emergency

It’s amazing how the simplest of ideas gets complicated – but trust a politician to do just that.

The end of January, Ottawa City Council unanimously voted to declare an affordable housing and homelessness emergency or was that a crisis or maybe it was both. The motion, after the bickering stopped to officially declare “an affordable housing and homelessness crisis and emergency” was moved by Councillor Catherine McKenney.  The vote was, as I mentioned, was unanimous 20-0, three Councilors were not present for the vote.

The question remains though, what steps can the city take to address crisis and avoid just giving lip service to the motion.  Here are 3 steps the city can take to address the Housing and Homelessness Emergency.


Somerset Ward Councillor Catherine McKenney

Assist non-profit housing providers to expand their services. This could come in the form of no/low interest loans to bring new units online. I have previously advocated that housing providers are part of the cycle of housing. It takes time and adjustment to go from no housing to independent living, this is where housing providers come in. New beds and rooms for those living on the street is a steppingstone to living on their own. Housing providers give key life skill training and assistance, without this you set up individuals for failure when they’re on their own.  After weeks, months and years of living on the street and in shelters a period of transition is essential and the assistance that staff and support workers provide set everyone who has lived on the street up for success and not a setback.  The no/low interest loans will provide growth in this sector that is needed.

With the housing waitlist now at 12,000 households, clearly the construction of new affordable housing can be the primary action to make a dent in the list.  To be honest, the list is not complete, there are individuals that are NOT on the list because they know they will never get a a place to live – and that is the real crisis.  The emergency is getting them on the list and into a home. Both Liberal and Conservative federal governments have tried to establish programs to help with the housing issue.

The Conservatives had Housing First and the Liberals released the National Housing Strategy, but with both these plans it takes money.  With the demand for funding and money from the federal government being pulled from so many directions what programs will have to suffer for Ottawa and other cities to get the money to build new affordable housing?  These solutions will half to come from within Ottawa’s council chambers.  But that seems unlikely because of what I believe is the third thing that has to happen.

The Mayor needs to take up the challenge, and I mean take this challenge serious.


Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson

The Mayor has been coasting for years in the City’s top position. The Emergency must be his call to action to step out of his zone and feel uncomfortable about the housing emergency. When we are challenged, we can accomplish great things, but we need to embrace the feeling of being outside our comfort zone. By doing this we learn how to expand and grow a new larger zone – we will have succeeded where we could not have before. But the Mayor needs to create that comfortless environment. In this case he needs to be challenged by an outside force.

Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard this week suggested there was a “Mayor’s Club” and that the Mayor’s inner cabinet is full of allies.  If there was an issue that the Mayor could be challenged from the inside the Housing Emergency is it.  Somerset Ward Councillor Catherine McKenney has the lead on the Housing file for the City of Ottawa, however she is on the outside of the City all powerful FEDCO committee.  FEDCO could use some Urban influence, that can be achieved by appointing an Urban Councillor to the Finance and Economic Development Committee (FEDCO).

FEDCO currently has representation from Rural, Suburban, East, West and the South Ottawa regions. What’s missing? The downtown and centre of the City has no seat on the committee that makes key municipal decisions. No Central/Urban representation? How does a committee as powerful as FEDCO not have representation from every region of the city?

I had a brief run in the 2010 Ottawa elections under the banner of  “Somerset matters”, and it partially because of that that #RedHeartBlueSign was borne. The banner highlighted Somerset Ward, but I also wanted to show that Somerset ward matters and should not be ignored. Sadly it seems nothing has changed since I saw this gap at City Hall in 2010.

Without the Mayor having someone pushback on a key matter such as homelessness and housing,  Ottawa and the Mayor cannot move ahead on the emergency until there is someone on the inside pushing boundaries on this issue.

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


Have Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals `Jumped the Shark`?

jump the shark

phrase of jump

(of a television series or movie) reach a point at which far-fetched events are included merely for the sake of novelty, indicative of a decline in quality.


For those of us of a certain age we have imbedded in our minds the image of Fonzie water skiing, while wearing his leather jacket, jumping over a shark and lived to tell about it! It is widely accepted that it was the beginning of the end of the TV Show `Happy Days`. Rating for the show started dip following the fifth season, the season in which the shark was jumped.

It is difficult to determine just when the Wynne government jumped the shark, as there are so many different decisions they have made. I suggest that the decision to change the funding for Autism and their radical way to reduce the IBI wait list for IBI treatment funding is the moment Kathleen Wynne jumper her shark!

The autism announcement did not start like a shark moment, it was quite the opposite. March 29 2016, the Ontario government announced it was investing $333M to improve Autism services in Ontario.

Photos courtesy of Guy Annable

In its news release the government said:

The newly expanded children’s autism program will make it easier for families to access services for their children by reducing wait times, providing more flexible services based on children’s needs, and serving more children and youth. It will also help children receive intensive therapy services during the key early developmental years.

 As it turns out the government foreshadowed how it would reduce wait times in that statement with `…it will help children receive intensive therapy services during the key early developmental year`s…` If only we had read between the lines when the announcement was made.

Flash forward to only a couple weeks later when it was announced that children over the age of five would no longer receive the intensive therapy. Children over five currently receiving the therapy were reportedly immediately cut off and therapy was halted.

In one swish of the budgetary knife, the waitlist was greatly reduced!

The impact of this one decision on families has been widely reported with harsh words for Premier Kathleen Wynne and Children and Youth Services Minister Tracy MacCharles.

This heartless measure will prove to be the `jump the shark` moment for the Wynne government. Even if this decision is reversed and the funding is restored for children that have ASD there will be no more good faith left with this government.

There have been many defining moments of this government with their bad decisions that have detrimental effects on Ontarians. This however, is their moment where Kathleen Wynne and this Liberal government has shown how little they cares for families and Autistic children. There is NO going back on this moment to gain back the trust and whatever good faith they had left with the Ontario electorate.

Kathleen Wynne has indeed `jumped the shark`!


NOTE: This is the 100th post that I have written for #RedHeartBlueSign. Thank you for sticking with me and reading!


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