Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: elections

Weekly Column: Let’s keep the political conversations going – and include kids

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops on Monday, October 21, 2019.

By the time you are reading this (this was on Monday of course), the voting is in full swing. Did you vote? Please do, voting is defining democratic right that no one should take for granted. The campaign has been wild enough and many say politics is ugly. Yes, it is at times, but we cannot do without. And voting gets us closer to where we want to be. Hopefully. I know, it’s a nail biter.

Regardless of how one feels about the campaign, there is something we all need to acknowledge: it takes courage to put yourself out there as a candidate. The volume of nastiness that comes to wards those whose names are up resembles a tsunami of some sort; discouraging even, but such is the nature of the game.

Why Everyone’s Vote Is Vital

Originally published as a column in CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on May 1, 2017. 

Our days are rife with politics. News, campaign bites, signs abounding. Provincial elections coming up! Wednesday night found me listening to Elizabeth May at the Double Tree Hilton hotel downtown. No matter your colours, politically speaking, an admirable and inspiring presence like Ms. May’s transcends all of that. She has a straight backbone and accountability. We need more politicians like her to help restore people’s trust that things can turn out better after all.

We can get ourselves there on May 9, or between May 3 to 6, if you prefer advance voting. Please get out and vote. Voting is, at once, the right, duty and chance that can see us building a better future.

To say the clock that measures our time as a species on this planet is ticking may sound too much like the doom and gloom predictions that environmentalists have been delivering lately. I agree, it’s not pretty. But it’s real.

Last Friday, president Trump reversed the order regarding drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic. The oceans that are already at risk due to warming, acidification, overfishing and plastic accumulation, will see more drilling for fossil fuels. The announcement spoke of jobs and other benefits, without any references to the risks.

That our governments, provincial and federal, should re-examine their stand on how they deal with the fate of future generations, no matter what our neighbours to the south do, is an understatement. We now know that carbon dioxide levels have breached the 410 parts per million threshold. Another kind of beast unleashed, one that we should stop feeding and soon, or else.

One way to do it? Go and cast your vote. Read up on what each candidate and their party stand for, ask questions, and listen to debates. A lot is at stake. Jobs are needed, yes, but creation of jobs should be the result of an ‘out of the box’ process. A much needed reform.

The world as we know it has been changing due to climate change, and in face of that kind of threat, money can do little, if anything, to compensate.

We cannot turn back the clock or put the greenhouse gases back in the bag. But we can ask that our governments show concern for the environment, globally and locally.

And there are many local and province-wide issues our future elected MLAs will have to deal with. In Clearwater, industrial logging at too large a scale in high-risk areas has brought the local population of the Canadian Southern Mountain Caribou to a dire situation: there are but 120 left roaming (and declining).

The infamous Site C project, criticized by environmentalists and scientists here in Canada and abroad is a failure to care of our present government, to put it mildly. An environmental, economic, and cultural disaster waiting to happen. Disasters that have already happened (Mt. Polley mine tailings spill) have yet to be properly addressed, legally, ethically, and morally speaking. The present government has failed at that too.

If environmental issues are not your highest concern, there are plenty of other issues in need of addressing: child poverty (British Columbia has, after all, and shamefully so, the highest child poverty rates in Canada), lack of proper medical care, and lack of a proper school system, to name but a few.

These issues are but testament to the need for change in how our provincial government deals with life at all levels.

It has to be good for more than a select few, and it should happen even in the most remote communities (think access to clean water which is a basic human right.)

It has to come with a vision for what the future could be like, should alternative technologies and industries be promoted so that our pale blue dot and our children have a fighting chance.

It has to come with people being offered jobs that do not put their own communities and health at risk, and it has to come with a good education and medical system.

The order could not be taller. Nothing could be delivered overnight either once May 10th comes around. The future is built one day after another rather than delivered in one day as a done deal.

What matters now is to choose politicians whose minds and hearts are open, and who are willing to communicate and follow up on issues. Leaders with the moral stature and vision that will call for fairness and ethics in determining who gets to do business in British Columbia, making transparency the word of the day and the standing practice in all governmental offices.

Yes, a lot is at stake. Voting is the one thing that can be done to save what can be saved and through that, our future. Please consider casting a vote when the day comes and encourage others to do so too.

Change Starts With Education

IMG_8606It’s the word we’re hearing every day during the ongoing campaign: change. It is, in truth, what keeps the world turning and alive, so it make sense that the elections would become the epitome of the very concept.

The word and its envisioned wake get people fantasizing about what will be after October 19. Change alone is not what we should be after, but positive change, visible and beneficial for all Canadians. And we need a lot of good change to make things better.

With so much at stake, it is only natural to experience the slight hand tremors of the overwhelmed voter. There is no simple answer and yes, there is work involved in searching for the best option that will make the said tremors go away. It is really not enough to just show up to vote; we need to become informed voters who know who and why. If you find yourself hesitating, you’re not alone.

Every day, a new event unfolds, at home or internationally, new boundaries are being traced and we find ourselves wondering who to vote for, so we’re back to the drawing board once again. Who to choose? Why? It might as well be that common sense will invite to clarity; it always does when you let it do its thing.

Needs should come first. Food, water, medical care, education, financial support for those in need, addressing security issues that will not see anyone unfairly monitored or even worse, prosecuted, developing climate change strategies that will see alternative energy source industries thrive and people safe from natural disasters. For starters.

Good food; it is a right, not a privilege. We now know enough about nutrition to realize that corporate agriculture is not the way to go. No amount of pesticide is safe enough, and food coming from huge silos, whether it is vegetables or meat is just not the same as locally grown or raised products.

Food should come unprocessed, supplied by small businesses with faces we can see and know; with people who stand behind their product and supply not only farmer’s markets but also food stores throughout the country. It has been said that only large scale, genetically modified food can feed the growing number of people. It is only logical to argue that corporations know less about the growing of food and there are considerable risks associated with depersonalized food suppliers, one of them being the slow degradation of the very land we need to grow food in the first place.

In the age of corporate agriculture where seed patents are a reality and a company can dictate the way farmers live and operate, most times painfully removed from farm life in the name of profit over people’s health and environmental well-being, we need to go back to understanding growing food from the roots up.

High quality, independent (PR-free) education can provide the pros and cons of such arguments and enough critical thinking should serve as a tool to find the best solution.

We have been witnessing a decrease in the quality of education, and moreover, at a higher level, frequent and shocking abolition of science and the means that support it, be it research labs, libraries, intellectuals whose purpose is to promote knowledge and help it thrive, but who are instead shut down to make room for corporate development that brings profit to a few, but rarely to a community.

By definition, true knowledge should be unencumbered by any financial and political interest. We should employ electoral change to help go back to that. Reinstate the importance of learning, and the need to offer programs that will not stop anyone on the basis of income, reinstating the value of studying hard, knowing that studying is a right, but one that comes with the obligation of excellence.

Excellence is badly needed in addressing various health issues that have been at the centre of many a discussion in the media, from obesity and lifestyle-caused cardiovascular disease, to mental health, addictions, and the lack of quality care for veteran and the elderly. In the age of increasing environmental and lifestyle-related health issues, medical care (hence enough medical doctors of various specialties available in most communities) has to be an election subject, and an important one at that.

As for the environment, well, we’ve been raking up a bad reputation for a while now, our government stubborn enough to stay out of climate change summits. That needs to be addressed and unless people understand why urgent attention is needed, the perception of ill-intended environmentalist who oppose economic development will keep on going, much to the detriment of us all.

We need to educate ourselves and our children that health comes with a healthy environment, which can only be done if we apply knowledge and common sense to the world we live in, understanding that non-renewable energy sources can only take us so far and they come with a price too high to pay (recent storms and the hottest summer on record, plus the rapid melting glaciers as well as the disappearance of many canary-in-a-gold-mine species).

Climate change should have been addressed already and education on the subject will shed light on undeniable true-to-form facts: a thriving green industry provides employability for many and break the vicious circle that holds us dependent to finite, polluting resources.

The needs of a community at large (a country’s needs in fact) are many and diverse, and the task to address them all is gargantuan at best. Which is why we need to ask those in power to address the needs of those who are most at risk if not protected: children with special needs, the elderly, low-income families, and veterans, to name a few.

For all of that and more, we need education. From the first day our children ask why, we need to provide truth and knowledge and that should be enough to help promote integrity and help critical thinking tools develop in each and every one of them so that when it’s time to vote, greater good change will be the first to happen.

Why Every Vote Counts

Initially published as a column on AM News.

To vote or notA couple of weeks ago Canadians living abroad woke up to sobering news: those who have lived abroad for more than five years do not have the right to vote in Canada anymore. The reason, according to the Ontario Court of Appeal, is that their vote would harm Canada’s democracy.

I can almost hear some people ask ‘Canada’s what?’ because, frankly, democracy has been on trial lately. If living abroad for various reasons makes one unfitting to vote, where does Canadian citizenship stand?

A poignant and pertinent letter from Canadian actor Donald Sutherland addresses the issue in a way that makes it impossible not to see the wrongness of it. People have their reasons to live where they live but being a Canadian citizen does not come with an expiration date, nor is it conditioned by where you live.

Are we to expel people from our Canadian midst because they live abroad? Many take a deep interest in what is happening in their own country and their reasons to vote are not to undermine our democracy or well-being, but rather guard against anything that might harm it. Many of them have families still living here and it is in everyone’s interest to safeguard the values of the Canadian society, whether you live here or not.

Some say that Canada does not take a patriotic stand, compared to other countries. Well, this comes as close as one can ask for. People who live outside the countries boundaries are and feel Canadian enough to fight for their right to vote.

While some countries do not allow for dual citizenship, in case of those who choose to get a second one, Canada does not impose such rules. Not yet anyway.

While there are way too many Canadian citizens who live in Canada permanently and, upon seeing – one can hope everyone does – the happenings in our social and political environments, choose to forgo adding their vote, there is nothing wrong and everything right about allowing those who live abroad and want to vote the right to do so. If anything, our government, true to honouring every citizen of our country as every citizen is expected to honour the country by caring and thus voting, should go above and beyond in making sure that everyone who holds a Canadian passport has a place to vote.

Because every vote counts. More so in a country where a lot has been happening and many are crying foul over recent decisions of the present government. More so in a country that many decry the slow but steady disappearance of democratic values.

Would a democratic society allow its citizens to be kept in the dark about many political decisions (let’s call them done deals) that the government makes, decisions that cannot be revoked for a few decades and could possibly affect the country, its resources and, ultimately, its citizens?

Would a democratic society allow knowledge to be pushed to the side, through destroying reference libraries and having scientists who oppose the present government’s proposals muzzled because that would affect the financial gains of big corporate giants?

Would a democratic society allow for any of its citizens to be stripped of their right to vote unless they willingly renounce their Canadian citizenship?

A country’s affairs are never solely a country’s affairs. They pertain to the whole world because, nowadays more than ever, we are facing the reality of ‘we are all citizens of the world’. We are, each and every one of us, and that makes it every one’s responsibility to make tomorrow better. Think climate change for example.

Climate change issues that have been surfacing lately, seen in severe weather patterns affecting many countries, more or less directly, and endangering the future of many who are already on the brink of hardship, also seen in our immediate environment here in our own province, represent a global call to action that has been acknowledged by many political figures.

That Canada has been missing from most of the meetings addressing these global issues after retiring from the Kyoto protocol, more so when some of the economic ventures of our country contribute to the said issues, makes one wonder whether Canadian citizens have their right to speak up and express their views as one would in a democracy respected at all.

If our democracy is strong and reinforced from within, nothing from the outside can damage it, not a few votes by well-intended citizens anyway.

While Canadians living abroad may not know the nitty gritty of every day social and political events here, they have a say in what elections bring because their passport gives them the right to do so. If anything, a view from afar adds yet another opinion about our life here. And if a country relies on true democratic values, opinions, whether they are pro and cons, would only offer opportunities to revisit the said values.

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