Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: voting

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.

Voting For The Next 40 Years

Initially published as a column on NewsKamloops on October 9, 2015.

October 19 is around the corner and the word of the day is voting. It’d better be. There is much at stake and citizens of this country are the ones in charge of it all by casting their ballot. The importance of this year’s voting is immense. We are voting not just for the next four years, but the next 40 and beyond.

Perusing the news is enough to help give us a bird’s eye view of the matters at hand and persuade anyone with a conscience to go out and vote. Ethical standards, or lack thereof rather, stand out as the driving engine behind many a foul matters that surface through various media outlets.

And we have to be discerning and realize that even though some issues seem to not pertain to us all, they do, more than we realize.

We have yet to see positive action that will address the death of the 1,181 missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and, while at that, action that will recognize and address violence against women, a dreadful reality still very present in our ever so polite society. Comments such as the one by former conservative MP John Cummings that blame the victims for putting themselves at risk rather than seeking the perpetrators are at best, shameful, and should make us realize that safety is not a privilege of a few but the right of everyone.

We have yet to see a justice system that will not be in any way influenced by money, if the perpetrators happen to have them, but will hold the value of truth and honesty above anything else.

We have yet to see a system where no victim will be ignored in any way, or their suffering or death brushed aside and classified as not important enough to warrant a public inquiry (see the case of foster children and youths who died while in government care). Public inquiries have the the potential to bring better rules that will see children protected and minded as they should be, and better qualified and ethically-driven people in key positions.

A society is never healthy until health is seen at all levels and by all people. That implies many things: ability to assess the situation, courage to address it and take action, and last but not least, transparency when it comes to the public knowing about it. Referendums to address issues that concern us all should be commonplace in a democratic society like ours. Unfortunately, these things are the result of people pushing for them to happen.

Hence the need to have our candidates committed to make changes that will see better things happen for Canadians, at all levels of society, and also willing to maintain transparency along the way, a feature that has been sorely missing more and more from our political landscape, a detrimental thing to us all, save for a selected few.

We have yet to see government action that will address climate change. There is a plethora of signs pointing to a suffering environment and no matter which side you happen to be on (the deniers’ numbers are dwindling by the day), the truth is that we all depend on clean air, water and soil. All of them have been suffering lately and that needs to be addressed.

Expectedly, climate change has also become one hot issue with the voters, for many of them ranking as the second most important after the economy.

Climate change is real, despite some candidates not being convinced by the existing evidence (explained as such by Conservative candidate for the North Okanagan-Shuswap, Mel Arnold). Evidence is not only here but staring us in the face; not a pretty stare either.

Whether at home or abroad, there are many changes we see in the environment which will only get worse unless properly addressed. The cause needs no further explaining: the progressively increased levels of greenhouse gases are causing warming of the atmosphere, which in turn brings ill such as rising sea levels, warming and acidification of the oceans, melting of glaciers and declining of Arctic ice sheets, dwindling snow reserves that forecast longer wildfire seasons.

It starts with realizing that pollution kills and it is man-made. Scientists at Environment Canada put together a computer-generated video showing how pollution spreads across the Prairies. The video, released to the public this week, is evidence of how gases generated by massive industrial sites (oil and gas, coal-burning plants and the oilsands), travel for hundreds of kilometers, spreading over populated areas and increasing the amount if pollution past acceptable limits. That is what we are all breathing in.

Such evidence should be taken seriously by the candidates and change should follow. A country’s economy is bound to be affected by climate change and it may just be that we are at a fork in the road. We can either ask our soon-to-be-elected leaders to address climate and thus influence the economy in a positive manner while also lessening the dependence on fossil fuels, or continue on the path of exploiting natural resources knowing that Mother Nature is not one we can ever trick into abiding by human-imposed rules.

Our country’s well-being is at stake here. Public health in all aspects, environmental health, an economy that is affected by both, no issue exists by itself. They are all connected and the bettering of one will influence the others in a positive way.

If there’s ever a time to be diligent about doing our homework, this should be it. Moral values such as honesty, ethics and a sense of responsibility for today’s young generation and the ones to follow are to be the guidelines in helping us choose our future leaders. Please vote with a conscience.


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.

If You Believe In Making Good Things Happen, You Need To Vote

Originally published as a column in the AM News on Friday, October 31, 2014. 

It is a time of turmoil, social and political. A few days ago, thousands were present for Cpl. Cirillo’s funeral in Hamilton. Next is Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent’s funeral, who will be laid to rest on Saturday in what the family requested to be a private, no-press-allowed, ceremony. Lest we forget.

As the dust settles and other news will boil over, one can hope that the troubling questions left behind by the sudden and violent deaths of the two soldiers will be answered sooner than later. Much has been said about the charismatic smile of Cpl. Cirillo and his good nature, less so about why he was shot by someone who managed to run amok in an area that has at least one surveillance camera.

Presumably, someone was watching that screen at all times, in which case, how could a man with a long gun be overlooked. And if he wasn’t, where were the security forces that were supposed to come out in a blink and contain the situation before anyone got killed. Answers are not easy to come by, and accountability is an elusive creature we want to see materialized among politicians.

Then we have the lingering, growing as we speak, energy-related issues that transform people into rabid partisans of the pro and cons arguments. We see it all over the country, and we see it in our own city.

Ideally, our elected officials should be able to sort it out in a way that will be good for all and there will be someone who will answer the tough questions or pay the actual price of damage should any damage occur after all precautions have been taken. Or oppose a project unless it is done right, which is the latest case of the David and Goliath type of confrontation between Kinder Morgan and the city of Burnaby, mayor and people standing together. Accountability is what helps with that.

We can toil over these issues and more all we want; truth is, there is no easy solution. Problems arise daily, some bigger than others, and it is often that people feel helpless about them. Expectedly so, when questions fall of deaf ears. Which is why voting becomes the one thing anyone can do to lessen the feeling of helplessness.

Unless we go out and vote whoever we think will do a good job at addressing issues that have to do with the state of our democracy, our environment, education, health, housing problems, and so much more, nothing will be done in a way that feels right.

Someone said to me ‘if I do not vote, at least I cannot say I voted the wrong person when they don’t do their job…’ But is that the point? It is never a matter of whether a politician does it right or wrong by me only. I can voice my concerns, I can express ideas and if I feel in any way betrayed by the ones I chose, I have to take it further than just sanctioning their activity in my head.

I do not vote my personal councilors and mayor, just like you do not either. It is a concerted effort and, as always, my deed (vote in this case) will affect your life and the other way around. A community that can vote is a community where good things can happen.

There is no escaping this one if we want to see changes and issues dealt with in a responsible manner. Freedom of speech and freedom to vote are two important assets in a democracy and they should be exercised by the people who have them.

There have been multiple instances of freedom of speech being impended (see the case of Canadian scientists being silenced to the point of scientists from other countries expressing concern over practices that are unbecoming of a democratic government) and there are cases of truth being withheld for various reasons.

There are decisions being made in regards to pipelines, mines and fracking that are questionable to say the least. There are accidents such as tailing ponds ruptures, oil spills and chronic health issues in many who live near exploitation sites and no one has to live with the consequences expect for the people who suffered in the first place. There are provincial parks that may be having their boundaries redefined just so pipelines could run through it.

All these matters have to be addressed in a responsible manner. More than that, the government officials who address these issues and more, have to be accountable to voters and open to having dialogues as needed.

In which case, one wonders, where are such perfect politicians hiding?

There are no perfect humans, politicians or otherwise. But in case of politicians, they have to understand their mission and the trust they are given by people like you and me.

More so, they need to be able to stand up right, be accountable and make truth their ally. If we all speak the truth, things are bound to get better.

I guess the best way to describe my expectations for what’s to come is to say that we elect representatives that will keep on growing to become great politicians rather than go for the perfect ones from the start, because truth is, no one is perfect and everyone should be given chances to grow and do better every day. What I do ask though is openness and a social conscience.

For that, I will go vote and I urge you to do the same. It is a privilege to have choices.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén