I went to get my passport renewed yesterday and was in and out of the building in under 15 minutes. I live just across the street from the passport office and after the pandemic I saw the people waiting to go inside in long lines that stretched far down my block.
I’d heard politicians from opposing parties accuse the Liberal government of inefficiency and irresponsibility for the way passport offices were being run. So I was wondering what kind of experience I would have at the passport office.
I was unable to apply for a new passport till we returned home from Africa in March since I needed my passport with me in Tanzania and South Africa and you have to submit your old passport to get a new one.
I chose not to mail in my passport for renewal because there was federal employee strike talk in the air when we returned to Canada and I didn’t want my passport to get marooned and forgotten in some passport office during a strike.
So I decided my best bet was to make an appointment to get my passport renewed in- person. I was a little concerned when the soonest appointment I could get was almost three months away.
But when I went in yesterday morning I was greeted by name by an officer at the front door and sent up to the fourth floor where again I was greeted by name and ushered up to a counter.
The woman who helped me was efficient and friendly and told me I’d done a great job of filling out my application form. We chatted a bit about my upcoming trip to France as she checked the pages of my application, put a void stamp on my old passport and I paid for my new one.
The whole thing only took a few minutes. The clerk reassured me that my passport would arrive in my mailbox at the latest in ten days nearly a month before my upcoming trip to France.
As I left the security guard said “Have a good day MaryLou.”
“You too” I said. “And thank you for the great service.”
I realize the passport offices in Canada have been criticized of late and maybe that was good because the pressure was on for them to improve.
If my experience yesterday is any indication they have found a way to up their game and provide efficient and friendly service.
I watched the video recording of the budget presentations made to the Winnipeg City Council by concerned citizens in March.
Two different presenters (at 1:27 and 3:22) spoke regarding the inclusion of certain books on the shelves of the city’s public libraries. Both presenters claimed there were books in the public libraries in Winnipeg that could be labelled pornographic and that violated the criminal code of Canada.
One presenter suggested the city freeze funding to the libraries till these books were removed or the library entered into meaningful dialogue with those who wanted them removed.
At one point when a presenter was talking about a book with LGBTQ content councillor Sherri Rollins who sits on the Winnipeg Library Board warned that the presenter’s references, in her opinion, were coming dangerously close to hate speech.
The city councils in Winkler and Altona have had a similar request with regard to the books in the South Central Regional Library and just a few days agothe Brandon School Board heard a presentation by parents wanting certain books removed from school libraries in their city.
In my opinion, banning books is always a bad idea. Of course, parents should be able to decide what their children read but they should not be allowed to decide what other people’s children read.
What will be left on library shelves if every special interest group is allowed to have a say in what kind of books should or should not be in libraries?
People who serve as head librarians are highly trained individuals most with degrees in library science. They are hired to do a job and we need to let them do it. Part of that job is selecting the books that will be in the library.
I have served on many different library boards and committees in the past and know all libraries have selection policies in place to provide a guide for determining what kinds of books go into their library collections. These selection policies are created in a reasoned way with input from stakeholders.
Here in Manitoba,we need to be very cautious and thoughtful about how we handle requests for banning books lest we go inthe direction of our American neighbours.
Requests for book banns and restrictions reached a record high in 2022 in the United States and what is even more scary is the American Library Association is getting reports of librarians receiving threats to their personal safety and being threatened with legal actions by those who don’t agree with their book selections.
Judy Blume a children’s author whose books were often banned in the 1960s has become a spokeswoman for the current effort in the United States to stop book banning.
She says…….”It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”
Banning books is a political act. It is harmful to authors, readers and the intellectual integrity and freedom of society as a whole.
I hope we are able to put a stop to any attempt to have it happen here in Manitoba.
“Greed – if only we could get rid of greed. That is the only hope for humanity.”
On a walking tour called Apartheid to Freedom in Cape Town last month our young guide stopped in front of a government building and told us how he believed the corruption rife in the ruling African National Congress party was leading South Africa down a path to ruin.
I asked him if he had any hope for the future of his country. He replied, “I have hope for the future of humanity if only we can get rid of greed.”
In his opinion that was the problem all over the world, not just in South Africa. Greed. People who wanted more and more power and money and were willing to get it and hold onto it without thought of how that pursuit of power and money might impact others.
So many people we spoke to in South Africa talked about their disillusionment with the African National Congress, the party of Mandela and the first to be democratically elected in 1994.
The party may have started out with high ideals for making life better for everyone in South Africa but its leaders have become corrupt and now care only about lining their own pockets. All the young people we talked to said they would never vote for the African National Congress party again.
Our tour guide agreed. He was not afraid to openly criticize the greedy leaders of his country but was quick to point out that greed is at the root of all the problems humanity facesin every country.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot ever since.
Do you see a pattern? It’s one you will find worldwide. Families are getting smaller.
And because of that……..there soon won’t be enough people in the world!
For years now we’ve been told that the increasing population of our planet is bad for the environment and that the demands so many people are making on the world’s resources will eventually destroy it.
We’ve been bombarded with the message that having fewer children is the primary way to save the planet. We must curb population growth!
That’s why it seemed strange to read, in a variety of recent articles in the New York Times and The Globe and Mail and The Lancet that the world’s population is about to experience an irreversible declineand while that may be great for the environment it’s not necessarily good for the human family.
In countries where decreasing populations are already a reality like Japan, Italy, China, South Korea, Australia, Sweden, Taiwan and the Philippines governments are actively intervening to increase the birth rate. They are very worried about how a smaller and smaller population of young people will be able to handle the burden of caring for a larger and larger population of old people.
These countries realize they need a growing contingent of young people to…….
use their money to purchase enough consumer goods to maintain their country’s economic health,
do the jobs that are required to keep their country’s infrastructure healthy and functioning,
pay taxes that will support the social programs which make everyone’s lives in their country better,
andcontribute their minds and skills to the pool of creative thinkers and inventors required to solve their country’s problems.
Some countries are offering generous cash payouts to citizens for having children, while others are increasing the length of parental leave and making child care more affordable. Some are offering free fertility clinic services or increased tax deductions for families with children.
In Canada we’ve been relying on immigration to increase our population, setting targets of some half a million immigrants a year. But as the population declines in the countries our immigrants come from, that may not always be a viable option.
In 2023 Canada rolled out programs for free dental care for children and $10 a day childcare for families. Perhaps they are hoping by lowering the costs of having a child more people will be encouraged to add to their families.
It is still true that a declining world population will help the environment which is a positive thing but……… it will create a host of other major problems.
I won’t be around to see what happens but I’m hopeful that my grandchildren with their curious intelligence, creative spark and compassionate personalities will contribute to finding ways to deal with the challenges and opportunities a declining world population will bring with it.
Erin O’Toole, former leader of Canada’s Conservative party has a podcast called Blue Skies. A recent blog post associated with it featured an excellent opinion piece bemoaning the way Canadians havebecome accepting and complacent about the aggressive often violent language in current political discourse and the tone of division and distrust which seems to permeate it.
O’Toole expresses the hope that in 2023 he will see fewer profanity-laden flags and placards and signs about Justin Trudeau. According to O’Toole, they are a symbol of a kind of hyper-aggressive rhetoric he fears is normalizing rage and damaging democracy.
O’Toole is dismayed at the way extremists on both the political left and right are treating one another like enemies. They refuse to even listen to opposing perspectives. They make no effort to persuade people to change their minds in a reasoned fashion. Instead, they resort to pandering to the views of those who already support them with attention-grabbing insults. This only leads to greater polarization.
O’Toole suggests some sources of this polarization – the amplification of angry voices by social media, the influence of the American political scene and the frustration brought on by the pandemic.
Mr O’Toole’s remarks reminded me of a Steinbach friend who was driving his grandson home from school one day during the convoy protests. The child saw an expletive referring to Justin Trudeau on a sign and asked his grandfather why adults were allowed to say things about the prime minister he had been taught were impolite and disrespectful.I remember going for a walk in the nearby community of Mitchell with a friend around the same time and seeing a similar profanity about the prime minister on a building there and thinking children see that every day.
Mr O’Toole says he made it very clear to his own children during the last election that the Prime Minister was “not his enemy” but his political opponent.
Ironically the former Conservative Party leader is a prime example of just how easy it is to forget one’s laudable goals of sticking to policy critiques rather than personal ones. It took only a minute to find a news article online from the last federal election campaign where Mr O’Toole slammed Justin Trudeau as “privileged, entitled and only looking out for number one.”
I give him credit for suggesting in his recent podcast he is having second thoughts about that kind of rhetoric.
Although Mr O’Toole says both politicians on the left and right have been extremists in their actions and words conservative politicians have an even greater responsibility to affect change because seeding division and disorder is contrary to the very foundational principles of modern conservatism.
Mr O’Toole references the philosopher and economist Edmund Burke who he suggests provided the framework for the modern conservative movement. Burke warned that rash actions and disorderly conduct were not the hallmarks of true conservatives and that rage could quickly tear down things prudence and deliberation had spent centuries building.
Although anyone who reads my column regularly knows I have never been a Conservative Party supporter I find Mr O’Toole’s advice both wise and timely and something I personally need to take to heart when I write about politics.
In the coming year instead of treating other Canadians who we may disagree with as enemies, and becoming outraged with them, we need to try our best to refrain from personal attacks and engage in reasoned debate and respectful interaction.
I wasn’t surprised when the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba called a news conference recently to expose the provincial government’s ineptitude in distributing the new federal subsidy for daycare.
I wasn’t surprised to learn Manitoba wasn’t getting the federal dollars for daycare into parents’ hands because I have two granddaughters in daycare, one in Saskatchewan and one in Manitoba. My children in Saskatchewan noticed a substantial drop in their daughter’s daycare fees, as did all Saskatchewan parents, shortly after their province signed a childcare agreement with Ottawa, but….. my children in Manitoba have received no price reduction at all in the fees for their daughter’s care.
In September I was visiting my niece in Ontario who owns a private daycare facility. She spoke positively about how the federal subsidy was lowering rates for all her clients.
My anecdotal family evidence had me wondering why Manitoba daycare fees hadn’t been reduced like those in other provinces. Now I know.
Apparently, the Manitoba government wanted to be sure the federal money went to the neediest families. That’s admirable. But they set the bar for what was needy at a level that meant few families could qualify.
Then they failed to advertise properly, so most parents weren’t even aware they qualified, and finally, they made the red tape and paperwork for both parents and daycares so onerous that applying for the subsidy was a challenge.
The province also didn’t use the money to add more childcare workers, increase their wages, or improve their working conditions and benefits. My member of Parliament Leah Gazan raised that concern in the House of Commons just last week.
So…. most of the federal money Manitoba received to lower daycare fees and improve the quality of child care is sitting in the bank untouched, while in places like the Yukon they have already fully implemented a maximum $10 daily fee for all families, have created 236 new childcare spaces with their federal funding and have increased the wages of fully qualified childcare workers to $30.00 an hour.
Some people have speculated Manitoba’s Conservative party didn’t want to make the Liberal leaders in Ottawa look good so they deliberately took steps to insure the daycare program the Trudeau government funded wasn’t successful.
I don’t buy that, because as my family’s experience proves, Conservative governments in Saskatchewan and Ontario have successfully lowered all daycare fees. In fact, it would probably be wise for the Stephenson government to consult with their politically aligned counterparts in other provinces, for guidance on how to make better use of the federal daycare subsidy.
The news is filled with stories about businesses and medical facilities and hundreds of Manitoba employers who are having trouble finding workers for vacant positions.
Many parents were forced to quit their jobs during the pandemic to care for their children. If we want to encourage them to return to work, we have to insure daycare in our province is affordable and high quality. Doing so makes economic sense.
I’d like to believe the daycare fee subsidy was ineffectively implemented in Manitoba due to a lack of planning and organizationwhich can happen when you are trying to figure out how to administer a new program.
I’d prefer to discount the nefarious political motivations some social media sites have suggested for the botched rollout.
However, now that the shortcomings of the Manitoba plan have been clearly exposed and other provinces and territories are providing models for more efficient and successful ways of lowering daycare fees and improving services for all families, we should expect our province to move quickly to make the necessary changes required.
Hopefully, soon the parents of my Manitoba granddaughter will see the same reduction in daycare fees the parents of her cousin in Saskatchewan are already enjoying.
“These women need to get married,” said Fox television commentator Jesse Waters as findings from the exit polls in the recent American election were being discussed. Waters was referring to the fact that single women in the United States voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates. Another finding from the exit polls was that young people voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.
Waters proposal for getting those single young women to vote Republican was to get them married to men. Marriage to a man would bring these radical women to their senses.
Political commentator Mollie Hemingway went even further. She blamed the lack of support for the Republicans among single young women on the Democrats. She claimed the Democrats support of abortion rights and LGBTQ rights had encouraged women not to marry men and have children with them.
Writing about the voting patterns of American young women in the Washington Examiner another conservative political commentator said women’s independence and equality is to blame for the decline in the marriage rate and this is a bad thing for the country and its future. Is he suggesting we need to curtail women’s equality and independence?
Can you believe that in the year 2022 there are still people who think this way? It boggles the mind and is frankly pretty scary.
To me it makes perfect sense why the vote was skewed along gender and age lines. If you are a single female parent struggling to get by you won’t vote for a party that wants to cut social services, take away your affordable medical plan and force you to have another child you can’t support financially.
If you are a young single woman who has just graduated from university or college of course you will vote for the party that wants to help you with your student loans, so you can start your career without crippling debt.
Although I couldn’t find particular statistics for single young womenin Canada we have a definite gender divide when it comes to voting. The Liberal Party gets twice as many votes from women as the Conservatives do. Now why would that be?
“Are any of them anti-vaxxer, anti-science people?”
“Would any of them ban books from schools?”
“Are any of them homophobic?”
I was standing in line to vote in Winnipeg’s municipal election on Wednesday when I overheard those questions being asked during a conversation between a couple of people standing right behind me. I’m not sure if the two were partners or just friends but they seemed to know each other quite well.
The man said he had decided which mayoral and city counsellor candidates he was voting for, but he hadn’t had time to research the school trustees running for office in our area.
The woman beside him said she had done due diligence and had looked up information about each school trustee candidate.
That’s when he asked the three questions above. Were any candidates anti-science, supporters of book banning or clearly against rights for the LGBTQ community?
The woman said she had checked out all the trustee candidates and those three things wouldn’t be concerning about any of them if they were elected.
The man breathed a sigh of relief. “Then it doesn’t really matter which one I vote for,” he said.
At first, I was a little dismissive of the fellow who was basing his vote on such narrow criteria but later I realized I was really no differentwhen it came to my voting behaviour.
My major areas of concern in Winnipeg are homelessness, poverty and public safety. I voted for the mayoral candidate who I thought would address those concerns best.
I know in the last federal election my voting decisions were made with certain issues front and centre-respect for women’s bodies, respect for gender and sexual orientation choices, and respect for the scientific research about climate change and pandemics.
In the next provincial election, I already know that adequate funding for education, health care and housing will be my three top concerns.
Essentially, I am the same as the man I overheard at the polling station.
I found the conversation I listened to in the voting line on Wednesday very thought-provoking. I think it provided me with a snapshot of how many Canadians vote.
In this photo from left to right- Governor General David Johnson- Prime Minister Paul Martin- Prime Minister Kim Campbell- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau- Governor General Mary Simon- Prime Minister Stephen Harper-Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Governor General Michaëlle Jean.
I like this photo. It was taken at a ceremony in England where those pictured had gathered as part of the Canadian delegation that attended Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. At the ceremony, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was formally given the Order of Canada.
I like this photo of Canadian leaders because……….
It includes three women, when so often photos of government leaders are exclusively male.
It includes people of very different political persuasionsand beliefs.
It includes people from different geographical areas of Canada- the west, the east, the north, and the south.
It includes people of different ethnicities and racial and cultural origins.
It includes people of various ages. There is an almost forty-year difference between the youngest and oldest.
It includes people who had very different professions before serving as national leaders- teachers, lawyers, writers, journalists, broadcasters, diplomats, professors and economists.
It includes people whose families came to Canada from many different places in the world as well as one person whose ancestors have been in Canada for 5000 years.
It includes people who all speak at least two of Canada’s heritage languages.
I could go on….. but suffice it to say that while we have a long way to go before the leaders of our country truly reflect the diversity of its population this photo proves that we are at least making a start.
And at a time when political leaders are regularly sworn at, insulted, harassed and vehemently criticized for totally inconsequential things, it is good to see these leaders set an example of decorum and respect.
Canadian comic Rick Mercer upon seeing this photo commented that “This is a cool picture. Not a lot of historic love in that room in any direction but yet they appear together and are civil, they might even be enjoying themselves.“
If only we could all try to be civil and respectful towards one another our country would be a better place.
Explaining hisendorsement of Pierre Poilievre for Conservative Party Leader Senator Don Plett said, “we have a woke society out there that we need to move back to where we were in the days of, absolutely, Stephen Harper — but also in the days of Brian Mulroney and our very founding forefathers.”
I take it by founding fathers Senator Plett means the fathers of confederation who came together in 1867 to establish the Dominion of Canada. It puzzles me why Mr Plett would want to move us back to where we were then.
It was a time when women were not considered people but the property of their husbands and fathers. Women couldn’t vote, run for public office, or legally own land. It was illegal for married couples to use contraceptives and women couldn’t charge their husbands with physical assault.
Founding father Sir John A. MacDonald openly admitted to carrying out a plan to starve Indigenous Canadians so they would be forced to move to reserves, and during his term in office residential schools for Indigenous children were established. Neither Indigenous Canadians nor Asian Canadians could vote at the time.
Mr Plett must know of MacDonald’s plan to annex Manitoba territory without granting it provincial status or representation in Ottawa. Louis Riel prevented that. Riel is a forefather a Manitoban like Mr Plett should admire, although I doubt he would want to return to Riel’s tumultuous era in the Red River Settlement.
Would MrPlett like to go back to 1867 when less than half of eligible Canadian children attended school and having access to medical care depended on whether people had enough money? Should we return to a time when it was assumed poverty was the result of some moral failing and any kind of support the poor received came only from the church?
I am indeed indebted to my forefathers and foremothers who chose to come to Canada and start a new life here, but would I want to go back to where society was in those days as Mr Plett thinks we should? Not for a second.
My grandmother often told me how grateful she was that her granddaughters were living in a time when societal attitudes towards women and howthey were treated had improved so much. My grandfather repeatedly said how happy he was about the educational opportunities afforded his grandchildren, Opportunities he didn’t have. Neither wished for society to return to an earlier time. It puzzles me why Mr Plett does.
What is also puzzling about Mr Plett’s statement is his condemnation of what he calls our current woke society. According to the Oxford Dictionary woke means being aware of injustice, particularly in the area of racism. Does Mr Plett not realize the two prime ministers he praised in his endorsement both did something groundbreakingly woke during their tenure in office?
MrHarper was the first Prime Minister to apologise publicly for the treatment of Indigenous children in residential schools admitting it was wrong and caused great harm.
Mr Mulroney is well-known for the landmark speech he gave at the United Nations in 1988 in which he denounced the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Although I might critique Mulroney and Harper for many aspects of their political legacy it would be wrong to say, as Mr Plett implies, that they weren’t aware of the existence of racism or injustice. They both spoke out very publicly about it.
I was not surprised to hear Mr Plett endorse Pierre Poilievre but I was puzzled about the reason he gave for doing so. It didn’t make sense.