Category Archives: Politics

Letting Others Speak For Me

I have written many times before about why banning abortion is the wrong and most ineffective thing to do if we truly want the abortion rate in North America to continue its decline and if we truly care about children and the mothers who birth them.

So my readers will already know that the recent Roe v Wade ruling in the United States has left me heartsick and troubled. I find myself unable to speak about it without a great deal of anger, so I am going to let three others do it for me.

For nearly 50 years, women have had the right to make their own decisions about their bodies. Today, that right was stolen from us. And while we may be devastated by this injustice, we will not be silent. We will not sit back as the progress we have already won slips away. Tomorrow, we will continue to fight — for our daughters and granddaughters, and for ourselves — until all women can decide our own futures once again.- Dr Jill Biden- First Lady of the United States

We want those feeling the pain of today’s wrongful Supreme Court decision to know that you are not alone. God has not abandoned you and neither will we. We will do what we always do when the law loses its love. We will grieve with you and offer space for lament and mourning. We will work with you until the rights of every person are honoured in this land. We will stand with you in protest. We will kneel with you in prayer. And we will maintain our commitment to educate people about abortion access and safe medically supported reproductive healthcare. Now and always, we remain firm in the knowledge that all are beloved of God, and this cause is right and holy.

-Rev. Dr John C. Dorhauer President United Church of Christ

There are days when I can’t live in this country. Not the whole thing at once, including the hateful parts, the misogyny, the brutal disregard of the powerful for the powerless. Sometimes I can only be a citizen of these trees, this rainy day, the family I can hold safe, the garden I can grow. A fire that refuses to go out.

-Barbara Kingsolver- best-selling author of the Poisonwood Bible and Pulitzer Prize nominee

Other posts………

Canada is TRYING to Do The Right Thing About Abortion

Abortion and Summer Jobs

Sex-Selective Abortion

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Mandatory Voting

Should voting be mandatory?  In the recent Ontario election, only 43% of eligible citizens showed up to cast their ballots. It is one of the worst turnouts in a century for any federal or provincial Canadian election. Sadly, however, it is just part of an alarming downward trend in the number of people who care enough to vote in our country. 

What can we do about it?  Twenty-two countries in the world including Greece, Belgium, Australia, Argentina, Thailand, and Singapore have compulsory voting.  Citizens have to vote, or they pay a penalty. Should we be thinking about doing that in Canada too? 

When Canada became a country in 1867 only white men over the age of 21 who owned property could vote. Many people fought long and hard to get the vote for different segments of Canada’s population- women, Indigenous people, young people, incarcerated citizens, those who weren’t property owners, and those with intellectual disabilities. Now that every resident finally has suffrage why are so few using it? 

Perhaps Canadians don’t think their individual votes are important given the current first-past-the-post model of our elections.  Justin Trudeau in his first campaign for prime minister promised to reform our electoral system so citizens would feel their ballot made a difference.  Regrettably, he did not follow through on that promise. 

Perhaps people aren’t voting because of the poor quality of some of the candidates running.  But with all the no-holds-barred animus directed at politicians these days who would want to enter the political sphere and expose their families to the kind of toxic venom that is bound to come their way?  

When the trucker convoys were out in full force with their obscene Trudeau epithets splashed all around I kept thinking that the prime minister’s children were seeing those signs too. Why would quality candidates consider entering the political field when they know it means they and their families are going to be the objects of derision and hate? 

In 2015 former American President Barack Obama suggested that enacting compulsory voting in the United States would counteract the enormous impact of money in American politics and would diversify the voter pool.  

In a recent article in the Toronto Globe and Mail Andrew Coyne said mandatory voting would eliminate voter turnout as a factor in the way campaigns are carried out.  He feels much of the poisonous bile that is currently a part of politics is rooted in strategies by various parties to affect voter turnout either by riling up their own supporters or depressing their opponents’ supporters. 

I voted in the most recent provincial election and I can’t remember an election when I haven’t voted

Some proponents of compulsory voting say it would promote political stability and make people take elections more seriously. Of course, the biggest plus is that it would improve voter turnout. When Australia implemented compulsory voting less than half of its citizens were going to the polls. Now 80% do. 

I think other strategies could be implemented to improve voter turnout like making online voting an option and spending more time in school teaching young people about voting responsibilities. In Los Angeles, they have tried to get citizens to the polls by entering the name of everyone who votes in a draw for a huge cash prize. 

Compulsory voting has critics who say it violates people’s freedom of choice and forces even completely uninformed voters to cast their ballot.

Compulsory voting may not be the best answer to getting more Canadians to participate in the election process, but higher voter turnout is definitely something we should be encouraging and promoting so democracy can work the way it was meant to in our country.

Other posts………

Thanks for Voting

Canadians Need A Civics Lesson

Why Do Men and Women Vote Differently?

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I Shook Her Hand

I met my member of Parliament last week. Leah Gazan was walking up to the entrance of the old Hudson’s Bay Store and I was on my way to work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery when we passed each other on the sidewalk.

Although I voted for Ms Gazan and follow her on social media I had never met her in person before. I almost passed by without saying anything but then blurted out, “You’re Leah Gazan aren’t you.” She stopped. “I’m MaryLou Driedger,” I said “and I am one of your constituents. I want to thank you for doing such a great job of representing our riding.”

She thanked me and told me in an enthusiastic and excited voice that she was going to the old Hudson’s Bay Store for the official announcement that the building would become a community hub with plenty of affordable housing. “Best of all,” she smiled broadly “it will have a hundred new daycare spaces.”

Leah Gazan is the Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre and the NDP Critic for Children, Families, and Social Development, as well as the Critic for Women and Gender Equality. -Photo from Leah Gazan’s Facebook page

I think no matter what your political persuasion you would have to admire Ms Gazan for her hard work and tireless efforts on behalf of our Winnipeg Centre riding which has the highest rate of poverty in the province.

She introduced a bill in Parliament that would guarantee every Canadian a basic living income. It was her hard work on a Parliamentary committee that helped pass a bill to have Canada recognize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  She has advocated tirelessly for more affordable, safe, and accessible social housing and along with her NDP colleagues promoted universal pharmacare and a dental plan for low-income Canadians.  

Leah Gazan chatting with seniors at Fred Douglas Place – photo from Leah Gazan’s Instagram

I don’t when she sleeps because she is constantly out and about in the community meeting people in our constituency at one event after another. On her Instagram feed, I watch her speeches and questions in the House of Commons and she is a passionate and dynamic defender of those facing challenging life situations like the families of murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Another thing I appreciate about Ms Gazan is that she is quick to apologize when she makes statements that could be misconstrued or she realizes she has made an error in judgement perhaps based on insufficient information.

At the end of our short conversation, I asked Ms Gazan if I could shake her hand. Looking back now I realize that perhaps that wasn’t appropriate given the pandemic, but she agreed and I remembered later I was wearing gloves because of course even though it was mid-April it was a freezing day in Winnipeg.

Other posts……

Stepping Back and Letting the Women Speak

Proud of My Country

Idealistic- My Word For the New Democratic Party

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Proud of My Country

I was very pleased to hear last week that universal dental care will soon become a reality in Canada. In its latest budget, the federal government promises to provide $5.3 billion over five years and $1.7 billion every year after that to provide free dental care for needy Canadians. This will start with children under twelve in 2022 and expand to those under eighteen, seniors, and people with disabilities by 2025. 

Almost a third of Canadians do not have dental insurance and about 6 million Canadians avoid dental care annually because they can’t afford it.  I have seen those people firsthand. 

I volunteer at a thrift store in one of Winnipeg’s most impoverished neighbourhoods.  Seniors come into the shop every day who obviously lack proper dental care.  The poor condition of their teeth is visible when they talk or smile, and I keep thinking how having rotted or missing teeth must cause them pain and impact their ability to eat properly and have a positive self-image.   

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I worked for nearly a decade as a university supervisor for education students doing their practicum placements in Winnipeg schools and I have noted the poor condition of many children’s teeth.  Some kids are fortunate enough to be served by a program of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority that goes into a select group of inner-city elementary schools to offer dental care to children, but there are children living below the poverty line in many other Manitoba schools who don’t have the benefit of that program. Dental problems can impact a child’s ability to pay attention in class and feel confident with their peers.  

 I also know first-hand just how expensive dental care can be.  During most of the time I worked for the Hanover School Division teachers did not have a dental plan as part of their benefits package, so my husband and I paid for our sons’ dental care as they were growing up. It wasn’t cheap and dental care prices have risen substantially since then. Luckily in our two-income household, we could afford good dental care for our children, but many families aren’t that fortunate.  

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Although the price tag for subsidized dental care may sound expensive we know that investing in it can have long term financial benefits.  Poor oral health has a negative effect on people’s overall health. Medical research has linked oral health problems to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and respiratory infections. In pregnant women, poor oral health has been associated with premature births and low birth weights. Some people who receive opioids for chronic tooth pain become addicted to them. Addictions can lead to all kinds of social problems that are expensive to solve.  Good dental care can help prevent other medical conditions that would be even more costly to treat. 

Visible dental issues can also negatively impact the self-confidence required to apply for and maintain a job and people may end up needing unemployment benefits another cost to society. 

Many additional workers will need to be hired to provide dental care under the new government programs. These added employment opportunities will be good for our economy too. 

A recent Oxfam report estimates the increased income of Canadian billionaires during the pandemic to be close to $111 billion dollars. Taxing those dollars at even a small increased rate would provide plenty of money for universal dental care in our country. 

 As Canada rolls out its program of dental care for citizens it joins more than a dozen other countries that have similar programs in place. It is something for Canadians to celebrate and be proud of. 

Other posts………..

The Lady From Saskatchewan, the British Dentist and Me

His Smile is Costing Us a Fortune

Is Laughter Really The Best Medicine

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Filed under Canada, Health, Politics

Ten Things I Can Do About The War in Ukraine

1. Stay informed. Keep up to date with what is going on by reading the newspaper and listening to trusted media outlets. In this way at the very least we bear witness to what is happening to the people of Ukraine.

I volunteer at a Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store and some of the income it generates will go to Ukraine.

2. Donate to a charity. Dave and I have been donating through Mennonite Central Committee a charity we know and trust but there are many reputable agencies providing relief in all kinds of ways to Ukraine.

Canada’s Deputy prime minister who is of Ukrainian descent addressing the country

3. Support the Canadian government. Although there are times to pursue political differences and doing so is very healthy, this is a time when we as a country need to stand behind our leaders as they work with other nations to stop the war in Ukraine.

Dave and I taking our granddaughter for a walk last week

4. Carry on with daily routines. Despite what is going on in the world and the possible threat of a nuclear war it is important for us as individuals, as families and as communities to carry on with life, especially so our children can have a sense of normalcy, well being and safety.

5. Pray. When I pray about the situation in our world I use a prayer I learned from political activist Stacey Abrams…….. “that good people, with good hearts and good intentions will rise up in positions of power to move humanity forward in a positive direction”

In Ukraine with the woman who now owns the house in the village of Rudnerweide where my mother-in-law was born

6. Make personal connections with Ukraine. There are two members of my church who have family in Ukraine and our congregation is being kept up to date on their situations. I have also been remembering my own travels in Ukraine and revisiting the history of my family which is closely connected to Ukraine.

7. Work at creating peace within your circle of influence. Peace begins within each of our hearts, extends to our families, then to our neighbourhoods and communities, then to our country and finally to the world. Creating peace within our circle of influence can make a difference.

8. Start thinking and planning for how you might support refugees who will come to Canada from Ukraine. Many people are already doing that.

9. Show interest and care by writing about Ukraine on your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page, or in other places where you have an online presence.

10. Wear a ribbon. My father is a resident in a Ukrainian Catholic nursing home and they are handing out ribbons when you visit. I have mine on my purse so I don’t have to move it from outfit to outfit.

Other posts………

Checking Out- The Ultimate Privilege

In Praise of Sensible and Human Things

Ukraine- Exploring the Past- Mourning the Present

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Filed under Politics, Ukraine

Stepping Back And Letting The Woman Speak

I have written before how reassuring it is to have three such capable and confident women in charge of the key government portfolios addressing the situation in Ukraine. I have noticed in recent days when the Prime Minister is making a public appearance with one of them he routinely takes a step back and lets them talk and be the focus of attention as they use their expertise to give updates and answer questions.

Canada’s Defence Minister- Anita Anand
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs- Mélanie Joly 
Canada’s Minister of Finance and Deputy Primeminister – Chrystia Freeland

I was very pleased when Justin Trudeau first took office that he was determined to make his cabinet balanced gender-wise.

I was disappointed when early in his tenure as Prime Minister he silenced the voices of two strong women in his cabinet – Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott.

It is good to see him stepping back now to give three strong women their chance to speak and lead.

Other posts………

Women In Politics

The Female Lead

Difficult Women

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The Three Women In Charge

Chrystia Freeland- Canadian Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister

“Russia’s barbaric attack cannot — and will not — be allowed to succeed.

We stand with the brave people of Ukraine”

Melanie Joyl – Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

“I summoned the Russian ambassador and I looked him right in the eye and told him what I thought.

“Our goal, and I’ll be very blunt, is to suffocate the Russian regime.”

Anita Anand -Canadian Minister of National Defence

“This is an attack on sovereign democracy and it will not go unpunished.”

“Putin is responsible for needless deaths and Russia will face harsh consequences.”

Many people say we are at a turning point in history right now. The world is in the most dangerous position it has been since World War II.

Here in Canada three women hold the vital government portfolios related to the current conflict. They are in charge of Canada’s financial, diplomatic and military response to Russia’s aggression.

People may have very different opinions about the capabilities of these women as we often do when it comes to our political leaders. But it is historic that all three of these key positions in the Canadian government are held by women right now. Canadians need to support this resolute female trio as they work to find ways to help bring stability back to the world.

Other posts………..

Women Should Be Leading

Why All These Old White Men?

Does a Female Finance Minister Make A Difference

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Canadians Need A Civics Lesson

I saw a Twitter comment a few days ago by a social studies teacher who said recent events have made it clear many Canadians need a basic refresher course in how government works in our country. Here are a few examples of why they might think that.

  • A Manitoba MLA Nello Altomare said over the weekend his office had received many e-mails and calls asking him to vote against the Emergency Measures Act being debated by the House of Commons. Mr. Altomare had to explain that he represented his area of Winnipeg in the provincial legislature but it was the federal Parliament that was voting on the Emergency Measures Act.
  • Yesterday the Governor General’s office issued a clarification statement in order to alleviate the pressure on their phone lines which were being overwhelmed by calls from people who thought there was some kind of official registry in place that allowed them to file a request asking the Governor General to remove the prime minister from office. The Governor General’s office explained that such a registry does not exist.
  • People were protesting outside City Hall here in Winnipeg earlier this month waving signs about ending masking and vaccination mandates. They didn’t seem to know that health measures come under provincial jurisdiction and the civic government has no authority to establish them.
  • Dwayne Lich husband of arrested convoy leader Tamara Lich, told the judge at his wife’s bail hearing a few days ago that he was relying on his first amendment rights. Mr. Lich an Alberta resident was confusing the American Bill of Rights with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I have had many questions myself in the last several weeks about which level of government has the power to act in different situations and who is responsible for various laws and regulations in our country. I will be the first to admit I am in need of some basic civics lessons.

For example, until I read this explanation by a former Canadian Supreme Court Judge about the meaning of freedom as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms I probably could not have told you in a clear sentence or two how we define freedom in Canada or who has the right to interpret the meaning of that word. Now I know.

Perhaps a silver lining of the most recent Canadian democratic crisis is that it has forced us all, no matter our political stance, to learn more about how the Canadian system of government works.

Other posts………..

Architecture Asks Questions About Government

The Wisdom of Kids

Prayer in Parliament

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Mr Schuler Is No Champion For Liberty

“Liberty has a price. Today I paid for mine.”   

Message from MLA Ron Schuler’s Twitter page

I was intrigued by this very dramatic tweet from Mr Ron Schuler member of the Manitoba legislature for Springfield-Ritchot, after Premier Heather Stefanson removed him from her cabinet on December 30th.  Although the premier did not give a reason for her decision it is widely believed, and Mr Schuler’s tweet seems to reinforce this, that the former Minister of Infrastructure was ousted from his post because he refused to reveal his vaccination status.  He had repeatedly stated that such medical information was personal, and it was his right not to make it public. 

I wondered why Mr Schuler had chosen the word liberty in his tweet. John Stuart Mill, a venerable source on the word’s meaning, said when he penned his famous book On Liberty in 1859, that liberty meant individuals ought to be free to do as they wish unless they are causing harm to others. 

Was Mr Schuler causing harm to others? If he hadn’t been vaccinated and had been encouraging his constituents not to be vaccinated a clear case could be made that he was deliberately causing harm. But was he causing harm by merely withholding his vaccination status? 

Imagine the Conservative Party took to heart Mr Schuler’s belief that citizens should not be forced to disclose their vaccination status.  It would mean the elimination of all restrictions imposed on the non-vaccinated because no one would be required to reveal their vaccination status for any reason. With Manitoba Health’s most recent data showing that you are twenty-six times more likely to be admitted to an ICU if you are not vaccinated and seventeen times more likely to die, it is clear that allowing unvaccinated people to gather without restrictions, which is what would happen if we followed Mr Schuler’s line of thinking, could cause enormous harm.  

Another consideration is that Mr Schuler is in a position of power, especially in his own riding where he is popular.  His unwillingness to reveal his vaccination status could be seen as a way to avoid being forthright on an issue that could save the lives of some of his constituents who trust him and would follow his example if he were to publicly admit he was vaccinated. Stuart Mill in On Liberty notes that sometimes inaction is as harmful as action. 

If we use the Stuart Mill definition of liberty then Mr Schuler’s liberty has not been violated because his stance could lead to harm for others. 

Public Domain photo of Mr Schuler from Wikipedia

Mr Schuler has not been arrested.  He has not been removed from the Conservative caucus or banned from the legislature.  His liberties have really not been compromised in any meaningful way.  He chose to take a stance that was contrary to the official stance of his political party and was removed from an appointed position in that party because of it.  The same thing would happen to any of us if we directly contradicted the policy of an organization that had admitted us to its ranks with the expectation we would follow its dictates.

Mr Schuler is still at liberty to keep his vaccination status private, at liberty to run for the legislature again, at liberty to remain a Manitoba citizen, at liberty to avail himself of our health care system and at liberty to leave the Conservative Party.  Exactly what liberties has he lost?  

Despite his overly dramatic assessment of what his removal from the provincial cabinet signifies Mr Schuler should not be viewed as some stalwart champion of liberty.  He may want to consider what the word liberty means before using it again. 

Other posts………

Life, Liberty and Family

In New York We……….

The Berlin Wall in Toronto

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Politics

Six Degrees

You’ve probably heard of the six degrees of separation theory that claims everyone is really no more than six personal connections away from another person in the world. Sometimes it’s fun to see just how many connections you can make. Recently I was involved in a conversation where people were trying to figure out how closely they are connected to our province’s premiers past and present.

I am only two degrees of separation away from three former Manitoba premiers thanks to my husband Dave.

Brian Pallister is standing at the very back in the middle- in a row of his own. My husband Dave is farthest to the right in the front row.

At the height of Brian Pallister’s fastball career, my husband Dave was a catcher for him on the ball diamond. Although they never played on the same team for an entire season Brian liked the way Dave caught and invited him to travel to some tournaments with him to be his catcher.

Gary Filmon was a member of the 1960 Varsity Boys basketball championship Team from Sisler High School whose members were inducted into the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001. In the photo, Gary is second from the left in the back row. – photo from the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame website

Once at a University of Manitoba basketball game Dave’s name was drawn for a half-time shooting contest. Two members of the audience were given three chances to sink a basket from half-court and win a gift certificate from the Manitoba Liquor Commission. The other audience member whose name was drawn? Former Premier Gary Filmon. He was a former basketball star himself and faithfully attended the U of M games to watch his sons play. So Dave and Gary stood side by side on the court. Neither sunk the required basket, however.

Kelvin Goertzen

It also just so happens that the recent interim premier Kelvin Goertzen was a former student of my husband’s.

Despite the fact they are currently involved in a court battle against each other, here Shelly Glover and Heather Stephenson seem quite friendly

I am four degrees of separation away from current premier Heather Stephenson. A family member once worked at a daycare where her political opponent Shelly Glover’s child was enrolled.

I am three degrees of separation away from Ed Schreyer who was the premier of Manitoba from 1979-1984. When I lived in Hong Kong I was a member of the Hong Kong Women in Publishing organization. It was a large group of women who were writers and journalists. We met every month for professional development sessions and socializing.

When I would tell people in our group I was from Manitoba they would often ask me if I knew Karmel Schreyer, our former premier’s daughter. She lived in Hong Kong, wrote books for children, was a journalist for the South China Morning Post, and had been an active member of their association. Many of the women I got to know at Hong Kong Women in Publishing meetings knew Karmel personally.

Photo of Susan Thompson by Nadine Kampen from the Susan Thompson website

I am two degrees of separation away from Greg Selinger who was our premier from 2009-2016. Both Greg and Susan Thompson ran for mayor of Winnipeg in 1992 and shared the stage for the major debate of that election. Susan is a volunteer at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and since I am employed there, she and I have sometimes chatted in the elevator as we go to our respective work stations.

Sterling Lyon

I am two degrees of separation away from Sterling Lyon who was the premier from 1977 to 1981. Bob Banman was a cabinet minister in the government of Sterling Lyon. Bob and his wife Joanne and I attended the same church in Steinbach as children. I knew Bob’s parents well and Dave and I have been good friends with Bob’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law for more than four decades.

I am sure if I looked hard enough and did enough research I could probably find ways I am connected to all the province’s former premiers. Do you have any premier connections?

Other posts………

Holding Joey Smallwood’s Hand

Why All These Old White Men?

Manitoba is Metis

 

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