Category Archives: Politics

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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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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Idealistic-My Word for the New Democratic Party

Washington Post columnist J. J. McCullough wrote last week that Canada’s New Democratic Party is living in a fantasyland if they think they can form the next government.  He calls the party’s ideas outrageous.  

New Democratic Leader- Jagmeet Singh

Although I think McCullough is probably right about Jagmeet Singh’s chances of becoming Canada’s next prime minister I don’t think the NDP platform is outrageous.  I think it is idealistic. 

It is probably idealistic to think Canada could ever have a guaranteed basic income for every citizen, but that is a goal the NDP voted to work towards at their 2021 policy convention. Leah Gazan my member of Parliament, for Winnipeg Centre introduced a private members bill in the House of Commons that would have implemented a guaranteed basic income. It was defeated. 

Leah Gazan my member of Parliament (photo from her Facebook page)

When she called to ask for my vote, I questioned her about the guaranteed basic income idea.  She said it is necessary because too many people in Canada are living paycheque to paycheque, working multiple jobs just to get by. A basic income guarantee would cut poverty rates in Canada by half.  I appreciated her thoughtful explanation but there is no country in the world right now with a guaranteed basic income, so it’s probably idealistic to think Canada could be the first.

The most expensive plank in the NDP’s platform is health care. They plan to fund universal prescription drug coverage. They claim millions of Canadians are not taking the drugs their doctors have prescribed because their jobs don’t come with health benefits, or they are unemployed or self-employed and can’t afford to pay out of pocket for medications. 

The NDP would also cover dental care and mental health expenses for low-income Canadians and would expand long-term care in our country.  These are important initiatives, but many might label them idealistic because they will cost $68 billion.

How will the NDP raise that money? They say they will institute an annual 1% tax increase on households earning over $10 million. They will impose extra taxes on companies that made large profits during the pandemic, crack down on tax havens, and raise the corporate tax rate. A Broadbent Institute study supports these proposals claiming the gap between rich and poor in Canada is ever-widening and our current tax system does little to promote more income equality. 

The Washington Post columnist on the other hand says the NDP’s plans to tax the ultra-rich won’t work. In an economy based on the capitalist system, you can’t punish the wealthy while liberating so many others from financial obligations. Are the NDP being idealistic to think they can tax the rich to help the poor? 

Photo by (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

The NDP won’t win the coming Canadian election. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be a force in Ottawa. Should the Conservatives or Liberals win a minority government the NDP will most likely hold the balance of power and may be able to force the other parties to move towards some of their idealistic goals like creating a climate bank to invest in environmentally friendly business ventures, ensuring that universal childcare becomes a reality, and honoring the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling to compensate First Nations families whose children were removed from their homes and placed in the welfare system.

The NDP may be idealistic, but we shouldn’t forget that idealism often leads to progress. Idealistic is the word I’ve chosen for the New Democratic Party. I think their idealism might provide just the balance we need in Ottawa should we elect the Conservatives who I described as suspicious or the Liberals who I described as disappointing in my previous election columns. 

Other posts……….

Suspicious of the Conservatives

Disappointed with the Liberals

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Disappointed in the Liberal Party

Disappointed would be the word I’d use to describe my feelings about Canada’s Liberal Party as we approach the federal election.  

I am disappointed the Prime Minister would call an election in the middle of a pandemic when key initiatives he proposed during the first two years of his current mandate hadn’t run into major Parliamentary roadblocks. Most legislation the Liberals tabled to provide support to Canadians during the COVID-19 crisis passed in the House of Commons with cooperation from other political parties. Why call an election in hopes of getting a majority government when your minority government is advancing your agenda fairly smoothly?

I am also disappointed Justin Trudeau has broken so many promises he made.  I was excited in 2015 when he assured us this would be the last first past the post-election. A new system would help make every Canadian feel their vote counted. Trudeau has abandoned that promise. 

Elders from the Lhoosk’uz Dené community tasting water from their new water treatment system (Photo source)

 In 2015 the Liberal government promised to end all long-term drinking water advisories on First Nations by March 2021.  That date has come and gone and there are still long-term advisories in thirty-two First Nations. I realize solutions to this problem are beset by challenges but also know in some communities, innovative scientists and engineers have pushed through roadblocks by working in partnership with Indigenous citizens. 

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its 94 calls to action in 2015 Justin Trudeau promised an immediate and unreserved commitment to their implementation. Six years later only 14 calls to action have been completed and 23 are in observable progress. That means two-thirds of the tasks remain undone.  Not a great track record. 

Justin Trudeau made headlines by appointing the first Canadian cabinet that had gender equityPhoto from The Guardian

I was excited when Justin Trudeau was first elected and created a cabinet with gender equity. His commitment hasn’t wavered. His current cabinet contains 18 women and 19 men.  I am disappointed however Mr. Trudeau couldn’t find a way to work things out with two of his most powerful and competent female ministers Jody Wilson- Raybould and Jane Philpott who were both removed from the Liberal caucus in 2019 over their differences with the prime minister. 

A woman covers her face as she walks past a child care center that’s closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on April 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

I will be incredibly disappointed if the decision to have an election, results in the new childcare legislation the Liberals just introduced being shelved because the Conservatives win. This already happened in 2006 when the Liberals had an ambitious childcare initiative underway that Stephen Harper kiboshed when elected.  The current Conservatives have a plan to help families with childcare, but it doesn’t include measures to improve the quality and number of daycare spaces rendering it almost useless to parents strapped to find spots for their kids. Justin Trudeau’s election call is putting this vital program in jeopardy. 

 I am not saying the Liberals haven’t done good things during their recent years in office. The vaccines they procured have made it possible for 67 % of our total population to be fully vaccinated, one of the best records in the world. As vaccines for children become available, hopefully before Christmas, that admirable percentage will continue to rise. The Liberals also unmuzzled the scientists Stephen Harper had silenced, returned the Old Age Security benefit eligibility to 65, reinstated the important long-form census, signed the Paris Accord on climate, and took steps to reform the Senate. 

But in the last few years, their ethical missteps among other things have left me disappointed.  

Leading up to the election I am writing about each of the major three political parties in my newspaper columns and assigning a word to each one. My previous column was about the Conservatives and how they arouse suspicion. In my next column, I will look at the New Democratic Party. 

Other posts………

The Conservative Party Makes Me Suspicious

Clean Water

Universal Childcare- A Wise Investment For Canada

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Filed under Canada, Politics

The Conservative Party- Suspicious

In my newspaper columns leading up to the Canadian election on September 20, I am going to assign a word to each of the three major political parties in the race and explain why I have chosen that word. My column this week looks at The Conservative Party.

The cover of the Conservative Party’s 160-page plan for Canada

I spent a long time perusing the detailed Conservative Party Platform made public just a day after the federal election was called.   The plan Erin O’ Toole’s party has crafted for citizens to consider during the campaign sounds ambitious and addresses many areas of concern to me. But the Conservative pitch to voters also leaves me feeling somewhat suspicious. 

I did a search for the words, climate change in the Conservative campaign plan, and they are mentioned twenty-five times. The Tory plan includes an eight-page section on climate change in which Mr. O’ Toole clearly states that climate change is real, the Conservatives are committed to fighting it and will provide resources to mitigate its effects. 

As this chart of an Angus Reid Poll from Macleans shows the majority of Conservatives don’t see climate change as a serious threat.

Yet at the Conservative Party’s most recent policy convention, they could not rally a majority of their party members to vote in favor of a motion stating climate change is real. This makes me a little suspicious of the potential success of Mr. O’ Toole’s proposed strategy for fighting climate change. Will he have the support he needs from his party to carry it out?

The Conservative campaign plan states clearly that if Conservatives form the next government, they will not support any legislation that would regulate abortion.  That’s reassuring for someone like me who believes a woman has the right to control her own body. 

Conservative Party Candidates endorsed by Campaign for Life (note that Derek Sloan is no longer a member of the party)

But what makes me just a little suspicious is that forty-four members of the current Conservative caucus have been endorsed by the Campaign for Life organization as supporters of anti-abortion efforts and Mr. O’ Toole has continued to allow his caucus to introduce private member’s bills to regulate abortion. 

Although the Conservative campaign plan promises to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ citizens being persecuted in other countries and facilitate their immigration to Canada, no specific mention is made in the Conservative playbook of supporting our country’s own LGBTQ population.  

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole voted to ban conversion therapy in Canada but many in his caucus did not

I admit I get suspicious of whether a Conservative government would support and protect LGBTQ Canadians when sixty-two Conservative members of Parliament voted against criminalizing conversion therapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a practice that medical professionals condemn as extremely harmful and highly ineffective. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

One thing the Conservative government has been clear about in their election plan is that they will not fund the ambitious childcare program the current federal government has already brokered agreements for with eight provinces, including Manitoba. The Liberals have a plan to increase the number of childcare spaces, improve wages for childcare workers and make $10 a day childcare a reality for parents.

Erin O’ Toole plans to funnel childcare money to families instead, based on their income, so he can reward parents who decide to stay home with their children, and help parents who he claims can least afford childcare.  While the Conservative’s plan will put more money to pay for childcare in the hands of parents, how will it help to improve working conditions and wages for childcare workers or create the additional childcare spaces needed?   

Photo by Naomi Shi on Pexels.com

I’ve talked with the parents of young children looking for daycare spaces about the long waiting lists they face. Money can’t buy a daycare space that doesn’t exist. I am suspicious about whether Canada can establish a universal quality childcare system unless a Conservative government would agree to invest in childcare infrastructure, rather than just handing out cash to parents. 

If I had to sum up my feelings about the Conservative Party in this election in one word it would probably be suspicious.            

Note: Of course there are many other issues that are important to me in the upcoming election- reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians, the need to improve conditions in personal care homes, the pandemic, poverty and homelessness.

Other posts……….

Universal Childcare A Wise Investment For Canada

Does a Female Finance Minister Make A Difference?

Sex-Selective Abortion

Steinbach Pride- Homecoming, Forgiveness, Hope

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Sex Selective Abortion

Photo of Cathy Wagantall from her official website

The Sex Selective Abortion Act- Bill C-233 is currently being debated in Parliament. It was introduced by Conservative MP Cathy Wagantall. She wants to protect female babies from being aborted because of their gender.  If the bill passes doctors would be criminally charged for knowingly performing sex selective abortions. Polling shows most Canadians think sex selective abortion is unethical. I do too. But I don’t support the passage of Bill C-233. Here’s why. 

Bill C-233 would do nothing to curb sex selective abortion.  Women don’t have to tell their doctor why they want an abortion and if this bill passed they would be even more cautious about disclosing the fact their unborn child’s gender influenced their abortion decision. Doctors worried about criminal charges would hesitate to press patients for too much information about their abortion request.

Of course, decades of research has shown that making abortion illegal in a country does not cause a significant drop in the abortion rate. A recent Guttmacher Institute study found abortion rates are actually four times higher in low- income countries where abortion is prohibited than in high income countries where it is legal. If Bill C-233 passed it would do nothing to lower the already declining abortion rate in Canada. 

Secondly, twelve weeks gestation is the earliest the gender of an unborn child can be reliably determined.  90% of abortions in Canada take place before twelve weeks.  Clearly Bill C-233 is narrow and would do little to impact the larger issue Ms. Wagantall would really like to see addressed. 

Thirdly, based on the data I could find, sex selective abortions happen primarily in new immigrant families because people have brought ideas about gender preference to Canada from their home countries.  Rather than wasting time championing ineffective legislation, perhaps we should focus our efforts on better educating expectant parents from immigrant communities about the opportunities available to their unborn daughters in Canada. Research shows sex selective abortions all but disappear in second and third generation immigrant families.

In China sex selective abortion has created a gender imbalance that has resulted in major societal problems. Chinese families think a male child will be able to support them better in their old age and will bring more prestige to the family name. 

Photo I took of a grandmother and her grandson in Tiananmen Square Beijing

Banning sex selective abortions in China has proved ineffective at stopping them, but what has helped is increasing employment opportunities for women. In areas where a concentrated plan of affirmative action and greater pay equity has been implemented in industry and business spheres, sex selective abortions have been substantially reduced. When parents know their female children have an equal opportunity to support them financially and bring recognition to their family they don’t feel the need for sex selective abortions.  

I don’t know if Ms. Wagantall has been a passionate supporter of affirmative action and equal pay for women, but those might be areas where she could more productively focus her energies. We know economic and career concerns are reasons women often have abortions, so let’s do what we can to make sure women have every advantage. 

Even Erin O’Toole the Conservative Party Leader plans to vote against Bill C-233

Finally, I don’t support Bill C-233 because it contradicts the platform of the Conservative Party of which Ms. Wagantall is a member. That makes me wonder if she has proposed the bill primarily for political reasons to bolster the profile of a certain wing of her party. Conservative leader Erin O Toole has assured Canadians his party will not reopen the abortion debate. Yet here is a member of his party doing exactly that. 

It is sad sex selective abortions happen in Canada. There are constructive things we can do to address the problem. Passing Bill C-233 isn’t one of them. 

Other posts……..

Does a Female Finance Minister Make a Difference?

The Post Election Priorities of American Christians

A Spark of Light

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Filed under Canada, Health, Politics

Bible Verses in the House of Commons

Bible verses were being tossed back and forth in Canada’s Parliament on Friday as the House of Commons debated a bill that would make conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people a criminal offence.

The Liberal MP for Kingston, Ontario, Robert Oliphant spoke in defence of the bill. Mr Oliphant is a gay United Church minister and he quoted Micah 6:8 in his remarks. It is a passage that refers to the qualities of justice, mercy and humility.

Conservative MP Tamara Jansen who represents Langley British Columbia and opposes the bill in its current form, used a passage from Matthew 23:27 in her response to Mr Olipant. The Matthew passage she quoted talks about people who are hypocrites and unclean.

One of the reasons I was so interested in the way the Bible was being used as justification to argue both sides in a contentious debate was because I just started an online course with Dr Heather Barkman, a religion professor from the University of Manitoba and in our first class, we learned about the origins of the gospels of the New Testament.

One of the oldest copies of the New Testament we have

There are no original texts for the materials in the current four gospels. What we have are copies of texts, or even copies of copies, all subject to the errors that can occur when copying and re-copying take place. The original texts that were the sources for our current versions of the four gospels were not written by eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus, but were accounts that had been passed on orally for at least forty years or more, in the case of the gospel of John close to 90 years, and subject to all the changes that can happen during such a lengthy period of oral transmission. We have no idea who wrote the original texts. They were given the names of Jesus’ followers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to lend them an air of authenticity, but those men most certainly didn’t write them.

Could some of the copies that have been found up till now be forgeries? Dr Barkman said it is entirely possible. Might other ancient copies still be found that contain different information and viewpoints. That is entirely possible too.

During the first several centuries after Jesus’ death there were a multitude of different gospels circulating about his life, each written by different people in different times for different reasons. Then in the year 393 some powerful bishops reached a final decision about which four gospels would become the stable Biblical canon, the one we use today.

Irenaeus the Bishop of Lyons had some interesting reasons for choosing only four gospels for the canon

Why chose only four gospels from the many available? Well, one of the bishops instrumental in that decision said it was because the wind came from four different directions. And why decide on a canon? The reason for that probably involved unifying various Christian groups and spreading Christianity for political reasons.

As I read about the debate in Parliament over the bill to criminalize conversion therapy I marvelled how the Bible remains such a powerful book. There it is, being used to defend and question new laws in the political house of a large and influential nation.

Yet, as I am learning in my course the Bible’s origins and authenticity are clearly subjects open to discussion and as one person in the course put it, the choice to accept certain gospels and their unique points of view was most likely made by “a bunch of powerful men with a political agenda.” Given those realities it is truly interesting to ponder how the Bible has maintained itself as such a source of authority by people of every political stripe for thousands of years.

Other posts…………

First Officially Affirming Church in Steinbach

The Post Election Priorities of American Christians

Did Jesus Have a Wife?

.

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Filed under Politics, Religion

Does a Female Finance Minister Make a Difference?

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland

This is what you get when Canada appoints its first female finance minister-a proposal for a national system of high-quality early learning and childcare, that is great for kids, pays for itself in long term benefits to society, creates jobs, reduces poverty, assists parents in unprecedented ways and helps women remain in the work force. 

Last week, at the Liberal Party policy convention Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that a nationwide early learning and childcare system will be a key piece in the Liberal government’s COVID-19 recovery plan. 

The pandemic has made it difficult for women to continue working while providing childcare

Ms. Freeland pointed out that the pandemic has caused a frightening decline in female workforce participation. Literally hundreds of thousands of Canadian mothers left their jobs to look after children when schools and daycares closed.

Prior to the pandemic women were providing 40% of household income. They were vital to their families’ financial security and the nation’s economic health. Experts agree it is not possible, for Canada to have a successful economic recovery post-pandemic without women going back to work. A universal daycare system in Canada will be a huge incentive and support as women seek to return to their jobs.

A national plan to provide quality early childhood education and daycare almost became a reality in 2005. The Liberals had crafted a ground -breaking agreement for universal childcare in Canada that had been officially agreed to by every province.  Unfortunately, in 2006 Stephen Harper was elected and dismantled the plan. Since then, political expediency has stood in the way of bringing it back. 

Ms. Freeland says the pandemic has created a childcare crisis for women and this gives our country a window of opportunity to finally provide federally funded affordable quality universal childcare to every Canadian family that needs and wants it. 

Leah Gazan NDP Critic for Children, Families, and Social Development

I know the New Democratic Party will be behind the plan because last summer my New Democratic Member of Parliament Leah Gazan was circulating a petition calling for a universal childcare and early learning program in Canada. I not only signed her petition but agreed to make regular donations to help Ms. Gazan in her quest. 

Conservative Members of Parliament that are anti-abortion as identified by Campaign for Life

 I hope the Conservative Party will lend support as well.  The Toronto Star has reported that more than 40 members of the current Conservative caucus are publicly anti-abortion supporters. Ms. Freeland’s proposal is their chance to put their money where their mouth is.

Research repeatedly shows that two of the most frequently cited reasons women give for having abortions are financial concerns and the impact the pregnancy could have on their careers. It makes sense that the availability of quality childcare would help ease those concerns and could conceivably further lower our country’s abortion rate which is already at its lowest point in more than a decade. 

I am only speculating that one of the reasons the Liberal government is making a federally funded childcare program a priority is because we have our first female finance minister. But I am sure it didn’t hurt. Ms. Freeland spoke for thirty minutes at the recent Liberal policy convention and spent almost the entire time talking about childcare. Our Deputy Prime Minister is the mother of three and well knows the challenges of managing both parenting and a career. When she was negotiating Canada’s NAFTA deal, she told a reporter that sometimes figuring out childcare arrangements for her three kids was almost as tricky as figuring out a trade agreement. 

I will be thrilled if the Liberal party goes through with their plan for an affordable national childcare and early education plan.  It will be good for kids, good for women, good for families and good for our country. 

Other posts………….

Politics is Tough

Paternity Leave- A Winning Scenario

Pro-Choice and Pro-Life- What Might We Have in Common?

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Filed under Canada, Family, Politics

Teacher Can You Spare A Dime?

Brian Pallister the Manitoba premier was taken to task last week for offering teachers a 15% tax credit for the first $1000 they spend on their classrooms. Many teachers were insulted saying if education was properly funded by Mr. Pallister’s government it wouldn’t be necessary for teachers to spend their own money on supplies to enrich the education program they offer to students.

Cartoon by Chris Chuckry used by permission.

I was a teacher for 35 years and can attest to the fact that I spent a great deal of my own money to stock my classroom. When I taught elementary school I bought rugs, pillows, puzzles, bookshelves, magazine racks, charts, toys, maps, math manipulatives, puppets and hundreds of books for my classroom. I even had a sand table custom-built.

With a class of my students at Elmdale School in the 1980s

I bought food stuffs for baking projects, gifts for children at Christmas, stickers, craft supplies and in the age before digital photography paid for film and developing hundreds of photos each year.  In one school I kept granola bars and other breakfast items in my cupboards for kids who weren’t getting breakfast at home. I also paid for professional conferences, books and courses.  

Some of my students at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School in 2006

As a high school teacher I bought a huge coffee maker and started brewing coffee and baking muffins to lure late sleepers to my first classes of the day. I invested in magazine subscriptions and bought hundreds of used books for my classroom to entice my teenagers to read for pleasure. I never kept track of how much money I spent on my students. It would have been too scary.

The phenomena of teachers spending their own money on their classrooms is not unique to Manitoba. A recent survey in Nova Scotia showed the average teacher there invested some $500 a year in their classroom and American teachers were more likely to invest double that.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

A Huffington Post article points out that the pandemic has upped the ante for many teachers who have invested their own money in all kinds of upgrades to their technology to make teaching from home or online more effective for their students.

One thing that concerned me as a university education department mentor was how much money my students were investing in their practicum teaching assignments in schools. My students paid for printing costs for learning games, mittens for kids, books to read to students, costumes for plays, writing journals, prizes for contests, art supplies and one junior high physical education teacher bought deodorant for the students who needed it. Most of my university students were already struggling to make ends meet and were working at part time jobs to cover their tuition costs. They couldn’t really afford to be investing money in the classrooms where they were interning.

I spent a great deal less of my own money on my classroom when I left the public school system to teach at a well funded private school in Hong Kong

During the years I was teaching in Manitoba I never got a dime in tax credit for the money I spent on my classroom and most people were shocked to learn how much of my personal coin I was doling out. Mr. Pallister’s recent statement at least recognizes that teachers are investing their own dollars in their students and he is giving teachers some compensation for that investment. But it is not something he should be encouraging teachers to do because in an adequately funded education system teachers wouldn’t find it necessary to spend nearly as much of their own money.

About twenty years ago Time Magazine ran a feature called Teacher Can You Spare a Dime which talked about all the money teachers spend on their classrooms and what could be done to change that. It appears that in the last two decades nothing has.

Other posts…….

My Dad Was Once A Teacher

A Bathtub in My Classroom

5 Things I Believe About Learning

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Filed under Education, Politics

A Television Series Senator Plett Should Watch

I just finished watching the television series Unbelievable. It isn’t an easy drama to view but it is an important one. It tells a true story about a serial rapist who attacks a young girl in Washington and then a string of women in Colorado. He meets his match when two dogged female detectives literally work night and day and leave no stone unturned to try and find him and convict him.

Toni Collette and Merritt Wever are brilliant in their roles as two female detectives pursuing a serial rapist. – Photo from Netflix

Unbelievable teaches you a great deal about rape.

Police can interview victims in a way that makes them feel like their story isn’t believable or they can interview them in sensitive and respectful ways.

Although it shouldn’t make a difference, a woman’s past, her race, her age or even her occupation can have an impact on how seriously her rape claims are taken.

Men with military backgrounds and police backgrounds are checked first as possible suspects because they have a much higher rate of violent behaviour.

Police in one district don’t routinely share information about rapes with police in other districts. In Unbelievable the fact that detectives from two different districts work on finding a rapist together happens just as a matter of chance.

Rape changes a woman’s life forever. As the victims shared their stories in the trial during this series it didn’t matter whether they were box store workers or college students or grandmothers or career women the rapes devastated them, totally turned their lives upside down and left them vulnerable and afraid.

I kept thinking as I watched Unbelievable that a series like this should be mandatory viewing for judges and politicians. In 2017 former Conservative party leader Rona Ambrose introduced a bill in Parliament ensuring judges in Canada were trained in sexual-assault law. The bill required judges to learn about rape myths and stereotypes and how biases of race, gender and other social factors could influence their decisions.

Rona Ambrose the former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

Rona Ambrose worked in a rape crisis centre in university and that experience made her realize the need for such a bill. She found support across the political parties for her legislation. Her efforts were definitely seen as necessary after an Alberta judge told a sexual assault victim she should have” just kept her knees together” and after a Halifax judge said a woman can give consent even when she is drunk. Ms. Ambrose said responses like those discourage women from reporting rapes and laying charges.

Rona Ambrose’s bill was passed unanimously in the House of Commons but Senator Don Plett from Manitoba and some of his Conservative colleagues decided to stall it in the Senate for over 700 days so it didn’t pass before the last federal election call. Ms Ambrose expressed her disdain that those “old boys” in the Senate had failed to protect Canadian women. She specifically called out Senator Plett for procedural stalling. A CBC article stated that “because of political procedural moves by the Conservative whip, Manitoba Sen. Don Plett, private member’s bills like Ms. Ambrose’s haven’t made it onto the Senate agenda.”

Such a response was hardly surprising since Senator Plett was a vocal supporter of President Trump who has faced some twenty-six charges of sexual misconduct, including rape, and brags about his skill at grabbing women’s genitalia. Senator Plett has referred to Mr Trump as his good friend.

Unbelievable makes you very aware that many things need to change if we want to adequately protect women from sexual assault and rape. I wonder if Senator Plett has watched Unbelievable? Maybe someone should suggest he do so.

Note: Something I found very interesting about the series is that one of the detectives on the case is a woman with a strong Christian faith and it helps her deal with the disturbing things she witnesses as she investigates rape incidents. Her partner on the case is an atheist because she can’t believe that if there was a God that God would allow such horrible things to happen to women. It is interesting to see how the two detectives influence one another in matters of faith as they pursue their case.

Note: The current Liberal government introduced a bill very similar to Ms. Ambrose’s and it passed in November. Because it is not a private member’s bill there is a much better chance it will make it through the Senate as well.

Note: The thing that makes Unbelievable so chilling is that it is almost 100% accurate in depicting a true story reported on the podcast This American Life and in a print story by Ken Armstrong and Christian Miller.

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