I'm the keynote speaker at Frontier College at Trent University's 9th Annual Literacy Conference later this month. Here's the scoop. (Be sure to tell your friends you read it here first!) The conference is being held at Peter Gzowski College at Trent University (Peterborough, Ontario) on Saturday, January 24th.
The event runs from 11 am to 4 pm and will feature a variety of guest speakers throughout the day. You can register online. Admission is FREE.
I'll be presenting from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm. I'll speaking for between 30 and 45 minutes and then answering questions for the remainder of the time.
The topic I've chosen is "Books Run in My Family" -- all about the way books and the love of reading have been passed up and down my family tree. (There are quite a few published authors in my family. I'll be talking about that, too.) If you've ever heard me speak, you already know that I have a pretty chatty style. I'm big on sharing personal anecdotes, life lessons learned (particularly anything learned through the School of Hard Knocks), practical tips and advice -- plus as many from-the-trenches author war stories as I can possibly fit in. (That's the whole reason to come out to an event like this, isn't it?)
If you do come out, be sure to ask me about my worst-ever book event (it's pretty awful) and the worst event any author ever had (it's about as bad as you can imagine -- but, thankfully, it didn't happen to me). I hope to see you on the 24th. Be sure to bring a friend or two -- or your entire book club. The more the merrier, after all.
“Our best hope for real change is a fusion of those concerned
about the environment, of those concerned about justice and
fairness, and those concerned about building strong political
democracy. The fusion of these things will create one
powerful, progressive force. We’ve got to remember that we are all
in a community of shared faith. We are all in the same boat and we
will rise or fall together.”
- Yale professor and environmental activist James Gustave Speth, delivering the 2008 Beatty Memorial Lecture at McGill University in October
"I'm so disappointed in Peterborough. Now I remember why I ran away when I was 16."
- A Peterborough voter commenting on the election results, quoted in today's Peterborough Examiner.
I believe in Peterborough and its potential to become something more. This is what I think about when I think about Peterborough and its potential.
Peterborough, the ethical city; Peterborough, the just city; Peterborough, the visionary city; Peterborough, the creative city; Peterborough, the innovative city; Peterborough, the eco-city; Peterborough, the multicultural city; Peterborough, the all-ages city; Peterborough, the hate-free city; Peterborough, the bullying-free city; Peterborough, the no-one-goes-hungry city; Peterborough, the barrier-free city; Peterborough, the entrepreneurial city; Peterborough, the healthy city; Peterborough, the active city; Peterborough, the sustainable city; Peterborough, the local foodbasket city; Peterborough, the welcoming city; Peterborough, the politically engaged city; Peterborough, the public spaces city; Peterborough, the indie media city, Peterborough, possibility city.
A lot of people are working towards these various ends.
And not all progress has to come through political channels.
We can take a two-tiered approach to working for change in our communities:
1. Add your voice to the loud chorus of Canadians insisting on democratic reform now;
2. Work for change through all channels available to you as a citizen.
Don't give in to cynicism or apathy. Let frustration fuel your resolve to work for change.
Simple truth: We need a government that is offering Canadian voters a fully-costed visionary plan on tackling the biggest issue of our generation. The Conservative Party of Canada is completely at odds with the kind of action Canadians want to see on the environment. Every other party understands the necessity of making the environment a priority issue.
Simple truth: We need an environmental action plan that taxes what we burn, not what we earn. Read this article to find out why David Suzuki thinks a carbon tax is the way to go.
Simple truth: The progressive parties understand what Canadians mean when they say that our health care system is failing us. It's not all about wait times and better record-keeping. Nor is privatization the answer.
Simple truth: Public health and safety should never be compromised; nor should our public health standards be lowered to appease business interests. And yet that's precisely what has happened under the Conservative government. When a respected health authority like the Canadian Medical Association issues a warning like this, it's time for Canadians to take that warning very seriously. Here's what the CMA had to has to say on this issue. (Read the full article in the October 7, 2008, issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, available for download from the cmaj.ca website.)
Government policy errors helped bring about this epidemic. Yet surprisingly, government has taken no remedial steps beyond issuing a food recall. Instead, officials praise the success of our infectious disease surveillance system — as if, with 16 dead [20 as of today], there were cause to celebrate — while food safety standards remain as low as ever.
The listeriosis epidemic is a timely reminder that the Harper government has reversed much of the progress that previous governments made on governing for public health.
....And listeriosis may be the least of it. The same November 2007 Cabinet decision that handed self-inspection to the owners of meat plants did the same for operators of animal feed mills and cut back the avian influenza preparedness program. Yet bad animal feed led to the epidemic of bovinespongiform encephalitis (mad cow disease), and in an influenza pandemic tens of thousands of Canadians may die. Listeriosis pales in comparison. Overall, it would seem that, as a country, Canada is far less prepared now for epidemics than in the past.
- Editorial, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Oct 7, 2008 issue
Simple truth: We need a government that will ensure that the provinces, the cities, and our rural governments are able to create healthier, greener, communities where everyone has the same opportunity to thrive.
Simple truth: The Conservative government defeated a bill designed to provide Canadians with full details about the genetically modified foods (the so-called frankenfoods) that are showing up on our grocery store shelves. We need a progressive government that will put the health and safety of Canadians first and the interests of big business second.
Simple truth: It hasn't even been possible for Canadians to get full disclosure from Stephen Harper during this campaign. Or before the campaign, for that matter. He has conducted carefully staged media events and tried to stay out of the public eye as much as possible. The campaign has been one of the nastiest on record, with the Liberal campaign having to issue almost daily "Reality Checks" to counter the campaign of misinformation being carried out by the Prime Minister and key members of his cabinet. And the U.S. style attack campaign launched against Stephane Dion one month after he became Leader of the Official Opposition -- and that continued for the 21 months leading up to this election -- has taken the art of the political smear campaign to new and unimagined lows. But Harper and his team have learned from the best: they've had campaign coaching assistance from the team that taught George W. Bush how to fight dirty. (Oh yeah: one other thing. Members of the Conservative Party tried to defeat a bill that allows Canadian journalists to protect their sources -- an almost sacred principle of Freedom of the Press. Fortunately, members of the opposition parties rallied to get the bill through. Pretty incredible, don't you think?)
Simple truth: Destroying the Kelowna Accord, as the Harper government did, amounted to breaking a treaty between two nations. And aboriginal people in Canada continue to live with the fallout of historical wrongs that need to be addressed in a meaningful way.
Simple truth: The Harper Conservatives changed the mandate of Status of Women Canada to eliminate all activities that have to do with "political equality" or advocacy work. You only have to consider the number of women who make it Parliament Hill in this country to see that this cut was ill-informed (and, many say, extremely mean-spirited). The fallout is being felt by women's groups who do valuable work across this country.
Simple truth: The Harper government chopped funding to the Court Challenges Program -- one of the only hopes "the little guy" in this country had of launching a Supreme Court challenge. Some of the key rights and freedoms that we enjoy in this country were defined by Supreme Court challenges. The Liberal Party has promised Canadians it will bring back the Court Challenges Program.
But that's not all. The Harper government embraces a U.S.-style approach to justice -- "lock up young offenders and throw away the key" -- isn't just ineffective (it leads to higher crime rates); it's also at odds with our traditional belief in rehabilitation of troubled youth. Even the judge who prepared the report recommending changes to the Youth Justice Act has spoken out harshly against the Harper government's regressive approach to justice in this country. (He also didn't appreciate having Harper falsely claim that he had endorsed the Harper youth justice program.)
Simple truth: We need a government that is willing to invest in those early years by creating quality childcare spaces operated by not-for-profit operators rather than trying to mislead Canadians with a tax credit that shrinks down to very little once the tax man gets his hand on it.
Simple truth: We need a government that will safeguard the health and financial well-being of seniors. Seniors are among the most vulnerable populations in times of epidemics and, as the Canadian Medical Association has warned, Canada is far less prepared for a global epidemic than it was before Stephen Harper came to power, as a result of incredibly ill-advised policy decisions in the area of Public Health.
And then there was the broken promise about income trusts -- a breach of trust that took a huge bite out of the savings of ordinary Canadians -- including seniors.
Simple truth: At the heart of that unique and vibrant Canadian identity is a tradition of investing in the arts and culture sector in this country. The Conservative government has demonstrated that it doesn't value what artists contribute to the Canadian economy and that it would like to play Big Brother when it comes to deciding what types of material make for suitable entertainment for Canadians.
Simple truth: It's difficult to feel safe when there's so much we aren't being told about the safety of our food supply, our preparedness for a global pandemic, and who knows what else. It's the who knows what else that is the scariest part. We need a government that will be frank and open with Canadians and work with all levels of government -- provinces, cities, rural municipalities -- to ensure that no other Canadians are allowed to fall through the safety net that we Canadians both prize and take for granted. We don't want any more public health disasters under the watch of the Conservatives.
Simple truth: Our international reputation has been badly damaged by the actions of this government. We're no longer seen as advocates for peace, justice, and the environment. We don't always step forward when the right thing needs to be done. Instead, we look over our shoulder to find out what the Americans are doing -- and then we adjust our position accordingly. Our independent voice in the world has been silenced and countries around the world are suffering as a result. What has happened to Canada? they ask. Many Canadians are asking themselves the same thing.
And, finally, the simplest truth of all:
If this is what we want and value as Canadians,
we can't afford to vote for Stephen Harper in this election.
When you vote, please vote for the kind of government that will create the Canada you want. And please urge other like-minded Canadians to get to the polls, too.
- Ann Douglas
People of Peterborough Riding are expressing strong opinions during this election -- many by writing Letters to the Editor of The Peterborough Examiner. Here are a few brief excerpts, just to give you a flavor of the issues being talked about in our riding. If you click on the link at the start of each letter, you can read the full text on The Peterborough Examiner website.
MP Challenge: "MP Dean Del Mastro's comment that no one will
"shove (the Little Lake project) down the community's throat" indicates
that if a sufficient number of citizens express disapproval the plan
will be scrapped. He should show his respect for our community by telling us
exactly how he will measure public support for his plan. If he
announces a shoreline referendum he will be a champion of democracy."
- John Baker, Peterborough
Del Mastro's claims don't stand up to scrutiny: "While our current member of Parliament is good at quoting numbers, they bear no resemblance to facts. He gave the following incorrect information at the all-candidates debate held by Curve Lake...." [ Related link ]
- Chadwick Cowie, Hiawatha First Nation
Del Mastro promises misleading: "Dean Del Mastro made several grand promises in the weeks leading up to the election. One of these is to build a grand party palace on the banks of Little Lake, by what appears to be a specially selected developer.....Mr. Del Mastro is tellingly silent on the essentials. All we're really getting in this process is a bunch of inch-high headline promises that are likely not even worth the price of the newsprint they're printed on. Surely Peterborough voters won't be misled by this nonsense?
- Kathy Woodcock, Knox Street
Riding needs a fresh start:
"Dean Del Mastro appears to be the most partisan politician in the
history of Peterborough riding. He not only squanders our hard-earned
tax dollars attacking other politicians...he divides our community by
pretending that his opponents oppose his rail plan."
- Helen McCarthy, Peterborough
Tories waging propaganda war:
"The campaign for this election began two and a half years ago when
Steven Harper took office. The barrage of attack ads that we have seen
since goes beyond normal mud-slinging -it is propaganda, a focused
program of persuasion and manipulation. The arguments typically appeal
to emotions rather than reason. Never in the history of Canada has a
standing government made such efforts to minimize their political
opponents....Here in Peterborough, Dean Del Mastro has conducted a
similar propaganda campaign. On a biweekly basis, Mr. Del Mastro has
sent out "the pamphlets." What is interesting about these flyers is
that they are little more than name calling with absolutely no details
or substantiation. This is a classic propaganda technique. What kind of
representative would conduct such a campaign against his constituents?"
- Alan Buchkowski, Hastings
The art of hypocrisy: "Imagine my surprise on reading Dean Del Mastro's description of this
riding: after a brief mention of children playing hockey, he goes on to
tout the richness of Peterborough's arts!
... I find Mr. Del Mastro's apparent pride in the local arts scene
disturbing. I would ask him to please not use the arts like this,
unless he is willing to confront Mr. Harper on his appalling stance. It
only makes him look like a hypocrite. And I don't vote for hypocrites."
- Kate Story, Peterborough
Tory message holds: "The funny thing is, when
I began looking online for information I didn't see where any cuts have
been made, what I found was an increase in government spending....it was the cold hard facts presented to me by MP Dean Del Mastro that spoke the loudest. He
explained how hundreds of thousands of dollars had made their way to
Peterborough for projects like the Festival of Lights, Peterborough
Folk Festival and the major refurbishment to the Market Hall."
- Mike Theobald
[Please note: Link embedded in letter above provides a factual clarification re: the arts funding cuts. It also links to a lengthy discussion on other aspects of Dean Del Mastro's campaign that Mike Theobald initiated in the comments below that post earlier in the week.]
Arts funding fundamental:
"Funding for the arts should be a no brainer. It would appear that it
is Mr. Harper who is out of touch with ordinary folks and their cares."
- Dan Murphy, Peterborough
Tories will take us to dark age: "Think twice before you put an "X" beside the name of the local Harper lackie."
- Brian Bird, Peterborough
Portrait's exposure was off: "Unjust characterization of candidates detracts from the real business of elections -making decisions based on facts."
- Marilyn Tudhope, Peterborough
MP silent on pension cutback:
"Dean Del Mastro would get my vote and I'd promote him far and wide if
he would tell me why my old age security was reduced! But since he
hasn't even had the courtesy to return any of my calls regarding this
issue, this loss of income for me and likely others, I guess he loses
my vote and the vote of friends etc. when I tell them how mean the
- Lily Rosebush, Peterborough
Too tight to cell tower location: "I write this letter sitting in my garden looking at a cell tower that was brought into our neighbourhood in April of this year. Not only did our MP Dean Del Mastro not respond to our appeals
for help, the tower is now sitting on property owned by Mr. Del Mastro's mother, who is getting paid a monthly fee to host the tower. And although Mr. Del Mastro says he has nothing to do with this small piece of property that sits beside the Del Mastro car lot, he likes to park his cube van promoting the Peterborough rail line
right beside the tower on this property he says he has nothing to do with. Talk about adding insult to injury....We need the help of our federal MP to get this cell tower removed. We invite all of the candidates to visit our community, hear our story and have a conversation with us on how to move forward on this very
serious issue. Mr. Del Mastro's slogan is 'a safer, stronger, better Canada.' Well with the cell tower in my backyard on his mother's property, I know I am not safer. My neighbourhood is surely not stronger and folks,
my neighbourhood is definitely not better!
- Jill N. Jones, Ware Street
Train talk is premature:
"....we did have a little problem recently in the south end, a cell
phone tower on Del Mastro property on Lansdowne Street. We collected
probably as many signatures opposing the tower as Mr. Del
Mastro got in favour of the mythical railway. But we got no enraged
outburst for our petition, not even an acknowledgement that we exist
with a tower in our back yards. Mr. Del Mastro, get it down and you get
- Pat Power, Ware Street
Better transit solutions than a train:
"A Peterborough train would be nice, but the practical and affordable
solution for improved transportation between Toronto and Peterborough
is to get out a bucket of paint and give our buses a lane that will
enable them to get in and out of the Big Smoke without getting stalled
in traffic. HOV lanes aren't just greener, they are more financially
responsible, because they make more efficient use of the transportation
infrastructure we already have."
- Clifford Maynes, Peterborough
Bus is the ticket:
"Peterborough wake up. We don't need a MP pushing for the wealthy, we
need someone who cares about the less fortunate and those struggling to
make ends meet and our seniors. That's who will get my vote."
- Margaret Nold, Peterborough
Harper, Conservatives have abandoned environment:
"Less than two years ago, it seemed that Canadians had finally woken up
to the reality of climate change and were ready to support tough
government action. However, looking at voting intentions in this
election, it's clear we have slipped back into complacency.... Stephen
Harper is hoping to convince us it can be business as usual and that
now is not the time to bring in change. The subliminal message seems to
be that the warnings of scientists don't really need to be heeded. The
lack of a viable program on the part of the Conservatives is profoundly
destructive. It sabotages any claims to environmental leadership that
Canada may still have in the world and, on a more personal level,
simply destroys hope in the future."
- Drew Monkman, Peterborough
Cost of growth is too great: "It is well past time for this community to recognize that there are and must be limits to growth if we are to survive. "Empty" land is generally either agricultural fields, which we are foolishly allowing to be covered with subdivisions, or wetlands crucial to flood control and waterfowl habitat, or forests, which supply oxygen we need to breathe. Shoreline is particularly critical as the cradle of aquatic
- Joan Reeves, Peterborough
Clear discussion of issues needed: "As citizens we must not value low taxes over services we need,
especially for our children. We can't skimp on education and health
services for them and then put our failures into expensive prisons and
- Betty Borg, Gifford Drive
Not so nice guy: "Does a leader have to bully you and lie to you for you to think him a fit leader?"
- Catherine Kaye, Fraserville
Harper's Teflon mystery: "Stephen Harper is Teflon man; nothing sticks to him. Can someone explain why? Experts condemn his policies, but Harper just promises more of the same. First, there is global warming....Second, there is his policy on youth crime....Third, Harper espouses laissez-faire economics at a time when the financial system in the United States is near collapse because of the absence of adequate regulation. Fourth, Harper justifies cuts to arts funding....What am I missing?"- Alan Slavin, Peterborough
Tory path to US: "A vote for the Conservative Party will result in a deterioration of
Canada that we have not as yet experienced, similar to where the United
States is today."
- George Kerr, Peterborough
Health care on death bed: "If voters search the Fraser Institute website they'll easily find an article titled 'Kill the Canada Health Act.'....Harper's Conservative cabinet is full of former Mike Harris
ministers....Get ready to take out a mortgage to pay for major surgery.
....Our tax cutting Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, has taken too
much out of the government revenue stream to allow us to weather the
gathering economic storm and properly maintain important programs like
Voting Conservative will be a grave mistake for all Canadians who care about our universal health care system."
- Scott Cisco, Hastings
Harper claims, Liberals do: "When Mr. Harper came to power Canada had a strong economy, a healthy
government surplus, and we were paying down the debt. Now, the
surpluses are gone so we can't afford as much debt reduction and the
North American economy is a mess. And, lo and behold, the Conservative
government has been outspending Paul Martin's Liberals, who Tories love
to portray as tax and spend types"
- John Hoffman, Morrow Street
World is in peril and Harper is shovelling quicksand: "This election has a fundamental theme that
underlies all of the political rhetoric: individualism versus community
values. The difference is huge: the global climate and worldwide poverty demand government intervention if our children's children are to survive. Instead, Stephen Harper's Conservatives ask us to choose lower taxes, appealing to our self-interest. They refuse to include the environmental and social costs of meeting individual needs. The remaining parties -Green, Liberal, NDP -understand that we have to maintain or raise taxes to combat the most serious environmental, economic and social threats ever to face the country."
- Linda Slavin, Peterborough
Non-vote is a vote for winner:
"If you don't vote or if you spoil your ballot you have just voted for
the party with the highest number of votes, no matter which party wins."
- Len Colp, Bailieboro
Vote with my heart or with my head?:
"This is a difficult election. For the first time in my life, I am an
undecided voter. I have a Liberal sign on my lawn and an NDP sign and
if the Greens call I'll take a Green sign too. I'll draw the line at
the blue sign or the Bloc, but that's as far as I can go."
- Margaret Slavin, Lake Street
Vote for a better future: "If you care about the future of the country and our children and
grandchildren please vote for a candidate who cares about the
environment and the economy, which are closely linked issues."
- Vivian Heinmiller, Peterborough
Thinking of Voting for Dean Del Mastro? Make Sure You Have All the Facts
Election 2008 Riding Profile - Peterborough: Includes Some Comments from Around the Web
Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough Riding) Voted Against....
Letters to the Peterborough Examiner re: Little Lake
Take Down the Cell Tower Citizens' Action Group: Info Gathering Sun. Oct. 5th
ELECTION HOT BUTTON ISSUES
Little Lake | Train | Economy | Environment | Arts and Culture | Crime | Aboriginal Issues | Children/Families | Women's Issues | Election Issues | Ethics | Political Campaigns | Peterborough
This list is my attempt to begin to spell out the disconnect behind what Canadians say they want and how they vote. In this post, I create my version of a Great Canadian Wish List -- what Canadians talk about when they describe what's great about their country. In my next post, I'll measure this wish list against what voters are being offered by the Conservative Party of Canada -- the party that called this election seeking a mandate in the form of a majority government.
The Great Canadian Wish List
What do we Canadians talk about when we express our values and talk about what we want for our country?
Whatever your reason may be for seeking political change -- a desire for change at the Federal level or here in Peterborough Riding -- according to election analysts (see links below), there is only one candidate who has the potential to defeat our Conservative Member of Parliament Dean Del Mastro on election night. That candidate is Betsy McGregor, the federal Liberal Candidate for Peterborough Riding.
Before we go any further, let me state that I think that any of the three progressive candidates running in Peterborough county would make an excellent Member of Parliament: Emily Berrigan (Green Party of Canada), Betsy McGregor (Liberal), or Steve Sharpe (NDP). The problem is that if we split the approximately 65% of the vote that will likely go to the three progressive parties in our riding, Dean Del Mastro will win because he will receive approximately 35% of the vote. It's a dilemma that Canadians across our country are grappling with at the riding level: how to prevent the very non-mainstream minority from holding on to control of our country and carrying out an agenda that is anti-progressive and (many of us would argue) anti-Canadian as well. (Read my reasons for launching this blog in December 2006 and you'll see that I've been deeply concerned about this government, our MP, and Canada for a very long time.) This is where strategic voting comes into play.
Making the decision to vote strategically may be something entirely new to you, particularly if you have a long association with or a passionate commitment to a particular party. (You may want to read tonight's Peterborough Examiner to find out why peace activist and much-loved former physician Joyce Barrett -- a long-time NDP supporter -- has chosen to vote strategically in this election and rally behind Betsy McGregor. "I wept when Dean (Del Mastro) was elected in 2006," she told The Examiner.")
The idea of strategic voting is certainly something alien for me, too. Or it was until I started listening in on the thoughtful discussions of everyday Canadians like you and me and hearing how passionate they were about preventing a Conservative majority government -- and of allowing themselves to dream of a time when we might actually have a progressive government in power in Canada again.
Uniting the left is the only way to begin the process of unseating the Harper government. By going after the Conservatives in those ridings where they are most vulnerable -- in ridings like Peterborough where the race is going to be close -- we have a chance to end up with one more progressive voice on Parliament Hill. That person will not be a voice for any one party. That person will be a voice for all people in our riding who hope for a more progressive future for this riding.
As Liberal Party MP Michael Ignatieff stated earlier this week:
"What separates us from the Conservatives is that we believe you can’t have an efficient economy without a just society.
"A just society — where every citizen is equal; where we succeed together, because we look after each other; where no Canadian goes to the wall when times are tough; where no Canadian has to walk the lonely road of poverty or ill health alone.
"A market economy demands a just and equal society. You can’t have an efficient economy, without a just and equal society. This is the key idea behind Canadian liberalism [and progressive Canadians in general, I would argue.]
"That’s not Harper’s Canada."
And speaking of inspiring politicians, here's what Elizabeth May had to say on the subject of strategic voting a few days ago:
The Green, Liberal and New Democratic parties should prevent vote-splitting that would favour Conservatives, and carve up electoral ridings according to who has the best chance of winning, May said. "We sit down and say, `Who has the best chance of winning in all these ridings?' What I've been calling for is proportional representation by other means."
Here are some resources you may wish to consult as you begin to consider whether voting strategically is the right move for you. I will continue to add to this list during the days ahead. You may also wish to use the voting tool in the upper-right hand corner of this blog. It tells you which candidate is considered Peterborough Riding's best bet for electing a progressive candidate.
Note: The tool is updated on a continuous basis as polling data changes.
Strategic voting resources and tools:
This quote from my sidebar keeps dancing around in my head. It won't leave me alone. I think it wants me to showcase it where you can see it, ponder it, and possibly share it with others. So here goes....
historian in the future will look at this period of Canadian democratic
governance and in sombre tones describe how Canadian society,
somehow, inexplicably, began to deliberately diminish itself.
It did this not, the historian will say,
because it needed to....
It decided, bit by bit, to become less."
- Murray Dobbin, author and journalist writing about
the democratic slippage of the Harper years,
"Deciding to Become Less", TheTyee.ca