Eco-Tourism: Palo Verde National Park

_DSC2777 (2)Eco-Tourism is becoming more and more popular. Countries like Costa Rica are starting to take notice and make this a big part of their tourism industry. It is also becoming more and more a part of culture. They are establishing Green Zones for development as well. Having an opportunity to visit Palo Verde National Park provided a fantastic opportunity to visit some of the over 33 000 acres of preserved wetlands that provides a refuge for an abundance of wildlife.

Going with Xplore Costa Rica provided us not only with the transportation to the park but also provided us with a guide to explain the region as well as talk about the variety of wildlife we encountered. It is not far in distance from Tamarindo but the road is gravel and takes you through a region where Sugar Cane and Cantaloupe are harvested. The small communities are often made up of migrant workers from Nicaragua who leave in very basic homes that are often flooded in the wet season.

Having the opportunity to take a boat down the Tempisque River provided this Canadian an opportunity to see some wildlife in their natural habitat. I used my Sony a57 to take most of the shots using my 75-300 zoom lens. I was amazed at the quality of the photos. I have posted three photos to give you an example of the wildlife observed.

The photo of the White-Faced Monkey gives you an example of how close you come to nature. The monkeys are fearless. This is a result of tourists and locals feeding the monkeys.  The White-Faced Monkey has now got the taste of protein which has changed their eating habits. This puts the monkey in jeopardy as the craving gets so bad at times it will go into the tourist boats or worse yet they will now eat meat. Locals have observed these monkeys now killing each other to get that taste of protein. So as great as it would be to see these beautiful animals on the boat eating out of your hand, ‘Don’t Feed the Animals.’

The tour promised an opportunity to see Macaws, crocodiles, monkeys, iguanas and an array of birds. It delivered on all counts. We were able to observe numerous Iguanas of different shapes and sizes.

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We were also able to see countless crocodiles swimming in the murky waters of the Tempisque River that is lined with Mangrove trees. Our guide cast a net into the river retrieving the shrimp the crocodiles were dining on. We also were able to see the Nocturnal Boat-Billed Heron relaxing on a branch. This strange looking bird gets its name from the shape of the beak.

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After the boat ride we went back to the small village of Ortega for a traditional lunch prepared for tourists like us who pass through everyday. The lunch was excellent from freshly made corn tortillas, to rice and beans, squash, an assortment of fruit and juices as well as a sampling of some chicken and beef. My favorite was the tortillas and the fresh jalapeno. The day ended watching a young man demonstrate the painstaking process of making a clay pot. This skill was passed on to him from his father.

It is fortunate to have the opportunity to see people and parts of the world as a child you only dream about. In all my travels be it in now Central America, to the Caribbean, to Australia and New Zealand to some of the small islands of the South Pacific it is not how different we all are but how similar we all are that strikes me. We often spend so much of our time thinking we all are so different when in the end our similarities are more prevalent. There are people who do good and bad things everywhere and that connects us as well. We are connected with each other and connected with nature.

 

 

 

 

 

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Where My Sandals Take Me: Costa Rica

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Getting back to  sun, nature, walking everywhere you go helps you find yourself. Living life simply. A coffee in the morning as the sounds of the Howler Monkey, the songs of the array of birds, or a hummingbird feeding somehow reconnect you to those things that matter. If the morning doesn’t bring you peace then sitting on the beach at sunset as the sun kisses the ocean good night certainly will.

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Tamarindo, Costa Rica has it all. You can be as busy as you wish from surfing the ocean waves or for those not into surfing perhaps a boogie board will do. Even on a hot, humid day the ocean breeze will bring respite from the heat of the sun.

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The streets are mixed with the new to the more traditional. Restaurants with a taste of the Tico (local) to all the flavours to match your taste. It can all be found just a few footsteps away.

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Where do your sandals take you? Hopefully wherever it is you will find the inner peace that reminds each of us who we are.

 

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You Don’t Get Answers to Questions You Don’t Ask and Even Then…

tough-questions

Well we have three Audits or reviews completed and we don’t have the answers we were looking for. The reason is simple. If you don’t ask the tough questions you won’t get the answers. Even then, there is no guarantee we will get the answers to the questions the people of Winnipeg want and deserve.

The two audits by Ernst & Young and the one almost audit by KPMG (I only call it an almost audit as KPMG indicated they only had ten weeks to complete and not the time to get all the detail they may have needed) and we are still left wondering. We have found out and to no one’s surprise that all three audits come to the same conclusion. There are problems with protocols, procedures, process and transparency. There are issues relating to not sharing information, sharing information to soon with selected parties, perceived favoritism and a general mishandling of some major projects costing the City of Winnipeg Taxpayers millions of dollars.

Let’s not forget KPMG indicated that ‘We got value for our dollar” in the building of the new Police Headquarters. That never was the question the taxpayers wanted answered. It may have been the question the Mayor and at least some councillors wanted answered. If we looked at other options and instead of spending 210 million on the new Police Headquarters could we have renovated the existing building as an example. Let’s say that cost us even 50 million dollars. We still would have 160 million that could be spent elsewhere.

How about road repair, parks, bike lanes and even development in other areas?

How about fixing the downtown parkade or even looking at the Pumphouse site and meeting with the community and developing it according to what the City by-laws and plans indicated?

What about looking at developing multi-use, walkable communities, improving Public Transit, incentives to encourage more green initiatives?

The list is endless of course. The value for dollar answer is in essence meaningless. This was a major project the Mayor and councillors were not elected to do and they did not consult with the people who will end up paying for it. Don’t get me wrong in the end after consultation and a proper process we may have still built Police Headquarters as is. The difference being we would have followed a process, been transparent, used a tendering process and may have waited for 100% of the plans to be complete before making such an important decision. We would have made an informed decision.

After all is said and done we can’t change the past. The real estate deals are done. The Fire Halls are built (be it one of them on land we didn’t own) and the Police Headquarters are built at a cost of at least $210 million dollars. However we are still left with unanswered questions.

Taxpayers wanted these questions answered:

1) Why did we need a broker or independent real estate agent to purchase the property? City Officials indicated they could do the job?

2) Why and who authorized the building of Police Headquarters with only 30% of the plans in place?

3) When warned by City Officials of people becoming concerned over favoritism towards one developer why was that ignored?

In an excerpt from: Black Rod Blogspot from July 15th, 2014

“In the transactions where an external advisor was retained, there wasno documentation explaining the rationale why an external advisor was required for that particular transaction.” stated the audit.

And…

“There was no documentation evidencing the selection process undertaken to determine which of the prequalified proponents to engage in all cases where an external advisor was retained.”

Here, maybe, is why…

* Of $1.2 million paid to advisors and brokers on four contracts, $1.1 million, or 95 percent, went to one of them…

4) Were Conflict of Interest guidelines broken?

5) Why wasn’t the Mayor more aware of what was happening in these major projects, especially after all the concerns started to surface?

6) How much did the EPC know and when? What about councillors? Why are they not asking the questions we want answered?

7) What about the media? Watergate would have never been exposed if it wasn’t for the media.

8) Why was Phil Sheegl let go before the audits became public?

There are many more questions we want answers to. We also want accountability. It is too easy to make the middle managers the scapegoats for the lack of or misinformation about projects. We want accountability from the people in charge. How refreshing it would be to hear the Mayor stand-up and say “I should have known. Ultimately I am responsible. Here are the mistakes I made. Here is how we are going to fix it.”

Oh wait … is that a singing pig flying over a blue moon playing Beethoven’s Fifth.

I think a flying, singing, piano playing pig is more likely to happen than politicians holding themselves accountable and to the high expectations elected officials should be held to.

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Reclaiming our Voice; Our City

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Have you heard? Have you been listening? The Mayor and Council have been trying to hide it, but if you have been listening, they have been saying it by each action, each side-deal, each broken process, each time they don’t return your call, refuse to see you, hold a meeting at a time most people can’t attend. Each piece of property they sell at a rock bottom price at a chance to build something we haven’t asked for or haven’t had a chance to be a part of. To have our say. To have a voice. They have told us we don’t matter. The people of Winnipeg don’t matter. What we think or say doesn’t matter.

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The recent poll in the Winnipeg Free Press makes it clear you are either frustrated or feel what you say no longer matters. Is there a greater risk to a fair and just society then for people to have lost their voice or when they speak it doesn’t matter? Rushed projects, properties and deals made without tenders, perceived favoritism and decisions made without consultation, legal counsel or consideration for the long-term best interests of the people they are elected to serve.

Some people may tell you that we need a businessperson at City Hall. City Hall is not a business. The City of Winnipeg owns land. Land kept in the public trust to provide the services and meet the needs of the people of Winnipeg. The sale of these land assets to balance a budget is unacceptable and certainly is not in the best interests of the City of Winnipeg. Those land assets are to create a better life for people through parks, community centres, or development that is part of a long-term vision to improve our lifestyle now and for future generations. Every person on council holds some level of responsibility for not safeguarding our interests. No one asked the questions that needed to be answered. It is why we have lost our trust. It is why we must find our voice. Regain our city.

Waiting for a Train

When people’s voices were asking for a plan, a vision, accountability they were supported by best practice and data to support the way a city should be run. The Mayor, EPC and council have given the people of Winnipeg a decade of trust me, you need to take a leap of faith, with no evidence to support the decisions they have made. The evidence is mounting with decaying infrastructure, poor and unresponsive service and multimillion dollar over-expenditures that are yet to be paid for. One can only imagine the financial burden our next mayor and council will have.

As we move forward we will need to base our decisions on data and sound research. There is a connection between crime rates, physical and mental health and lifestyle. People who are able to walk, bike or take safe public transportation are generally happier than those who must fight traffic and potholes to get to work. The longer the commute the less happy people become. There is also a correlation between green space and mental health. There is also a connection between people’s sense of community and happiness. We need to create a long-term plan for our City that reflects that knowledge.

We need to have an inventory of what we have in each of our communities and what each community needs. We need to ask important questions and get answers and then develop a plan to address these needs and wants one step at a time by prioritizing those things that are most important through a consultation process involving all stakeholders. Of course we also will need to run the day-to-day business of the city, like road repair, snow clearing and so on. We need to provide timely and prompt service. Respecting every citizen as if they were the most important citizen in Winnipeg. Our current Mayor and council by their mishandling of Winnipeg’s assets both fiscal and human capacity has made moving forward a very difficult task.

Our vision for Winnipeg needs to be based on strengthening community.

Do we know our neighbours?

Do we feel safe in our communities?

Is there a park nearby where we can meet with community, neighbours, walk our dog, cycle or get in touch with nature?

Do we have a garden or a community garden?

Are the services we need in my community?

What is the most important thing to me? To my family? To my community?

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Moving forward we need to understand there is a movement for people to become more connected. Whether it be through social media or at local patios and coffee shops. A visit to ‘The Forks’ on a warm sunny day can pay tribute to the vibrancy and beauty of one of Winnipeg’s premier meeting places. Whether it be for events like the ‘Canada Day Fireworks’ or events like ‘Bargefest’, ‘Take your Bike to Work’, or most recently ‘The Living Flag’, Winnipeggers and tourists come to ‘The Forks’. The skate park, ice skating on the river, the Theatre for Young People, Children’s Museum and the kid’s park. Buskers and free entertainment add to the flavour of ‘The Forks’. People are happy and enjoying the beauty and historical significance of where the Assiniboine meets the Red.

The Human Rights Museum adds to the aesthetics of the area and continues to recognize the importance of people and the valuing of community. During the warmer months, business people, all people will walk and enjoy the touch of nature found in The Forks, the Exchange District and the ever-expanding condos being developed on the east side of the Red River in St. Boniface which respect the river side parks as well as the historic beauty of Fort Gibraltar.  The Human Rights Museum will attract schools, tour buses and the general public to one of the areas that makes Winnipeg a great place to be.

Human Rights Museum July 1st 2013

As we continue to develop this historic meeting place it must be with respect to the people it is designed for. Whatever is developed in Parcel 4 it must ensure it remains a place for people. It must make sure there will be a place for tour and school buses and for the children to play and eat in the shadow of the museum. It must continue to develop the coffee shops and patios that engage us in conversation. People must still be able to cycle, walk and run through the park as they reconnect with themselves and nature.

The attributes of the area cannot purely be measured by putting a dollar sign on ‘The Forks’. This is not a business decision. This is about building community, building a city. The other side of the money equation is reducing cost. Happy and healthy people cost less and contribute more. Any business worth its salt knows that. Wellness is part of making a successful city.

Whether or not condos need to be part of the Forks Renewal must be carefully thought out. Traffic flow and keeping the site as a place for people to meet must be considered. The Exchange District, North Portage and St. Boniface still have room to develop residential areas. All within walking distance. This does not need to be decided by this City Council and as a matter of fact it shouldn’t. Based on the most recent survey in the Winnipeg Free Press our Mayor and City Council have lost the trust of the people. Our current Municipal Government is marred by to many bad decisions to be considered capable of making a decision of this magnitude. They have lost their right to decide.

An old expression is haste makes waste and certainly the fast tracking of many municipal projects has proven that to be true. Let us take the time to do this right. Let us think about today but also let us look forward as we make our city a great place for today and a great place for our children and their children.

Let us find our voice. Let us be part of the process. Let’s not let our Municipal Government make any more decisions without having a plan. Without hearing our voices. Doing their due diligence to make sure the plan is the right one not only for today but moving forward. This is our city. It does not belong to the Mayor and Council. It belongs to us.

living flag 2014

Other Reading:

1) Sheegl and Shindico. Five Years of Deceit, says Audit by The Back Rod

2) Winnipeg real estate audit: 5 questions councillors may ask, CBC NEWS, July 8th

3) SMART Growth, National Resources Defense Council

 

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A City for People

space

Watching the City Council meeting as they examined the results of the Ernst and Young Audit was interesting to say the least. Before you say ‘Get a Life’, here is why. If there was any more evidence required for the people of Winnipeg to see why our current “Municipal Government’ is not working it was clearly on display for all to witness.

Listening to many councillors; including our mayor; it was fairly clear:

  1. They didn’t understand the purpose of the audit
  2. They were protecting their own interests
  3. They were looking for Ernst and Young to tell them ‘You are doing good job.’
  4. Trying to find blame as long as it wasn’t the councillor who spoke

The Ernst and Young Audits has exposed a system that isn’t working, The audits are showing everyone our current Municipal Government and Public Service lacks clear policy and procedures. When you couple the lack of policies and procedures with a lack of a plan, a vision for our city, it is no wonder we see the problems that are plaguing city hall. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.

Our city needs a change. That is stating the obvious. Our systems are no longer working, the voice of the people is not welcomed or asked for but most people have lost the hope what they say matters. We are selling off our City’s assets (land) in order to pay off debt, over-expenditures or mismanaged projects. Our developers seem to be pawnbrokers who are able to pay less for something than it is worth and then profit off of the assets we have given away in hope to balance our budget or not raise taxes. This perhaps could be forgiven if the land the city was selling was being developed to improve the lives of people. To fulfill a vision. That however is not the case.

Our councillors want to consider themselves successful because a piece of property was sold or a building was built. Success is not measured that way. If we look at the example of the new proposed development in River Heights as an example: We are taking a ‘Green Space’ in a residential neighbourhood and building more houses. The positive would be at least it is not another ‘Urban Sprawl’ development. The negatives however are the people of the neighbourhood have lost a park. A park they had, other people are asking for, so they can play with their children, walk their dogs, exercise and build community. Research clearly states the positive effect ‘Green Space’ has on physical and mental health. There is also evidence in the reduction of crime. It is about improving our lifestyle. It is about recognizing cities are not about buildings they are about people.

In the end the root of our problem is not just the lack of policies, procedures and a clear and transparent vision, but a belief that cities are about things not people. Unless we change that belief, unless we make our Government about designing policies and visions that are focused on people and improving quality of life for all, we will continue to have results that are moving our city backwards instead of forward. Policies should be asking ‘How will this make life better for people?’

I am not sure how someone runs for Mayor on a campaign of changing ‘Policies and Procedures’ or bringing back democracy and giving people a voice that matters. We need to create a more ‘Inclusive Society’ where the quality of life of people is what matters. People want quick fixes and it is obvious the fixes our city needs will not happen overnight. The changes we need are systematic and a renewal in our belief that the most valuable infrastructure of any place is people. That change is going to be hard and take time. That change can not be done by a Politician but must be done by someone committed to serving their city, their community, rather than worried about the politics of their decisions. It will require courage.

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Further Reading:

1) Greenspace Master Plan for Winnipeg

2) People Building Better Cities

3) Cities for People: Building the Sustainable City 

 

 

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City Hall: A Mistake Waiting to Happen

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I woke-up to the sound of sirens and I looked outside to see if our City Hall was on fire. I made the mistake of reading the Ernst & Young Real Estate Management Review: Finding and Recommendations prior to going to sleep. If there isn’t a fire at City Hall there certainly is a lot of smoke and as the old saying goes where there is smoke there is fire.

It really doesn’t matter if we call this an audit or a review as that is merely semantics as what does matter are the findings in the report. The report clearly indicates that many of the real estate purchases did not follow process or that there were no processes to follow. The City of Winnipeg despite having its own Real Estate Department decided on some major projects like Police Headquarters to hire an external advisor/broker. The report indicated that there was no explanation or rational as to why these particular transactions required an external broker.

In all cases where an external advisor was engaged, there was no file documentation explaining the rationale why an external advisor was required for the particular transaction.

To me one of the most disturbing parts of the ‘Review’; I will use the word review so our Mayor can’t argue the point and can concentrate merely on the facts as outlined in the review; is the lack of documentation, lack of involvement of Legal Counsel and the lack of timely and appropriate information to City Counsel about these real estate transactions. The Ernst & Young Real Estate Management Review is just another litany of evidence that our Mayor, City Council and the Public Service have mismanaged our city and are making decisions that at the very least have cost our taxpayers millions of dollars and raise the possibilities of issues relating to conflict of interest and one wonders if all aspects of these dealings meet the criteria to be legal.

It is why Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation was quoted as saying in the July 2nd edition of the Winnipeg Free Press as asking the ‘Selinger government to call an inquiry — or if it’s not willing to do that, call in the RCMP‘. There is no question this report requires further action. The report is shocking but indicates our City Hall on multi-million dollar projects didn’t hold itself to the same standards we are held to when we purchase a house. The hiring of an outside ‘Broker’ that represented the seller and the buyer was used in at least one instance. When you and I purchase a house we are certainly advised to have our own real estate advisor broker that represents our interests or represent ourselves with the help of a lawyer to protect our interests. We also know that when we hire a real estate agent there are terms and conditions for their service that are signed by both parties. With respect to payment the amount is stipulated in the agreement. The fee is often negotiable but is put right on the agreement. This was not done in all cases and with respect to Police Headquarters the review indicates the ‘Broker’ was paid over $800 000 to finalize the purchase of the property for 29 million dollars. It must be noted this is also the project that in the end was way over budget and numerous other issues related to the building of the Police Headquarters.

Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and Dave Sauer of the Winnipeg Labour Council held a joint press conference across the street from the city’s new downtown police headquarters to encourage Winnipeggers to lobby council to reconsider a 2013 decision not to audit the construction project, whose budget has ballooned to $210 million from $135 million in four years.

City asked to reconsider audit on over-budget police HQ, Winnipeg Free Press, January 13, 2014

A call for an audit on the building of police headquarters was defeated by a vote of 9 to 7 by City Council. One can only imagine how those individuals who are ultimately responsible for the issues related to Police Headquarters can be ‘trusted’ to look into the incident.

City Hall has and continues to be marred by incidents that clearly point to an inability to effectively manage the day to day operations of the City of Winnipeg. Here are just a few examples.

  1. The Fire Hall Audit – The Ernst & Young Audit report concluded the program was over-budget and one of the fire halls was built on land the city still does not own. Ernst & Young said the whole program was badly managed and preferential treatment and information were provided to local developer Shindico, which ended up building all four stations.
  2. Investor’s Field – Sam Katz in an article by Bartley Knives on April 11th stated: “In my opinion, there should have been much more time devoted to details which for some reason were overlooked. I have no explanation for it; we weren’t involved with it but there’s no doubt in my mind that is the case.” In this case there certainly can be responsibility placed everywhere but it looks and sounds the same as the issues plaguing City Hall and Council.
  3. Urban Sprawl – Despite evidence stating the cost and negative impact on the development of Winnipeg both economically and environmentally City Hall this year has approved two more ‘Urban Sprawl’ Developments. I have outlined like others alternatives and issues related to ‘Urban Sprawl’. (Winnipeg: We’ve Got a Problem)
  4. Lack of Planning, Transparency and Vision for the City – It is difficult to understand how City Hall celebrated the removal of the Red Tape that our Mayor stated slowed development. Since that time our City projects have been marred by mismanagement, cost-over-runs and acquisitions and in the case of the Fire Halls favoritism to certain individuals and companies. I have previously written many articles as have others related to the mismanagement of our City (Mayor and Council Get Failing Grade).

Where do we go from here? I don’t think we can wait for the next election to take action. Our current council is continuing to make decisions that could negatively impact the City of Winnipeg moving forward. At the very least we need to have an audit and police investigation into the business dealing of the City of Winnipeg. Those that are responsible for these dealings must take responsibility and as taxpayers we need to be assured these dealing were the result of mistakes rather than criminal activity. When some school divisions were questioned about how they were doing business the Province stepped in and provisionally took over the day to day operations of school division. In the interests of the people of Winnipeg it seems we need a provisional leadership to run our City until a newly elected Mayor and Council can be put in place. Failing that we need a moratorium on major decisions by our council.

We need a review of the role of Civil Servants in the transactions identified. Civil Servants are to serve as the safeguards of process and protect the taxpayers and people of Winnipeg from political interference.

We need to redefine City Hall, our Municipal Government and Mayor. This will not be an easy fix. The way City Hall does business has changed under the tenure of our current Mayor. Tinkering will not do. We need to rebuild not only the vision for the City of Winnipeg but create a municipal government and civil service that understands process, supports ‘Smart Growth’, is transparent and engages the people in the process. A new Mayor cannot fix what is currently broken. What is broken cannot be fixed. We must start over and that will not be easy.

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Canada: What is it We Believe In?

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I am a proud Canadian. On July 1st I will once again stand with other Canadians to be part of the ‘Living Flag’. This year it will not be at the Manitoba’s Legislative Building but rather in front of the soon to be opened Human Rights Museum. Significant in the fact it symbolizes that we are not just part of Canada, but we are part of a much bigger global community.

I grew up believing that as a country, as Canadians we believed in Human Rights, we believed in Foreign Aide, we believed that people mattered.  In a recent poll that identified the top ten Canadians it symbolized more than who they are but what they stood for as human beings. We have Lester B. Pearson largely for his role in the development of the League of Nations, Terry Fox for his memorable and historic walk to fight cancer. Tommy Douglas, the Father of Medicare, and Romeo Dallaire, whose voice was silenced as he tried to warn the world of the approaching genocide in Rwanda. His voice was ignored and silenced by the media, political leaders but most importantly by the United Nations.

There are many other people who have made a difference in the life of Canadians and people globally who did not make the list. My ancestors have fought on behalf of creating a better world for me, Canadians and the world in the face of oppression.During many of these wars I of course wasn’t born yet, but still they were fighting for me as there was this understanding about providing a world for future generations. They sacrificed so that I could have a chance at a better life. Today we seem stuck in the mindset of living for today, rather than looking towards building a strong, sustainable, healthy future for our children and generations yet to come.

Despite the advent of the Internet where information and misinformation can be at your fingertips instantly we seem caught up in sound bites when it comes to debates on economic, global and green policies on a sustainable future. We seem to be caught up in a media fixated on the newest fad, hottest celebrity or the most controversial statements made. Mayor Ford is the perfect example of how media, even mainstream media is caught up in what I call ‘National Inquirer’ reporting. We seem stuck in a system that wants to look at ‘Today’ and not look at where we will be or what we need to do to improve our planet in the next five years, ten years and beyond.

Business seems also trapped in this ‘Today Mentality’. Companies are built on a deck of cards as they trade stocks and try to increase profit through a day trade mentality rather than focus on developing a sound business plan for the future. Our Canadian economy cannot survive if we continue to increase only part-time jobs and not focus on full-time jobs.

Over the past year, if it hadn’t been for part-time work, Canada wouldn’t have any employment growth at all. The country has added 112,200 part-time jobs in the past 12 months, but it has lost 26,700 full-time jobs. Part-time jobs now make up 19.3 per cent of all employment in this country – the highest proportion in nearly three years. As the Canadian job market stumbles, we’re becoming a nation of part-timers – and, increasingly, not by choice.

http://montrealsimon.blogspot.ca/2014/06/stephen-harper-tim-hudak-and-con.html

When someone wants to talk about changing tax and government policies or examines the widening gap between the rich and the poor or those who have and those who don’t they are chastised for being anti-progress or worse yet a communist or a left winger. It is no small wonder that the majority of people in Canada and the United States don’t trust politicians to serve the interests of the people over their own or their business interests.

Is Your Iceberg Shrinking?

Is Your Iceberg Shrinking?

Let us take for example the rhetoric being bandied about by Stephan Harper and Tony Abbott.

The Australian and Canadian prime ministers have suggested that economic growth is more important than tackling climate change, playing down the prospects of strong co-ordinated global action.

The Guardian, June 10, 2014

It would be easy to talk about Prime Minister Harper’s connection to the oil industry, his seemingly unrelenting support for the Alberta Tar Sands, the building of a pipeline as his reasons for his truly Un-Canadian view on our need to seemingly put the needs of immediate satisfaction versus the long-term sustainable future of our country, of the world for future generations. The statement of the two Prime Ministers is disturbing to say the least but is also unfounded and blatantly incorrect if we are to read the facts by Canadian Scientists, world scientists but also a new study done by the World Bank called Climate-smart development: adding up the benefits of actions that help build prosperity, end poverty and combat climate change. This is not a question of a healthy economy or develop a more sustainable and greener future. The study provides concrete evidence to help countries like Canada and the United States’ policy-makers address economic and climate issues effectively.

“Climate change poses a severe risk to global economic stability, but it doesn’t have to be like this,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “At the World Bank Group, we believe it’s possible to reduce emissions and deliver jobs and economic opportunity, while also cutting health care and energy costs. This report provides powerful evidence in support of that view.”

How many readers, how many Canadians are aware of this study? Did this study find its way to the front page of newspapers or go viral on twitter? I religiously watch the news every day and I don’t remember seeing any of our local television stations doing any news release on this important study. It seems the people we don’t trust, like politicians, are doing some things to control information that gets to the public. Don’t paint me as a ‘Conspiracy Theorist’ because I am not. However, it seems to be economics that drives media, politics and policies despite how many of the economic policies being developed are based not on research or data but on ideologies that the evidence and data show don’t work.

Stand-up for Science

Stand-up for Science

In the May issue of Academic Matters talks about policies being created to limit the role scientific research is having on decision-making. The Harper Government has made comprehensive cuts to our research budgets and made it more difficult to share the data collected with the public.

Without science neither the public nor its leaders can be sufficiently knowledgeable to make informed decisions. Decision-making becomes little more than an exercise in ideology and the use of power. Nobel Prize-wining climate scientist Andrew Weaver argues that “we have a crisis in Canada.” This crisis, he says, “is in terms of the development of information and science to inform decision-making. What we have replaced that with is an ideological approach to decision-making.”

Academic Matter, May 2013

I have talked about in previous articles about the mendacity in politics. When we have politicians who decide to fear monger and make unsupported claims that if we address issues of climate change or even the gap between rich and poor that our economy will suffer we need to as people take action. We need to stand up to the untruths that are being shared.

Economic policies that support only a few have never historically worked. Tickle-down economics helps the few while hurting the many. Green Policies being instituted by Canada seem to also be more worried about the economics of the few rather than creating a better more sustainable future. We need this to change.

Survival has always meant the need to adapt. We need to look at data and research and make-decisions that will move our country forward both economically and environmentally. The public, the voters do care about the environment. When we were told to recycle, we recycled. When we were told that dual flush toilets would help we went out and bought dual flush toilets. People are adaptable. The jobs moving forward many not be in the oil industry but may be in the development of greener cities, alternate forms of power (wind, solar, water).

When I stand-up on July 1st celebrating Canada’s 147th birthday as part of the ‘Living Flag’ I will be remembering all those great Canadians that put the lives of others, democracy, human rights ahead of their needs. Understanding a healthy country, a healthy society meant for everyone not just the few. The actions that we do to today are important. They are important to us, to our families, to our fellow Canadians and globally. How will history describe us? How will history remember the actions of Stephen Harper? What legacy has he created? Have our global leaders created?

We need leaders that look past today and can build a future for tomorrow. We need to take the politics out of politics and put the civil back into civil service. We need action based on evidence not on ideology. We deserve better and our future generations certainly do.

 

 

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