How U.S. Midterm Elections might affect Online Gambling Regulations in the U.S.A.

November 13, 2014 2:48 pm
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Last week the U.S.A. saw the holding of midterm elections for represented positions in the United States Senate.

The Republican Party had a considerable win and was able to pick up many seats in these elections, and in turn ensured they now command the majority of the voting power in the any issue before the U.S. Senate.

The outcome from these elections will have a significant impact on U.S. policy making and implementation for at least the next two years, both domestically and internationally.

One area that will be looked at in the coming term is the issue of online gambling regulation, throughout the states of the U.S.A..

Following we take a look at four U.S. states where online gambling regulation is of note; the results that occurred within them, and the possible implications for online gambling in each of them.

Florida

The result in Florida is of some concern, as Republican and current Governor Rick Scott was  re-elected. Governor Scott is known to be a supporter of land-based casino identity Sheldon Adelson, who has previously campaigned against online gambling; presumably to protect his own significant land based gambling interests.

Hopes in the iGaming community were high for Florida, which was seen by many as a good candidate to adopt online regulated gambling in the near future. Governor Scott’s re-election might put those hopes on hold for now, but in the grand scheme of things, all is not considered lost.

Illinois

Its goodbye Democrat Pat Quinn and hello Republican Bruce Rauner in the state of Illinois, as a changing of the guard takes place.

Quinn was known to be staunchly anti-land based casino, so his exit won’t cause too many tears in the gambling community. The incoming Governor Bruce Rauner has previously expressed his dislike for gambling (a hardly unique position for an un-elected politician to hold); though he has said he might be ok with land based casinos if the community is already on-board with the idea.

If the commonly held belief that land-based gambling supports the cause of online gambling regulation holds true, than it could be considered that Illinois’ overall position has shifted for the better which will benefit slots such as Jack and the Beanstalk, general casino sites, as well as sportsbook and poker rooms.

Massachusetts

It could be observed that there were both wins and losses coming out of the Massachusetts vote.

On the positive side, voters rejected an attempt to retract a law from 2011, which allows for the licensing and construction of three land based casinos in the state, and this might indicate an overall approval for gambling related activities by the public, though the creation of jobs and projected annual revenue from these casinos should not be discounted either.

On the negative side, the election of Deb Goldberg as the new Massachusetts treasurer could be of concern, as she has voiced anti-online gambling opinions in the past, and was supporting the repeal of the previously passed laws from 2011.

Just how things will progress in Massachusetts remains to be seen. The new land-based casinos revenue will almost certainly be welcomed by the politicians of the state, and perhaps this can be extended to an online platform within time.

Pennsylvania

Tom Wolf of the Democrat Party took the top prize in Pennsylvania in the voting held there.

While he has espoused anti-online gambling rhetoric in the past, things are always different and easier when you are not sitting in the hot seat.

With a bag full of election promises to fulfil, Governor Wolf will no doubt be raiding the coffers for every penny possible, and the lure of gambling gold might be enough for him to soften his previously held position.

 

Is It Time For Canadians to Demand Action on Child Care?

November 6, 2014 10:05 am
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After years of inaction from Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, it is time for Canadian families to join together to demand high quality, affordable child care. As it stands right now, millions of parents lack access to affordable, quality day care in Canada, with one care space available for every five children who need one. Without action, the crisis in day care will continue. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

During its first term in office, the Harper government abandoned Canadian families by tearing up agreements with provincial governments to create a national child care system. The Conservatives opted instead to give families a $100 monthly Universal Child Care Be, in many communities throughout Canada, annual day care fees are higher than the cost of university tuition.

The UCCB’s $2.8 billion annual cost would be much better spent as an investment in a nationally-integrated and affordable child care system. Such a system would not only make sense for parents, but also for the economy. Studies show that publicly-funded day care systems, such as the one that exists in Quebec, pay for themselves through job creation, increased tax revenue, and better health and education outcomes for children.

For example, a study undertaken by Pierre Fortin and two colleagues from L’Université de Sherbrooke determined that for every dollar Quebec invests in child care, $1.05 is returned to the government in the form of higher tax revenues and lower overall program spending, with an additional 44 cents returned to the federal government.

Another recent study, conducted by TD Economics, recommended that public-funded day care become a top priority for governments due to the long-term economic, social, and health benefits that child care provides to children and society as a whole. It also noted that Canada is last among its peer countries in public spending on day care.

We know that universal, low-cost child care spaces are essential to helping more parents enter and remain in the workforce, and that Canadians want their government to make it easier for parents to raise families while working. For instance, a 2012 poll by McAllister Opinion Research found that 66 per cent of Canadians support the creation of a publicly-subsidized, $10-per-day day care program.

And so, as the leading voice for working families across the country, UFCW Canada and our allies have developed a national campaign to make day care services a priority for government. Dubbed Take Action on Child Care, the campaign seeks to make access to high quality, affordable day care a reality for families and children across Canada. You can add your voice to this important campaign by visiting ufcw.ca/childcare and sending a letter to Prime Minister Harper urging his government to make day care a national priority, and to work with the provinces to establish a high quality, affordable child care system.

Heading into the 2015 federal election, UFCW Canada and the Canadian labour movement will also be working with citizens and community partners to elect a family- friendly federal government that is committed to creating a publicly-funded, national day care program. With Canadian families desperately in need of affordable, high quality day care spaces, we can no longer wait to take action.

By Paul R. Meinema

Paul-Meinema_UFCW-Canada-2014Paul R. Meinema is the National President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada), which represents more than 250,000 workers in various industries across the country.

Is it Time to Allow Assisted Suicide?

October 21, 2014 3:40 pm

Most Canadians do not have access to comprehensive palliative care

This week, the Supreme Court of Canada has been hearing an appeal by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association that could grant terminally ill Canadians the right to assisted suicide. With this impending ruling and the passing of Bill 52 in Quebec (Medical Aid in Dying) and rumblings from parliament of another private members bill on assisted suicide, Canada is at a crossroads.

The Court faces a daunting task. The arguments they will hear are complex, diverse and impassioned, given our societal fear of death and the process leading to it. While some will try to reassure the court that many Canadians support physician hastened death, others will caution that popularity is hardly a trustworthy guide to constructive and just social policy reform. But first, the Court must consider whether their decision will improve care for the terminally ill.

Dying in Canada can be a scary prospect. According to a parliamentary report from 2000, most Canadians do not have access to comprehensive palliative care. Most will die in tertiary care settings due to inadequate community resources to support a home death. Furthermore, there are no national standards pertaining to pain control, symptom alleviation, psychosocial care and spiritual support. For First Nations, Metis or Inuit, receiving culturally sensitive palliative care is unlikely. Many patients in rural areas have little or no access to comprehensive palliative care.

The court must also consider who they would empower to carry out assisted suicide. By the time they reach licensure, many Canadian doctors have received less training in pain management than their counterparts in veterinary medicine. Most physicians have knowledge deficiencies that impair their ability to manage cancer pain and are poorly equipped to address end of life conversations. Other studies suggest that doctors who treat fewer terminally ill patients and know the least about symptom management are most likely to be in favour of assisted suicide, while those with more experience tend to oppose it.

Autonomy can be a risky argument for legislative change. In some jurisdictions with death hastening legislation, euthanasia or assisted suicide has been provided to infants and children, people with dementia or chronic conditions, those who have not given explicit consent, the mentally ill and most recently, an inmate who preferred death to incarceration. Permissive legislation will also increase feelings of vulnerability amongst those with disabilities, those feeling a burden and those who society perceives as unproductive. Also, the more autonomy is granted, the more it becomes a perceived entitlement. In the Netherlands and Belgium, groups have been advocating for the availability of death hastening measures for people over seventy years of age who are expressing ‘tiredness of life.’

The design and representation of studies examining the outcome of death-hastening can sometimes be misleading or falsely reassuring. Take for example studies suggesting that families of patients who opt for euthanasia or assisted suicide do not experience negative psychological consequences. Currently, there are no studies examining the bereavement experiences of family members that were not informed of their loved ones’ decision to pursue hastened dying. In Oregon, 10 per cent of patients refused to include their family in the discussion and in another six percent of instances the physician did not know if families were aware of the request. Quebec’s Bill 52 stipulates that patients can refuse to have their families consulted.

The Court may wonder if palliative care can include physician-hastened death. Palliative care demands vigilant monitoring of the patient and individual responses to assuage physical, psychosocial and spiritual distress. Palliative care is a process of caring applied over time. As such, short of asking dying patients to dislocate from communities that lack appropriate resources, most Canadians will simply have to make do—or, if the law changes, take cold comfort in knowing that they can access death-hastening alternatives.

Palliative care cannot eliminate every facet of end-of life suffering. Preserving dignity for patients at the end of life requires a steadfast commitment to non-abandonment, meticulous management of suffering and a tone of care marked by kindness. In response to this dignity conserving approach, the former head of the Hemlock Society conceded that “if most individuals with a terminal illness were treated this way, the incentive to end their lives would be greatly reduced.”

That is a lot for the Supreme Court of Canada to consider. The country will anxiously await its verdict.

By Harvey Max Chochinov and Balfour M. Mount

Chochinov_Harvey_high resHarvey Max Chochinov is an expert advisor with EvidenceNetwork.ca and a Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care and Director, Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba.  

balfour_mount_IMG_7275Balfour M. Mount is the Eric M. Flanders Professor Emeritus of Palliative Medicine at McGill University

Back to the Ballot Box

October 15, 2014 12:14 pm
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What you need to know about the Mayoral Candidates for Ottawa’s 2014 Civic Election

Do you know who you will be voting for on Monday, October 27? With the civic election approaching, OLM took a look into what each candidate envisions for the city, should they be elected to office.

Here are the main points of the platforms of the candidates running for mayor.

Bernard Couchman Media Pic 2014Bernard Couchman

Bernard Couchman believes the City of Ottawa needs change and that he can provide that change. Overall, Couchman’s goal is to unite what he currently perceives as a fragmented city. For him it’s about, “getting us on the same page—we’re all Ottawa.” As a mayoral candidate, Couchman says he is about productivity over visibility. His main platform hones in on health, economics, the environment and education. Through all of this, Couchman has a vision of moving the City of Ottawa forward.

Mike Maguire

Mike Maguire PhotoBorn in Montreal, Mike Maguire now calls Ottawa home. What he wants to see for the city is a bold new approach to waste management. He believes the cost of Ottawa’s current waste management approach is too high. Maguire would like to address the city’s dependency on landfills and envisions reducing present and future need for them. The high and rising price of electricity is also something Maguire would like to address. He believes it would provide relief in hydro costs. His proposed solution to these issues is for the city of Ottawa to adopt the incineration method. Incineration would save money by not creating another landfill, discourage the expansion of landfills and generate electricity. “We’re facing unprecedented financial pressures from all sides but we also want to be as environmentally responsible as possible so our beautiful city is preserved for future generations,” he says.

Michael St. Arnaud

Michael St. ArnaudA large part of Michael St. Arnaud’s platform focuses on the regulation of landlords. St. Arnaud draws attention to the right of the provinces and municipalities to license landlords and believes the city should exercise that right. Recognizing landlords as a business of their own, St. Arnaud holds they should be regulated and licensed, just as retail stores and automobile drivers are. With the current lack of regulation on landlords, there is no accountability or credentials from a governing body in place. This is a cause for hostility between the tenant and the landlord and often arises after an issue has surfaced. ”There should be justice, credibility and checks and balances put in place for both parties involved in any landlord and tenant dispute,” says St. Arnaud. Over all, his platform calls for a legitimization of the operations of landlords.

Anwar Syed

Potrait-Anwar SyedAnwar Syed is running his campaign for mayor on a relational basis. He would like to see more multicultural events and festivals happening in the city. Syed migrated to Canada in 1999 with his family and believes his breadth of knowledge in different backgrounds, cultures and work ethics can “take Ottawa toward greater heights.” In order to build these relational bridges, Syed proposes to make the second weekend of July a multicultural festival for the city of Ottawa. He would also like to see a Multicultural and Multilingual Institution be built in the city. Not only does Syed show interest in cultural relationships, but he also envisions “making Ottawa a safer place to live, work, and commute for all residents,” and keeping “Ottawa a secure place for residents and visitors alike.”

Jim Watson

Mayor Jim Watson_tulipsThe word surrounding Jim Watson’s platform for re-election is “progress;” progress for a better Ottawa and progress on environmental issues. In his past four years serving as mayor, Watson has made progress on a number of different fronts, including getting the construction of the light rail transit underway, giving visibility to the public about the ongoings of City Hall and establishing fiscal discipline in City Hall. With so much change happening all around the city, Watson believes “Ottawa needs strong and stable leadership for the challenges that remain ahead.” City Hall was a much different place before Watson stepped into office and he aspires to “continue the work we’ve started together.”

Robert White

Robert WhiteMuch of Robert White’s platform as mayoral candidate for Ottawa centers around economics and saving money for the city. For the first term of office, for example, White aims to freeze the wages of City of Ottawa union workers, freeze the Ottawa Police Services budget, freeze long term capital borrowing and freeze the transit budget. Cancelling phase II of the light rail transit development alone would save $2.8 billion for residents of Ottawa. White proposes to reinstate weekly garbage pickup for residents, however only during the summer. White would also like to reduce the number of City of Ottawa employees by 5 per cent per term of office, which would save on wages and salaries for extra workers. On the flip side of this, White would like to increase the amount of full time jobs available by bringing business investment for manufacturing into Ottawa and expanding business prospects to help business in Ottawa expand.

Darren W. Wood

WoodDarren W. Wood wants to give City Hall back to the people. How he proposes to do this is through the “Transparency Act.” This Act would give members of the public the opportunity to be present in City Hall whenever council is meeting. Surrounding the same issue he says, “the mayor has to be the first line of defence to protecting taxpayer dollars.” Wood stands for voter representation and intends to give voters the representation he thinks they deserve. Wood says he is “a person who believes in the little guy” and “has time and time again fought for the little guy and won.” He does not propose cuts to any areas of City Hall, but is instead reimagining and reinterpreting what the higher up levels of City Hall will look like and giving new life to it.

Gigabit City Broadband Becomes a Newmarket Municipal Election Issue

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All Canadians need to pay attention to what is happening in Newmarket, Ontario regarding the deployment of gigabit broadband technology. The Town is not waiting around for the incumbent oligopoly Telephone and Cable companies to deploy gigabit broadband and proactively taking matters into its own hands.

In the 21st century economy, innovation leadership is necessary for economic leadership. The Canadian broadband infrastructure can be a central platform enabling innovation, and faster speeds will spur innovation. In a global economy, talent and capital can flow anywhere, and will flow to countries with the strongest innovation infrastructure. We are in a global bandwidth race, and need to ensure Canada has a strategic bandwidth advantage. Without it, the country risks watching jobs and investment flow elsewhere.

Gigabit networks can enable eServices such as genetic sequencing to treat cancer patients, creative software to support lifelong learning from home, and ways for small businesses to take advantage of Big Data. Greater network speeds will certainly lead to unexpected new inventions.

Newmarket, Ontario is one community that wants to achieve innovation and economic prosperity by deploying gigabit broadband technology starting with its business corridors.

On October 7, at the Newmarket Theatre political debate, gigabit broadband became a contentious election issue. Incumbent Regional Councillor, John Taylor, and Mayor Tony Van Bynen are clearly running on implementing gigabit broadband corridor for strategic economic development. Regional councillor contender, Darryl Wolk, and mayoralty candidates, Chris Campbell, and Dorian Baxter are clearly against the gigabit broadband – initiative and say that they will cancel it if elected.

Last month, outgoing Newmarket Council approved a Request for Proposal (RFP) for deploying gigabit broadband pilot on Main St., around the Southlake Hospital area, and the Leslie St., Harry Walker Parkway corridor. This follows the recommendation of Sandel & Associates, an American consultancy with experience in gigabit broadband city in St. Louis, and the Kansas City Google deployment. The report recommends a gigabit broadband – pilot and estimates that deploying this in the three areas will create 17 new businesses with 205 direct jobs, 126 indirect jobs, approximately $15,000,000 in new wages, and additional $13,000,000 of economic output value resulting from the new wages spend. The Town may have to invest anywhere from $290,000 to $1,140,000 to support the pilot, but will seek to collaborate with private sector businesses to implement and operate the network.

The Report also recommends assessing the pilot and determining the viability of wiring the rest of Newmarket.

Town staff is to make recommendations from the soon to be released RFP to the newly elected council early in the New Year on how to move the gigabit broadband – pilot forward.

Darryl Wolk does not support the gigabit – broadband initiative, referring to the Chattanooga, Tennessee deployment as a $330M investment that only created 1,000 jobs.

Newmarket versus Chattanooga

Comparing Newmarket to Chattanooga is not a reasonable comparison.

Chattanooga has indeed invested $330M into its city infrastructure, raising $220 million in bond money and $111.5 million in US federal stimulus dollars. The City’s power utility company, EPB is the most important fibre customer. The power company has hooked up its fibre optic network to the local smart grid, which includes 170,000 intelligent electric meters reporting to the company via Internet every 15 minutes. The grid also includes 1,200 switches that route energy around the grid. It operates 8,000 miles of fibre for 56,000 commercial and residential Internet customers. It has created more than 3,700 jobs.

Chattanooga has a population of 170,000, twice that of Newmarket. Chattanooga is over four times the geographic size covering 370 sq. KM compared to Newmarket’s 38 sq. KM. In addition, the Chattanooga service footprint covers five times the city area, which is just less than 1000 sq. KM. That is over 26 times the geographic size of Newmarket.

Chattanooga has attracted new business such as two Amazon distribution centres and the Volkswagen head office, manufacturing facility citing gigabit broadband as a reason to locate there. Many cities are following Chattanooga’s lead and consider it a model for smart grid and broadband deployment. Chattanooga also achieved worldwide attention when awarded the Global Intelligent Community of the Year, attracting further investment.

Chattanooga is not alone in pursuing broadband infrastructure as a strategic differentiator – many communities across North America and the world are doing so; Windsor, Stratford, Waterloo, Muskoka and a coalition of Eastern Ontario communities have also made these investments, specifically as a foundation for competitive economic development. There is a significant amount of research and many publications that detail the benefits of community broadband and the associated economic benefits that are freely and publicly available online, most notably at the Intelligent Community Forum website.

Newmarket Potential Gigabit City Costs

Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) costs, similar to other technology costs are decreasing. Typical broadband gigabit city FTTH costs range from $800 – $1500 per household and $20K to $40K per KM, all in costs that include electronics. The potential Newmarket all in multi-year capital cost to wire the entire Town should be in the order of $30M. There are also funding options available that do not affect the municipal taxpayer that the RFP process will identify.

Why Should the Town Support Gigabit City Broadband

As much as railroads, electricity, telephone, and paved roads were the engines of community wealth creation, the 21st Century community will depend on embracing the enabler of the knowledge economy, gigabit broadband FTTH. The major cable and telephone companies, the Telecom Oligopoly, are reluctant to invest in FTTH, choosing other higher return capital investments like cellular networks or acquiring content and media properties. Their approach is to “sweat the copper”, essentially, try to get the most out of the existing infrastructure for the least amount of investment. Further, their consideration for making investments is based on residential density and demand, not on the needs of new economy businesses, innovators and entpreneurs. For communities to prosper in the 21st Century, they will have to lead the deployment gigabit broadband city FTTH.

There are over 400 successful community-based broadband networks, with 150 deploying fibre optic networks of some form, mostly in the United States. They have overcome the Telco/Cableco resistance, and now experience increased economic activity.

A study supported by the FTTH Council, which includes telephone and cable companies, and published by the US based Analysis Group found that communities where gigabit broadband was widely available enjoyed higher GDP, relative to similar communities where gigabit broadband was not available. The 14 communities with widely available gigabit broadband that are part of the study enjoyed over $1 billion in additional GDP when gigabit broadband became widely available, relative to communities where gigabit broadband was not widely available.

The study purports incremental economic benefits from widely available gigabit broadband of an additional 1.1 percent GDP, which are consistent with the measured economic benefits from the introduction of first generation broadband technologies (DSL, cable modem).

There are also OECD studies that correlate increasing GDP with broadband penetration and speed.

In addition, the US history of community-based network deployment indicate that incumbent Telco/Cablecos only start offering competitive gigabit services in jurisdictions that have community based or Google deployed networks.

There are 19 US states, where the incumbent Telco/Cablecos have successfully lobbied the state governments to make community-based networks illegal. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering overturning these laws to increase competition an enable communities to install gigabit broadband networks.

Broad Consultation

The Newmarket initiative is not happening in isolation with a small number of people. It is built on extensive and long-standing consultations at a municipal and regional level, starting more than 10 years ago. The Region of York recently completed a Broadband feasibility study that identified both the need (service gaps) and the strategic importance of broadband to each municipality and to the Region as a whole. This process included consultations with the public, schools, hospitals, police, fire/EMS services, libraries, municipal staff, and the business community. The resulting report is publicly available on the Region’s website and has been for at least 6 months.

Further, the Newmarket consultation process with Sandel & Associates included three days of one-on-one and group meetings with key stakeholders and businesses within the community, including small businesses on Davis Drive and Main Street, building and landowners, developers, digital media/IT firms in Newmarket, and companies that are some of Newmarket’s largest employers. The Library, Chamber, Hospital, Town, and School Boards were all part of the discussion, and all elected officials were invited to participate in the sessions. The report was reviewed by the Newmarket Economic Development Advisory Committee (NEDAC), who are local business leaders who volunteer their time to work with Council and Town staff on key business issues. NEDAC issued a recommendation to Council to proceed with the initiative. These are the voices of small, medium, and large businesses in Newmarket.

Newmarket needs to diversify its economy and attract knowledge workers. Otherwise, it will remain a bedroom community with its residents stuck in GTA gridlock. The broadband gigabit city initiative is a necessary step in achieving this.

The facts speak for themselves. Communities that judiciously implement broadband gigabit city networks economically outperform those who do not. Unlike other municipalities, Newmarket has a tremendous opportunity to install a gigabit broadband city network because it has the potential political will and owns the local hydro. As Newmarket citizens, we should support the pro broadband gigabit city initiative and secure Newmarket’s future.

By: Ron Pickett MBA, CMC

RDM Management Group

Ron Pickett is President of RDM Management Group, a Newmarket consulting firm specializing in business innovation, and technology strategy consulting. Ron is also Vice President of the Canadian Telecommunications Consultant’s Association, and a University Instructor teaching business innovation strategy at Georgian College.

Mayor’s City Builder Award Shines Light on Vulnerable Youth

September 24, 2014 11:55 am
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Bill Robinson receives his Mayor’s City Builder Award from Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Marianne Wilkinson.
Image courtesy of City of Ottawa. 

When Bill Robinson meets me for coffee, he talks youth at-risk.

Who are these children? Robinson replies: It’s a baby born into poverty. It’s a kid facing family abuse. It’s a child with disabilities. A high school dropout; a teenager addicted to drugs or alcohol; a homeless youth.

Robinson has been an active volunteer, advocate and supporter of vulnerable children for three decades. Last month, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson presented him with a Mayor’s City Builder Award for his volunteer work with at-risk children and new Canadians.

As Robinson drinks his coffee, he says he still remembers an 11-year-old girl who came to the homework club at the Michele Heights Community. The girl didn’t know how to fill out her school trip form. She had trouble spelling her name and street address.

It was nine years ago, but he often thinks of her: Where is she now? Is she working at a farm? Is she flipping burgers? Is she pregnant? His long experience working with children at-risk paints these images.

“This was an 11-year-old girl, who just could not pick things up,” says Robinson. “In the school system, you can’t flunk more than one grade, so she would be pushed along somehow. That poor kid has never been given a chance to succeed.”

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An advocate of vulnerable youth for three decades, Bill Robinson speaks about risks youth face in Ottawa. Photo credit Damira Davletyarova

When Robinson joined the Rotary Club of Nepean-Kanata three decades ago, he did everything to help children succeed in school. He says it will be harder for a dropout to get into a college or a university, to have a good job, to afford a family or a house. They can easily fall prey to drug dealers, abuse and violence.

There are still many kids who don’t understand basic math, Robinson says. He had to explain to one kid why any number times zero is zero. Another girl feared math so much, that when he tried to help her, she broke down in tears. The government, Robinson says, should not take shortcuts in their budget when it comes to education.

“If you do spend money on education, you are going to save money down the road. I’m not convinced that a larger police force is going to solve our problems. They are treating problems, not preventing them,” Robinson says.

Yet, he says youth at-risk are in a much better position now than they were 30 years ago. The city’s schools and community centres have launched many youth programs and initiatives.

With Rotary Club members, Robinson organized and led homework clubs at Michele Heights Community House. An engineer by profession, he sought after novel ways to teach children math and computer skills. His credo: “It’s not because kids can’t learn, it’s because you haven’t taught them right.”

Together with other Rotarians, Robinson built a library at the community house. They collected books, introduced entrepreneurial and leadership programs and provided scholarships. Recently, they have installed six computers and bought a printer for the library.

It’s all about giving children opportunities to learn and to work—to have a bright future, Robinson says.

Robinson speaks fondly of Pathways to Education—a country-wide program helping youth in low-income communities graduate from high school. Prior to this program, he says kids in the Ottawa West Community Housing had a less than 50 per cent graduation rate. Pathways to Education increased the rate to over 80 per cent.

When he was asked about the Mayor’s City Builder Award, Robinson said he was honoured to receive it, but at the same time, he felt uneasy.

“I felt uneasy because so many people do so much good for the city. I feel all these people should be recognized too,” Robinson says. “A lot of recognition should go to my Rotary Club as well, because they’ve been very supportive. They work hard raising funds. They should all be getting an award.”

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Bill Robinson helps girls with math at the homework club at Michele Heights Community House in 2006. Photo credit Bill Robinson

Robinson’s recognition is the Rotary Home’s award, says Gina St. Amour, the executive director of the Ottawa Rotary Home. St. Amour says Rotarians were “ecstatic and proud” for Robinson when they heard about the award.

“He simply is a wonderful individual. He is the kind of person who jumps in with both feet,” St. Amour says. “And he likes to have fun. He will paint, or do Legos with the kids. He is just a well-rounded wonderful person. It’s a wonderful coup not only for him, but for the whole Rotary Home family.”

Dubbed a “home away from home,” Ottawa Rotary Home provides respite programs for 144 children and 53 young adults with disabilities. Families can take a break or vacation by leaving their children in the care of trained staff at the Rotary Home. It’s also a place where kids can make friends and play with other children in a safe setting, St. Amour says.

The last family survey showed 100 per cent of parents were satisfied with the Rotary Home’s services.

Robynn Collins, a community health worker in Crime Prevention at Pinecrest Queensway Community Health Centre, knows Robinson well. She once nominated him for the United Way Community Builder Award—he won that too.

“Bill has been pivotal to the success of several of our initiatives. He helped with building a library at the Michele Heights Community House. He also was a huge contributor of us implementing Kindness Week (an initiative encouraging people to care and share),” says Collins.

Collins says Robinson also helped her with co-chairing different youth working groups and projects. Through his Rotary Club, he helped fund building a new park to keep kids safe.

“We had no park at Winthrop Court. There was only concrete in the middle of a huge court yard. Now residents in the community have a safe place to gather, enjoy their children and meet their neighbours,” Collins says. “He is just a leader in the community. He really is.”

Mayor Jim Watson says Robinson has been an active volunteer and advocate of vulnerable youth in Ottawa for over 30 years. His dedication to the cause deserves recognition.

“Bill not only works tirelessly to provide opportunities for youth, he is committed to being a positive influence in the lives of all those around him. His work made him a perfect fit for the Mayor’s City Builder Award,” says Watson.

Brutal Farm Killings in South Africa: How do Victims Carry on?

September 18, 2014 12:00 pm
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Statistical analysis shows South African farmers are three times more likely than ordinary citizens to be the victims of violent crime. They also show it is twice as dangerous to produce food than it is to be a policeman.

Approximately two thousand farmers and farmworkers have been killed or injured during the past two decades in South Africa. The lives of the victims who survive will never be the same. Their quality of life is often radically diminished. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after having been brutalized—sometimes for hours on end while their close family members were forced to watch.

Yet a large percentage of these farmers keep on farming after an attack. When the farmers recall these horrific violent crimes, you see the trauma in their eyes and body language. You hear it in their voices.

In my book Farm Killings—Victims Tell Their Stories, I share the stories of ten families from farms in different parts of the South Africa. Farm killers are cruel. Many are habitual criminals with no mercy for their victims.

But then why on earth would the farmers carry on farming after their farms have been turned into blood farms and murder farms?

Because some survivors believe they still have a purpose on earth; they can still create jobs and contribute to food security. While some feel they have been betrayed by their own employees, others feel they cannot leave their faithful farmworkers whose families have worked on the farms for generations, in the lurch.

So they stay. They do not want to do anything else. Farming runs in their blood.

I have often been asked why I focus on farm attacks, since housebreaking is equally rife, but to my mind there is a difference because farmers are isolated by distance. Screams for help go unheard and the gangs have no reason to hurry. Farms are easily accessible like businesses usually are. It covers wide areas.

I have also been asked about the main motives for an attack and whether racial hatred could be the driving force. Drugs, greed, cruelty and evil turn men into monsters.

Every victim reacts in his or her own way. One farmer sacked all his workers, moved elsewhere and now copes without workers. Nobody now knows where he keeps the safe and his firearms, he told me. He now lives in peace. Another farmer, a victim of cross-border raids, sold his family farm and started afresh on a bare piece of ground without a home, water or amenities, well away from the border. Like a born pioneer. Others turned to religion and experienced a new sense of nearness to God and even distributed Bibles to their attackers.

Amidst blood chilling stories about so much evil, it was uplifting to hear how friends, neighbours and sometimes an entire community would react, doing as much as they possibly could to stand by the victims. If we are forced to accept that evil exists, then we need to acknowledge that its counterpart does so as well. It was inspiring, in addition, to see the willpower and determination of the farmers.

There were heart-warming stories. A farmer’s wife told me how a farmworker carried her to the ambulance after she had been shot. When she returned home, all the female farmworkers gathered around her bed to pray for her.

farm2I admire the courage of the farmers.

One formidable woman farmer had to witness how the family’s beloved animal herder was cold-bloodedly shot by the farm killers in her cattle kraal, right in front of her eyes. After the murder she was abducted by the killers in her own car.

Fighting like a lioness from the backseat, she kicked the driver in his head as hard as she could. He lost control of the car which overturned. The attackers fled and she managed to escape. She attributes her survival to the fact that she must have used all her guardian angels on that day.

An Overberg farmer unhesitatingly went to help a neighbourduring a farm attack and miraculously survived two gunshot wounds, both fired at close range. He underwent many operations to fix his shattered jaw and back. He endures pain daily, but the community donated a golf cart to him, so he carries on farming. Like the author Ian Fleming, who wrote the James Bond books, he believes you only live twice. A lady whose husband became a hemiplegic and suffered brain damage after being attacked viciously, had to become a farmer herself. Several years later their son was attacked on the same idyllic Western Cape farm. Yet she counts her blessings because they are alive.

A Tzaneen chicken farmer was shot in the arm and four times in the head after which he was left for dead under a rubbish heap. He survived. His arm is not functional, but he only needed to rub ointment onto his head as those gunshots wounds were superficial. He continued farming, but switched to cucumbers and Arabic horses, adding drily that you do not shoot a Boer (farmer) in the head. You shoot him in the heart.

An elderly farmer whose wife of 34 years was killed by being stabbed in the neck during a triple farm murder (two employees were also brutally killed), was so overcome with grief he had to leave the room when his daughter described to me how he had found his wife’s body under a tree. Yet he continues farming in Kwazulu Natal as well as in Congo-Brazzaville.

I visited a farm in Brits, North West Province, where a 25-year-old man asked his gravely wounded father just after a farm attack; “Dad, will they put me in jail? I’ve killed someone.” The young man shot one of the intruders dead in order to save the lives of his mother and three siblings. Walking through their farmhouse, I was struck by the row of five mattresses on the lounge floor where the whole family huddle at night in an attempt to ward off their fears and nightmares.

This to me symbolized the indescribable trauma of farm attacks.

There are hundreds of similar untold stories in South Africa. Stories that will never be published in the media.

To me these farmers are heroes.

I could not sum up the contents of my book better than Dr. Johan Burger of the Institute of Security Studies did. He said the book raises three major points: the utter brutality of farm attackers; the defencelessness of the innocent victims and the inexplicable power of faith and forgiveness.

To read a first-hand account of these stories and more, the book Farm Killings can be purchased by clicking here.

By Carla van der Spuy

Letter To The Editor: A Response From The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

September 3, 2014 3:10 pm
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The following letter from Rita Notarandrea, CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, is a response to our August 27th article Canada Slow to Respond to Prescription Opioid Crisis by Dr. David Juurlink.

I agree with Dr. Juurlink’s assertion (in his August 27 article, Canada Slow to Respond to Prescription Opioid Crisis) that the harms associated with prescription drugs have reached crisis proportions in Canada. I also agree with many of his recommendations to address these harms. In fact, these recommendations are among the 58 in First Do No Harm: Responding to Canada’s Prescription Drug Crisis, a comprehensive 10-year, pan-Canadian strategy released by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) in March 2013, in partnership with many committed organizations, including Health Canada.

The “volunteers” that Dr. Juurlink references are representatives of organizations that have a professional and/or mandated responsibility on this issue. CCSA brought together these organizations, which represent healthcare practitioners, regulators, patients and families, First Nations, law enforcement, the pharmaceutical industry, researchers and governments to develop and deliver on First Do No Harm. To this day, CCSA remains the backbone organization to lead this initiative and coordinate the work of the teams, who are bringing about real and positive change in areas such as prevention, education, treatment, enforcement, legislation and regulation, and monitoring and surveillance. In fact, their many accomplishments were recently highlighted in the inaugural First Do No Harm Annual Report.

Regarding these accomplishments, there is one final point on which I will agree with Dr. Juurlink. That is, much of this work was achieved with limited funding. On this, I am immensely proud of the work undertaken by CCSA staff and the many committed individuals and organizations. This being said, CCSA and our partners continue to pursue funding to support this significant undertaking. Of particular note is Health Canada’s recent call for proposals to improve the prescribing practices for prescription drugs that have a high risk of abuse or addiction.

In closing, we welcome the involvement of professionals such as Dr. Juurlink, who is clearly passionate about this issue and committed to reducing the harms associated with prescription drug misuse and abuse.

Rita Notarandrea, Chief Executive Officer (interim), Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Canada Slow to Respond to Prescription Opioid Crisis – See more at: http://www.ottawalife.com/2014/08/canada-slow-to-respond-to-prescription-opioid-crisis/#sthash.iByxrJ6g.dpuf
Canada Slow to Respond to Prescription Opioid Crisis – See more at: http://www.ottawalife.com/2014/08/canada-slow-to-respond-to-prescription-opioid-crisis/#sthash.iByxrJ6g.dpuf
Canada Slow to Respond to Prescription Opioid Crisis – See more at: http://www.ottawalife.com/2014/08/canada-slow-to-respond-to-prescription-opioid-crisis/#sthash.iByxrJ6g.dpuf
Canada Slow to Respond to Prescription Opioid Crisis – See more at: http://www.ottawalife.com/2014/08/canada-slow-to-respond-to-prescription-opioid-crisis/#sthash.iByxrJ6g.dpuf

Creating a Community: Cohousing at Terra Firma

August 19, 2014 1:10 pm
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On Canada Day, Valerie Gapp baked strawberry and rhubarb muffins.

Valerie, her husband Thomas and their 14-month-old twins Audrey and Alexis joined their neighbours across the street for a potluck brunch. They celebrated two birthdays: Canada’s and Terra Firma’s cohousing community.

Terra Firma residents have lived together for 17 years, and are committed to building sustainable and a well-knit community. Today, Terra Firma remains the first and only cohousing community in Ottawa. It is more resilient than ever.

Knock on the door of 166 Drummond Street, and the door will open to Bob and Marlene Neufeld’s home.

The Neufeld’s residence is a unit of two townhouses joined together by a built-in infill. The infill serves as a common house and as a residence for one of the members.

The Neufeld’s unit may be among the smallest, but it certainly shows the most creativity. The whole house looks like an art exhibition of the couple’s work and passion. The walls are covered with paintings, each hung in a unique way. Numerous crafts and souvenirs rest on the shelves.

The living room extends to the kitchen and has 1enough space for two to cook. There is also a door to the shared backyard. Narrow stairs lead to the office, the bedroom and the bathroom on the second floor.

Bob and Marlene say they both grew up in villages with strong communities. They wanted their children to have the same experience—a lot of parental figures and many siblings to learn and to play with.

“It was also the idea that we could live more lightly on the planet, using less of the planet’s resources. Instead of having seven lawn mowers, we have one,” Marlene says.

Cohousing, originating in Denmark in the 1960s, reached North America 20 years later. Cohousing is a community combining private, self-sufficient residences with access to a common house where members can spend time together.

Terra Firma’s common house has a kitchen, a large dining space, a bathroom and a guest room for visiting family and friends. There is also a sauna, a laundry room and a storage room. Big boilers provide heating and hot water and there are solar panels on the roof for electricity.

The cohousing members gather in the common house twice a week for dinner which they prepare in turns. The Neufeld’s say it is also a place where members play games, hold movie nights and host different workshops, such as yoga, art, tai chi classes and drumming.

In the joined backyard, Terra Firma residents have built a common garden. The garden embraces ancient trees, fruits, vegetables and flowers.

The residents have also installed bike sheds, bought a hot tub and purchased a trampoline. They built swings and renovated an old shed into a tree house for the kids. “Our children had friends of all ages to interact, to learn, to spend a night in the tent,” says Bob.

What it is Like Living with Your Neighbours?

The Neufeld’s say living with their neighbours is like always having company for a good movie on a cold day and cohousing is being able to have someone to pick up your kids from school or get groceries for you on the way to the store. It also means on some mornings, you can be surprisingly awakened, the couple says.

“Someone can bang on my door and say, ‘Do you have eggs?’” laughs Bob.”It’s a part of being in a village atmosphere.”

Living together as a community is fun, but it is also a challenge, the couple says. There have been conflicts: pets, noise, repairs. Sometimes mediators are even called in.

But in over 17 years, nobody has moved out. All original 10 members are still at Terra Firma, the couple says.

“I think it says something about the nature of our community. Even sometimes, there are some conflicts—that are dealt with in time—we are all here,” Bob says. “So far, everybody eats dinner together.”

Dinner Together: The Batman and the Green Pea Soup with Mint

It is six p.m. and it is time to eat dinner at Terra Firma. The residents slowly fill the common house.

In charge of tonight’s dinner is John Poland. And when it comes to cooking, he means business. John was in the kitchen all afternoon.3

The chef orchestrates the menu du jour: “That’s green pea soup with mint. There— Quaker little crackers. These are beets with cucumber sauce. This is rice with tofu, celery and black olives,” Poland says. “Enjoy.”

Tonight’s special guest is Batman. Every community dinner, Ariana Simpson, five, dresses up in her superheroe haute couture. Simpson says she also has costumes of Spiderman, Superman and the Hulk. Her fashion gimmick is to never wear the same costume two dinners in a row.

Tonight’s dinner has a sweet reminiscent air as the residents remember how Terra Firma came alive.

“It is like a marriage. To be successful, it’s something you have to constantly work at,” says Terra Firma resident Steve Fick.

For almost 20 years the residents have been living together, helping and supporting each other. Whether there is a health or money issue, or simply a bad day, there is always someone to share the joys and sorrows of life.

“For example, one of the neighbours had breast cancer. There were people to support her. When another neighbour died recently, she was not alone,” Marlene says.

Fred Simpson says cohousing has changed him and his life. “It’s quite a commitment, but it’s been a learning experience—a life experience.”

Poland agrees. “I like dinners together, and community, community, community. I think what’s missing in the world is community. And some of us don’t have any relatives.”

All Terra Firma residents are especially proud that for almost 20 years, they have lived in peace and friendship.

Ottawa’s Terra Firma is Unique

Terra Firma is a unique cohousing project, says Ronnaye Matthew, director of the Canadian Cohousing Network. Matthew says many communities are trying to build their cohousing infrastructure from scratch.

“Terra Firma is the only Canadian community that has done it as a retrofit—they took existing housing, took down their fences and then added a common house. It’s rare in North America that cohousing is done that way,” Matthew says.

Speaking about cohousing trends in the country, Matthew says more Canadians want to live together.

“I started working in cohousing back in 1996, and there has definitely been an increase in interest,” Matthew says.

Today, the Canadian Cohousing Network counts 11 completed and 17 forming cohousing communities. Ottawa’s Terra Firma is the only completed project in Ontario.

Matthew says as the cohousing movement grows, so are the government regulations. The cohousing market is intricate, forcing communities to seek professional cohousing consultants that not all provinces have.

“The problem is it is very difficult to do, and it’s gotten more difficult to do,” Matthew says. “In 1996, it was actually easier to create cohousing than it is today, unfortunately.”4

Capital Ward councillor David Chernushenko says he knows the challenges cohousing projects can face in Ottawa. In the beginning, Chernushenko and his wife were part of Terra Firma project. After four years of trying to start the project, he says his family bought a private house.

Chernushenko says his group had a hard time finding land located in the centre of the town, was zoned appropriately and land all the members could agree upon and afford.

In Ottawa, Chernushenko says no policies prevent people from creating cohousing communities. But not all people are ready to give up their individual residency and embrace the idea of sharing, he says.

“We are all raised with the idea of ‘What is mine, is mine,’” says Chernushenko. “This idea of a formal sharing arrangement and joint decision making—it’s a bit of an unusual big step for a majority population to take.”

***

The Gapp family is impressed upon their return from the Terra Firma brunch. Before moving into their Old Ottawa South neighbourhood, Valerie Gapp says they lived all across Canada and in California. Gapp says she liked the idea that her family did not have to travel far from home to enjoy good company.

“It’s fantastic! I think this is one of the friendliest neighbourhoods we have ever lived in,” says Gapp. “It’s like another family.”

Political Profile: Jeff Morrison

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Aiming to innovate, energize and engage downtown Ottawa

Innovation, vibrancy, partnership and engagement—these are the key themes of Somerset ward candidate Jeff Morrison’s platform.

Ottawa has not been as embracing of new approaches, new building techniques or new forms of development of green innovations, according to Morrison. He wants to change that.

The candidate said the approval of Chaudière Island redevelopment is one example of leading edge innovation.

“Anything the city does, hopefully it embraces that kind of approach where we’re willing to try new approaches and new technologies,” said Morrison.

Tourism is one aspect Morrison wants to improve on to help the downtown core—this is how he plans to help small businesses.

One of Morrison’s proposals is to offer alternative language details on businesses.

“If you have a francophone person or a Chinese person that can speak in that language, these would be something the city could offer that would enable businesses to attract people that speak other languages,” he said.

Canadian Pharmacists AssociationMorrison said the other important area for improvement downtown is embracing the notion of ‘complete streets.’ This means any new street development must embrace different modes for the different types of transport—developments will reflect what cyclists, pedestrians and motorists need, as well as mass transit.

According to Morrison, the idea of ‘complete streets’ has been fully agreed upon by almost all candidates.

But what has not been at the top of many candidates’ lists is vibrancy, said Morrison, who explained people move downtown because they want access to life, services and culture.

“In terms of increasing services, the two that I have identified specifically, that I would want to lobby the private sectors, for are one; a new grocery store in the western end of our ward and two; is lobby the cinema chains to get our movie theatre back,” said Morrison.

Morrison would also like to establish partnerships with cultural, arts and sporting groups and help facilitate their access to public spaces such as parks and streets.

Morrison said he has also suggested the concept of open streets.

“Once a week, let’s say on a Sunday, you close down some of your major thorough fares to car traffic so that people can come out; pedestrians, cyclists, people in wheelchairs and small businesses can move out onto the sidewalk,” he said.

Morrison said the concept of open streets will help bring the community together, it will give people a chance to interact and it would also benefit small businesses.

When Morrison suggested ways to create a more vibrant downtown he hinted at the third theme of his campaign—partnerships.

“The city can’t bring culture, sports and arts to downtown, but they can work with those who can, and often times that partnership has been missing,” he said.

Morrison said he would like to bring art into the public spaces and he’s called for a street art promotional campaign.

“We’ve seen this in other areas of the city that have really sort of adapted street art, graffiti goes down and it brings some colour and life to the communities,” he said.

Engaging the community is also an important part of Morrison’s platform. He said he wants to ensure individuals feel not only like they have been consulted, but they are heard.

One way he would like to include citizens in decision-making is by striking an appeal process allowing developers to appeal decisions voted on by councillors regarding building development proposals.

Morrison said there is a process in place whereby if councillors and the neighbourhood of the proposed building oppose the development, developers can appeal the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. He said the vote usually goes in the developers favour.

“I want Ottawa to pass a motion calling on the province to scrap that process. It’s time consuming, it’s costly, it costs the city millions of dollars and it takes power and a voice away from the community and councillors,” Morrison said.

In addition to his suggestions, Morrison would like to add community safety to his priorities. He said he recognizes people in the Somerset ward are concerned about safety and he wants to help prevent any sort of criminal behavior with the possibility of a neighbourhood watch program and police presence—either walking or cycling throughout the community.

Morrison said he’s aiming to knock on every door in the ward and there’s going to be a lot more to come.

“It’s been an incredible opportunity to meet so many people across the ward and to hear so many ideas. It’s exciting, it’s a bit exhilarating it’s certainly tiring but it’s been a really welcoming opportunity,” said Morrison.

Working to Build a New Ottawa: Martin Canning

August 18, 2014 9:30 am
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There is a change happening in Ottawa, according to city councillor hopeful Martin Canning, and he wants to be a big part of that change.

Canning’s campaign began in January with the launch of his website and vision, ‘New Ottawa’.

The Somerset ward candidate defines New Ottawa as the most liveable, affordable and sustainable city in the country.

The website New Ottawa is a platform for residents to write in about what they would like to see in their city.

With the goal of meeting residents and gathering feedback, Canning also plans to knock on every single door in the Somerset ward.

“It’s never been done in the history of downtown Ottawa by any level of politician during a campaign as an individual,” said Canning. “We’re almost there. We’re at 14, 500 doors that I’ve knocked on since January and we’re going to complete the rest in the next 30 days so that will be 20,000 doors that I have knocked on with my team.”

Canning’s efforts so far—the website, knocking on doors and social commitments, have been a way for he and his team to listen to the community and consider their ideas.

Canning said he will roll out his platform at the end of August or early September. However, there were two topics he was eager to elaborate on right away: businesses and improving sustainability in the downtown core.

Serving Small Businesses

While Canning insisted his plan for small businesses would be disclosed in a month’s time, he shared some of his ideas.

He said one concern he hears from business owners is a lack of communication, engagement and consultation regarding many different facets of city government plans. But Canning said it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Elgin Street’s reconstruction process is rolling out in 2015 and not a single person is talking about it today, so there’s a little bit of a hint of something you’ll probably see in my platform,” said Canning.

The politician said from a planning perspective it is “slightly bizarre” no one is talking about the reconstruction of one of Canada’s most famous streets.

“We’ll consider this an early announcement—one of the things that politicians can do is provide direct access to the fine grain project planning for street reconstruction so businesses know when the dump truck is coming, so businesses know when they are going to put a pipe two blocks north or two blocks south because that impacts day to day operations,” he explained.

Canning said business owners have been asking for communication and consultation and it doesn’t cost any money—its purpose is to acknowledge and consult with business owners prior to construction.

“They want information when they need it, they want a city that works to bring people to the streets; whether it’s events, festivals, and they want the city to take on the responsibility the city is supposed to take on,” said Canning, who added he’s leaning toward supporting these concerns.

Canning is a small business owner; he’s worked as a consultant and he also runs a small personal training company. He said he understands business owners when they say they want to be consulted.

“There’s an expectation within the businesses community and also for the city to start assuming some of its infrastructure responsibilities and I think that will be an easy policy direction to support,” he said.

Sustainability

One of the few policy announcements Canning released is a plan to formalize a hands-on active transportation audit along with Ecology Ottawa that would involve the community.

Canning explained a variety of individuals—key stake holder groups, community health centre participants, those with mobility challenges, seniors and anybody interested—would audit the street together.

“You have a formal process where you’re noting cycling opportunity barriers, pedestrian opportunity barriers and you literally audit the street through experience,” he said.

Canning said through a regulated community-based transportation audit a variety of needs can be determined such as more green space, wider sidewalks or permeable land.

“It’s about allowing the communities’ creativity and innovation to flow into and through government,” said Canning. “That’s an example of a way to make our community more sustainable and it allows citizens to participate in Ecology Ottawa’s active transportation audit.”

This process should be formalized so when audits are completed, it is incumbent upon the city of Ottawa to incorporate those recommendations in future streets, according to Canning.

The Team

“I’ve worked on a lot of campaigns and I’ve never seen a group like this,” said Canning.

The most important feature of his campaign is the size and the individuals, Canning said. He said he believes his team is full of leaders and they could all run as municipal candidates.

“There’s every demographic but there’s a whole lot of young folks, especially from the creative community; artists, architects, graphic designers, musicians,” he said.

Canning has about 35 people who work with him everyday and he said over 100 people come out to volunteer.

“New Ottawa isn’t me, it isn’t this campaign…it’s about the change that’s taking place around us that everyone can see in the city,” said Canning. “The people are changing, the demographics are changing, the general world view of Ottawa and the identity of Ottawa is changing and we need political representation that represents the people of downtown Ottawa.”

The Chaos that is the RCMP

July 21, 2014 9:41 am
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I have read in various media reports that the RCMP officers in Moncton who responded to the call of an individual walking down a street brandishing a firearm were only equipped with pistols and shotguns. I was very shocked and dismayed to read these reports because in 2009 I was contracted by the RCMP to undertake a survey analyzing whether the RCMP should switch from the shotgun to the carbine. At the time I began the research 53 police agencies in Canada including the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Metropolitan Toronto Police and the Calgary police service had already armed their officers with patrol carbines.

My report was submitted to the RCMP in March 2010 and was based on consultations with firearms specialists in the National Use of Force Program, Community, Contract and Aboriginal Policing at RCMP Headquarters in Ottawa. The report based on a survey questionnaire solicited responses internally from divisional members in the RCMP who were knowledgeable about firearms. A sample of urban suburban and rural police agencies were also sampled in the survey. In total my report was based on over 2500 survey responses.

The report sought answers to whether the RCMP should 1) Replace the shotgun with the carbine; 2) Keep the shotgun or 3) add the carbine to the RCMP’s existing armament. The Report was titled ‘Aiming For Safety: A Needs Analysis to determine the feasibility of adopting the patrol carbine in the RCMP. My recommendations based on the report’s responses concluded:

The RCMP should immediately adopt and phase in a national patrol carbine program for all of its uniformed patrol officers regardless of whether they are providing policing services in a rural/urban/suburban environment. The report also stated that the RCMP should:

Retain the shotgun but reconfigure this firearm so that it fires only non-deadly projectiles such as the beanbag and that Carbines should be reserved only for deadly force situations. The report also recommended that ‘prior to deploying carbines at the patrol officer level the RCMP should plan and execute a comprehensive and effective training program for all of its members. I stated that ‘new policies should be drafted and issued which include guidelines on the storage, maintenance, training and re-qualification requirements for the carbine as well as to where and when the weapon can be deployed.

I find it appalling that four years later the RCMP has failed to implement these recommendations. Back in March 2011 post media carried a news story titled ‘RCMP looking to replace service shotguns with rifles by Doug Quan. In that article Staff Sgt Scott Warren, chair of the RCMP’s officer safety committee stated “Yesterday is when this gun needed to be on the streets.’ Here we are in 2014 and RCMP officers in this country are still not armed with patrol carbines despite the fact that there are exigent circumstances where they may be required to respond to ‘Mayerthorpe type situations.’
The RCMP claim they have made some changes but from media reports it appears that the Moncton RCMP officers who responded to a call involving a man with a gun did not have access to assault rifles. My question is ‘Why’ did they not have assault rifles and ‘Why’ has the RCMP not acted upon the recommendations contained in my 2010 report.

My report was authored during the period when there was a revolt at RCMP headquarters by Senior ranking RCMP officers and when Bob Paulson was promoted to Assistant Commissioner responsible for the National Use of Force Program, Community , Contract and Aboriginal Policing at RCMP headquarters. The terms of my contract required that the final milestone after submitting my report was to meet and review the draft report and then make any changes or revisions that were required. Despite calling my RCMP contacts at RCMP headquarters repeatedly and sending them emails no one returned my calls. I found it extremely odd that the people who had been working with me on a daily if not weekly basis on this project were not returning my calls. I thought it extremely odd because I had been paid in full for the project and although the report had been submitted I indicated that I would make any changes they required at no cost to the RCMP.

After Three months of not receiving a single email or phone call from my contacts at the RCMP I received a letter from Bob Paulson indicating that he was not satisfied with the report because I relied on American studies and did not include any Canadian research. I wrote back to him indicating that there are no Canadian studies that have undertaken an examination of the patrol carbine and that if he had any issues these should have been dealt with in a face to face meeting to review the report which was the final milestone of the contract. It appears that because my report was not authorized on his watch that he wanted nothing to do with it. I persevered and eventually had a meeting with the Senior Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP Darrill Madill at which Paulson was present. I challenged Paulson to name a single study in Canada that had examined the patrol carbine and he couldn’t. He also admitted to telling his staff not to contact me either by telephone or email which I found bizarre to say the least. I informed Darrill Madill that Paulson’s conduct in this regard was outrageous and told Paulson exactly what I thought of his letter and the repressive actions he had taken against his staff.

Approximately three months later there was a change in the RCMP Command structure and Rod Knect now the Senior Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP had his executive assistant contact me. The Assistant informed me that he and the Senior Deputy Commissioner had just returned from the inquest into the deaths of the four RCMP officers at Mayerthorpe. He said the SDC asked him to find out if there were any reports at RCMP Headquarters that dealt with the issue of the patrol carbine and they discovered my report attached to Paulson’s letter. After reading my report both he and the SDC thought my report was excellent. They informed me that they would be moving quickly to implement my recommendations to equip officers with the patrol carbine. Unfortunately a few months later the SDC announced that he was leaving the RCMP and taking a position as Chief of the Edmonton Police Service.

So here we are in 2014 and the RCMP still have not trained or equipped their uniform patrol officers with the patrol carbine. I can understand that making such a transition can take time but my report was provided to the RCMP four years ago. The question remains in this day and age why is Canada’s National Police Force still behind the times when it comes to equipping their officers with patrol carbines? Police agencies across Canada took these steps years ago. My report addressed a major flaw in the RCMP’s firearms technology and capability and today we are still not much further ahead in this area. In my opinion Bob Paulson has a lot of questions to answer. For a Commissioner who claims he will deal with bullying and harassment within the RCMP he has no credibility because I saw firsthand how he muzzled the RCMP officers who were working with me on a project that in the end would have helped ensure the safety of Canadians and possibly prevent shooting tragedies like the one in Mayerthorpe and most likely in Moncton. The deaths in Moncton are a tragedy but so is the fact our National Police Force is still one of the few remaining police services in this country that have outdated and ineffective firepower to deal with active shooter situations.

Darryl T Davies
Instructor in criminology and criminal justice
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Carleton University

* The views expressed are those of the author in his personal capacity and do not necessarily represent the position of Carleton University.  This article originally appeared on the Site ‘Re-sergeance.net and is reprinted with permission.

Not Malevolence but Massive Mind Numbing Incompetence by City Hall Civil Servants

July 11, 2014 1:45 pm
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Kirkpatrick or the Council–One of Them or BOTH Have to Go

Ottawa city Manager Kent Kirkpatrick is (over) paid at $330,000 per year. That he has no shame and has yet to submit his resignation in light of yet another complete debacle under his guidance as the top city civil servant is proof that this guy is incompetent beyond the pale. OLM first called for his resignation 10 years ago after revealing a scandal over the expenses of city managers that were more than a little nauseating and were a factor that led to the eventual demise of then Mayor Bob Chiarelli. However, the City of Ottawa-Orgaworld waste management dispute reviewed by the city auditor general in a report released this week proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the senior management team of civil servants running the city are completely incompetent and operating way out of their depth. None more so than city manager Kent Kirkpatrick who, as a result of the findings of the auditor general, should be terminated with cause effective immediately.

Ottawa auditor general (AG) Ken Hughes’ extensive report on the Orgaworld contract shows the city, under Mr. Kirpatrick’s management, entered in a contract with the Orgaworld waste management company without proper due diligence or even following basic rules related to contracts. The AG said that said  documentation and analysis was missing from Orgaworld contract records, pilot project data wasn’t correctly interpreted and management failed to exercise due diligence and was incomplete with fundamental errors. Hughes’ report contained numerous examples of stunning incompetence

​For example, under the deal, “…negotiated by Kirkpatrick and his minions, the city pays Orgaworld $8 million per year (before inflation) to process at least 80,000 tonnes of waste. However, the amount of all available organics in Ottawa varies from 21,000 tonnes to 57,000 tonnes, and has never approached the 80,000 tonnes the city pays Orgaworld to be processed each year under the terms of a 20-year deal signed between the city and the waste management company in 2008.”

Hughes noted the mixture of household waste and leaf and yard waste was never clearly defined and, as a result, “The City of Ottawa paid about $8 million to Orgaworld that it should not have had to pay.” In other words–the city paid millions for waste that was never processed.

Hughes reported that, “We cannot lose sight of the fact this project was built on a weak foundation where the proper analysis that should have been done for a project of this size was not done by city staff.”

Hughes also noted, “The city spent about $1.7 million in legal fees over the Orgaworld contract, which could have been far less if proper documentation was available.” The city managers never kept proper records or documents on a deal where they spent millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money like drunken sailors.

The bigger problem in the report, besides the fleecing of the taxpayers of Ottawa out of tens of millions of dollars due to financial incompetence, is the deception practiced on councillors by city officials–led by Kent Kirkpatrick. Hughes reported City of Ottawa staff never warned council about the markup for processing leaf and yard waste at Orgaworld instead of the Trail Road facility. He said staff gave council the impression 100,000 tonnes per year was easily achievable and there was little exploration of options, such as increasing the amount of waste over time.

The audit committee’s chairman, Councillor Rick Chiarelli, told the CBC on Tuesday that, “The basis upon which the 80,000 tonnes per year were arrived at was faulty, inaccurate and just wrong,” and went on to say the Hughes report proves city staff mislead councillors before they signed the 20-year contract with Orgaworld in 2008–“There were councillors who questioned those numbers, particularly Gord Hunter, who called them false at the time,” said Chiarelli. Councillor Rainer Bloess, who was also part of city council in 2008, told the CBC that, “I think we should have listened to Gord Hunter as opposed to listening to our staff.”

Hughes’ report includes 10 recommendations for the city, all of which have been conveniently accepted by management, led by the very incompetent Kirkpatrick–the author of this entire mess. What is really upsetting is Hughes has now jumped  on the possibility of terminating the Orgaworld contract early to consider other options, such as building a city-owned facility or approaching another supplier.  Mr. Kirkpatrick now says it would cost the city $10 million to get out of the contract. Orgaworld quickly responded, angrily, noting the cost to the taxpayers to kill the contract is closer to $56 million. So who do you believe?

In an emailed statement after the Hughes report was released, city manager Kent Kirkpatrick said the city, “has acted proactively to strengthen its policies and practices around corporate project management and record keeping throughout city departments.” Kirkpatrick says that from now on, every report to committees and council must now contain standard sections on legal and risk management.

As I read Kirkpatrick’s comments, I was reminded of the famous adage taught in most MBA programs that, “The problem with incompetence is its inability to recognize itself.” Clearly Kirkpatrick doesn’t understand the fundamentals of ethics, leadership and accountability. He is the kind of civil servant that gives   public service a bad name. A bureaucrat–all process, no consequences, look out for yourself, pay yourself the big salary, blame everyone else. He actually had the gravitas to report publicly this week the other civil servants who worked under  him on this file were all either no longer with the city or moved to other areas. “.  His statement should have simply said, “I resign.”

Kirkpatrick has been on the job for well over a decade and has been the top city servant for the cancelled O-train contract, the bridge bankruptcy and numerous other massive failures due to complete managerial and legal incompetence that have cost the city millions. Even Ontario Ombudsmen André Marin is saying he needs the authority to investigate the incompetence at the civil servant level at City Hall.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he’s willing to look at the possibility of cancelling the Orgaworld contract if it makes sense on financial and service levels. “We’ve been through the history of cancelling contracts in the past and it hasn’t worked out too well for us,” he said. “But if we can ensure that it makes financial sense, that it’s cheaper in the long run for taxpayers, and we have a facility to take the compostable material then we certainly should look into it.”

The Mayor has this all wrong. This issue is not about cancelling a contract or compostable material. It is about judgement, competence and trust.

At this point there is a serious question about the very competency of the people running the City of Ottawa. The councillors were smart enough to demand an audit after getting themselves into this mess in the first place. Now that the audit has clearly shown clear financial and management incompetence that has cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, and has shown that city staff deceived elected officials, heads must roll–starting with Kent Kirkpatrick. If the entire highly overpaid and obviously incompetent senior staff are not held firmly to account because of  this deception, things will not change and we can expect more of the same in the future. If the Mayor and the city councillors do not fire Kirkpatrick immediately with cause and hold all other officials to a higher standard, then the citizens of Ottawa should fire the Mayor and all the councillors in the upcoming election and bring in a team who will do what needs to be done.

 

To the Editor of Ottawa Life

July 9, 2014 10:55 am
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Re: Report Card on Wait Times in Canada Omits Important Developments (published on July 3, 2014)

Doctors Don Dick and Linda Woodhouse quite rightly note the great work Alberta has been undertaking to improve the standardization, collection and utilization of access and other health system performance related data.

However, I wish to respond to their comment on the tone of the 2014 WTA report card, released June 3, and the notion of Canada receiving a failing grade on making structural changes to support timely access to care.

In fact, the WTA reported that there has been some improvement in lowering wait times in most provinces from the previous two years. Furthermore, the WTA noted that while there has been some progress on wait times in Canada, structural changes are also required if improvements in wait times are to be sustained. Our report also called on the need to close the gap in progress on wait times among provinces and between Canada and other leading countries. While we salute and support the progress that has been made in many provinces, including Alberta, there remain gaps within regions and among provinces that need to be addressed.

The WTA agrees that wait time data and other quality related data are required to support the fostering of a culture of continuous improvement in health care. Indeed, we support providing Canadians, providers and decision makers with a more comprehensive range of data on which to measure and improve health system performance.

It is also important to continue to highlight the shining examples in Canada on innovative care, such as the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Initiative, in order to spread the progress across the country and benefit all Canadians.

Sincerely,

Dr. Chris Simpson
Chair, Wait Time Alliance and President-elect, Canadian Medical Association

 

‘The Time for Smart Policing in Canada’

July 8, 2014 9:36 am
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As the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics indicates that crime is at a twenty year low in Canada, now is the time for rethinking the role of police in Canadian society.  A recent report from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute points out, that police organizations are pricing themselves out of business.  It’s a fair question to ask ‘Are Ontario communities receiving value for money for their police dollars?

Criminological research reveals that less than 20 per cent of the work that police perform in our towns and cities is crime or law enforcement oriented.  The balance of police duties fall under the category of Order Maintenance type functions such as traffic enforcement, responding to noisy parties, settling neighbour disputes and providing direction at road construction sites and parades.  Contrast this with the fact that 80 per cent of police training in this province focuses on use of force scenarios, firearms competency, tactical training and physical fitness.  Less than twenty percent of training given to police recruits, deals with communications, mediation, alternative dispute resolution and mental health issues. Clearly there is something wrong with this picture.

Given these facts, it’s not surprising to learn that in the 2012-13 Annual Report of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director over 90 per cent of all complaints against police are conduct related, with the vast majority occurring in traffic related and order maintenance type situations. The Macdonald-Laurier Report questions whether we need to be paying $83 thousand a year to a police officer who has less than three months training to deal with the mentally ill, homeless and marginalized members of our community when they are the least trained and least qualified to deal with these types of people and social issues. The report suggests that communities should be hiring ‘Civilian Experts’ to deal with these issues and to restrict police work solely to crime and law enforcement functions.

The time has come to demand value for every police dollar and communities have a right to ask the tough questions on behalf of the taxpaying public who are paying for these services.  Do we need police officers manning a construction site to expedite traffic flow?  Should we expect police officers to know how to deal with people who are mentally ill or severely addicted to drugs? Is it fair to expect police to show cultural sensitivity and understanding to members of our multicultural communities when they lack the training to respond to these challenges? Can we continue to jug along paying out astronomical salaries that simply do not measure up to the quality of service that communities should be demanding and rightfully expecting from their police service?

These are questions that we need answers to and perhaps the time has come to rethink the role of police in the 21st Century.  As someone who has worked and studied policing for many years I believe we need to reconfigure the role and priorities of police in society.  By streamlining our police service we can start a process of ‘smart policing’ where police would be restricted to the areas where they should be providing a service such as organized crime, gang violence, homicides, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking.  By reallocating policing functions to the areas where they should be focused we will have a much more efficient, economical and cost effective approach to dealing with crime.  In addition we will have a less expensive and more effective approach for dealing with the social problems we are experiencing in Canada.

Change will not come easily but with crime bottoming out at the lowest point in years we have an ideal opportunity to start the process of conversation and conversion.  The policing model of the past twenty years can no longer suffice in 2014 and our politicians and public leaders need to step up to the plate and acknowledge this reality.  Canada needs a new focus for the role of police in society and now is the time to act.

 

Darryl T. Davies

Instructor in criminology and criminal justice

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Carleton University

NB:  The views expressed are those of the authors in his personal capacity.

Wynne’s Win

July 3, 2014 10:00 am
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Last week we watched as Premier Kathleen Wynne and her cabinet team were sworn in at Queen’s Park. Now it is time for them to start making campaign promises a reality.

Their overall goal is to create opportunities and secure futures for the people of Ontario by leading a transparent and accountable government. The team includes both new and old members.

To balance the budget by 2017-18, Charles Sousa is returning as Minister of Finance. Mitzie Hunter will be the Associate Minister of Finance—a new position created to focus on the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.

Liz Sandals remains Minister of Education, while Reza Moridi is now the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities and Minister of Research and Innovation.

Not only is Deb Matthews returning as Deputy Premier, but she is also taking on a new leadership role as the President of the Treasury Board to help fulfill their team’s commitment to transparency.

Brad Duguid aims to help Ontario businesses grow as the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. Steven Del Duca becomes the Minister of Transportation, building new transit, roads and bridges.

The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change is now Glen Murray, who will attempt to aid in Ontario’s fight against climate change and to continue its use of clean technology.

Finally, Dr. Eric Hoskins becomes Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, while Dipika Damerla is the Associate Minister of Health.

Ontario’s first elected female premier, Wynne said, “I am grateful for the trust the people of this province have placed in our government. We will work hard every day to build Ontario up, to create new opportunities for people and to ensure a more secure future.”

Tulip Chairs – Nature’s Design is Comfortable

June 13, 2014 11:00 am
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From left to right:  Michael Crockatt, Vice President Business Development and Marketing,  Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International  Airport;  Mark Kristmanson, CEO, National Capital Commission; Laura Brown, Executive Director Canadian Tulip Festival; David Luxton, Chairman of the Canadian Tulip Festival; Rochus Pronk, Chargé d’Affaires, Netherlands Embassy.

Five bright tulip chairs stand out in a bunch in the departure lounge at the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport. These unique chairs were unveiled recently by the Netherlands Embassy. The tulip, it turns out, is a significant icon to Canadian and Netherlanders alike.

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Tulips are the pride of the Netherlands, as their professionalism and creativity has made them a leader in the flower industry. In fact, each spring the Netherlands provides thousands of tulips for Ottawa’s Tulip Festival. The tulip is also a symbol of friendship between Canada and the Netherlands.

Designed by Dutch industrial designer Marco Manders, the tulip seat is an extremely comfortable chair and a perfect representation of an actual tulip. The fully rotational chair closes automatically when you get up, providing a functional, fun, and symbolic addition to the Ottawa-International Airport.

 

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