Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

March 23, 2017

An Open Letter to the Next Generation,

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

I can’t begin to tell you just how much this means to me. You see, for the last few years I’ve been wondering how we were going to cope? The bills keep getting bigger, our savings keep getting smaller, Roberta and I keep getting older; you get the picture. Then on top of all that the added tax burden from every level of government; the future was starting to look more than just a little bleak; and by future, I mean next month!

But then you came along with your incredibly generous offer.

I could hardly believe it when Premier Wynne said our hydro bill was going down by 25% and you guys were going to pay it for us! I mean, really? With all you have going on; struggling with a fledgling career, trying to sort out your gender issues, wondering if 45 down in the States is going to get us all blown up; I wouldn’t blame you at all if you didn’t have a moment’s thought for anyone but yourself. I know I didn’t at your age.

But not you, nope! With all that’s going on in your own lives you’re going to take on the added burden of paying down 25% of my hydro bill. And you’re going to do it at a time in your life when your own struggles are likely to be even worse than they are now. Yeah, by the time this bill comes due you will be facing the disillusionment of you own middle age wondering what the hell happened to all the hopes and dreams you had in 2017. I just hope you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew.

At a time when all the pundits are slagging the younger generations (sorry Millennials) you are shattering the stereotypes by committing your future to making a better today for the people who screwed up yesterday by electing the bunch who came up with this crazy idea to begin with.

You guys ROCK!

Dennis Gray, Guelph, ON

open letter pic

Really?

Posted: January 23, 2017 in Current Events, Politics, Society

I’ve been avoiding posting about the US election. In fact, avoiding such is why I haven’t posted since July. I have friends on both sides of the equation and I really wanted to avoid getting into it with any of them. My conservative friends say I’m too liberal, my lefty friends say I’m too right-wing, which is why I general consider myself a centrist libertarian (please note the small ‘L’). Personally I want a gov’t that is fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and not one bureaucrat larger than it has to be to get the job done effectively, which in today’s political climate likely qualifies me for membership in the Fantasy Island Party.

Now, I would truly prefer to keep all my friends, even the ones I totally disagree with, because life and conversation is decidedly more interesting with them than without them; so, I have been hoping against hope that there is more to what I have been seeing than meets the eye. I was betting that all the insanity on TV and the Internet was simply smoke and mirrors, setting up the “big reveal”. You see, when you work in theatre, even just community theatre, you soon understand what you are looking at is a thin wall of plywood and paint that hides the real work going on backstage, and a big part of me was sure the American election fell into something of that same category.

I was clinging to that hope because I really didn’t want to believe that what I was seeing was actually real. I still don’t want to believe it; but it’s beginning to look like I don’t have a choice. So here I am, blogging once again.

When I got to work this morning the conversation quickly turned to the “alternative facts” comment and one of my coworkers (who doesn’t blog or even comment on their Facebook account very often so I won’t use their name here) made a very good point; it went something like this.

“I get it, you don’t like the numbers, but it would have been very easy to spin this. You go out there and you say, ‘Yes, the numbers were disappointing. We would have liked to be able to say it was the biggest Inauguration audience ever,but it wasn’t and here’s why. Most of our supporters live in the interior and lower states. They don’t make a lot of money because far too many of them are unemployed. They can’t afford to just skip off for a few days and take a bus to Washington. That’s why we’re here. That’s why they elected us. We’re going to fix that!’ But instead of doing that they do THIS? That I don’t get.”

In less than five minutes they came up with a far better official response than Trump and all his advisers could. Or worse yet, his advisers did come up with it and Trump shot it down and they all said, “Okay fine.”

The one my coworker is really confused by is Sean Spicer, Trump’s new spokesman. They pointed out, and I have to agree, that the conversation in the Oval Office should have gone something like this, “I’m sorry Mr. President. I can’t say this. Bending the truth a little is one thing. Spinning the facts to work in our favour is another, but this is stupid! There’s video coverage, photos all over Facebook and Instagram, we can’t sell this!”

But he didn’t. Instead he walked out there and told what amounts to the biggest bold-faced lie in American politics since “I did not have sex with that woman”, possibly bigger, and in doing so has effectively neutered every press release from the White House going forward. Because if they will tell this lie, how can we ever trust another word.

As so it seems that reality television has become the new reality for American politics. Can’t wait to see what the writers have scripted for tomorrow’s episode.

Seen and not heard
Seen and not heard
Sometimes God’s children should be seen and not heard.
Too much Talk
Not enough walk
Sometimes God’s children should be seen and not heard.

(Petra, 1990)

It truly makes me wonder when people make knee-jerk statements about current events that are more about their own personal agendas than they are about solving the actual problem; especially when they do it in the name of God.

I am a Christian, a fairly devote one at the risk of sounding arrogant, but I really wish those who claim to speak for God would think a little before they spout off to the media or on the Internet. Would I like to see prayer allowed in the schools? Yes. Do I think it should be part of the daily curriculum? Not really; no one should be forced to endure the rubrics of any faith not their own, however prevalent said faith may be among the general populous. Freedom of religion should mean if a child or teacher or group within a school wants to pray they should be allowed to in a manner or at a time that is not disruptive. Mandating it for everyone is beyond reasonable.

That said, however I might lament the removal of the freedom to pray from schools across the continent I most certainly do not think that removing prayer from the schools is why 61 different school shootings have taken place in North America over the last 30 years. It is just too superficial a response.

The secular drum beaters are no better.

Does America need better gun control? Certainly it does, but allowing people to own a handgun is not the issue.  Many Canadians own handguns, but they do not kill 10,000+ people a year. Many more Canadians own rifles, but again they don’t go around killing people as a form of anger management. But the alleged gunman Adam Lanza didn’t use handguns; he used fully automatic, military grade rifles that fire 100+ rounds a minute. I have no issue with properly vetted civilians with clean criminal records having a rifle or a handgun, but I can’t make a case for any civilian having that kind of military grade fire power.

But even America’s lax gun laws aren’t the most important issue. Even if he had no guns whatsoever, in all likelihood Adam Lanza would have killed his mother and others by some means; just not nearly as many. And that’s the issue – Why did Adam Lanza feel he needed to kill?

The real question that needs an answer is not why can’t we pray in schools, or why do we need guns. The real question that must be addressed is why do so many young people come to the conclusion that the only way out of the life situation they find themselves in is to kill themselves and others?

The din of the noise being made by the religious right and the various pro and anti gun lobbies is so great the cry of the primary victim is rarely heard. And when someone does bring it up the cacophony of the lobbyists just gets louder and more vicious. It’s hard to think of the 28 children and teachers as corollary damage in these situations, but in some respects that’s what they are. And saying that doesn’t mean the loss of life is meaningless; it isn’t.

But before the shooting starts there is another victim. The primary victim is the shooter. This person was so messed up by something, somewhere, somehow, that they felt killing was the only solution. But no, it’s far easier to dismiss the killer as a crazy and focus simply on reducing the body count.

But the body count is only a symptom; the disease that lies at the heart of the issue infects the one holding the gun. They are the ones who need healing.

What kind of society is it that so disenfranchises their youth, that suicide is seen by far too many as the only way out? What kind of society creates such despair in a young person’s heart and mind that killing children and teachers is seen as the only solution? Until the gun lobbyist and the prayer lobbyists shut up for a minute and let the real issue come to the forefront, nothing will ever get solved.

I’m not saying prayer in the schools and stiffer guns laws will do no good. Changing policy regarding spiritual and moral instruction in our schools and changing the gun culture will have definite benefits. But simply decreasing the body count is not enough. The heart of the issue, the real solution lies in finding and helping the Adam Lanzas of this world before the despair they feel drives them to such extremes.

Then America and indeed the entire world will truly start to see a difference.

 

In Canada, Martin Luther King Day is all but ignored. Oh, it is mentioned on talk radio and on the news; but it is rarely forefront in our collective consciousness because it is, after all, a U.S. holiday. With it falling on a Sunday this year, yesterday I barely noticed it, being wrapped up in my duties surrounding two morning services at Kortright Church.

I am grateful then for this article by Jarrod McKenna on Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Christians blog. It is my hope that I will be deeply considering his message for some time to come.

Red Letter Christians » What Would MLK Do? Christians and Climate Change.

Road Tolls and the GTA

Toronto has been talking road tolls for some time now (link).

So, I’m listening to talk radio as usual, and once more the subject of road tolls going in and out of Toronto is on the agenda. Someone in Toronto is taking umbrage once again at the idea that people from outside the GTA are daring to use the roads that Toronto has paid for.

As my pal Chris and I talked about Toronto’s passive/aggressive, superiority/inferiority complex, and the impact of such a decision, it occurred to me that had such road tolls been in place in other cities over the past year it would have had an immediate impact on my own life.

As those who follow this blog know, last year I was diagnosed with cancer and since there are no cancer clinics here in Guelph I had to travel to other places to receive treatment; places like Hamilton’s Juravinski Cancer Centre on the mountain, and St. Joseph’s Hospital downtown. All told, over the last 18 months, I have made 43 trips to Hamilton for diagnosis, evaluation, surgery, radiation treatments and follow-up, with another in fact scheduled for tomorrow.

The average toll on the 407 is in the $8-$10 range, so if we use that as a base, each way, then I would have been looking at between $680 and $860 dollars an additional cost to receive my treatments had there been such tolls in place at the time. Not a great deal I’ll admit, but when you add in parking, fuel, insurance (one volunteer driver told me his insurance company increased his rates when they found out what he was doing) it adds up. Especially if you are on a limited income. Like many of the volunteer drivers who took me to my appointments are.

Even if I owned a car, the nature of the majority of my treatments were such that I was told not to drive on the days of my appointments. And while many of my friends offered to drive me down and back again, scheduling conflicts resulted in about 2/3 of the trips being made with the help of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Cancer Society volunteers drive patients to doctor appointments and treatment sessions all over the country. Most of them are retired folks looking to do some good with their free time.  As a result most of them are also on a fixed income. Even with the small mileage stipend provided by the Society (at the time of my radiation visits it was $0.20/km) most of these drivers end up spending a good chunk of change providing this service. Many that used to volunteer are ceasing to do so due to the expense. Adding road tolls on top of fuel, etc. is not going to help stem the decline.

Hundreds of people every day travel to major cities like Toronto, Hamilton, and London not because we have chosen to live or work there but because some medical facilities are available nowhere else. Every time the cost of traveling to one of these cities goes up, the cost for some people, of staying healthy, or even alive, goes up with it.

Now, would road tolls have kept me from going for my treatments? Of course not! But they would have kept me from going for coffee or even lunch while I was there as my lunch money would have had to go to pay the toll. And what city can afford that in this economy? And it likely would have forced me to seek out alternate, and likely far more expensive, means of transportation as there would have been a lot fewer volunteers.

Is this reason enough to avoid ideas like road tolls to raise revenue in major cities? In a practical world, I suppose not. But I hope at least that by raising the issue measures would be taken to reduce the impact of such decisions, like exempting those traveling for health care reasons from paying such tolls. (Please feel free to share this blog with any decision makers you may know.)

It is expenses such as these that contribute to the health care burden on the average citizen. These are among the ‘hidden’ health care costs that rarely get calculated into the formulas. Politicians and bureaucrats need to remember that road tolls and other revenue raising methods can affect more than just the bottom line.

Till next time… Shalom.

It’s odd what associations you find yourself making sometimes. When I heard on the radio that NDP leader Jack Layton had passed away during early hours this morning, the first thing I thought about, after the initial shock, was Jesus’ apostles the morning after Good Friday.

I know, on the surface that seems more than a little strange, even sacrilegious, but stay with me and I’ll explain.

On that dismal day the disciples were, in all likelihood, shell-shocked. You couldn’t have stunned them more if you bombed Jerusalem.  Despite Jesus’ warnings, his death was the last thing they expected. I’m sure that they were waiting for Jesus to perform another miracle even as he hung there on the cross. When the miracle didn’t happen they were devastated.  Huddled in their room they sat in disbelief wondering what the future would bring – or if there was a future at all. The question rang through each of their minds, “What now?”

Right now, thousands of NDP party members and supporters are feeling just as devastated and are asking them selves that very same question.

Most commentators and pundits across Canada will agree – the NDP accomplishments in the last election had nothing to do with policy, or a massive philosophical shift to the extreme left in Quebec – it was all about Jack Layton. Frustrated with the ineffectiveness of Gilles Duceppe, irritated by the elitist prattling of Michael Ignatieff, a large portion of the country, especially in Quebec, looked at Jack Layton and saw something they rarely saw in Canadian politics – authenticity.

That authenticity drew people to Jack Layton in droves and subsequently to the NDP. And I think most people within the party recognize that fact.  That is why I’m sure many of them are feeling just as lost as the Twelve did that day so long ago. True, Jack is no messiah figure, not in the true sense of the word. But he was definitely the embodiment of the NDP dream. Jack gave them a renewed sense of determination and self-worth. He gave them a new vision for the future, a future that actually seemed possible. He gave them hope!

Now that hope has suffered a potentially fatal blow. The embodiment of the dream is gone and, unlike Jesus, Jack Layton isn’t coming back any time soon. He’s not the messiah, the foundation of a new religion, or even the second coming of Tommy Douglas.  And if you think I am discrediting the gospel by comparing the two, you’ve missed my point. This isn’t about comparing Jack to Jesus, it’s about the followers of a movement. It’s about the disciples.

And the followers of Jack Layton have one more thing in common with the disciples of Jesus; whether the dream stays alive or not is up to them. The future of the NDP is in their hands now and I sincerely pray that they are up to the challenge.

As a libertarian I seldom agreed with Jack’s politics but I often admired the man. Jack Layton was an authentic politician. More importantly he was an authentic and likeable human being. Ottawa will be a better place if his example is followed by more than just the members of the NDP.

NEWSTALK 1010 – IN-DEPTH RADIO :: BREAKING NEWS: Cancer Forces Layton To Step Aside As NDP Leader.

I’ve just finished listening to Jack Layton’s press conference on the radio and at first I thought it was someone reading a prepared statement on his behalf. But no, it was Jack Layton, sounding incredibly unlike Jack Layton.

It turns out Jack’s battle with cancer is far from over. Though he seems to be winning the battle with prostate cancer, a new unspecified cancer has caused the NDP leader to take a leave of absense from the leadership of his party and the Official Opposition in Parliament. It should not be so!

I’ve never been a supporter of the NDP, and there have been times I’ve wondered what Jack was smoking; but, I would never want to see him taken down by anything other than a worthy political opponent or one of his own mis-steps. To be struck down by the most relentless disease on the planet is a fate that no one deserves. I will be praying for Jack’s healing in the days to come. I ask you to do the same if you are a person of prayer.

I will also ride for Jack in the 2012 Ride to Conquer Cancer in June of next year, as I do for everyone I know who has been struck by this disease.

I have been fortunate; blessed by God and the dedicated professionals in Ontario’s excellent health care system, I am cancer free and will fight to remain so. But for Jack Layton and millions of others the battle continues. Help me help them in the fight. Jack is receiving treatment at the Princess Margaret Hospital. To donate to continue funding for the PMH’s world leading research and treatment programs please click on the banner on the right and support me in the 2012 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.