Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mandated Mask Wearing: Waterloo Regional Council has Passed Controversial Health Measures Before (And they all got re-elected).

Wearing the mask my daughter got me at the beginning of the pandemic.

When I ran for Regional Council for the first time in 2000, the Region had just passed the no-smoking by-law. Like today, the province refused to pass a law banning smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor locations. A man smoking on his front steps, who had probably been forced out there, asked me if I agreed with it. I did. I do not know who voted for the by-law but no-one lost a seat because of it. The whining and anger over that by-law was huge, as many bar patrons also smoked. The Region used by-law officers to enforce. Eventually the province stepped up. Today, you would never know there had been a controversy

The second instance occurred during my early years as a councillor. Regional Council decided to ban cosmetic pesticides. Interestingly, the medical officer of health would not put out an order for this ban. Council went ahead anyway. There was a lot of whining and anger.By-law officers that also regulate lawn watering regulated spraying. Even today, people still grumble about their dandelions. The province, once again, stepped in after the fact.

This brings us to today. We are in the middle of a pandemic and in the first stages of reopening restaurants, stores and bars. From March to almost the end of May, public health wanted everyone in their homes to stop the spread of this new disease so wouldn’t recommend mask wearing. Now that the numbers are down, but still a bit of spread, wearing a mask is recommended. Like the ban on the spraying of cosmetic pesticides, public health will not recommend a by-law mandating the wearing of masks in places where social distancing is difficult or in restaurants, bars and stores.

Health Canada says,”When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.” It is not known by how much wearing a mask will decrease people’s risk.

When we look at who gets COVID-19, it is important to note that only one case was traced to the large BLM march in Kitchener. I know from my daughter who attended, that almost everyone, including herself, wore a mask. They tried to social distance. Working from home, she quarantined herself for two weeks afterwards. On the other hand, a party in London with no social distancing and masks, has caused COVID spread.

I always wear a mask when I visit a store, and most establishments have their staff masked by provincial decree. Yet there are so many customers not masked. Some are going to be asymptomatic and spreading the virus. Why does everyone have to be masked when I visit the hairdresser (Thanks Control ) and the dentist (Thanks Waterloo Smiles) but not when I visit Basics?

Waterloo Regional Council is the Board of Health. They have passed health measures before both with the recommendation of public health staff and without the recommendation of public health staff. Certainly public health measures have been successfully passed locally before the province moved ahead.

We can’t carry on with everyone shut up in their homes. Everyone needs to wear a mask, hand wash or use sanitizer, not touch their face, and practice social distancing. Follow the recommendations of a safe bubble of ten people.

There will be whining and anger, that is no surprise. There has been whining and anger over the introduction of seat belts, smoking bans, and cosmetic pesticides bans. The world moves on.

Thank you Mayor Berry Vrbanovic for introducing this motion.

Defunding the Police

Defunding the Police

When I was a Regional Councillor, every year we struggled over the budget, trying to get it down to a 1 or 2 percent increase. We would debate adding a million to our social service budget for “unnecessary” items that had been cut back by the provincial government. Things like eyeglasses, walkers, food hampers and dental care for the working poor. Eventually we put money towards some of these necessities for the poor. Money, but not enough, was added for social housing. Transit fares were increased. And so on. We would get the budget down to our 1 or 2 percent goal.

Then the police budget was added. If we were at 1 percent increase, the police budget would add another 1 percent (even though the police budget might actually be going up 3 to 5 percent or more). Half the Region’s budget increase was policing. Other than sending the police budget back to the police board to par down, Regional Council had no way of cutting or changing the police budget due to provincial law. We had to pay it from property taxes though.

The police are expensive. The WRPS 2020 budget, as passed, had an increase of 6,25% for a budget of almost 200 million dollars. This came out to a 1.38% property tax increase versus a Regional operating budget of 1%. Over 90% of the police budget goes to compensation ( paying people).

Defunding the police does not mean getting rid of the police. We will always have sex traffickers, assaults, child porn, fraud, murders, and theft. What defunding the police means is moving funds to what the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council has been advocating for over 25 years. Not well being, but social development. We need to stop pulling drowning people out of the water and go up stream to stop them falling in.

In an interview with NPR, Alex S. Vitale, the author of the 2017 book The End of Policing,(you can download the e-book for free) states:

One of the problems that we’re encountering here is this massive expansion in the scope of policing over the last 40 years or so. Policing is now happening in our schools. It’s happening in relation to the problems of homelessness, untreated mental illness, youth violence and some things that we historically associate police with.

This also includes illegal drugs and all the problems they bring with them. Fentanyl and meth are still a crisis. They did not go away when COVID-19 appeared. Poverty and unemployment have increased. Social problems are not the responsibility of the police but they end up the last resort in times of crisis.

A few years ago, a family member disappeared and we were afraid he was going to commit suicide. When he was found, the police had a civilian mental health team with them. The team defused the situation and the police did not have to go to emergency with our family member (who is fine now) . Police and EMS spend a lot of unnecessary costly time in Emerg waiting for their patient to be moved over to hospital staff.

Counselling, drug and addiction services, homeless shelters and social housing, immigrant and employment services, youth services, sexual assault counselling, mental health, Family and Children’s Services, the food bank, Community Justice Initiatives and more are always chronically short of funds. Recently many have had government funds cut by the province. In this time of pandemic, their charitable donations have dried up.

What if all the organizations in our community that practice crime prevention by social development got a 5 or 6 percent increase per year from our governments. Police would not be the organization of last resort for addiction, mental health, poverty and homelessness emergencies. We wouldn’t need so many police and those we would have could turn their attention to serious and complicated crimes. They would be properly defunded.

Here is a link to a petition and letter writing campaign spearheaded by the local Black Lives Matter. bit.ly/DefundThePoliceKW

You can also write to the WRPS police board here:

https://www.wrps.on.ca/en/about-us/police-services-board.aspx

I might point out that there is a vacancy on the police board!

A bit of Advice to My Staff on My Retirement

Last Thursday, the HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre staff had a Zoom coffee half hour for me on my retirement. They are a fabulous staff: hard working, creative and compassionate to our members. They asked me what advice I would give them as they moved forward. Here is my advice:

  1. Keep work and personal technology separate. Work computers, email, text etc. are only to be used for work communications.  Use personal phone, email and text for personal things, whether browsing the Internet, texting, volunteer work, or Facebook.  Even if you only have one phone, have an email account for work and one for personal. I have done this my whole political life and my work life. It works very well with only the occasional crossover when someone wrote something personal to me at my work email. Also, and this is hard, try to keep your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts not too radical. An potential employer will look for you.
  2. Assume when you send an email that it will look like you are snippy or shouting. No I don’t mean writing in caps which is the traditional way of shouting on the Internet. I mean that unlike face to face or even a phone call, email and text don’t have body language, face expression or voice tone so the person receiving it can’t tell what you mean. This is why novels have to describe these things and why we have emojis. Unfortunately in business or work communication, emojis seem flippant. Maybe we need to develop work emojis! Meanwhile, try and be incredibly polite in your emails and texts. If something is important, phone, zoom or meet face to face. This is why we have meetings.
  3. When you want to propose a project or or have been asked to propose a project, bring three decent options for your boss to look at. Even if you have only one option, at least make sure your boss knows what you are up to! Be prepared for questions and discussion, that’s the final way people communicate.
  4. Make sure everyone is included. I call this the “Bad Fairy Mistake.” In the story Sleeping Beauty, the King and Queen invited all the good fairies to the christening of Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) but they forgot or didn’t want to ask the bad fairy. The bad fairy found out she was left out (They always do) and cursed Princess Aurora to sleep for a hundred years on her 16th birthday. (I particularly like Disney’s Maleficent with Angelina Jolie, rather than the original animated version)
  5. Treat your co-workers like you want to be treated.

Keep Well in this time of pandemic. I am onto the next adventure. Maybe I will even be writing more often in my blog

Is Fundraising the Best Model for a Charity?

laurie and fashion Santa

Laurie wearing her HopeSpring wig during treatment.

For the last 8 months, I have been very busy learning the job of Executive Director of HopeSpring. HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre helps people affected by cancer, whether the patient, caregiver, family, or supporter. The organization offers non-medical  psycho-social programs like gentle exercise (yoga and tai chi), relaxation therapies (massage, therapeutic touch), cancer care counselling (individual and family), stress reduction (art expression, meditation), and group peer support (caregivers, men, women, ovarian cancer). HopeSpring is 100 percent funded by donations. Thank you so much to all of you who support HopeSpring.

It is a very different financial environment from overseeing a regional municipality where shortfalls, whether from other levels of government or inflation are filled with property taxes. Charities must raise the funds they need to survive each year by donations from individuals and corporations, and grants. There is no taxpayer available to cover any shortfalls. We are dependent on the generosity of our donors.

When the pleas from charities come in your door or email this time of year, don’t be irritated. Everyone of us is providing a much needed and necessary service. There truly isn’t anything like a free lunch. Donate Here

The Federal Government’s Plan for Non-Profits and Charities

The federal government is going ahead with  a social finance fund where for-profit companies would take on the risk of a charity’s proposed plan. To me this sounds very much like the public private partnership the Region of Waterloo used to build the LRT. It’s working!

So for HopeSpring, where we are starting a capitol fundraising plan in the next year to raise funds for a new home, this idea would be a very good one.  HopeSpring is growing and our space is too small.

For profit partnerships for charities

There are also funds that will fund Investment Readiness for social finance and will be distributed through community foundations. Social innovation and finance funds

Here is the question HopeSpring has to think about. Right now all our services and programs are free. We feel this is very important as people with cancer have enough to think about and also, since often chemo and radiation mean time off work, funds can be limited. A regular priced wig can cost 200 to 300 dollars. Yet they are important for women who lose their hair temporarily from chemo. We don’t want them to go without, as often women won’t think of themselves. So all our wigs are free due to the generousity of Zonta.

It has been hinted in conversations about social finance funding, that HopeSpring should charge for our counselling sessions as other non-profit counselling organizations do for those who can afford it. However the hospital cancer social workers are “free” for cancer patients with payment coming from government sources. Some hospital social workers in some hospitals are being cut back, leaving cancer patients without the resources to get help for anxiety, stress and loss. HopeSpring could fill the gap if we have the donations. The difference between government funding and fundraising.

So here is my question: Is fundraising the best model for charities?

Three years ago, we almost lost HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre due to the ending of a major fundraising golf tournament. This near bankruptcy has happened to other organizations like the Symphony. The community rallied around and raised the funds for HopeSpring to continue through a gofundme. We know the community wants HopeSpring.  Now three years later, we are on our feet again in a smaller location, helped by the generosity of the Inn of Waterloo and our donors. But with the growth in cancer cases, the need has become greater.  Middle class families (the people the Federal government has dedicated a ministry to) cannot afford 90 to 100 dollars a session for cancer counselling on top of all the other caregiving and financial problems involved with having cancer. Thank goodness for medicare that covers most of the costs of treatment.

Fundraising is a good model for charities like HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre, but only with your support. Every year we need donations from people like you to survive. When those pleas come through your mailbox or in an email, please sit down and put together an annual giving plan. Charities need your help every year, not just once. If you want HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre to continue to survive and thrive, please become an annual donor. Thank you to all of you who donate, you keep us helping people affected by cancer.

Donate Here

 

I Levelled Up in Karate!

Never did I think that I would be taking karate in my 60s! As many of you know, my grandson has mild autism (used to be called Asbergers). His mother thought that taking karate would be good for him, not only to protect himself but also following directions, participating and standing in a line. So far he can participate for half an hour.

My grandson goes to the Kitchener Kicks Dragon Heart program. Recommended by Kidsability

Karate Class

Dragonheart class takes their exam

, it is a karate program for those with disabilities. All of the participants have autism or are mentally disabled.

Our Sigung (Sensei) is a blind black belt, right out of a Japanese historical action film. He is firm but dedicated to the students who are only asked to do to their ability. This week was very exciting because we practiced with staves. I never thought I had aggression in me, though I still can’t fight my way out of a paper bag.

At the leveling up ceremony many had taken a year to move up to a yellow belt (the one above the basic white), but the pride filled the room. One little boy who started last September could not walk. He does his moves with the help of his mother. At the levelling up ceremony, he walked up to receive his new black and white belt (a half level above white). We all clapped, only a few dry eyes.

I started out as an assistant for Robbie. I also signed up to pay each week. When my grandson finishes his half hour (He is going longer over time), I continue to work on my moves. At the levelling up ceremony, I was shocked. I got a certificate and a black and white belt. Sigung said I was working hard. I fist bumped several times with one of the other students.

Recently, one of the HopeSpring fundraisers was telling me about his 17 year old grandson who has autism. He just won national gold for karate and is attending the PanAm games. I don’t think this is Paralympics. The woman who looks after the registration desk at Kitchener Kicks told Robbie and me that her son has been a twice World Karate champion and has gone to Ireland and Austria. He has autism. She told us that 4 months after he started, the boy’s school teacher asked why her son was suddenly listening and following directions. The only thing they could think of was karate. We hope that will happen to my grandson. He was also excited about the staves on Saturday. Maybe at the next test in December, I will go up another level and Robbie will too!

 

 

 

 

 

No styrofoam: Reusable doggy bag reminds me of my mother-in-law

Whenever we went to a restaurant with my Mother-in-law, she would always take home a few sugar packets and a bit of meat for the dog wrapped in a paper napkin. I felt embarrassed. How times change.

Though we don’t take sugar packets, my husband and I do get a doggy bag when we eat out. My husband insists that we take the fries home to reheat for the grandkids and a little bit of meat for our incredibly spoiled dog. Unfortunately, our favourite restaurant uses Styrofoam boxes for the leftovers.

Reuseable doggy bag

Take your own doggy bag

Styrofoam is actually polystyrene. But the foam containers at restaurants and packaging are commonly called Styrofoam. Common Styrofoam is thrown away and not recycled. Not a market.

In memory of my Mom-In-Law we now take her favourite reusable Tupperware for the doggy bag. (BTW, if you know where I can find more containers with an attachable lid, I’m buying them!) Costco and Boar’s Head food truck have disposable containers that are compostable.

In Ontario, companies are now supposed to find alternatives to Styrofoam and eventually look after their own packaging. Not sure what will happen with the change in provincial government.

Vancouver and  various American states have banned Styrofoam restaurant containers. Legal staff say Waterloo region could also do this. They would consult with restaurant owners and the public before moving ahea. if you think this is a good idea, lobby your Regional councillors or the province.

Will Junior Kindergarten fund Private Schools?

kindergarten

Empty playgrounds for JK and SK?

The Ontario Provincial Government is hinting at big changes to junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten. The programs will stay the same for the next school year but after that is unknown.

The changes to autism funding include stopping funds presently going directly to organizations like Kidsability (3 million) and instead giving the money directly to parents.

What does this have to do with junior and senior kindergarten? Childcare research shows that direct funding to daycares, rather than tax credits and funding to parents, works best. Especially in provinces like Quebec where parents pay a token amount of fees.

Junior and Senior kindergarten have worked well in Ontario, increasing children’s social skills and academic skills. Parents, particularly women, are able to increase family income by being in the work force.

Why change something that isn’t broken? A cost of 1.5 billion is used as an excuse but it must also be noted that public education is also expensive. Most of us would think it is worth the dollars.

So back to parents receiving funding to use as they feel best. This is a method long loved by those who home school or send their children to private, charter or religious schools.  This type of finding starves an excellent system of direct funding. Will most children go to the classrooms already set up in their neighbourhood? Probably. Now the public school secretary or some bureaucrat is going to have to charge parents for what is now free. That charge will include money coming directly from the parental pocket, over and above the taxes they pay.

For those who can afford to send their children to private school, this will be a boon, but it will be a disaster for our public school system. I sincerely hope this is not what the Ford government is thinking of doing.

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/kindergarten/theresearchisin.html   

My Unspoken Speech at the Waterloo Region Women’s March

Thank you to Melissa Durrell for asking me to speak about the Waterloo Region Women’s Municipal Campaign School at the Women’s March on Saturday, Jan 19,2019, instead of herself. Unfortunately, at the last minute, I was not allowed to speak. Here is my speech.


Waterloo Region Women’s Municipal Campaign School.

Run like a girl, put your name on a ballot

Run like a girl, put your name on a ballot

A week ago, the Honourable Bardish Chagger, House Leader and MP of the Riding of Waterloo, handed me her copy of the brochure for the very first Waterloo Region Women’s Municipal Campaign School on Sat. Nov 19, 2005.  She was a member of the committee and a community volunteer.

Two of the outcomes of the day were to provide women with reasons why their presence is important in elected office, and increase the ways in which woman could support, run and/or mentor women in the 2006 municipal campaign. The outstanding keynote was a discussion by the Honourable Karen Redman MP, and Government Whip, now our Regional Chair, and Elizabeth Witmer,MPP and former Deputy Premier. None of us who were there will forget their honest and moving discussion about being a woman in politics.

With me as Chair, we moved on over the years with a campaign school before each municipal election with some success. The  most notable was Waterloo Council in 2006 with half of the council and the Mayor being women. Other city councils increased from one  to  two women, five in the Region and more women school trustees. Then Waterloo council slipped back to less women. Wilmot Township never changed. It had been all men since 1973.

In 2018, the committee decided that the Campaign School needed to be bold. Our slogan: 50% women elected in 2018.

In January of last year, inspired by the millions of women marching in Washington and around the world in reaction to the election of Donald Trump and the defeat of Hilary Clinton in the United States, women marched for women in Waterloo Region. Inspired, a record number of women, 164, came to our first Campaign school day for the 2018 election. A record number of women went onto run and to win.

Waterloo Council once again has over 50 percent women. North Dumfries has over 50 percent women and Wilmot has 50 percent women after no women since 1973! Half of the municipal mayors and chair are women.  Well over 50 percent of the trustees on the Waterloo Public Board are women.

We reached 48 percent women for the total of municipal councils. The last provincial election, 4 of the 5 MPPs for Waterloo Region were women. We should be proud of what we have done.

Many thanks to all the women politicians of Waterloo Region who spoke at or worked on the Campaign school over the years. Solidarity, even though some male politicians said they were grooming the competition. And many thanks to the women who have been part of the Waterloo Region Women’s Municipal Campaign School committee over the years, many of whom are now local, provincial and federal politicians. Could those who are here, both politicians and committee members wave.  Let’s give them a cheer.

Our work is not done. Now is the time to participate ourselves with volunteering and advocacy against violence against women. Now is the time to support our women politicians.

 

Monument for the Homeless Fills a Need to Say Goodbye.

A client representative died in my early years as Chair of the Region’s Employment and Income Advisory Committee. Disabled, Ed still came regularly to our monthly meetings and he volunteered for the local Liberals on their campaigns. He was estranged from his family.

A neighbour in his social housing complex found him and his body was carried away to the morgue. Ed’s was cremated and his funeral was paid for by ODSP.  He was buried in an unmarked grave.

When the committee found out about Ed’s death and burial, we wanted to do something for such a great committee member. So I suggested passing the hat for a gravestone and found out the cost was 200 dollars for a simple plaque. We also paid for a small obituary. We raised the money and had a memorial for him presided over by Rev. June Anderson. Former Cambridge Mayor Claudette Millar came to represent the local Liberals.

Ed’s mother and sister found out about his death through the obituary and went to see his grave. They sent us a letter thanking us for the stone. They had been estranged from him for many years.

A few years ago, Birgit Lindenberg used this blog to write obituaries for the homeless. because they died and no one cared. Many homeless, even though they are buried by the Region, do not have a gravestone, just a number as shown the Record article, Caring for the Unclaimed Dead

Those homeless do have people who cared for them. Whether other homeless people, workers at the soup kitchen or downtown residents like Birgit. As the famous line in Death of a Salesman says, “Attention must be paid.”

Monument to the Homeless

The monument will provide a place for ceremonies and memories of those who have passed. It will also provide a reminder that the homeless are people who had lives and friends and family. Critics, if you feel that money needs to go to help the homeless, I hope that like me, you contribute to the organizations that help them.

Gofundme page

House of Friendship

YW

Working Centre

The Bridges Cambridge.

Supportive Housing of Waterloo

 

 

 

Thank you

Thank you everyone for your kind words about my loss last night. As one door closes another opens.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me. Thank you to all of you who worked on my campaign, not only this time but for the last 18 years on the Region and the 10 years on the Public School Board.

It has been worth it.

Sincerely

Jane Mitchell

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