Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stop Kicking the World, Work With It

Fish and Loaves

I lived in Tofino, BC for almost 4 years. What you have to understand about Tofino is, it's not a cheap place to live. In fact, things are extremely expensive.

My husband worked for Creative Salmon Company Ltd., and I worked first for CIBC, and then for myself as a business consultant. We ran the local archery club until we left so we got to know a good number of people in the community. In that time we saw that there were very few services for people in need, but we didn't know what to do about it. We still had the big city mentality coming from Calgary. In both of our minds, you need lots of people close by for such services - it would never happen in Tofino. We always heard “well, what you have to understand is, Tofino is different.” Apparently my friend Jenn didn't think so. Before we moved back to Calgary, she was telling me she wanted to open a soup kitchen.

After I left, it still took some time but she finally got up the energy, resources and courage to put this soup kitchen together. She had some long time local residents willing to help her push forward and put this soup kitchen idea into action. Her husband also provided her encouragement.

I remember when she was first trying to get the soup kitchen started, there were a few setbacks. She kept moving forward, maybe at times a little slower than she wanted, but forward nonetheless. Then *YAY* in September 2007 it was finally a reality.

Now Fish and Loaves receives food donations from various local establishments of day old bread and pastries, as well as other food. They also receive some cash donations from their church, and some individuals, to buy what they require and to pay rent on the space they use once a week. This is a big deal because even this was hard to acquire at first. The local businesses didn't believe in the soup kitchen so wouldn’t donate to it at the outset.

When Fish and Loaves started, maybe 2 people would show up (if any) but that was fine. Jenn and the few others that were there at the beginning knew it would be a slow start. Now there can be upwards of 50 people at the weekly lunch. Today when I was at Fish and Loaves, there were about 20 people being served and the local elementary school was involved. A grade 1 class prepared the soup (which was quite tasty and filling) and a grade 5/6 class served and cleaned up afterwards. They were a very eager bunch! When I was eating, I barely got my last bite out and the children took my bowl away. They were really enjoying themselves. They also looked like they had fun cleaning up afterwards. They cleared all tables, then folded them up and put them away. It was fun to watch.

Jenn just told me earlier this week, she ran into a couple of people who used to frequent Fish and Loaves but don't anymore. She asked why and they answered it did what it needed to. At the time, they were able to get food when they were hungry. They took the donations available to them as needed and once they were on their feet, they stopped using the service. What more can Jenn ask for?

When I see Occupy Wall Street in the news or go downtown and see Occupy Calgary in my home city, my friend Jenn is who I think of. Instead of screaming that the system doesn't work, she decided to put her energy into helping those who need it. From what I understand, and have read and researched about the Occupy movement, they want the entire system changed to benefit those who need it the most and take away from those who have the most. I don't understand that attitude. No, Jenn and her husband are not in the top 1% nor is she in the bottom % but she still chose to put her energy into helping others. She and the other volunteers of Fish and Loaves could have very been “occupiers” but they instead put their energy into something productive and very beneficial to Tofino.

 So as far as “occupiers” are concerned, instead of squatting and screaming Charter rights, why don't they volunteer for one of the many organizations that already exist in Calgary? They can start up their own non-profit organization. It is an involved process but as Jenn can tell them, well worth the energy and effort.

Look, it's Jenn!
Squatting in a public park protesting some such thing that no one can fathom proves nothing. Yelling “I can stay here because the Charter says I can” proves even less. Go out and actually make the changes. The “occupiers” need to change where their energy is being put. Just because they want something to change, doesn't mean it's going to happen. Either go to the effort and find out how to put bills through readings to change law - or better yet - help people who need it. It doesn't matter which but stop trying to kick the world. You'll only break your foot.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My View of Mayor Nenshi

Ever since Mayor Nenshi was elected into office, I've had serious reservations about his qualifications to represent and lead this city. I'm sad to say, in my eyes, he's proven that a guy who's never served in a political office of any kind should never be elected to such an important position. What he feels is important seems to differ from not only his own election platform, but from reality a lot of the time.

I really started to pay attention when Occupy Calgary set up a little shanty town in Olympic Plaza. Mayor Nenshi seemed not only to endorse their squat, but unequal enforcement of the law. If a person pays taxes and owns assets of any kind, enforce the law. If they appear to be entitled 20 somethings and are protesting something or another, meh, leave them be.

Mayor Nenshi, in my opinion, has forgotten that the aldermen represent us. They aren't supposed to represent his perfect idea of Calgary.  When Gord Lowe asked for more detailed information on the airport tunnel, Mayor Nenshi wanted to move off that topic even though we, as a city, repeatedly heard it would be no higher than $295 million.  When the deal was signed, the price increased to $425 million at minimum. The Mayor even spoke over Druh Farrell when she tried to back up Gord Lowe. As far as I understood it, council is the time to debate unresolved issues and the Mayor is supposed to listen, debate and resolve, not speak about his own personal agenda and carry on. I guess this is what Mayor Nenshi calls a more efficient City Hall.

But now, it's budget time and Mayor Nenshi is getting grouchy that it's not going his way. He seems to think that since he pretty much forced the airport tunnel deal through, all his ideas are golden.  The Mayor criticizing the aldermen for treating us taxpayer-types like ATM’s is a little pot and kettle-ish.  Water rates, electricity rates, pet licensing rates are all increasing along with our property tax rates. They're saying it's a 6% increase so far and for each 1/2% it's “only” $13. The water increase is only $8, the pet license increase is only $6, how many more “only's” are we in for?  When all is said and done in a year, what do all these increases add up to?  How much will it all “only” cost us?

The Mayor wants the essential services to cut their budgets and *run more efficiently* without truly considering what the detrimental effect of that will be. The biggest argument to date is the police budget. He's since lost that argument but, Mayor Nenshi was hoping that the province would bail him out of this situation. Why? The province already provided a $42 million tax rebate (that was supposed to come back to us) that the Calgary City Council took and blew, instead of using on essential services. Considering the police want/need $10 million, why did some of that money not go towards police and fire services? Why are they looking at cuts? It's not just the aldermen that are playing games with the budget, it is the Mayor as well, and he's just hoping we all have short memories.

Mayor Nenshi is also proving to be very arrogant and condescending. Not only does he not permit the alderman to finish a sentence in council when they bring up a topic he doesn't like, he says things on social media that no political representative should. The City of Calgary has a code of conduct for it's employees and Mayor Nenshi seems to believe himself above it. In the code of conduct there is a section on Acceptable Use of City Technology Policy and the Public Statements and Media Relations Policy, yet he still openly insults people and argues with news media. For example, in arguing with @wernerpatels on Twitter, he said “I know I should not bother you when you're off your meds...” and when called on it, he didn't apologize for the statement; he apologized that people were offended by it. What I was upset about was the lack of professionalism by our political representative. If he was speaking on a personal account that said nothing about him being Mayor, I wouldn't have cared, but the twitter account specifically states “Mayor of Calgary.” In my opinion, Mayor Nenshi must abide by the code of conduct while speaking on this account.  The sad reality is, this isn’t the only time something of this nature has happened.

On many occasions Mayor Nenshi has shown his lack of professionalism or qualifications to lead the City of Calgary in almost any form.  The only thing he has shown is one can lead an election through the use of social media, but that one really should know what the hell he’s doing once he’s in the drivers seat.  I hope over the next three years he smartens up, shows he can be a professional, and leaves his arrogance at the door.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Calgary and the Abuse of the Charter

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

So, how exactly does Occupy Calgary justify what they are doing? Do they not think they've gone beyond a reasonable limit in trying to expound their message, whatever that may be? I bring this up because I've seen, not only in person but on social media and in the news, over and over, that this Occupy Movement believe they are well within their Charter freedoms to squat in Olympic Plaza.

The occupiers absolutely have the freedom to express their opinion. What is their opinion? I've done hours of reading and research and I can't find what exactly they are squatting for, except for Charter freedoms. I didn't know camping in a park that disallowed camping and had hours of operation was a Charter right.

The occupiers do have freedom of assembly, but why do they have to assemble with tents for so long, in a park, in the middle of Calgary with hours of operation? What are they trying to accomplish with this, except show that they are capable of breaking laws where others are not? They have proven that there is inequality in law enforcement in Calgary.

The occupiers do have freedom of conscience and religion. They held a Buddhist prayer circle in city hall. I wasn't aware any of them were Buddhist, but I'm not a mind reader. It gave way for a Christian leader to hold his own religious assembly in City Hall. I have a problem with this. It has always been argued that politics and religion should not go hand in hand (but that's a debate for another day.)

The occupiers will argue legal rights per the Charter but they are the ones currently breaking the law. They have also put themselves at risk (exposure) and are breaking enforceable bylaws. Is safety not an argument against “reasonable limits prescribed by law”? And still, they have not “demonstrably justified” their protest.

In reading the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the occupiers failed to notice that no where does it say it is the responsibility of the government to think for citizens of Canada. The occupiers argue it is the responsibility of the City of Calgary to provide heaters for the squat. They argue it is the City of Calgary's fault for the fire and subsequent injuries. I disagree. A sane, rational person would find shelter in cold weather, not light a candle in a nylon tent. I notice however they do not complain that emergency services provided by the City of Calgary came to their rescue.

If Mayor Nenshi did his job at the outset, before the weather turned and someone was hurt, the injuries would have been avoided. This issue would have been in court, and the court would likely have found in favour of the City of Calgary; now it's a huge problem and a joke on Calgary.

The occupiers can't be debated with. They discount any argument that doesn't agree with their point of view and they would rather risk themselves and their friends then end this squat. Will someone have to die of exposure before the Occupy Calgary tent city is removed?

Protest during the day, sleep at home, protect yourself and your health. Sleeping outside, in the winter cold proves only that you want to stick it to City Hall and nothing else. We who disagree with you will continue to speak out against you. I encourage you to continue to speak out against us but you can't do it if you've frozen to death.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Calgary Given 24 Hour Notice

And it's come and gone with very little happening.  The city posted signs in various spots around Olympic Plaza, apparently only to look pretty.  However, when the signs were initially posted, one of the occupiers made a video stating that since the signs in the park didn't mention the bylaw number, they shouldn't have to move.  In other words, the occupiers want to get around the bylaw based on a technicality.  That seems rather hypocritical to me.

Look how pretty it is.
I got to Olympic Plaza just after 1:00 pm.  It was fairly quiet.  I noticed something this time that I didn't notice the last time I was there: messages written in chalk and anarchy symbols in various spots.  Why would ANYONE want anarchy of any kind?  The occupy squatters will not get the happy bunny world they're seeking with anarchy.  They would have a world in which the strong feed upon on the weak.

End moral decay, desire for more, scarcity of food, forced labour, and cruel authority.
End free enterprise now.  Beg 'pardon?  Where exactly in Canada does all this happen?  I'd really like to know!  And how did it all get attributed to free enterprise?

Why would anyone want to incite disorder?  What would this accomplish?

 I still don't see this squat as a protest.  When I was wondering around, the only person that was active wanted to hand me a copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  I declined as I've read it before.

As I was taking photos, a homeless man approached me and asked me to take his photo.  His name is Lucien.  He said he wanted people to know he was there.  I wondered around a bit with him, met his family and got their opinion on the movement.  At first he said he agreed with it, they`re trying to change things.  Then I told him I`m pro-corporate and he changed his mind just a little bit.  You see, we`re both native, from different bands.  He`s from Tsuu T'ina and I'm Inuvialuit.  His family asked me where I was from and I told them.  His mother said to me we all have to be friendly towards one another referring to all Canadian aboriginals.  I agreed with her, but I just feel that way about people in general.  Lucien did tell me how to find him again and I will go in search for him soon.

Meet Lucien.

Lucien and his family.
Now a thought comes to mind, why aren't the occupiers putting energy into helping people like Lucien and his family.  Why are they fighting so hard against City Hall?  Let's go up a couple of pictures, remember the one that starts with "End Corruption?"  By focusing the fight on City Hall and law enforcement, is their message not corrupted?  Should they not show us how to change by helping people who truly need it?  Do as I do - show it, talk about it, photograph it, buy them lunch.

I've read "Why We Occupy".  It talks about how we need to better the quality of life of all people, so why are the occupiers not doing so for others?  Why is it on my shoulders or City Hall's or Corporate Calgary's?  It talks about how they want things change for the sake of human welfare, but again, the occupiers are so focused on the action, they've lost the meaning (if they ever had it in the first place.)

The occupiers need to leave Olympic Plaza, they need to figure out what they want and they need to realize that the method they use to send their message is so very important.  Actions speak louder than words and quite frankly, I'll listen to someone talking to me from a soup kitchen before I'll ever listen to someone squatting in a park to prove a directionless point.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Finally, I went to the Occupy Calgary Squat

Today, I finally went to Olympic Plaza with my husband to see the Occupy Calgary squat for myself as it is what got me opinion-ating in the first place.  What I saw was more than a little disappointing.

I saw tents, as everyone knows, a few people sort of milling about, a cardboard structure of some kind and garbage, lots and lots of garbage.  There were also signs that made no real sense to me.

We walked through the camp.  Most of the "occupiers" ignored us, a couple of them said hello but that was about it.  One guy walked past us looking quite menacing.  I just smiled at him and kept on looking around.  The conclusion I've come to is there is NO protest.  A protest is an attention catcher, it gives a clear message and people are in fact interested.  At Olympic Plaza, there was CTV news, myself, my husband, 3 Calgary Police Officers and the "occupiers".  So who exactly are they protesting to and what exactly are they protesting?  Ah yes, I forgot about the mini-film crew mocking the "occupiers" dressed up and acting out "la revolucion!"  It was kinda funny.  One of them started smoking and the officers did stop him stating there is no smoking permitted in Olympic Plaza.  He looked around and said "Oh, okay, but it takes away from my shot!"  I noticed from where I was standing 3 no smoking signs.

Tent City
This is a protest?

What a mess.
Does anyone clean up?

Yum, rotting vegetables.
Discarded bread and meat.

Hmm, wonder who this belongs to.

Now, about these signs that don't make sense...

What do any of these mean?  99% winning what?  Doesn't that mean you have to know what you're fighting against in the first place?  Oh, and my god children can build better forts.

Wealth (n.): all things that have a monetary exchange value or anything that has utility and is capable of being appropriated or exchanged. 
This sign says "private property" (in a public park) AND this person is demanding "public ownership of all means of production."  Can we say tastes like contrary?

What's with the American money?  I guess it's like using the 99% American statistic in Canada.  It just doesn't work.  They yell "CORPORATE PIGS!!!" and "Don't Worry, We're from the Internet" in the same breath.  I'm wondering which ISP they use.

I did see the Charter of Rights and Freedoms hanging on a tent.  I didn't need a photo of it as they're abusing it anyway.  Why is it, every time someone wants to say something that no wants to hear, that someone brings out a copy of the Charter?

An issue I do have with these "occupiers" is my dad came to Canada from East Germany for the freedoms Canada holds and they're wanting to take those away through political force, not due process.  They want to change this country into a socialist, government controlled totalitarian state through so called "non-violent" anarchy instead of trying to make change properly.  And they do it in the name of equality while squatting beside the statues of the Famous Five.  Do they have a clue?

Calgary is a corporate heavy city, it always will be.  People come to Calgary to work peacefully.  If you don't want to work but you do enjoy unions, protesting and social assistance, go somewhere else.  The Occupy Movement has no place here.  The only good that's come out of it is it's shown what a spineless, useless mayor Calgary currently has and it's shown me I'm willing to back my alderman (Big Red) and speak my opinion when I feel my rights are being trampled.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Finding my Voice

In the past months, a lot has happened in Calgary that I disagree with.  I’ve felt powerless and unheard.  I’ve had no idea how to change things or even how to express my opinions.  I’ve been talking in various newspaper comment sections, but that’s not enough.

Then Occupy Calgary started and I got really annoyed.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading and researching and even more commenting.  I’ve decided I want to truly be heard.  I’m still trying to figure out what that means but I think this is a step in the right direction.  I’m hoping through time, I’ll find my voice and be heard by City Hall.  It won’t be immediate, but it will happen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

All About Me!

Lately, I've become fairly vocal in local politics, mostly in newspaper message boards. I seem to be more vocal than my husband.

My husband is a Certified General Accountant specialized in financial controllership, going through a change of career into accounting systems development and security. I'm a life insurance broker who's had enough of personal family tragedy, and so decided on my own changes. At first, I thought I was going to sell stuff but then I became annoyed with local politics, started talking on newspaper message boards and learned a lot about how local and federal politics works. I sort of skipped provincial politics, at least for now.

I've been called uneducated, a corporate shill, a sell-out all because of my views. Perhaps if a little bit is known about us, they wouldn't be so quick to say these things to me.

I'm a part Inuvaluit, part German, all Canadian born in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. My dad moved us to Calgary just before my 11th birthday. He's a blue collar worker and raised my sister and I on his own.  I couldn't go to university for the things I wanted so I found other ways to get the required education.

My husband is part Welsh, part French (continental), all Canadian. He moved to Calgary 12 years ago from Victoria, B.C. He was raised by his mother and grandparents until he ended up on the streets of Vancouver in his late teenage years. He did find the help he needed, finished high school, upgraded his education and is now successful in his field.

While he was in school to get his CGA, we didn't have everything we wanted, we ate white rice and ground pork at times and lived very lightly.

We’re now very comfortable and neither of us look back to when it was hard. We appreciate everything we have and earned every bit of it. We have no reason to feel bad for anything and we'll never feel bad for not giving to someone because we have more than they do. We give to whom and what we believe in. We’re capitalists, it's what we believe in, it's what we do.