Work shouldn’t be life or death — but often is

Friday, April 27, 2007

Apr 27 2007

A poster publicizing Saturday’s Day of Mourning arrived last week. I pinned it on the backboard of my working area; a couple of co-workers have stopped to look at it.

I can’t because it succeeds every time I catch a glimpse of it. It’s reminding us all that people are literally dying to work.

I’ve had three dear friends die because of their jobs, one of them the person who inspired me to become a reporter.

His name was Joe McClelland and a kinder man you would never meet. He was assigned to cover a mock election I had organized at my high school to co-incide with the 1972 federal election.

I spent a lot of time that day talking with Joe, asking questions and starting to think he had a great gig going. He explained why, in one particularly harsh column, he had written some critical things about my father, at the time one of those old-style trade unionists.

Later, when still in my teens and starting out in the business, my desk was next to Joe’s. He guided and inspired me until 1986 when, as the sole provincial media representative covering hearings in northern Ontario on government plans for hydro plants, the plane he was in crashed and this gentle man died.

I had never seen co-workers cry before. I had never seen the city editor so devastated he could not make phone calls to others in the paper’s hierarchy who had to be told.

And no one could answer the prevailing question: Why Joe?

The poster reminds me of another sweet man — why is it the kind, gentle, hard-working ones seem to be the ones taken too soon? — who once, decades ago, dedicated himself to teaching me to dance.

Ray Martin was a black man with red hair, the result of some fascinating genetic linkups, I suspect. He was skinny, while his wife Judy was one of those big women with an even bigger smile, home cooking always on and as much love as her husband had — which was more than enough for their five kids.

Judy went first, a victim of a swift cancer, leaving Ray with his brood, who would drag me off with the bunch of them to dances at his church.

I don’t dance. I can’t dance. I love to watch other people dance, but I simply cannot do it.

This didn’t stop Ray. He’d drag me out there, the instructions would begin, I’d be terrible — truly awful — and he’d keep it up.

It took more than a year for him to finally admit defeat. A few months later, working on a roller-based machine at his job at 3M Canada, something went horribly wrong and Ray died almost instantaneously.

He had worked on that equipment for years. It used to be done by two operators, but the company, in a downsizing move, decided one was enough. 3M was charged, convicted and fined. Five children were left orphans.

And I never did dance with Ray.

Finally, the poster reminds me there are some who don’t die quickly on the job, but slowly because of the job. We’ve read about them: miners with black lung, workers with asbestosis and firefighters who, after so much exposure to smoke, chemicals, dirt, dust and who knows what else, develop cancer.

To this day, thinking of Roger Chiasson brings tears to my eyes. All he wanted to be was a firefighter, a husband and a dad.

My best friend, the one who is more sister than friend, had the great fortune of meeting Roger, becoming friends with him and, later, marrying the charmer with that wicked New Brunswick accent and contagious smile.

Roger was a great firefighter. He’d just as quickly don his uniform and make a visit to one of my sons’ kindergarten classes for show and tell as he would grab his gear and lead his guys into a blaze.

Cancer invaded him, too. He fought it just as hard as he fought that horrendous fire one freezing winter night at our YMCA-YWCA, a monstrous, ancient four-storey building that took up half a city block,

Fire claimed the Y. In 1996, cancer claimed the firefighter.

In B.C. last year, 160 workers died; 30 in motor vehicle accidents, 61 from occupational diseases — a category that has continued to increase in the past 20 years, according to WorkSafe B.C. — and 69 from traumatic injuries. It’s down from 2005, when there were 188 deaths in the province, but up from the year before, when there were 134 workplace fatalities.

That’s too many. One is too many.

Going to work shouldn’t be a life- or-death decision.

© Copyright 2007 Kamloops This Week

Random Musings #2

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Many years ago, when the "feminist" movement was in full swing and women were being yanked through the glass ceiling just so companies could prove they didn't discriminate, a female co-worker informed me that I was, if anything, the worst kind of feminist.

In fact, she actually doubted that I belonged in that category. Her reasons? Well, I was married. I had children. I didn't want my name on a door and all the bureaucracy that entailed. I would rather have spent time at my children's co-op preschool helping out than going to a meeting of other women bitching about how the world was treating them badly. It was a game I wasn't willing to play.

Honestly, that's what she told me. It was a surreal experience. Had I had an ounce of respect for this woman to begin with, it would definitely have been gone by the end of the rant. Instead, I just felt sorry for someone so driven to be a "feminist" that she forgot we have to be true to ourselves first.

I thought of this recently when one of the dearest women on the planet, someone I adore to bits, started to doubt herself. And not the little doubts we all go through from time to time, but a VERY BIG DOUBT. About everything that makes her who she is.

In many ways, her situation is much like the one I found myself in those many years ago. She works with women who are desperate to prove they belong in the positions they now hold. They have their own view of their world, their own agenda and their own criteria for admission to their group. And my friend, much like me years ago, doesn't fit the mould.

She too knows what games she will and won't play —- and theirs isn't one of them.

And, instead of seeing those judging her for what they are, she's judging herself.

Makes me wonder: Why do women do this to each other? Why do they claim they want to be themselves, but then, when someone doesn't fit the mould, they go on the attack?

And why, all these years later, is it still happening?

Nanny-state mentality takes hold at city hall

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Many, many years ago, as one of his last acts before retirement, the associate publisher of the newspaper where I worked officially banned smoking in the building.

Back in those days, most of the reporters were male, too many of them smoked and most of them viewed this as heresy.

It wasn’t lost on them that the dear man issued the mandate and then moved to Naples, Fla., soon afterward.

A non-smoking colleague was so inflamed by this edict that he took up the habit. What a stupid thing to do, I thought at the time. But I’ve thought of him frequently in recent days as I’ve mulled around the idea of painting a colourful mural on my garage door.

Not because the artistic muse is moving me to express myself. Actually, it’s more a reaction to the truly dumb decision of our city council, one of several councillors have made recently in what one dear friend referred to as the “strata mentality.”

They must control everything, and everything must be the same. In doing so, they keep pushing their noses into matters that really are none of their business.

Let’s start with the proposed pesticide bylaw.

Give her credit, because Coun. Tina Lange is right. Their use is a health issue, so perhaps there is an argument to be made for some restrictions on their use. And Coun. Pat Wallace is also right when she points out that health is a provincial matter.

Our council, however, actually contemplated a bylaw that would restrict pesticide use by people who spray their lawn, what, maybe once a year? Who have a few fruit trees?

But it would have exempted those who use the chemicals intensively — golf courses (must have those gorgeous greens, you know) and commercial-orchard operators.

Not the most effective bylaw, it would appear. Swat a fly, but ignore that big bees’ nest next to you.

The proposal has been sent back for reworking. Its next incarnation should be interesting to read.

Consider next the decision to get involved in how the free-enterprise system works in this city, by mandating a minimum drink charge for pubs and bars.

The rationale? To stop binge drinking.

Is that not the duty of the barkeepers? And do we not have regulations already in place to ensure that duty is enforced, and consequences the proper authorities can enforce to ensure this?

This is not the responsibility of municipal government. It is a policing matter, both through the liquor licensing officials and the local police.

This reality, combined with the fundamental laws of economics, are what should govern how much one pays for a drink in public.

And it is also the responsibility of parents to teach their children about binge drinking. I know that doesn’t preclude it from happening, but I’d rather have my children show restraint because they learned about the consequences of too much drinking from my husband and me, and understand the legal and health issues, instead of having their decision based on the amount of money they would have to spend.

And now, we have the graffiti bylaw, which will not only require the victims to pay for the crime, but has now deemed graffiti to be much more than what I always thought it included.

Now, if I want to paint that mural on my garage door, I would be violating the city’s rules unless I first get permission. And it’s almost worth doing it to see what would happen.

What criteria will be used to grant permission? Is our municipal government now taking on the job of art critic as well? Would a rendition of Edgar Degas’ ballerinas be approved, while one of his After the Bath series be turned down?

And what city councillor would actually decree something like that could be considered graffiti?

It would add a completely new twist to that age-old debate: is it art or vandalism?

Whatever it is, it’s none of council’s business.

© Copyright 2007 Kamloops This Week

The lucky don’t know how truly lucky they are

Friday, April 6, 2007

There are some extraordinarily lucky people living in Kamloops.

I won’t name them because they know who they are and, except for those few who dared to actually put their names to recent letters to the editor, the rest are wise to not be recognized for what they are.

These people are lucky because, first, they have the ability to read minds.

They simply know that all beggars asking for money want it to buy drugs or booze.

I wish I was as prescient as they are.

They are lucky because they know what each and every one of their days will bring them.

No, that’s not the result of the aforementioned incredible psychic ability — it’s because they know they’ll get up in their own home.

They’ll go into their own kitchen. They’ll open their own cupboards and fridge and take out all the fixings for their own breakfast.

Then they’ll choose from the many clothes in their own closet and they’ll get dressed.

Maybe they’ll get into their own car, or use some of their spare change to take a bus.

Odds are they’ll go to their own job, or to their own classes.

They’ll do work that no doubt they grumble about, but it’s meaningful, it contributes to society and, in the end, they’ll be paid for it.

Maybe after work they’ll take in a movie, or just go home, pop open a beer and veg out in front of the television.

Perhaps they’ll hit the pub with some friends and express their opinions — because they have that right — that we should just put all the homeless and marginalized on a train and ship them off somewhere.

Close down the soup kitchens and thrift stores.

Heck, let’s turn the mission, hostel and House of Ruth into B&Bs while we’re at it.

Forget about providing methadone to help drug addicts. Let’s just let them wait until our RCMP finally routs out every drug dealer in town.

Anyone care to tell me when that might actually happen?

While we’re at it, why don’t we just round up all the beggars, put them in a bus and ship them out of town?

Not in my backyard is a good philosophy, right?

These people are lucky for so many more reasons.

They’re lucky they’ve never been so far down that they didn’t think they could sink much lower, only to discover there was someone even further down, dragging them into their own pit to use and abuse them.

They’re lucky they have the mental capacity to handle the hurdles life may throw at them, something those with mental illness, and others who have been told all their life they’re nothing more than crap, will never have.

They’re lucky they had families who cared about them, even if those families had to use “tough love” to do so.

There’s a word in that phrase these folks seem to have either ignored or forgotten the meaning of: love.

Tough love is when you’ve tried absolutely everything else and, because you love that person who is stuck in a quagmire, you have to do the kinds of things that hurt you to the core, because your love for that person is greater than the agony your actions cause you.

They’re lucky because, no doubt, they have found others who share their opinions and who will slap them on the back, cheer on their rhetoric and go home believing they, too, are right because, heck, their best buddy says things they wish they had the guts to say as well.

They’re lucky because, in this country, they have the right to express such uneducated drivel and the rest of us must defend their right to spout out reckneck beliefs that quite simply have no place in today’s society.

Yes, they’re lucky people.

They’ve got everything — except the ability to read the minds of anyone other than beggars.

Too bad.

If they could, they’d know how truly lucky they are.

Random musings #1

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Wow. It's been quite the week. A simple story, pretty straightforward, if you ask me, leads to people calling me up asking if I like being Public Enemy No. 1, if I'm deliberately trying to destroy the local food bank, stuff like that. Even got an email from the executive director of the food bank asking why I'm writing such mean stories and hurting people's feelings.

Unfortunately, as a reporter, we're not allowed to actually yell at people like that, so I did the next best thing and said "Gee, I'm just doing my job. You're the one making the news. I'm just writing it."

All this because two large agencies, the New Life Mission and the Salvation Army, pulled out of a massive food-recovery program run by them and the food bank, for reasons they explained quite succinctly. It happened, move on. Deal with it. Even the one agency head who came to me with the story decided to stop talking to me about it after it was published, with nothing more than an email that this person didn't care anymore.

There are days I wish I'd followed father's advice and become a secretary. At least then, the person doing the talking knows that we're just taking notes of what they're saying.

Laughing her way to a February gigglefest

I’m not a funny person. I’d like to be funnier — or at least write funny once in a while.
I seem to be always surrounded by reporters who not only see the humour in situations — they can write about them that makes even me giggle.
Which is an accomplishment because, as I said, I’m not a funny person.
It would be really neat to be able to write like entertainment reporter Mikelle Sasakamoose or the boss, Christopher Foulds.
They’re funny.
Danna Johnson, our former entertainment reporter, still makes me laugh with her new blog of views on life around her. (It’s at Check it out. The woman’s got a warped view of the world.)
Anyhow, Pat diFrancesco got me thinking about laughter when she sent out an invitation to a Feb. 22 gathering of women, the sole purpose of which is “to laugh!!”
DiFrancesco asked me if I wanted to attend. It might be an interesting experiment, since my children say I have no sense of humour at all, while my husband says I try to hard to be funny — and fail every time.
After all, the e-mail says the event “is a laughing matter.”
It says to come down if “you think you are funny, people tell you that you are hilarious, you look funny (OK, maybe that qualifies me), you have an infectious laugh (KTW photographer Dave Eagles says it’s a scary one) or you can’t stop the giggling.”
Apparently, humour has been making the news these days.
Down in the U.S., the media, not one to normally show a sense of humour when covering political events, went wild when would-be president Hillary Clinton answered the question “What in her background equips her to deal with evil and bad men” with nothing more than a look at the audience.
Yes, that kind of look.
Everyone laughed and it’s been fodder for many columns since, all once again talking about the wackiness of the Clinton marriage.
Perhaps the Washington power duo take their funny cue from that bastion of humour, Friedrich Nietzsche, who once said, “You must laugh 10 times during the day and be cheerful; otherwise, your stomach, the father of affliction, will disturb you in the night.”
I’m sure Bill has caused Hillary more than one gut pain.
Everyone knows laughter is good for you, maybe the best medicine. Reader’s Digest has been mining that statement for decades.
But now, a study in the International Journal of Psychiatry and Medicine says that people who are dealing with severe diseases have a better survival rate if they laugh, an improvement of as much as 31 per cent, the researchers say.
Another study, published in Motivation and Emotion, says that laughter also improves relationships. Something about reminiscing about when you did laugh, sharing that memory with your significant other and you both bond in the remembrance.
Yet another study — and this one I really like — says laughter helps you lose weight.
Published in the International Journal of Obesity (of course), the researchers say that if you giggle for 15 minutes a day, you can lose up to five pounds during a year.
Now that’s funny.
There’s even something called laughter yoga, which boggles the mind because yoga practitioners are supposed to chant, aren’t they?
And look serene?
Apparently, this combines yogic breathing with laughter, and it’s been featured in a lot of different publications, from the Financial Times to National Geographic.
My friend Darla Gray does her bit to teach me humour. She’ll send me the funniest jokes, ones that — yes, family, pay attention here — I laugh at. I just never seem to be able to remember them correctly, or tell them to anyone without blowing the punchline.
So let me leave you with the most recent joke to interrupt a family dinner. As expected, it has political roots, coming from the mouth of federal Liberal leader Stéphane Dion.
It goes like this:
Dion: “Have you heard the shortest bedtime story?”
Interviewer’s reply: “No.”
Dion: “It’s called Bam The Dog. A car goes by. Bam, the dog! Now go to sleep.”
Apparently this isn’t an animal cruelty joke. And the fact I thought it was made the boys laugh even harder.

© Copyright 2007 Kamloops This Week

I had lost my life

When she was just a child, Monia Mazigh wasn’t afraid to express her opinions.
Her father always did — and that wasn’t easy for a public servant in Tunisia, working for a government that has been condemned for a poor human-rights record and intolerance of its citizens who criticize it.
“My father was someone who didn’t accept injustice easily,” she says. “He was not intimidated. And it was not easy to say those things because, in my country where there is one party, a ruling party, people had no choice but to obey.”
That confidence and sense of right and wrong instilled at such a young age helped Mazigh through what she calls “the boom,” when her husband, Maher Arar, was arrested in the United States and sent to his native Syria, where he was held and tortured for more than a year.
“I enjoyed giving my opinion at home and listened to different arguments and all of this was important,” says the woman who now teaches finance at Thompson Rivers University.
“I took this for granted because this is how I was raised — and then boom! I had this big shock. It didn’t happen to me in Tunisia. It happened to me in Canada, where I didn’t expect it. But the good thing is that it happened to me and I was able to speak.”
When Mazigh came to Canada in 1991, she arrived with a bachelor’s degree in commerce and a drive to further her education. Her brother, who, like Mazigh, has a doctorate degree and also teaches — his specialty is mathematics — had already come to the country and sponsored her and her parents.
Mazigh studied for her master’s degree at Montreal’s Ecole des hautes etudes commerciales — she is fluent in French — and then transferred to McGill University to achieve her doctorate and be exposed to the English side of Montreal.
“Going to McGill covered this other part of Montreal that I didn’t know.”
And it was there that she met Arar, who had moved to Canada from Syria in 1988, at the age of 17. He was also studying at McGill, working on his degree in computer engineering.
He also has a master’s degree in telecommunications.
The couple married in 1994, moved to Ottawa, started a family and went about their lives — until 2002, when their nightmare began.
Mazigh says she was never afraid of speaking out for her husband.
“I had lost my life. I didn’t have more to lose.”
The story of her public face is well-known to most Canadians, but it was the mom who had to cope with the private torment of going home every night to two young children, one of whom was old enough to know something was wrong.
Daddy wasn’t home.
Daughter Baraa was almost seven, Mazigh says, “and she knew right away something was wrong. I told her her father had problems. And then, after, when we knew he was in prison, I told her that he was in prison . . .
“ I don’t know if she knew. I remember one time, she asked me, we were watching something and she said, ‘Does this look like a prison?’ So I don’t know if she really realized at that time if she realized what a prison is. Even myself, I didn’t know where he was.”
Mazigh says it was important to not hide the truth from Baraa — son Houd was too young — “because my life was all about that. I would ask her from time to time how she’d feel. Sometimes she’d feel sad and she would tell me that. She would tell me she missed her dad.”
Mazigh wonders how the reality the family has lived with — and will continue to deal with — will affect her daughter.
“I think with time we will know. I would like to have her tell it to me later on. After her father came back, she would sometimes, especially with all the pressure . . . she’d sometimes say, ‘Why can’t we have a normal life?’ I think she has this frustration.”
Mazigh has been hailed as a feminist role model, a moniker she’s not sure she’s comfortable wearing. She says she’s not a feminist “in the traditional meaning,” but is a woman who “cares a lot about other women.
“I sympathize with women’s issues and I try to understand them. My views are probably not the same as women, feminists, who grew up here and have different values.
“But an injustice is an injustice. Sufferance is sufferance.”
Mazigh knows her life will never be the same.
She’s coping with a new job, a new hometown, a husband who is unemployed and dealing with his own demons from his experience. She’s watching her children grow up and worries — as moms do — about what the future will bring them.
She strives, she says, to ensure her children “have the life they need and deserve.
“But I don’t think we have a normal life anymore. Maybe time will tell. I can only hope.”

© Copyright 2007 Kamloops This Week

The very real need to heed an ethical creed


There’s an old saying that journalists only have other journalists for friends because, eventually, we make everyone else mad at us.
And, if we’re doing our job right, it’s more than a saying — there’s a strong element of truth to it.
Being a journalist really isn’t a nine-to-five job.
We don’t really look at the world the way others do.
Everything is a potential story, every person a possible contact.
It’s a weird way to live.
We not only look at the traffic accident we’re driving past, we debate whether to stop, find out what happened, shoot a photograph and then head to work to write the story.
We’re always on the lookout for the next big story, the next super scoop.
It makes it difficult for us to be, well, just like the person next door, an average person living an average life, doing the kinds of things everyone else does.
Former school board trustee Lal Sharma still reminds me of the time when, as a parent and a member of the District Parent Advisory Council, I wrote a story on a school board meeting no other reporter from Kamloops had covered.
He didn’t like the story and rightly pointed out to me that I had been there in my other role — parent.
I explained that, as a reporter, I can’t ignore a good story — especially one the competition won’t have. And especially if it’s going to be on the front page, as was this particular story.
The Canadian Association of Journalists, to which I belong, takes ethical behaviour by reporters and editors seriously.
It has a long, detailed code of ethics. It spells out all the dos and don’ts and a detailed section on conflict of interest.
The CAJ says journalists should not hold office in community organizations “about which we may report or make editorial judgments. This includes fundraising or public-elations work and active participation in community organizations and pressure groups that take positions on public issues.”
It also says journalists “lose our credibility as fair observers if we write opinion pieces about subjects that we also cover as reporters.”
That’s why, for example, I won’t report on the current debate about the SHOP program.
I’ve volunteered there.
I have friends from my involvement with it. I have strong opinions about the way the program for sex-trade workers is being operated now.
My involvement came about from an assignment to write about the program several years ago.
I wrote the story, got curious about the entire issue, spent some time looking into it and writing more about it — until the time my objectivity, both as I see it and as others see it in me, was gone.
So now, I write columns about SHOP and other issues about which I care deeply.
And I don’t cover them as news stories.
And I satisfy the needs of my other side — parent and citizen — by helping small agencies, ones that aren’t likely to ever be on the reporting radar and, if they are, it won’t be in an area on which I report.
It’s crucial journalists heed an ethical creed.
If we don’t, we compromise what the CAJ states in its ethics preamble as “our privilege and duty to seek and report the truth as we understand it, defend free speech and the right to equal treatment under law, capture the diversity of human experience, speak for the voiceless and encourage civic debate.”
It’s a privilege we should never take lightly.
Even if it means we can’t do all the things we’d like to do as a private citizen.
Because, if we do our job correctly, we forfeit the very right that we defend so vigorously through our reporting.

© Copyright 2007 Kamloops This Week

Nothing's clearn when science jousts with God

Some people may find it ironic that, once the family of Bob Calderoni prevailed in court and treatment began again on his failing kidneys, he died.
Even his daughter, Catherine Donnelly, acknowledged the treatments her father received on the last day of his life likely killed him.
But for the Calderoni family, that’s not the point. They wanted Bob’s future decided by them and by the God they believe in fervently, not by a medical system they saw as cold and dismissive.
So, when Bob finally died, it was because his family told the doctors to stop the CPR they had been doing for so long. This was God’s will. They could accept it.
Because if anything can be said about the Calderoni family, it is this: They believe in the sanctity of life. They believe in the will to live. They believe in the power of prayer.
They believe in things so far outside the clinical, scientific foundation that forms our medical system that the two might as well have been speaking different languages in recent days as Bob’s medical care became an issue for each.
Since KTW first wrote about the dispute surrounding Bob, an otherwise healthy, athletic father of three who was rarely sick, we’ve been receiving a lot of feedback. Some of it has been in favour of the hospital, some in favour of the family.
But that’s what you get when you’ve got science on one side and God on the other. There really is little reconciliation to be had.
There were some facts on which all could agree.
Bob was a strong, healthy 67-year-old being treated for a urinary tract infection when, on Sept. 28, he suffered a massive bleed at the back of his brain near that crucial stem area. His wife, Alma, found him on the floor, unconscious, a condition from which he never recovered during his five months in Royal Inland Hospital.
The family knew the doctors were right when they said it was a traumatic injury, one from which few people recover.
But few isn’t everyone. There’s that wriggle room for hope.
Room for prayer.
As time went on, doctors even talked about bringing Bob out of the coma using a drug that has shown some success. They started the treatments and the family believed they were seeing signs that Bob wasn’t really in a vegetative state, but rather locked in and struggling to break free.
It was another chance for hope.
Another time for prayer.
Then the infections started and the drug had to be stopped. Bob went from one infection to another, so many that Alma — who admittedly has an obsession about germs — started to confront the nurses about the cross-contamination she feared was happening.
Again, it’s not unusual to pick up an infection when you’re in the hospital. Stay long enough and you might get plenty of them. Her fears weren’t necessarily unfounded.
However, by then, the nurses knew that Alma is devoutly pro-life, as is her family. She would sit in Bob’s room and sing hymns. She would play religious music for him.
She would pray.
Her entire belief system is based on something completely foreign to those whose lives revolve around predictability and science.
Because Alma just believes.
The next thing she knew, she was being restricted from her husband of 47 years. What had been around-the-clock access to be with him became the posted visiting hours. She couldn’t argue with the nurses and doctors anymore.
In fact, some doctors on Bob’s case refused to speak with any family members.
Imagine yourself in that position. Someone you love deeply is in the hospital, unable to speak for himself, and the people charged with his care won’t talk to you.
And then, this hospital’s administration overrules the family’s wishes and imposes a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order on that person you love.
It was all too much for the family to take.
So, when they argued in court to have the DNR removed, and the judge did so for 14 days to give them some time to find new doctors, the Calderoni family once again had control over Bob’s life.
And that’s all they wanted — control to make the decisions themselves, knowing that God would listen and guide them.
I don’t understand that kind of blind faith. Science makes sense to me.
But a part of me wonders if, had that been my husband lying in that hospital bed, whether I would have done anything different.

© Copyright 2007 Kamloops This Week

Even Saint Stephen trips on ethical carpet

about closing the barn door way too late.
Earlier this week — on Boxing Day, for those of you who were, like the majority, either shopping, cleaning up or relaxing — the federal government announced its own big oops very, very quietly.
Seems the paragons of political virtue, the ones who rode to a minority victory on the coattails of some really questionable Liberal ethics, got caught in their own ethical mess.
If only the darn opposition parties hadn’t scuttled the Tory-planned amendments to the political-contributions part of the Canada Election Act. All Stephen Harper and his buddies wanted to do was change it so that delegate fees to political conventions aren’t considered donations.
Give money to a political party to be able to attend its partisan gatherings — that sure sounds like donating money to the cause, doesn’t it? It turns out the Conservatives forgot to report almost $3 million in its 2005 filing with Elections Canada. That amount includes $539,915 in unreported donations, $913,710 in “other revenue” — whatever that might be — and $1.45 million in “other expenses.”
And about 3,000 Conservative party supporters will have to refile their 2005 income taxes to claim a tax credit for these overlooked donations.
The prime minister himself broke the law limiting the amount of annual political contributions a person can make and, after the books were redone, ended up with a rebate of $456 from his party, as did two other convention delegates who gave too much to the cause.
The official word, which backs up the attempt to change the act, was that the Conservatives don’t think the average taxpaying Canadian should have to subsidize the costs of political conventions. The Conservatives went on to imply that they didn’t ignore the rules — it’s just that this little requirement to count convention costs as donations was fairly new.
Not so, says Election Canada. It’s been that way for decades.
The truly galling aspect of this fiasco is the Conservatives knew last summer they hadn’t complied with the law, when one of their own — Treasury Board president John Baird — told a Senate committee that the costs weren’t being included as donations. (This is the same John Baird who has been after the civil servant who was told, during the crisis in Lebanon in the summer, to get the 15,000 Canadians stranded there out as soon as possible and at whatever the cost might be. The largest Canadian evacuation from a country in history ended up costing many millions of dollars, and Baird seems to have a problem with this. And it’s the same John Baird who criticized the Senate for taking its time to review the much-heralded Conservative showpiece, the Accountability Act, accusing the upper body of interfering with the will of Parliament — read here: Conservative government.)
But I digress.
It seems to happen a lot when I consider some of the strange actions of the governing federal party. One oops leads to another one, which leads to . . . you get the idea.
This tiny tempest may not seem to matter much to those of us who don’t belong to political parties, and who don’t shell out the big bucks to attend their conventions and have a say in how these parties will be run. But it should. It’s indicative of either willful ignorance or outright defiance of the laws of the land — something the Conservative government has been rightly accusing the Liberal party of doing as well.
And it’s proof that Stephen Harper and his group of cheerleaders are just as capable as any other politician of tripping on the ethical carpet — and then trying to sweep the mess under it.

A-Maisie-ng Grace

On the last night of the year, people will hug, kiss, sing and either lament or welcome the coming of 2007.
Not Maisie Hinchey.
“Kiddo,” the Kamloops centenarian says, “one year is just like another year to me.”
Hinchey, who marked her 100th birthday in November, won’t reveal how she plans to spend New Year’s Eve — “sweetie, I’m not gonna tell you” — but it won’t surprise her friends if she bids adieu to 2006 by singing and dancing.
Or perhaps making snow angels.
On the day KTW visited with her, Hinchey had tried to convince a friend in the Glenfair complex where she lives to join her on the lawn and take advantage of the fresh snow.
“I can make a jolly one,” she says of the art of making snow angels. “But I need help getting back up again.”
Suffice to say, Hinchey’s not a stereotypical 100-year-old woman. On many days, she’ll hike up nearby Peterson Creek, no mean feat for a woman who is legally blind and deaf.
She eschews those traditional family Christmas letters — “they’re a bore” — preferring to get together with friends and family and have a good, old-fashioned singalong.
Dinners in restaurants aren’t popular with Hinchey, either.
“You sit around a table and this person starts talking to that person and pretty soon, you can’t figure out what anybody’s saying. And you just sit there.”
She loves riding motorcycles, although not in the driver’s seat anymore.
Age really doesn’t matter to her. In fact, she says she hadn’t even thought much about reaching her 100th “when, all of a sudden, this birthday thing comes up and, honest to God, they made such a big deal of it. I went to Edmonton to see my family and I thought it was just going to be the family, but there were relatives from all over Canada there. I mean, I’m 100. It’s no big deal.”
Age meant something when she was a child, she says, because it meant a party and friends. But now, “it’s just one of those things that passes you by and you just hope you make it.”
Which is why, should she decide to celebrate the coming of 2007, she’ll be doing it with friends.
Not because of her age, she says, but because “friends are the beginning and the end of it. Friends are who you can go to and just let it all out. Friends listen to you and then don’t judge you.
“And if we want to have a giggle about somebody else, we can do it and it stays there.”
Family is important, though, and her home is filled with pictures of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But one photo has a special place. It shows a group of children in Sierra Leone, standing in front of a building. The caption says “Maisie’s school.” Her family has chipped in to build a school in that African country, to be named after the family matriarch.
“Isn’t that so great?” she says. “A school, named after me.”
© Copyright 2007 Kamloops This Week