bcfamily

Sep 022017

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

Recently, I had a discussion with a family member about where he could make a donation for a friend, in lieu of sending flowers for a funeral. This donation would be in memory of someone who was a talented musician – pianist and singer – and loved music. It didn’t take me too long to think about the St. James Music Academy.

Saint James Music Academy believes in the power and the joy of music to change lives.

Music is a language that everyone speaks.
Music is a joy that everyone feels.
Music is a doorway to a better world.

SJMA teaches classical music at no cost to children living in Canada’s lowest income urban neighbourhood. And the music does its magic. The children find joy. They discover the deep riches of their own potential and find new self-esteem. They learn about the beauty and the necessity of collaboration with others. They improve their intellectual and other skills. They learn to overcome barriers they did not make. In a word, they become empowered. For the good. Saint James Music Academy brings social transformation to the community, one child, one song at a time. (St. James Music Academy website)

The St. James Music Academy operates an afterschool music programme in downtown Vancouver for students in grades K to grades 12. If you, or someone you know, would like to make a donation to an organization that helps children, there are both arts and sports programmes in the province that support youth who otherwise wouldn’t be able to enroll due to financial barriers.

The Academy supports choral and instrument lessons, making it a perfect fit for people who have different musical passions and want to support a music programme. I feel fortunate that with the support of family members, my own children are able to participate in arts programmes such as piano classes and dance lessons. While I don’t have a personal connection to the SJMA, it is heartening to know that these types of programmes exist.

Which arts or sports programmes for youth do you support in British Columbia? You can comment about this posting in the comment section below or on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

Related:

Where does your donation to SJMA go? (video)

How to donate to SJMA.

SJMA Facebook page

SJMA on Twitter

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

The first time that I moved to Vancouver, I searched for a job in the midst of a harsh job market for young adults.  It was the 2nd worst job market for that demographic in the last 40 years – the first worst was in the early ’80s. I didn’t own a car, bused it everywhere and made a relatively low wage.  I found it hard to find work that was in line with my professional interests and it was a struggle to pay for the cost of living and further education.

Even though I’m not a young adult anymore, I do track the lot of young adults moving to or living in Vancouver today.  For this reason, this article caught my eye.

Vancouver (city proper/Metro – who knows) is the 10th best city for Millennials.

Really?

The views are great and there’s always a fun new restaurant opening up.  The night life is a bit meh but for outdoor adventures, there’s a lot on tap. However, looking at the criteria for this survey, I had a few questions.  Maybe you know the answers?

Do we have healthy employment offerings in Metro Vancouver?

I wonder about this.  I was told by one senior financial executive that Vancouver is not the place to start your career.  You need to go to another big metoropolis and return when you have solid credentials under your belt.  I actually tried this route and it sort of worked out well for me until the challenges of a corporate restructuring and hiring barriers became and issue for me.  Vancouver is also  – and always has been – a “who you know” type of place.  This can be hard for people who come from without.

Is Vancouver a vibrant place for start ups?

I don’t know how we compare with other top career destinations regarding startup culture.  The entrepreneurs I know who focus on this topic don’t seem to visit Vancouver.  But maybe that’s just a coincidence. Of course we have start ups  here but do we have many, are they hiring people of all ages who have the right experience and do they offer strong employment packages? I say all ages because if you are an older millennial, pretty soon ageism in the hiring process will start to affect that demographic too.

Do we have a high cost of living?

The cost of rent, or mortgages, and food would make the cost of living high if your salary is relatively limp. Maybe a touch less than other places but salaries aren’t that high here.

Do we have a strong transit network?

We have skytrains and express buses; however, many of the areas where people can afford to live require that people use buses to link up to skytrains. I spent 3 hours on transit per day taking a train, plane and automobile combo between Yaletown and Burnaby mountain. The whole process became a mess when I was pregnant with twins.  Standing on a little bus when you’re heavily pregnant and look like you’re about to give birth (but you’re not) just wasn’t fun.

I came out to Vancouver during a recession because I figured that it’s a large city and there would be more options for me.  Well, it was a large city compared to Ottawa, where I was living.  I thought there would be better job prospects on the west coast and that the living would be good.  A friend I’d known in university encouraged me to move out this way.  When I arrived I discovered that even though she’d topped up her university degree with further studies, she was grossly underemployed and presented – quite frankly – as someone who was disillusioned and depressed.  Five years later, after completing further studies, I moved overseas and took a job that paid me almost twice as much for the same type of work that I was doing in Vancouver.

What do you think? Is Vancouver a top destination for younger employees? You can comment about this posting in the comment section below or on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

Recently, I read that a photo sharing site where I house the photos for BC Family has radically changed its financing plan.  The site owner started charging website publishers who used the photos they have placed on that site, when they share them on their own website.  This is otherwise known as 3rd Party Hosting.  As one user explained “I thought I was putting my photos there and that I’d have to pay if I exceeded a certain amount of memory usage”.  Some users even paid a monthly fee to avoid ads and gain a few other perks.  The first user also explained that he always thought it was understood that these photos would be used elsewhere.

The company has been affected by ad blocking, and other issues, and feels they now need to charge a monthly fee that amounts to $399 US (effectively $500+ per year).   If there was an e-mail announcing this change, I didn’t see it.  Without warning, I opened up BC Family and found that 100s of photo links had been broken!

If you’re a regular visitor to BCFamily.ca – and thank you for that -  you’re going to be seeing the little speedometer for awhile as I tidy things up and sort this out.  Right now I’m buried in the depths of html frustration, trying to rewrite the code to work.

At a time when I’m not even sure that my Yahoo account will survive – and who knows about Flickr – this isn’t something that I need right now.

But I’ll figure it out.

:(

Hashtag #feelingfrustrated !

Have you been affected by this issue lately?  You can comment about this posting in the comment section below or on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

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(Photo: Erich Said Wedding Photography)

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/Editorial

To describe something as being black and white means it is clearly defined. Yet when your ethnicity is black and white, the dichotomy is not that clear. In fact, it creates a grey area. Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating. (Meghan Markle: Actor on the TV show Suits, who is also dating Prince Harry.  She grew up in an interracial family in the Unites States. Source: Elle UK)

In our home, new stories and advertising featuring interracial (AKA mixed marriage or mixed race) couples catch our eye.   It’s also sad to see that there can sometimes be negative reactions from the public when advertisers, for example, make new choices about who they will feature in their ads. I still do a bit of an eye roll when I read casting calls that are very rigid about the type of ethnic backgrounds that they are seeking. Here in British Columbia, a more diverse type of advertising is always the better option.

If you are interested to see how families in Canada might differ from what you read about in the United States, you can check out Statistics Canada’s website to see more data about diversity in Canadian couples.

What’s your interracial relationship story? The New York Times recently asked people to submit theirs.  I didn’t hear about the opportunity.  Did you? Oh well, let’s take another crack at it.  Here’s mine. My parents are from the prairies (Alberta and Manitoba) but I grew up in various provinces and countries while my parents worked for the Foreign Service. I spent many years living in Asia both as a student and later while working for an international company.  For this reason, I fall into the cateogry of being a so-called Third Culture Kid. Or you could say I’m a grown up version of that.  I refer to myself as a “global nomad”.  When people ask me where I’m from, I don’t have any strong feelings towards any one place and usually say “nowhere”. My grandparents all came from western and eastern Europe when they were either children or adults. My husband moved from Hong Kong when he was five years old.  Since he grew up in Vancouver, he’s my go-to person when I want to ask about the social history of the city going back a few decades.  He tells some pretty nifty Woodwards and “this is how kids used to kick around the can and roam free-range in Vancouver” stories.  We met in Vancouver and got married in the company of family and friends in downtown Vancouver.

In our home, we enjoy celebrating traditions with our children that  not only reflect what’s happening in our community but also reflect our family’s cultural background and traditions from all around the world. We live in a region of Metro Vancouver where there are families who have lived in Canada for centuries and before recorded time, and people who just immigrated last month.  There are also many different types of interracial families.  You will find many other areas in British Columbia that have the same type of demographics.  It’s a veritable United Nations out here in British Columbia!
~~~
Did you see this latest news story in the New York Times about interracial couples? You can comment about this posting in the comment section below or on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!
Related

“The nuclear family is no longer the norm. Divorce, adoption, globalization, multiculturalism have all changed the face of the family.” Saying goodbye to the nuclear family via SeetheOrun.com

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Have you seen this Behr Paint commercial?

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Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/Editorial

“The main reason for bullying is that there are opportunities and rewards.” Erling Roland

From time-to-time parents you know write posts on their personal Facebook profiles about the challenges of communicating their child’s concerns to a teacher or administrator.  Maybe they’ll share a few posts or even write a blog post.  It isn’t as common to see a story about these types of situations brought to the attention of the media. Although the option to take serious concerns to the media is often on people’s minds. This is why a story about a student’s experience in a Greater Vancouver (Coquitlam) school caught my eye.  The gist of the story is that a 2nd grader’s parents moved their daughter to a new school after they were not satisfied with how their concern about an incident involving a classmate was addressed. What questions does this story raise about how these types of incidents are addressed in British Columbia’s schools?

People will discuss the “what ifs” and maybes of this situation but that approach means we lose a bigger opportunity.  In this case we are given a fair amount of detail in the media story but we don’t have all the information.  Instead, I’d like to suggest that parents are operating in an information vacuum.  If a serious incident occurs and your child is not the instigator, how do you know how to proceed? Should you speak with a teacher first? Should you go directly to the Principal?  Should you put something in writing to the teacher and copy the information to the Principal? Or should you skip the CC?  When should you escalate your concerns to the school board level? What if your concerns are not addressed at all? Or what if the course of action taken is much different from what you would expect? How do you know if what you are experiencing is the same standard across all schools or are you experiencing idiosyncrasies related to the culture and climate of your child’s school?

On a broader level, is it OK to discuss your situation on social media? Is going to the media helpful or even appropriate? Or is it inappropriate to suggest that parents don’t have the right to discuss their concerns in a broader forum?

There are all kinds of circumstances happening in schools at all grade levels. To be fair to schools, in any given week teachers and administrators are addressing circumstances at least well enough or even in an exemplary manner.  But some of the concerns happening around our province are being mishandled.  Families are moving their children out of schools.  Children are avoiding school.  There are some serious and heart breaking stories happening every day. In some cases, parents are taking school districts to court as a result of their child’s experience in a school.

In our house, we’re big fans of Norway.  It all started with a Christmas mouse from Norway who inspired one of my children to find out everything possible about Norway.  When we come across new information about Norway, we mentally add it to our discovery list. As I consider this broader topic about communications between parents and education professionals, it’s interesting to learn that Norway has been successful in addressing one top concern – bullying in schools. (See video below.) While the news story from Coquitlam wasn’t, strictly speaking, about bullying, bullying is a top reason for incidents that cause concern in BC schools.

Some schools in Norway have reduced incidents of bullying by 50%.  For the record, Norway’s population is a mere 500,000 larger than ours in British Columbia. Not all incidents that occur at school revolve around bullying, but many do.  The Zero Programme has moved abroad and is now being used in Chile and the United States.  Could your school district benefit from the implementation of a Zero Programme?

Did you see this latest news story in the media? What are your thoughts on this topic? You can comment about this posting in the comment section below or on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

Related

Which provinces have Anti Bullying legislation?

The Zero Programme Against Bullying

Implementation of the Zero Programme in 6 Schools (See the important Downloads link.)

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

Using middle class as a blanket term may be almost meaningless, if not politically dangerous, should public policy overlook the fact the group now includes so many different tribes at different stages in their pursuit of the Canadian dream. (Erin Anderssen, Globe and Mail)

If you use Twitter, you might have noticed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is visiting parts of the Lower Mainland today to talk about how the Federal government is helping middle class British Columbians.

If you identify as being a middle class British Columbian, this would be a good chance for you to send some feedback to the Prime Minster about your family’s concerns.

But this is where we need to claw things back a bit.  When you look at the income level that’s required to be “middle class” (and the numbers vary a bit), you just might start to wonder if your family is really “middle class”, or “middle income” if you prefer.  The average income for British Columbians is not very high.  Even if you combine two average incomes in one household, when you factor in the cost of housing (mortgages and related expenses, or rent), transit, food, hydro and other expenses, you can see why so many families are struggling.

I heard a story recently about a household in which one of the two income earners had to step away from a job due to an injury.  The conversation made me realize how close to the edge families are living. Many BC families live simple, 100 mile type lifestyles.  It’s a misnomer to characterize British Columbian families as “those people on the west coast who are living large”.  And you’ve probably seen the news stories about the heavy debt load that families – not only in BC but across Canada  – are carrying.

Add into the picture the realities of a single parent or a single parent who has health problems. (When you are single adult in a household, your salary is not covering just half of the bills.) The median total income in a single parent house hold is just under $40,000 per year.  Or consider a two parent household where one parent can’t work because of access to affordable, accessible and high quality childcare, or other issues.

The leadership and vision needed to execute a cohesive regional economic development strategy – covering everything from a fix for our traffic backlogs to a coordinated game plan for retaining head offices – is sorely lacking in the Lower Mainland. The head-office exodus is just the latest, and perhaps the most stark, reminder of a problem that continues to dog the region’s growth. (News source from 2006. Has the situation improved?)

If you’ve lived in British Columbia long enough, you’ll know that this province is not the place to launch a career in a big way, and it could be hard to progress in your career if you don’t know the right people.  Having solid work experience and credentials is often not enough.  If you need to find a new job when you’re in your 40s and beyond, the situation can be even more challenging. One of the glaring differences between Vancouver and Toronto, for example, is that Vancouver is not a centre for corporate headquarters.

How many adults in British Columbia are either under employed, working part time or even unemployed?  I left British Columbia and worked overseas for five years because even after I had clawed my way out of being underemployed, I was still grossly underpaid for the work that I did and couldn’t afford to live well in the Lower Mainland.  (My financial health doubled!) I’m a Gen Xer. Proof that this has been an issue for a LONG time. The largest growth area in the job market in recent months has been in the part time job sector. Goodbye benefits!

[...] most of the job growth in the province from October 2015 to October 2016 has mostly consisted of part-time jobs. (Source)

Some issues that BC families face are addressed by the Provincial government’s policies and some are affected by what happens on The Hill.  But it’s still important to give a complete picture of the reality that BC families are facing.

Some issues might not appear to affect BC Families but they affect the environment, for example, which does have a direct impact on all British Columbians and on our children’s future.

There’s lots to talk about!  Get on Twitter and send your feedback to the PM, via his social media manager.  If politicians are going to tell us how they’re helping us, it’s important for them to know how we want to be helped.

You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

Related

Who are the “middle class” anyway?

BC has the lower Per Student funding in Canada, after P.E.I. This is a provincial issue but it’s important to mention the state of public schools in BC.

Median total income by family type.

If you have concerns about healthcare, you can find out more about healthcare funding in British Columbia, as it pertains to the Provincial and Federal governments, here. See references to the Canada Health transfer and fiscal transfers.  See also: A Reminder of Why Healthcare Funding Matters & Beyond the Medical Tests

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Pamela Chan, Publisher/BCFamily.ca

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.*

A little over ten years ago, I had to scratch the names of eight people off of my wedding invitation list.  In any given year, you’re going to know a good number of people who have died.  Maybe it’s a former colleague or someone you used to know.  Or it could be an elderly relative.  But this group of people were in my closer circle of friends and family. The number of deaths was a definite spike, and it felt all the more significant because it happened just before I got married.

This past year, as my 10th wedding anniversary approached, I saw another spike.  It was the first one in the last ten years.  A similar amount of people passed away – and many of them were sudden deaths, including people who were not that old.  A husband and wife died within six months of each other. One of these deaths was not expected and the other involved a sudden and new health diagnosis.  Two people died in similar and frightening ways, a month apart from each other. One friend died when I had no idea that her health condition had brought her to the brink of death.  She was one of my dearest friends.  You know – that type of person who is in a special category  – not a blood relative but more than a friend.

Everyone experiences these types of situations in any given year.  It’s not so much a function of getting older or knowing more people as life progresses. I had a similar experience when I was in my early 20s.

Every Reaction Differs

When my maternal grandfather died, I was 19.  It was the first time in my life when I realized that a person’s response to someone’s death can reflect the personality of the deceased and their relationship together. I knew my grandfather to be a quiet, humble and kind man.  I felt the influences of his personality on me as I moved quietly through the days and weeks after his death.

Just after I heard about the unexpected death of a friend this past year, I collapsed onto my knees, as if I was on a Japanese tatami mat.  My arms fell forward in front of me.  As I sobbed in shock and despair, I was reflecting the energy not only of my friend but of our relationship. My friend lived her life with passion and a great deal of enthusiasm and energy.  I’d always wanted her to come to visit me in Canada and to meet my husband and twins, but health complications had made this impossible.  The first statement I cried out was something like “NO! I want her to meet my family! I want her to meet all the grandchildren!” Of course I wanted them to meet her.  I wanted them to meet a person who was important to me. I wanted the experience of meeting her, and getting to know her, to be a moment that would create a shift in how my family member’s experienced life. And now this meeting would never happen.

One of the people who died this past year was someone I had admired greatly for most of my life.  She was profoundly gifted, and greatly respected and appreciated by many people. You could see evidence of the results of her caring for others  – and the influence she had on their lives – as people shared their feelings and wrote about her in private and public posts. When she passed away unexpectedly, I was deeply shocked. I had many strong emotions and frustrations about what had happened to her and what this meant to her family, but I remained completely calm.

For each passing, my reaction was different. We often hear cliches about how people will react following a death.  There is no one formula. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I Won’t Be Measured

Over the years, I’ve noticed that sometimes people will want to know what your relationship was with the deceased.  Was this a close friend or a distant relative? Does the nature of the relationship measure how we will or should respond to someone’s passing? There’s no justification for this calculation. And I would argue that the people who do try to take this measurement will usually get it wrong. Thankfully many people do not engage in this activity, which involves an unattractive component of one part judgement and one part arrogance.

I grew up mostly in the company of family friends and my own personal friends, as my family moved from one country to another.  So it might be that I will be deeply affected by the death of an elderly family friend who might seem – in the eyes of others – to be a vague acquaintance. Maybe I will have expressed the impact this person had on my life or maybe I kept these details private and to myself.

Closure Is Hard

I was only able to attend one funeral, this past year, related to all of these passings.  The other people passed away in different provinces, countries and on different continents.  Ten years ago, as I attended my grandmother’s funeral in another province, I was struck by the important function that a funeral and the related social event can serve.  It’s comforting to be able to visit with friends and relatives, exchange hugs and messages of encouragement – even a laugh or two. There’s usually an effort to put on a good meal, choose beautiful flowers and display memorable photographs and even video clips. Often family members and/or friends will put a lot of effort into pulling together a truly special memorial service.

A few years ago, I was fortunate to attend a memorial service and tea for a family friend I had known since I attended middle school in another country.  It was a simple affair, in a charming church in Saanich.  There was so much positivity, inspiration and beauty in how that afternoon rolled out.  I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to be part of the day, meet with his family and friends and have my husband and children with me.

When the people we care for pass away somewhere else, we miss out on these moments and the related sense of community.  It can make that process of finding closure about the person’s passing challenging.

Support Comes As It Will

Without sharing too much information, I did mention some of these deaths on my personal social media accounts.  I’ve been using sites such as Facebook for 10 years now and I’m realistic about how other people will see my information.  Based on interactions, some people see my content and some people don’t.  Some people have 100s of contacts and probably don’t see my updates that often.  I don’t know this to be a fact, but there might even be people who don’t know me as well and have muted my content because it’s not a priority for them. And so I received messages of support and encouragement from some contacts but not everyone.

I also didn’t, for the most part, share this information on Twitter. Twitter is a steady stream of tweets and when you follow 1,000s of accounts across different profiles – as I do – using Twitter is like dipping your toe in a fast moving stream.  It is not the place to be sharing information and hoping that someone I know will see it.  Maybe they will. Often they won’t.

With these considerations in mind, if you’re sharing information about personal struggles on social media and don’t get the kind of response you were expecting, you need to readjust your expectations and think about your method of communication.  Recently I saw how a user on Twitter started to insult the few (according to the user) people who read her account after 3 tweets were shared over the course of a few weeks. Their non-interaction was a clear indication that they were self-interested, social media types who were only interested in broadcasting their own content.  And, by the way, their content was dull and boring.  (This tweet was later deleted.) You might expect this from a young user of Twitter but not from someone in her second adulthood.  This is NOT the way to proceed.  Avoid this path at all costs. You will simply end up offending the people who have probably provided the most consistent listening ear over the years. And the last thing they will want to do is be a listening ear, again, and offer you their empathy after this type of passive-aggressive emotional posting. Then you can really be assured of not receiving ANY support. Don’t be surprise if they “unfollow” you, “unfriend” you or block your account.


Making Your Own Memorial

Sometimes there’s not much you can do if you can’t attend a memorial service.  You can reach out to family members and friends.  You can send messages. For one of the funerals this past year, I wrote a speech that was read at the funeral.  For another friend who lived on the other side of the world, I completed something that I’d been making for my friend before she died.  In fact, during the last few hours before she passed away, I was walking around Michaels carefully choosing the wool. I didn’t know that she was so gravely ill and about to die.

More recently I purchased a book that reminded me of a memorable moment when the deceased had introduced me to her love of the works of Shakespeare. I wanted the “a ha moment” that that person had created for me to continue with my children.

For another friend, I committed to studying and learning to play the music of her favourite composers.  The books that I’m using are ones that she had given me in past years.

For another relative I committed to keep pursuing a project that I had been working on before she passed away.  I’d been keeping her abreast of my findings because it was a topic that was relevant to her too.

Most of these actions are in my own private world. But they matter to me and it feels right to keep moving forward with my efforts.

Stop Judging

Last summer, I found myself having a conversation in which I explained that I really think it’s inappropriate when people deconstruct someone’s death and focus on the deceased person’s cause of death and how their lifestyle was at fault.  I might understand if someone has just died.  But when these conversations continue months and years later, that’s when I put my hand up and say “come on now”. Within minutes, the family member of someone who died a few years earlier fell into the same type of conversation. Not a word of what I had said had been heard. Maybe I could understand if, in the ensuing years since this particular passing, I’d heard anything from this family member other than discussions about what caused the death.  What about some fond memories? What about the good times that they’d shared? What about sharing stories that attest to the character of the person and the impact you could still see on the lives of others?  I’d be open to hearing just about anything else.

After someone dies in a traffic accident, please don’t tell me to be careful crossing the road.  Are we blaming people hit by aggressive and/or careless drivers for not being careful enough?

What next?

Remembering the Dead

Shouldn’t the weeks, months and years after someone’s death be a time to honour that person’s life?  Sure we can look at external successes but people always remember the conversations about their internal successes. What did this person mean to other people? How did this person have an impact on other people’s lives?  What filled this person’s life with joy over the years?  Were there interests and endeavours that I didn’t know about?

When you focus on these types of questions, rather than blaming the person’s death on their deficient choices, you can focus on the true purpose of why we’re living our lives here on Earth.

If you pay attention, you’ll start to hear a common message that’s being shared through the ages and in the time that we live.

We are here to have a positive impact on each other and on the world in which we live.

We are here to love others and be loved.

It’s all about love.

When people pass away, we can focus on these aspects of their lives. This is their most important legacy.  These are the stories and the memories that will inspire the people who are left behind.

I get that there are some people who aren’t the nicest of individuals.  But those people are the exceptions.  Let’s focus on the vast majority of friends and relatives who leave a legacy of love behind them.

The people I know who passed away this past year have left legacies that continue to inspire the people who knew and loved them.  Isn’t that so much more appealing than simply focusing on how to avoid the death that they faced?

* Hallowed Ground, 1925, Thomas Campbell

You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

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Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

Can you hear that sound? Yes, you’re not imagining it.  It’s the sound of crickets, pre-election day.

Out and about

In private conversations

On social media

That constant and fairly loud chatter from British Columbians that I encountered four years ago is gone.

So what’s changed?

We know that the polling predictions in 2013 were completely off base and that’s left people polling/prediction shy.

In the intervening years we’ve also been through a Canadian Federal election and the election south of the border.  In Canada, there was a lot of negative – even aggressive – banter in the run-up to the Canadian election.  For example, suggestions that Canadians should only speak English and that we should eliminate Mu.slims using a nuclear bomb. That sort of chit chat.  I found it to be exhausting and I got tired of being the minority that would openly put my hand up and say “not OK!”.

As the US election played out, we also saw aggressive behaviour surface.   I personally witnessed how one person’s personality morphed into a much more aggressive, righteous and intolerant personality. It was disturbing, to say the least.

But is this why there is so much silence now?  Has the ugliness that we’ve seen online and in our interpersonal relationships encouraged us to disengage from conversations about politics?

One recent Vancouver-based newspaper headline suggested that voters are feeling “underwhelmed” by the three main political parties in this upcoming election. The author of the story then went on to include a poll suggesting that one party is in the lead and the other two will duke it out for 2nd place.

Right.

A poll.

We know all about those.

But is this why I’m hearing the trees rustle and the birds chirp on my social media pages?  And it’s not just on Facebook.  Even on Twitter I’m not see as much banter about the 2017 election compared to 2013.

I measure this activity by going about my normal routines. As I’m moving along through my day, or moving around my Internet channels of choice, how often am I bumping up against content without actually looking for it?

It surprises me when I come across older Canadians who say that they vote in federal but not provincial elections. 40% of British Columbians don’t vote in the provincial elections.  The numbers must be even higher at the civic level.

40% ! In the noughts, when it was extremely dangerous to go to the polls in Iraq – IE you could get killed – the election participation rate was well over 60%.

It surprises me when I encountered seasoned voters who are well versed about the specifics of politics but tell me they aren’t watching pre-election debates.

What most surprises me are Conservative Party supporters who haven’t watched any of the leadership debates. I don’t swing right at the polls but even I’m interested to see who this party will choose. I take the unusual stance of hoping that a strong candidate will be chosen.  In the event that Canada votes the CPC in, in a future federal election, I want the best and the brightest at the helm.  (My bet for the candidate who would have the broadest appeal to Canadians is Michael Cheong.  But will CPC party members get the plot?)

For the average citizen, it’s easy to end up feeling disillusioned about politics.  The #IAmLinda chance encounter was flat out disturbing.  I get that a politician can make a mistake and blow someone off when they shouldn’t. (That’s when we employ this thing called “damage control”.) I was really curious to know what the rest of Linda’s sentence would have included. It’s a shame that she didn’t have a chance to have a brief discussion with the Premier.  It was even more disturbing to learn (although not surprising) that aides immediately started to dredge up “evidence” that this BC mom was a plant.  Thanks to a local newspaper, we got another side of the story.

Thank goodness there are few reporters left around town who still have the resources to investigate this type of story!

And I know what you’re thinking.  All political parties engage in this type of muck raking.

This is true.

And this is why people start to turn away from politicians and politics. You can add in some other topics like not fulfilling campaign promises, not listening to input from the public, and a vast amount of other beefs.

But we also know that on a civic and provincial level, the corridors of power in Victoria (and at the Premier’s office in Vancouver) are where the decisions  that have the most intimate relationship with our daily lives happen. Unless you’re living 100% off the grid, it’s in your best interest to throw your vote into the hat.

Advance polling has started and we have the weekend to raise up a bit of “from the people” noise.

What are your priorities when you go to your local polling station?

Will you share your priorities (ie concerns) with your friends and relatives in face-to-face and online conversations?

I’m focussed on improved support for mental health and addiction services: funding for public schools in ways other than PAC fundraisers (!); and, access to affordable, high quality and accessible daycare.

And if you’re really not sure what you want to do at the polls, check out this recent post on BCFamily.ca.

Political analysts are saying that this election is too close to call. That means that your vote does really count. Off you go, bring a friend along and have some fun hanging out with your neighbours at the polling station. You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

Related

A Reminder of Why Healthcare Funding Matters

Beyond the Medical Tests

Photos to re-share on Facebook:

#IAmLinda backstory

Are You Feeling Confused Pre-Election Day?

Why Healthcare Funding Matters

Beyond  the Medical Tests

Repurposing Not Reopening Riverview Hospital

Save

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

As the May 9th BC provincial election day draws near, you’ve decided to either vote for a specific party or not vote, or you’re feeling a bit confused. If you haven’t made it to an advance polling station, and you really don’t know what you want to do, there’s a lot to consider.

If you know what you’re going to do at the polls, you’re good to go.

If you’re absolutely certain that you want to be one of the 40% who don’t vote, that’s a shame. Politicians approve decisions that affect your life in countless ways.  Unless you’re living 100% off the grid, it’s probably a good idea to pick a party you think has the best chance of not messing things up.

Because there will be mess ups, no matter which party gets to move ahead with the reigns.

Should you just vote for the party that you prefer?

Should you vote strategically? Some people agree with this strategy. Others don’t.  There’s no right answer on this topic.

What if none of the parties and their platforms appeal to you?

What Are The Choices?

It’s a widely held opinion that the BC Liberal Party is more right of center than you would expect it to be, as a result of the collapse of the Social Credit Party.  Since it’s been 16 years since the NDP have been in power, there are many voters who don’t know what they’re like as a governing party.  For the rest of us, we’re left to debate if it’s fair to assess them on how they fared almost 20 years ago.  Some people like the idea of voting for the Green Party but live in ridings where the Green Party are in a distant third position.

Do you want to support the strongest candidate? Do you think that your current MLA is doing a good job?  Is she/he a “boots on the ground” type of person? Do you feel that amongst all of the candidates, this person still looks to be the most capable to represent your riding’s interests? Or do you think that one of the other candidates looks more promising? Will you vote for this person even if it looks like her/his party will not be the one that wins this election? Do you believe that even in opposition, your MLA of choice (when elected) will be able to ruffle feathers and kick up enough of a fuss to represent your riding’s interests? These are the questions you will have to ask yourself if you choose to vote for someone who might be sitting in opposition.

Sometimes the strongest candidate might also be the someone who works for a party that is not your first choice. You will have to decide. Do the policies and priorities of your party of choice take priority over the potential of the strongest candidate?

If you’re not too fussed about any of the parties, you might choose to support the candidate or party you dislike the least. Which of the two front runner parties do you dislike the least? Or on a more micro level, which of the two top running candidates do you think looks the least weak? People feel disgruntled about politicians and politics for many valid reasons.  If you’re one of these type of people, you might find yourself asking this question.

You might be most concerned about the overall needs of your province. Are you concerned about job creation? Affordability issues? Education and healthcare support and reform? Environmental concerns? The list goes on and on.  Economic inequality research looks at how countries that have flatter economies – where there is a narrow difference between the haves and the have nots – are also healthier. Which party looks capable of making, in your opinion, better decisions on topics that affect the issue of economic equality and the economic health and well being of British Columbia?

You might also make the decision to not vote for a party because you feel that they won’t be capable of supporting the issues that you care about, or ensuring that the province has a healthy economy.  Political parties will play on these fears when they point to flaws in the arguments of the other party or suggest that the other party doesn’t have a well thought out plan, which in turn has fiscal ramifications.

Maybe you’re more focussed on the unique needs of your riding. Is there an important environmental issue in your area that will be affected by the results of the election? Is there a large decision coming down the pipeline in a neighbourhood near you that will be decided by the winning party? In the Lower Mainland, for example, there is the possibility to re-purpose Riverview Hospital and make it a center of excellence for the provision of mental health and addiction support services, in addition to being a world class green space within an urban setting. The decisions that are made post election about this large property will have an impact on people who live well beyond the boundaries of the City of Coquitlam.  Right now healthcare services are being replicated within all cities in the Lower Mainland, and police departments allocate a large part of their budget to resources that are focussed on the mental health challenges of British Columbians in crisis. For voters in this riding, this is an example of a topic in their riding that could – and I would argue should – affect their vote at the poll. But it’s also a pressing topic that affects all British Columbians.

At a well attended Save Riverview Rally recently, two of the three political candidates turned out to speak.

Are you most focussed on your own household’s needs? Taking the focus to an even more micro level, you might be focussed on the topics that have a strong impact on your family or yourself. You will often hear people say “I care about this issue and it has a direct impact on my life. This party will support my concern the best so I’m voting for them.” Or they might say “this party will not support the issues that concern my family the most, so I won’t vote for them”.

Are you going to be driving over a new bridge?  Will it be built? Should it be built? Will there be a high, low or no toll?

Will there be $10/day daycare providing safe, affordable and accessible high quality services that can help you to re-enter the job market? Do you believe that it’s possible to fund this type of programme? Have the numbers been crunched enough?  Should you believe the talking points of a far right think tank employee who repeatedly references  two research studies? Should you trust their conclusion that it’s not an affordable option and the impact of women in the workforce will not produce a financial/tax benefit?

Does the topic of mental health needs seem unrelated to the pressing needs of your family? Even though 1 in 5 Canadians will struggle with a mental health challenge – and anxiety, for example, is listed as the top health concern for the next 20 years -  you might not feel that this issue has touched your family. Even though there are long wait lists to access mental health services within communities and in schools, you might not feel that this is an issue for your children or current/future grandchildren. One party has promised to put mental health care workers in schools.  This election promise might not speak to you because this topic might not be on your radar. Whereas this might be one of the main reasons that your neighbour will be voting for that party.

Did you enter the housing market in BC before prices sky rocketed out of control? If you already own a home – and many British Columbians do – the cost of accessing housing (purchased and rented) might not be a concern to you.  Your children might be young enough that you don’t have future cost of living issues on your mind.

If you start to look at where your priorities lie, you will get a clearer picture of where you should place your X on the voting ballot. If you’ve been feeling slightly unsure about what to do, I hope you will come to a decision that feels right for you.

Political analysts are saying that this election is too close to call.  That means that your vote does really count.  Off you go, bring a friend along and have some fun hanging out with your neighbours at the polling station. You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

Related

A Reminder of Why Healthcare Funding Matters

Beyond the Medical Tests

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

Which one of these mums on the sideline am I?

Hmnn.  Let’s see.

14.  The Prepared Mom

She’s got a golf umbrella; rainboots; warm clothes; drink of choice; fully charged phone; and, maybe even a portable chair. Week after week standing in the cold, driving rain for 1 1/2 hours will do that to a woman.
She snorts when she hears the term “Soccer Mom”.  What’s a Soccer Mom? She’s not sure that she’s ever met one.

You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

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