Archive for January, 2013

A matter of logic

Friday, January 18th, 2013

By Ken Waddell
Recently, the Department of Defense suggested they would start charging municipalities for emergency assistance such as flood fighting and helping with other natural disasters. The government apparently has since backtracked on that one. While it’s understandable that the military might want to generate some funds, nobody asked the question as to what funds they had in mind. It would make sense maybe to compensate for gas and wear and tear on equipment used in fighting a flood for example, but as far as I know, the staff were getting paid anyway.
•Idle no more. It didn’t take long for rogue signs to be stuck here and there across Canada. The hand-painted signs said “Idle no more-get a job”. That there are problems in communities and that there are more then the usual problems in some First Nation communities is without question. However, if an able bodied person doesn’t have job, then they need to move to another community. It’s a time-honoured method of surviving and getting ahead. If my grandfather hadn’t moved, if my dad hadn’t moved, if I hadn’t moved, if hundreds of Filipino people hadn’t moved, then we might all be sitting at home waiting for the next job.
•Here’s a great quote from Sun Media:
“Some chiefs have suggested that Atleo’s future as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations could now be in jeopardy for failing to adhere to the demands of many chiefs that he boycott the meeting with Harper.
“The AFN was set up to represent the decisions of the chiefs,” Pam Palmater said Thursday evening. Palmater, a Ryerson University professor, ran unsuccessfully against Atleo last summer and has sharply criticized him for being too close to the Harper government.
“If the AFN decided to go to that meeting against the will and decision of the chiefs, then the AFN would no longer be a valid and representative organization of the chiefs.”
How about representing the needs and wishes of the people not the chiefs? That would be a good start. Protesting and hunger striking, Chief Spence is getting well paid to sit in a teepee in a phony hunger strike by day when the cameras are running, all the while spending some, if not all, nights in a nice hotel. How about she and all these other chiefs go home and run their communities?”
The hard line First Nations chiefs and the multitude of spokespersons seem to think that they are nations equal with Canada and England. They think that negotiations need to take place nation-to-nation. They are wrong. There’s a difference between a clan and a nation. There’s a difference between a tribe and nation, there’s a difference between the Scottish society and a nation. There are nations and then there are groups, sometimes some very small groups, who have lived in a relatively small area, even if it’s for centuries — but they still don’t make a nation.
Some aboriginal people, including Theresa Spence, have said they have gotten nothing from Canada. I beg to differ. That’s way over the top. Spence apparently can’t count the millions and the audit of her reserve would seem to prove the point. Every Canadian gets a lot from Canada, some more than others. We get health care, education, social security, military and police protection and the list goes on. Some communities seem to benefit more than others but it has nothing to do with money. If money and large numbers meant a successful community, then why is Winnipeg the murder capital of Canada?
It doesn’t matter if it’s an aboriginal community, a small reserve, a small town or village or large city, there needs to be a lot more truth and logic applied to our funding, our decisions and to our administration. 
Protesting, hunger strikes, placard waving, name calling, racial prejudice (and that’s a two-way street), more money; none of these things solve problems. Good use of money, good administration and good decisions solve problems, whether it be individually, as a family, as a community, as a province or as a country. That’s the logical way to solve problems.

Just the facts, ma’am

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

The title is attributed to Joe Friday, the lead character in the radio and TV series Dragnet from the early 1950s. It’s a catchphrase, but it’s also good advice.
In this day and age of every story being remastered by spin doctors, it’s important to hearken back to this one liner bit of advice, “Just the facts ma’am”. 
It doesn’t matter if one is dealing with stories or issues at the international level down to the smallest of household disputes, it’s important to know the facts. Without the facts, sheer reaction is always easier, backlash soon follows, then everything becomes emotional. Pretty soon it’s all about emotions and feelings. By then, the facts are pretty much trampled into the mud.
Take the spate of aboriginal protests across the country. A time and date is set, so is the location. The people show up, the media shows up, the RCMP show up. People walk around blockading traffic or holding a circle dance or making some speeches. Sometimes all three. Press releases go out, ah yes, the inevitable press release. The media grabs onto it, regurgitates it and then throws in a five second TV clip showing protesters clumped around the camera. Then the media’s job is done, right?
Wrong! There’s rarely a discussion of the real issues.
When I get press releases, I have started to fire them right back with questions attached to it. Guess what? I have yet to get answers from the “Idle no more” group. No answers, no explanation of the issues, nothing.
Some media have actually dug into the facts and with a budget that allows them to travel far to do so. For example, CBC went to Attawapiskat and did a documentary on spending and living conditions. It wasn’t pretty. Twenty modular homes were delivered to the community but they couldn’t get them hooked up to sewer and water. Funny how a lot of houses never had a sewer and water 50 years ago and people survived. One would think that a modular home, hooked up to electricity, would be a lot better than a tent. Neither one has water or a sewer. There may well be more to that story, but I’m just saying if you can live in a tent without a sewer, water or electricity, perhaps you should be able to live in a modular home with only electricity.
Sun Media has done a lot of work analyzing the Attawapiskat audit and it doesn’t appear to be pretty. Less than 2,000 people and the budget seems astronomical. Looks like, and I emphasize looks like, a lot of corruption and misspending.
But instead of getting really bent or vocal about this case or any other case, it would be very helpful if we all looked at just the facts. Knowing and understanding the facts almost always leads to a better solution than emotion and reaction.
If an appropriate sized leadership group looks at all the facts, the income, the expenses, the needs, the shortfalls, the advantages of a particular community, then good decisions can be made. Without that level of good governance, usually emotions and bad decisions follow. 
We have a lot of local issues, right here in our small rural communities, issues that could benefit from a “Just the facts” approach. That approach will lead to better decisions. Municipalities are all struggling with infrastructure issues, with escalating costs of providing services, with an increased demand for services from rate payers and due to downloading from senior governments. 
Municipal governments need to take a measured approach to every problem. A full analysis of a town or a municipality will reveal the level of services that can and should be provided and at what cost. One simple example is that towns and municipalities tend to hide the real cost of providing water and sewer. Faced with periodic increases in water rates, councils tend to add on a little bit but without a real cost analysis, the rates may be totally unrealistic. The shortfall gets buried in the tax bill.  That’s wrong because taxes are supposed to go for funding services that can’t be billed out such as fire and policing and for debt repayment. Water and sewer services are readily identified and just as easily billable to the user. 
A little too much trivia in that last example, but it’s illustrative that a measured and factual approach gets better results than the reactive and emotional approach.

Idle no more?

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

“Idle no more” has become a rallying cry for First Nations (FN) people across Canada. It’s about time on a number of fronts.
 For some people, it’s about time they quit being idle, there’s plenty of it going on. Ever watch a group of people work. Some are much more productive than others. Some work quietly and effectively, some are too busy with their smoke breaks, their days off, their sick days, their complaints about real and imagined aches and pains, real and imagined affronts.
For First Nations people it’s about time they woke up to the fact that the government, be it local (band or municipal), provincial or federal, may well be messing them over and have been for years. Welcome to the club. Canadians in all walks of life are being harmed by governments, not so much in what governments don’t do, but in what governments do.
It used to be that local governments and local groups like lodges, benevolent societies and churches looked after our “welfare” needs. Now that’s all been taken over by government and they have pretty much messed that up. One small example: just try and get someone from the province to respond to an emergency need, a real need, on a Friday night. Worse yet, on a long weekend Friday night. You can call the 1-800 line until your face falls off but nobody is going to respond until mid-morning on Tuesday and by then, the person in need might well be dead. So whenever emergency welfare needs come up on a weekend, it’s up to the church or the community or some kind-hearted soul to take up the slack and fill in for highly paid unionized government employees who are off doing their thing on a long weekend.
First Nations people and everyone else in Canada  have become too dependent on governments, be they local (band or municipal), provincial or federal.
But let’s look at one of the FN peoples’ major complaints and that is about jobs. There’s not enough jobs on the reserves and that’s regrettable. It’s also unrealistic that there will ever be enough jobs on many reserves, even less so if mines, minerals and oil reserves aren’t allowed to be developed on reserve lands.
So what’s an employable FN person to do? There are four FN reserves within an hour and half drive of Neepawa. There have been over 600 new jobs created in Neepawa and they have been taken up mostly by people who have travelled half way around the world to take those jobs. Very few have been taken up by First Nations people who only had to move an hour an a half from home to get a job. Filipinos, Koreans and Ukrainians can travel 5,000 miles, my grandfather travelled that far, my father traversed Canada several times in search of work and I have moved several times to improve my work situation. Bless those First Nations people who have moved anywhere in Canada to find work. It can be done. I rest my case.
Idle no more is attempting to ramp up their engagement level in the political process. It’s also about time. Voter turnouts in most Canadian communities are dismal, in FN communities they are almost non-exisitent. I have seen political races where the FN vote could have decided the outcome easily but for a variety of reasons, they didn’t come out and vote. 
Not voting, not moving to a new job, letting the government look after welfare and child care needs and all the other things we should be able to do as a community ,simply empowers a smaller and smaller group of elite, out of touch people to control our lives. This idle no more thing just may catch on. If it motivates people to seize real solutions that’s great. If all it creates is more moaning and complaining, then it will be for nought. It’s up to all of us to be “Idle no more.”


kwaddell@kenwaddell.ca This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247