Showing posts with label democracy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label democracy. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy AMERICAN Thanksgiving

I wanted to take a few minutes to pay tribute to my American cousins for a blessed, happy, peaceful thanksgiving celebrated with good friends, family, and good cheer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lest we forget .... or NOT

Happy Remembrance Day to my fellow Canadians and anyone else who takes the time today to honor the bravery of all soldiers who fight for freedom and peace.

My father passed away 5 years ago and up to his last breath, was proud of who he represented, after 35 years with the Canadian Armed Forces. In our home, we were unable to forget.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae, author of the famous poem 'In Flanders Fields,' wrote the iconic work after the death of a friend during the second battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915. (National Archives of Canada/Canadian Press) SOURCE CBC Canada 

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of one of the most well known poems "In Flanders Field" by Lt-Col John McCrae.  

The poem is a poignant reminder to us.  If not for the bravery of many men and women, our lives would not be the same today.  It reminds us that those people were brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who gave up their lives for others.

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunsets glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
in Flanders Field.

In peacetime, we can all assume that the life of our military personnel are laid back, living day to day in simplicity and beyond the toils of having a corporate or artistic path.  Yet, those who are given glimpses, with guarded privacy and confidential, there were and are still many who are sent on missions or tasks to uphold our freedom.  They are not heralded as heroes and are obscure from the media eye that they too have done much to keep the evils of war at bay.  Our safety taken for granted.

These same men and women should also be honored because they are behind the scenes to keep us safe daily.  A day like Remembrance Day should also celebrate those who are never credited for what they encounter, what they do, in order to keep our lives safe and carefree.  

As the daughter of my father, I know he went away for days, weeks or even months on assignment.  It was the way of life, without questioning why.  Unlike those who drive into an office, maybe work late, and come home at the end of their day, our military is often tasked with going away to do exercises, safety missions and peacekeeping.  Some don't come home.  They are a statistic and number who don't come home.   Only the family and loved ones left to grieve.  While politicians, media may have a glimpse of their bravery, they often go unheralded for what they continue to represent.

I am not minimizing the cause or bravery that stemmed the poignant poem of "Flanders Field".  I just want to acknowledge and pay tribute that there are far more unofficial acts of bravery that go unnoticed, while we contently live our lives in the arrogance of safety.  Sometimes, there is a mention by name, but more often grouped in a category that doesn't distinguish them from what they contribute, or the sacrifices their families encounter.  

My skin crawls and the back of my hair stands up whenever someone wants to call me an "Army Brat".  I find it distasteful and disrespectful to what my father had done.  In his twilight years, he wanted to exorcise his memories and told us more stories of his life than we could possibly have known.  The burden my mother had, raising four kids, primarily alone.  My father's return quiet, unassuming and without fanfare.  It was a way of life.  Not anything I would have given up.  I owe it to my father, to celebrate his contribution to our peaceful world.

I love you dad.  I still miss you.  You have not been forgotten.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Politics: An open classroom

Are you like me -- tired of the nonstop theatrics by politicians from both sides of the border?  It is going to go on for a lot longer.  I am embarrassed for some of the candidates' blunders from either country.

As a Canadian, many of us pay attention to both sides of the border.  Sometimes, I have to admit that the US Republican Party volley for power is ten times more entertaining.  The stats support this.  CNN's airing of the debate hosted 20+ million American viewers while Canada's meagre 60,000 tuned into the Globe and Mail's debate.

Statistically, overall, those are not impressive numbers when you consider the population of America:  320 million compared to Canada:  36 million rounded up.  In either instance, the viewership was less than 10 percent.  With what is at stake:  economy, education, health, security - you'd think more would be tuned in.  Then again, thanks to the internet and social media, one can always catch up.  Even if it is skewed by those that are the loudest or tweet the most absurd.   

Does that mean that both countries citizens are apathetic?  Or, does it just mean that they're tired of hearing about Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau's theatrics?  I had a chuckle when I heard that someone tweeted that Canada needed a Prime Minister, not a rock star.  Granted, it appears obvious to me that Justin is appealing to the Millennials and The Donald is quite simply entertaining.  

It doesn't look great when we are merely being entertained when we should be considering who we should hand our futures to?

The nicest part, for me, on the cusp of two age distinctions, Generation X, 35-54 or 54+ Baby Boomers, was watching the debate with my 26 year-old son.  He represents the Millennials while my husband represent Generation X mostly.  We represent the smallest bubble of population, faced with security issues (both employment and terrorism) and financial woes (saving for retirement, paying for kids' education).

There were some major impressions that I got for Canada, and living in the oil-bust city of Calgary, is that our incumbent Prime Minister cannot be blamed for the oil recession in our midst.  We should be examining how the oil prices were driven lower before we start to point fingers.  It is a mistake that the other two debaters seem to be missing what is obvious to me.  I wonder if others think the same?  I'm undecided while wondering if I should support staying the course?  After all, the experts say that Harper's finesse comes from a background in economics.  That would seem to be a good enough reason to pay heed.  Personally, I'm not looking for handouts, I'm just looking for a brighter future.  That future looks like stability.  

On the other side of the border, I have an opinion because I'm aware that whatever happens there seems to impact us, whether we want to admit it or not.  Again, where I live is directly linked to the US because of our head office count cross-sectioned with Houston, Dallas, Texas.  A wise mentor long ago, when I was working for a US corporation, advised smartly, to anticipate what will happen in the future, you should keep an eye on the south, politics and Wall Street.  They have a habit of trickling over to us.  

The coolest part was having both my son and I agree on one thing:  Carly Fiorina was a stand out.  If I could vote right now, I'd be all in with her.  She stood steadfast, very poised, never waivered once.  She showed class and demonstrated tremendous leadership by staying on point, and understood her positions on many, if not all the issues, the others were jockeying position for.  

I'm not a feminist while I am a champion of strong examples for our young women to look up to.  I pulled from You Tube, the following example: 

Regardless of your political stance or views, tons can be gained from watching these debates.  You can decide what type of person you identify with, regardless of party or politics.   It is an open classroom for all to learn from.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Talking taxes benefits

"In matters of truth or justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same."
~Albert Einstein

A discussion erupted in my home city Calgary recently because a local law enforcement officer was written about because she has gone on record to having to leave our city because topped benefits isn't good enough.  For most Canadians, they are given a percentage of their wage for a certain number of months leading up to and after giving birth.   What topped up benefits means is getting the company or organization to add to that based on tenure and wage -- sometimes in return for the mother to agree to return to her same job, responsibilities, title and wage she had before leaving on maternity.  In addition to  her federal benefits.

An article was posted by MetroNews Calgary inspired me to respond with my own opinion under their comments:

Having your benefits topped up is a dangerous precedent and expensive one.  It is one thing to be pro-women and pro-mothers, I applaud that.  However, we need to take a look at the big picture -- how realistic is it for mothers to gain the same benefits city-wide?  I like the discussion simply because it is about how our taxes are being used.  When I had my THREE kids maternity leave went from 3 months federal benefits to 6 months.  We've come a long way to allowing a year.  However, topping up is not something that every new mom is afforded.  Unless it is legislated for everyone, it shouldn't be an elite squad's right.  Once again, do I have to repeat ... it is our taxes that we're using to support this.  There are far many ways this could be coordinated ... like, child bearing aged moms and pops put into a fund (like we older folks do for retirement) and that fund is used as child benefits.  A la carte, chosen based on needs i.e. maternity or child care.  The young'uns don't want to fit the bill for retirement unless it is their own, then us elders, don't want to fit the bill on what we cannot benefit from.  Perhaps benefits and tax breaks should be chosen by each citizen based on where they need the help?  Just thinking out loud (which is more than I can say for those that come up with buying votes and managing our tax dollars).

Like it or not, we all have to face it that our population is widening between generations with major age gaps.   It is going to become an ever-increasing dilemma to any governing organization trying to please the populous.  When you have a broad gap between Baby Boomers (age 55 plus) and their kids of Gen-X/Melinia (ages 18-35 specifically), you're going to have a nightmare trying to keep everyone happy (and get the votes centered).

I'm just about smack in the middle.  I had my child-bearing years and am now facing the daunting task of looming retirement.  Safe to say, both milestones in life are important.  We need to keep the young people working while the older ones keep saving as much as they can for safekeeping and to avoid being a burden to the tax base in 10 to 15 years.

I was even at the tail end of child extra-curricular tax benefits.  When the Harper government in Canada introduced a tax credit for parents of children who are enrolled in sports mainly were given a break to compensate for fees associated.  I applauded the idea because, although I had had to pay for that on my own, I also recognized that kids who are in sports tend to stay out of trouble which can be a burden on resources and funds.  I always said that being a figure skater for many years, was an expensive way for my parents to keep me out of trouble.  Later on as my skills improved, the cost for ice time, coaching, private lessons, competitions, shows, skates, etc. got really expensive, I got a PT job to contribute.  I think that was a brilliant move on my parents' part because it demonstrated how keen I was to skate because I loved it, not because my parents could afford to give me the best tools to become good at it.

We should all look at the big picture.  If the government funds a select group, the other groups will want their own piece of the benefits.  Like I said, although I don't argue with the many merits of the various tax breaks, I have been disappointed to miss the mark to gain any pay off.

Let's take a look at just voting.  Statistics were given that in Canada only 34% of the age group of 18-24 vote, whereas 65% of the 65 plus age group do.  That is a huge balancing act to be sure.  So what do politicians do?  They appeal to the segment that garners the most votes.  That isn't rocket science.  Then they poll and speculate that they had better appeal to the other age segment that may wake up and realize that their vote can cause change and make a difference in their present lives in their future. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon where you fall, many of the benefits fall in the middle.  The child-bearing, child-rearing age group, child care paying, population.... who get maternity benefits, child care subsidies (in some areas), and parents of kids 8-16 year olds get breaks for being a model parent.  Ironically, my math shows they represent 1% of the voting populous while reaping a good 85% of the tax funding.

Then there is the 18-24 year old group that get breaks to squirrel away to put a down payment on buying a house.  Again, I'm saying that is a good idea because real estate transactions fuel the economy -- buyers get loans from lenders, builders get funds generated by building which sweetens the economy.  When buyers stop buying, the economy rolls to an abrupt halt or swiftly slow downs.

Sounds like a lot of imbalance if you ask me.  Then there is the other part of the equation.  The one group that tends to help the investment community is from the older age segment.  Then investment, gives money for banks and such to lend money.  A different spiral.

If you have two spirals working in opposite ends of the economy it is no wonder the ones in the middle get a lot of dust.  But then again, that is where the government focusses a lot on their funding and tax breaks.

Okay, so I've gone on and one and painted a very real picture.  What do we do?  Seems pretty simple to me.  Take an example from an employee's insurance benefits offered by the best corporations:  you get a certain percentage of your wage to be used as YOU wish it to be used.  You have a say in how much you contribute (usually between 1-5%) which the company matches.  Sounds like the ideal company to work for doesn't it?

I'm getting to my point:  why doesn't the federal government use the same process.  Instead of the expense, studies and pushback on deciding on where tax breaks go, let the individual citizen make the decision themselves.  For example, everyone gets 5% of their wage to go into a federal tax fund/break.  Each individual gets to decide themselves where that fund goes:

  • 18-24 year olds into education, saving for a house, starting a business, saving for when they have a child (income top up and child care)
  • 25-40 year olds can put it towards putting their kids into sports programs, buying down their mortgage, saving for their retirement
  • 40-55 year olds use it for paying off their mortgage, to give them more disposable income to do other things that fuel the economy, like make investments, plan their retirement, buy a vacation property
  • 55-65 will hopefully have paid off their mortgage and use the left over funds for investment and planning their retirement
  • 65+ are allowed to spend their hard saved cash with little penalties because they do not burden the rest of the tax system, they are rewarded if they help their kids or grand kids buy a house, pay for their education -- all which society benefits from.
Sometimes you can't see the forest because you are only looking at trees.  Let's pressure our politicians and leaders to have more integrity and use our votes to the benefit of everyone, not a select few. 

The onus would then be on citizens to elect those that appeal to the big picture, not greedy with power or backfilling their own agenda. 

Sounds like Utopia to me.  Doesn't sound too difficult to me either.  What may be the most difficult would be to hold ourselves accountable on how we vote, who we vote for, and then only approve those that have the integrity to benefit society as a whole. 

This is not socialist thinking or communism.  We would still be using the democratic process.  The pay off would be when everyone, not a select few, gets a piece of the action and benefits.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
~George Orwell