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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Sins of the Grandchildren

The hope of every parent is that their children will learn from their mistakes and not repeat them.

The hope of every soldier is that the sacrifices they make aren't in vain.

It's this hope that keeps us moving forward, against all odds.

Hope of a better tomorrow vs fear that this is all there is.

When we put ourselves first, we doom our children to suffer as our grandparents did.  We dihonour the sacrifices made on our behalf.  We take a step back.

And come that much closer to proving the cynics right.

Friday 12 September 2014

Why Trudeau's Closer to Right and Alexander's Falling Behind

First things first - there are no bad guys here.  Both sides are interested in the same thing - stability, economic prosperity, so on and so forth.

The differences lie in the general framework the two sides see the landscape in and their understanding of motivation.

Alexander is coming from a nationalist frame; there is Canada, wrapped in the flag, strong to the external world.  This Canada is ruled by the PM Harper.  It's kinda unloyal to not be supportive of the PM.  It's kinda unloyal to stray from traditional Canadian values, as defined by that PM.

For Alexander, it's our nation against the world, both for strategic interest and domestic safety.  The idea that a Canadian would be involved in terrorism essentially means that they've given up the right to be Canadian and must therefore be ostracized.  

It's a very 20th Century view of nationhood which doesn't line up with modern realities in the global village (and global marketplace).

For most Canadians, being Canadian doesn't mean belonging to a tribe; it's more like an ethnicity, a physical characteristic.  You have black hair or blond hair; you're tall or short; you're Canadian or your not.

Being Canadian isn't the frame of your ideology, your political leanings, etc - it's just one facet that contributes to who you are.  

People aren't always proud of their heritage, for various reasons; sometimes, they feel like it's a burden, or a source of shame.

Telling Canadians who are getting mixed up in terrorism that they're either with us or against us is like kicking your kids out of the house because you think they're mixing with the wrong crowd.  

We see lots of that happen in Canada where it comes to gangs and recruitment, which is essentially a softer version of what's happening with groups like ISIL.  

What about Trudeau?

Trudeau isn't focusing on the concept of Canadian as a tribal identity, but as the embracing of an idea - the idea that people from anywhere can find ways to build something stronger than the sum of its parts.  Call it airy-fairy if you want, but there's a growing recognition in corporate culture that diversity is a strength, when accomodated and harnessed properly.  Look at RBC for a best practice story.

Trudeau lives comfortably in the 21st Century where the nation state is a concept of the past and national identity is more a brand than it is a loyalty.  It's as true of multi-national corporations that bases their operations to reflect opportunity rather than national pride as it is of kids who like foreign music, films or styles more than what's grown at home.

Ideology is a bit like this, too.  Being Canadian doesn't mean you must be a Protestant anymore than it means you must like Tim Hortons.  If you don't like the way Canada frames its identity, maybe you'd want to push back as a form of rebellion.  Which is sometimes why youth end up connecting with bad crowds and negative ideologies in the first place.

Trudeau feels - and I agree with him on this - that cutting people off isn't a way to force more people at home to stay within the confines of the Canadian tribe, but will raise greater questions about what it means to be Canadian and whether Canada allows for individuals to be multi-faceted in their own identity.

What happens when you have family in a foreign country who is on one side or another of a political divide - is it un-Canadian to support them?  What if it's a situation like the Ukraine, and a Canadian-Ukranian agrees with the pro-Russian arguments?  Does it make them less Canadian to say so?

By putting qualified on being Canadian, Alexander is trying to put walls around our national identity and force people to choose which side they stand on.  In a country increasingly populated by people born beyond our borders, doing so is tantamount to asking them to choose between being a Canadian, as defined by a specific ideology, or being whatever the national/cultural identify of their birth is.

This is not a concept I'm comfortable with and one that has the potential to cause a open great ruptures in our social fabric.

The answer here is not to give people with-us-or-against-us ultimatums, but to present compelling arguments for being Canadian.  

It's the same challenge being embraced in the corporate world - how do we make our workplace and our company so attractive, so engaging, that you can't not want to be part of our world and culture?  How do we help you grow as an individual and contribute to both the firm and your community in positive, brand-building ways?

Yes, it comes back to the committing sociology thing.  Smart businesses are exploring behavioural economics, employee engagement, and maximizing social media and Corporate Social Responsibility for both recruitment and customer-loyalty/user generated content.  This isn't bleeding-heart weakness; it's proving to be good business.

I don't know whether Trudeau gets this in its entirety, nor is looking to the corporate world for inspiration.  

I am, however, fairly confident that Alexander doesn't care about any of this.  If I'm not onside with his perspective, my Canadian-ness is probably in question.  This is the frame his government has taken and maintained since day one.  It's no cooincidence that as a result, we've seen an increase in ideological positioning and a decrease in data collection and publication, public/partner consultation and evidence-based decision making.

There has, however, been an increase in with-us-or-against-us rhetoric and positions that focus on punishment for those who don't fall in line.

Thank goodness that I don't see Canada as a tribe, but an aspiration.  This frame helps inoculate me from all partisan, tribal pressure.  My world is bigger than that.

Which is why my focus is less on picking sides, but figuring out how we can move forward together.

Ailing Ford and the Leadership Complex

The way this story is emerging interests me more on what it says about the system than it does about any one person in it.  Partially, that comes down to the sorts of personalities that politics attracts, but that, too, is a structural/cultural thing.

Let's say Rob Ford was strictly at Deco Labels in some sort of leadership capacity when the first symptoms of his ailment emerged.  One would imagine, given his personality profile, Ford would have ignored the pain for a while, simply not wanting to have to deal with it.  

Eventually, though, he'd start to grow concerned enough about his health to get checked out.  This would likely have happened sooner than it has now.


As an executive at a company, Ford would have employees, a management team, etc.  He'd have the option to delegate more work, take a leave of absence or even play the same role, but in a more low-key fashion from what one hopes is a forthcoming recovery period.

Ford isn't a boss at a company, though - he's chief magistrate of a City fighting an election campaign. 

Election campaigns are fights-to-the-finish; any blood in the water and your opponents will pounce, the people will doubt your ability to be the only one who can keep the city going/protect the city from those who would harm it/strengthen the city to be more than it is.

And so the leader who is ill must make a choice between staying involved or taking care of their health.

Yes, we admire those who face personal adversity and soldier on regardless.  It's inspiring, really, to watch people neglect their health on our behalf.  But how much sense does that actually make?

We live in a democracy.  We have a weak-mayor system.  In theory, the mayor is just one more vote, but can serve as agenda-setter and cheerleader-in-chief on some issues.  They serve as top PR person for the City, both in terms of attracting attention but also bolstering community morale, especially in times of hardship and crisis.

In a pinch, though, there's no reason the Deputy Mayor or even another Councillor can't carry some of that weight.  In fact, it makes more sense for them all to do this in rotation, so that each Ward has a chance to be highlighted on the broader stage.

Smart leadership sets obsolescence as its primary directive - to make sure that the ship keeps sailing after they've left the wheel.  

In an ideal world, Rob Ford should be in a position where, his health at risk, he is comfortably able to pass the baton on and focus one what's most important, ie getting well.

Of course, this isn't how he's positioned himself.  He has been, since day one, about Rob Ford as the answer to the city's problems.  His self-articulated plan was to get in and never look back, almost as though he were setting himself up as a feudal lord rather than an elected official in a dynamic political system.  This thread runs through all the work he's done - he was all that kept his football players from a life of crime, etc.

These attributes speak to his personality, which is fine - there are lots of functionally fixed alphas out there.

I think it's fair to say that there are an inordinate amount of them in politics, though.

We've seen a gradual shift at the provincial and federal levels towards power and decision-making being centralized in the offices of the leader; as such, political parties can swing massively in their direction as one leader and core team gives way to the next, even when the same Party remains in power.

There are two big problems with this top-down leadership structure.  

When direction changes the moment a leader changes, the work begun by a predecessor can grind to a halt. Millions, billions of dollars in planning, development and implementation can be side-tracked or shifted, leaving bureaucrats skittish about investing themselves in their labour and the public/private sector uncertain about what to expect.

The second issue is that a focus on top-down leadership leaves out the rest of the elected representative sin the conversation; essentially, that means the chosen voices of the majority of an electorate are marginalized. Not only does this limit the capacity of citizens to be represented, but it leaves the public whether they can be represented.

How many voters make their ballot-box choice based on their perception of the leader?  Yet in our system, citizens don't vote for the leader; they vote for a Member.  When the Member is ignored or becomes a parrot for the leader, you end up with an electorate that is making decisions based on an inaccurate understanding of the system, meaning they're actually marginalizing their own representation.

For the leader's side of things, then, the focus is less on a strong team and succession than it is on individual strength and, as a corollary, not appearing weak.  Politics is a blood sport, etc.  You have to come across as almost a demi-god with magical powers to right social wrongs or an omniscient sense of what really matters to the structural well being of every facet of the system to know what priorities really matter.

Which brings us back to Rob Ford.

It's always been my view that Rob Ford is a great case study of the failings within our current political model; he's a caricature of what's not working and why it's not working.

Ford has, at best, a mediocre understanding of policy.  He's got an incredibly limited understanding of the City's people in all their diversity.  Ford has a sense of entitlement that comes with the perception of absolutism.  He also figures that he is right on his positions by virtue of being Rob Ford.  It's like the Diving Right of Mayors.

For his approach, Ford has been a disaster as a Mayor.  He's embarrassed the city, jammed up important projects, created necessary divisions, so on and so forth.  At the same time, being mayor hasn't been kind to him.  Ford's faced countless health and personal challenges throughout his term and has, by all accounts, battled with inner demons about his ability to measure up. 

These aren't things he can deal with publicly, nor even admit to himself, because to do so is to imply weakness that is unbecoming in a leader.

So we come to this - a man with noble intent, but the wrong approach, in a position where he felt it necessary to put his health at risk so as to maintain his hold on power, a hold that has been detrimental to the City he loves.

This isn't a dynamic system.  Our current political system is about power plays and sizzle, not leadership and steak.

I hope that Rob Ford is able to step back from his public position and focus on what matters most - his health.  In this, I hope he has the full support and love of his family and political allies, but also the rest of us.  We're all human.

For the rest of us, I'd say it's time we recognize the sickness within our system and ask ourselves how long we're willing to continue ignoring it - and what the consequences will be if we wait too long to address it.

Thursday 11 September 2014

The Art of Space

The trick, always, is to figure out how to make the same space do more than one thing for you.  

You Can't Hustle Health

First and foremost - I hope Rob Ford and his family have nothing significant to worry about and that a speedy recovery is possible.  Should surgery be required, I would beg the Mayor to do what's in his and his family's best interests and rest.

I say this, full-well knowing I'm a hypocrite.  I recently tore a ligament in my ankle; picture a searing pain and the sound of ripping pomello, and that's what it was like.  That was about two weeks ago; it took me days to get to a Walk-In clinic to have it checked out.  4 hours later, I had a diagnosis and a recommendation to Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate.

I've done a bit of the second two and none of the first.  Frankly, I don't have the time to rest, or be immobile; I'm an entrepreneur, a parent of two and have community commitments.  I don't have time to rest.

The same thought process, I would wager, runs through Rob Ford's mind - rest when you win, everything else comes second.  A race is a race, after all - you can't win if you step off the track.  Having been off the track for a while over the summer, it's a testament to how uncomfortable he must be that he's gone to the hopsital.

Neither of us are unique stories.  We hear the same thing all the time - hunt what you kill, no rest for the wicked, sleep when you're dead, get ahead.  The body is a tool that helps us accomplish, with the accomplishment being more important than the body.

How many employers will push their staff beyond their body's limits, both phsyical and psychological, to deliver?  How many employers do the same to themselves?

Part of the reason healthcare costs are so expensive comes from the fact that they are reactive; cardiac care, mental health care, the big-ticket items are all related to treating conditions that, by and large, are preventable - if we take the time to take care of ourselves.

Which we don't.

It's not our bodies, nor people in general that are the problem in our current economic system that pushes everyone beyond their limits - it's the dependence on limitless growth that is pushing us beyond our physical capacities.

We're relying more and more on substances ranging from Advil to Xanax to crack to help us get through our days; we increasingly need new tools to help us do the same work even faster.  

It's not sustainable.

If society is a body, we are taxing it to the breaking point.  It's not sustainable.

Rob Ford has proven to be something of a bell weather for society.  I truly hope he recovers and has some much-needed opportunity to recover.  

I wish the same for us all.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

The Networking Golf

You may have noticed that the advice that wealthy, successful people give to others tends to revolve around the fulcrum of hustle.

Get out there.  Chat.  Don't take no for an answer.  Always be closing, as in forcing a decision from somone.

See?  It's easy.  

If it were easy, then nobody would be spending their cash on books and seminars with names like "How to Get Rich."

The truth is, hustling is hard - moreso for the majority of people who aren't successful than those who are.  

It's a bit of chicken and egg.

There are some folk so delusionally confident in themselves and their importance that they would never have trouble networking up (but possibly not patience for networking down, which is not a desirable trait in a leader of any stripe).  

Others will develop confidence (largely shaped by serotonin) through successful practice in the same way a martial artist gets better at their art by training.

It's worth noting, though, that there are many people who will never be confident networkers.  There can be many reasons for this - language barriers or accents, cognitive traits like ASD or ADHD that make "normal" communication more difficult.

This doesn't mean they can't do good work - in fact, they may excel at certain sorts of work, work employers really need to do well on.  When we measure a person's worth by their gift of the gab, though, we're missing out.

On top of this, there are really aggressive hustlers who are great at pushing, but have no patience for receiving, period.  Put them in a room with the boss, they will put-down, edge-out or undermine their less-aggressive peers and dominate the spotlight.

Do we just tell these less-aggressive people to get tough and elbow their way to the front, to fake it 'til they make it?

We would never tell someone in a wheelchair that walking's easy - they just need to get up and do it.

We've stopped telling people they just need to get over being lefties and start being right-handed, like normal people are.

Yet when it comes to communication and personal value, there is a massive gap that needs bridged.

And you can't fill a whole with golf.

Climate Change vs The Zombie Apocalypse

We should all try and be at least as prepared for climate change as we are for the zombie apocalypse.

I've got my Armageddon Poncho, so I'm good, but I do worry about those of you who think you can tough your way through.

Nobody has to be left behind, honest.  In fact, it's better all around if we work at living together.

Why Canadian Politics is Off the Rails

We pay professionals to do the job that is their profession.

So, what's the job of a politician?

Nobody knows.  Few people agree.  Most politicians have no idea - they're often not even able to articulate why they felt they should be politicians in the first place.

Yet what pols and their teams think people want is an omniscient leader who knows every issue, can solve every problem on their own.

They're not wrong on that.  I've seen Premiers quizzed about the minutiae of potholes and expected to have a thoughtful but bullet-point short answer.

We don't know what we want from our politicians, except everything.  Yet how many people know which level of government is responsible for what?

Society is not doing it's part in learning how the system works.  We're hiring people based on street theatre and tearing them up when they let us down.

So, they close the doors to their actions and amp up the rhetoric.  We become more disengaged, tune out, and then grumble while our democracy errodes.

David Soknacki is a smart man.  If we wanted a policy-wonk in chief, he was undoubtedly they best choice.  
The reason his support never rose to make him a viable contender was because he's not a natural salesman - he focused on the steak, not the sizzle.  

That he's fared so poorly in the race, yet everyone wants his ideas now that they're up for grabs is telling.

Politics isn't about competence, or skill, or even leadership - it's a popularity contest.

Rational actors, indeed.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Taboo Sex: Fear vs Curiosity

The conversation around Bill C-36 fascinates me.

I'd never given much thought to sex work, in much the same way as I've never given much thought to sushi-making or the manufacture of drink umbrellas - these are professions that have just never come onto my radar.

The content and controversy around C-36, the rights of sex workers, the responsibility of government and the public perception of sex has changed all that.

It's no surprise the position being taken by the Harper government - it's in keeping with their general MO. They define themselves by what they stand against.  Their solutions are to loosen regulations and tighten penalties.  They are uncomfortable with the notion of committing sociology, downright skittish on all issues pertaining to reproduction and yet have less concerns when it comes to natural resource extraction and its impacts.

To be blunt - fucking the land = acceptable practice.  Fucking people for money?  That's taboo.

And so the focus isn't on making life safe for sex workers, but making life unsafe for those who would trade in sex.

But why?

I have fears, same as anyone.  Some of them have melted with experience and knowledge; others have been tamed by experience and knowledge.  

Curiosity trumps fear, every time.  When you're not curious, though, you have no option for conquering fear, nor for finding solutions to that which made you afraid - you ignore, shut down, fight or flee.

Our society has an historically tenuous relationship with sex.  It's almost Calvinist - work is good, building the work force is good, but turning biological work into a pleasurable activity is uncomfortable.  To turn it into a profession is almost sinful.

That's a socio-cultural position that doesn't come out of nowhere, but how much sense does it make?

As I listened to a conversation about sex work at a recent Why Should I Care, I started to get curious. 

What was being described by the women (and some men) in the field who had come to the event was practical business matters; advertizing, financial management, customer service, security, etc.  When asked if she liked doing sex work, one speaker retorted with another question - how much do you like working in a cubicle?  How much does anyone like working?

Someone in the audience talked a relative who is a miner and the toll that job took on his health.  You needn't stop there - fire fighters face a risky business, too.  I'm not sure anyone aspires to clean garbage for a living.  Yet even with the so-called "higher end" businesses, there costs and benefits.

Lawyers fight for their clients, even when they know they're wrong.  Are they selling their ethics?  Politicians sell their voice, their key tool of agency, for partisan title.  Are they whoring themselves out for their party?

The Conservatives see nothing wrong with taking minerals out of the ground for money, nor farming, nor creative enterprises that practice idea sex to develop their products.  Why is sex different?

It's not the latent dangers of the profession; lots of professions have associated risks, like police or nurses or power-line workers.  It's not about the "lifestyle" associated with sex work, however that's defined; legislation has cleaned up countless workplaces over the years, when there's will.  It's not even the notion of selling what you got to make a buck - if anything, the Conservatives' economic policies favour this kind of economic activity over creative stuff.

Supply and demand - there is a demand for sex (and intimacy), clearly, and some people are unwilling to earn it through courtship or simply would prefer to buy it.  Daycare is not much different, more is getting your lawn cut, or buying pre-made food.  These are all ways to simply life through outsourcing it transactionally.

So what, really, is behind Team Harper's position?

A missionary zeal to blot out that which makes them uncomfortable, apparently.  They are uncomfortable about sex as something other than a holy union with reproduction in mind and therefore would rather see it gone.

I hate to say this, but prostitution is a wee bit older than their party.  It's gonna be around long after they're gone, too.

Instead of giving in to fear and fighting against sex, it would be in the best interests of all concerned if the government could align their policy with the trajectory of society.  Their ideas simply won't catch on or endure otherwise.

The Open Sausage: Inside #OGT14

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It's hard to believe that the end of #OGT14 draws nigh.  

Didn't seem so long ago we were seeing Richard off at Queen's Park, where it was a challenge to get permission for a pic of the gang and the OpenGov bike in front of the Legislature.  

Now, of course, #OGT14 has become a national phenomenon and is even drawing international recognition.

From humble beginnings, Richard's dream has become a reality that has gone from sleeping in a tent in a backyard to a massive Grand Bazaar at Ottawa City Hall.  Along the way, he has discovered Canada for himself and helped countless Canadians discover the power of Open Government.

This is as non-partisan as it gets.  

The Political Right believes in empowering individuals to pick up their own stick and run with it - Richard has done that.

The Political Left believes in empowering individuals with the tools they need to succeed, including equitable access and information - Richard has brought the conversation to the people from coast to coast.

What he has done, though, is as much about us as it has been about his dream.  Richard fully and truly believes in the power of Open Government to heal our democratic institutions and wants to work with government and citizens and everyone else to make it happen.

But he can't do it alone.  We have to be open to change, to collaboration and to taking the time to understand the issues and each other.  That's how it works - you can't have an Open Government without a Responsible Society.

Here's your keep behind the curtain, folks - here's what's happening at #OGT14 Ottawa from the inside. 

This is what being open is all about.

The door has been opened, you can see what we have to offer.  We'd love to see you there.

You/Wakata have been assigned Stall K in the Open Government Grand Bazaar.
You/Wakata have been assigned an 8 minute timeslot at 7:53 in the Speaker's Corner. This is during the Talk Show intermission.
The Open Government Grand Bazaar is at Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa. The Bazaar is in Jean Pigott Hall. The Talk Show is in Andrew Haydon Hall (City Council Chambers). The doors will be open before 6PM. The start time for the Bazaar AND the Talk Show is 6:30PM

For the Speaker's Corner:  If applicable, your Speaker's Corner timeslot is above. Let your followers know! It is preferable that, as an official Speaker, you check in as soon as you arrive and arrive at the Speaker's Corner well before your timeslot. Confirm your presence with Richard Akerman (contact info below). Last Reminder: there are no power points. This will be you, a podium, a microphone, a camera and an audience. You will be facing a busy Open Government Grand Bazaar with buzz and musicians and a static video camera. While there are no power points, any other props that can be deployed and removed in a few seconds are left totally up to your imagination. Do not be afraid to make some noise! The entire Speaker's Corner segment will be taped for later webcast.

For the Grand Bazaar. If applicable, your Stall # is listed above. Let your followers know! It is a 2 x 6 table with that number taped to the surface. Remaining d├ęcor is entirely up to your imagination. Bring your own displays, banners, posters, props, pamphlets, swag ... Etc, but be aware that they will need to be free standing or on the table. There is limited electrical outlets - we will attempt to provide electricity to whomever needs it, or relocate your stall if necessary. There is public wifi. I would not recommend planning live internet demo requiring high bandwidth. It is preferable that, as an official Stall operator, you arrive well before your program start at 6:30 to allow for setup, and confirm your presence with Dan Istead (contact info below).

 The Talk Show will run in parallel. If you take in segments of the Talk Show, be aware it will be taped by Rogers TV, and it is important to enter and exit quietly.

If you haven't yet, Please visit the EventBrite page and register. Everyone, participants & presenters must register - this is mainly for crowd control. Jean Pigott Hall capacity is about 350. City Council Chambers (Andrew S. Haydon Hall) capacity is 189. Registration is brisk.

The list that follows are your key contacts for Grand Bazaar and Speakers Corner. General questions leading up to the event can be directed to Richard, Dan or myself. As Captains for Bazaar and Speaker's Corner, Dan and Richard will provide information on their segments respectively. They will manage presenter involvement and logistics coordination on event day. Organizations and Groups should ensure that all representatives who plan to be present are registered, again mainly for crowd control.

 #OGT14 Captain - Open Government Grand Bazaar - Speaker's Corner: Richard Akerman 

#OGT14 Captain - Open Government Grand Bazaar Floor: Dan Istead 

#OGT14 Ottawa City Champion: Jacques Mailloux 

 Finally - We can all play a role in PROMOTION. Anything drawing attention and new enthusiasts to the cause will help.

The event Twitter Hashtag is #OGT14. Tweet as you wish - include the EventBrite Link - use this Tiny URL: .Recommendations: Join me/us at the #OGT14 Open Government Grand Bazaar at Ottawa City Hall on Sept 16 6:30PM Register FREE
If you can, please post and share the attached Event Poster, and the EventBrite link. The Web banner can be more detailed: Join me/us at the Open Government Grand Bazaar, Speaker's Corner and Talk Show in celebration of the end of Richard Pietro's national Open Government Tour (#OGT14) at Ottawa City Hall on Sept 16 6:30PM Register FREE here: .