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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 25 October 2014

Terrorist Victory or Social Failure?

Just something to think about. 
ISIS can position itself as precursors to the apocalypse or whatever; they can overplay their wins, take credit for the work of others and position their asks from migration to a-cup-of-coffee-a-week donations to local attacks and point out pretty much anything Ottawa attack as being proof of their efficacy.  Politics is politics.
How many youth opting in to "radical Islam" are converting to a religion vs. pretending a favourite video game is reality?  How much are these "self-radicalized" youth about the corrupting influence of ISIS and the like vs. troubled youth looking for a place to belong or an excuse to end their own existence, perhaps taking others with them?
Marc Lepine was a terrorist without a group.  Elliot Rodger was a terrorist without a group.  There are many more, often with similar pieces in their profile - trouble relating to women, troubled family lives, trouble maintaining jobs, mental health issues. 
These aren't converts to radical anything - they're ticking human time bombs that have been unable to adjust to or find a place in society.
Which brings us full circle back to the problem.
If we believe market forces are the be-all and end-all and that there is no place for committing sociology - throw the kids in the deep end, they'll all swim - this is what happens.  People that could be helped by intervention, or at least mitigated as a risk, will always, always fall through the cracks.  The more we increase the security complex to identify, track and remove these people, the more tensions will increase throughout our society and the more people will fall through the cracks.
Terrorism is the violent use of fear as a control mechanism.  Politics is all-too-often a more passive-aggressive variation on the same thing.  It may be the case that the people targeting various non-white political candidates in Toronto have nothing to do with Ford Nation, but the populist approach being spouted by the Fords, in addition to the regular racist remarks, does nothing to discourage such behavior.
We're seeing how this sort of social framing plays out in Hungary and Greece.  Do we really want the same here?

Friday 24 October 2014

New Music on Untangled Strings

Since seeing the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer for the first (but certainly not last) time this morning, I've had its eerie rendition of Pinocchio's "I Got No Strings" stuck in my head.
It's a brilliantly subversive use of a classic Disney tune for a modern Disney film.  The revamped tune's tone is perfect for the bleak emotional landscape we're seeing as the foundation of Age of Ultron. 

More than that, though, it speaks to one of the core, defining dichotomies of human nature; the urge to be independent and to create, but the fear that our creations may cut their own umbilical cords and maybe not evolve the way we might want them to.
Different is all-too-often equated with evil, or even eerie.  Change is frightening.  Loss of control is frightening.
Of course, fear (and all our other limbic programming, including hate) is the puppet master.  We are none of us free while we play by rules that predate us by millions of years of evolution.  Of course, we can't cut those cords, either - they are a necessary part of our construct.

What we can do, when we consciously work at it, is learn the notes our emotional chords are capable of hitting, then teaching ourselves how to play them.  That's when we can take the old tunes and create something new, but rooted out of them.
When we can write our own music with the notes that are given to us, that's when we're free.
I'm going to play you something beautiful; everyone singing grace.  We want to be part of the world; we know we need to change.  We're all strings on a divine instrument; when we play together with harmony, it's a wondrous thing. 

So, corporate social responsibility is nothing more than an extortion racket?
Engaging with groups that don't, you know, boil down society into a couple of core talking points doesn't provide enough ROI?
Those who question the practices of people like the author of this article through movements are disruptive rabble?
The impression David Weiner gives is that youth don't get it, diversity is bad, people seeking change are rabble, yet the people at the top are all about manipulation for financial gain.
These are his impressions after he's retired from a career of being and reinforcing all the things he finds distasteful.  I'm sure he's financially secure, though, and who knows - he may be pulling the cynicism card just as a marketing ploy.
Either way, though, you have to feel bad for the guy.  He doesn't know what he's missing out. 
It's hard to see the big picture when you're solely focused on what life has to offer you.
There's a better way, a new paradigm emerging right now - hopefully, folk like Weiner aren't so jaded that they're incapable of seeing and being in this reality.  It'd be a shame to leave them behind.

Why There's Always Time to Commit Sociology

Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre was said to wield a bronze flagpole for most of the day, even clutching it hours later when they were escorted from the building.
You can almost picture it - a white-knuckled Poilievre so shaken by the shooting that he's unable to let go of the bronze flagpole he snatched as a futile safety measure.  All this, while Stephen Harper hid in a closet - a closet!
The picture first painted of our MPs is not an overly heroic one.
But when you big deeper, a different picture emerges:
That's not exactly the same thing as cowering in a closet, is it?
Taking home a wooden spear souvenir is a bit different than being unable to let go of a bronze flagpole, isn't it?
What the truth of the matter is, I don't know.  I wasn't there.  What I do know is that everything we here is based on perspective, assumption or spin - and that you can't get the truth without doing a bit of digging.
Which is pretty much the whole point of sociology, isn't it?

Fear and Freedom: Tangled in Strings

Pinocchio is a cute story about a puppet who becomes a real boy.  It's endearing, empowering, positive.
The use of the "no strings" song in Age of Ultron is none of those things.  It sees freedom of the subservient creature as menacing, frightening.  We've made a monster that we cannot control, and now our survival is at risk.
Intentional or not, that's a very timely theme.  Radicalized youth are to be feared.  The private sector is frustrated with millenials that don't want to play the same employment game they do.  There are a growing number of movements with increasing legitimacy that are questioning and openly challenging the very structure of our social, economic and governance models.
It's a dangerous time.  It's an exciting time.  There is much disruption, much anxiety, but there is also hope.  We don't know what's going to happen next.  It is, truly, up to us.

Why does the gay little dicky bird sing?
What put the "zing" in a butterfly's wing?
What's the reason for the smile of a troubadour?
Why does the breeze have a barrel of fun?
Even the bee who's a son of a gun
It's all because they're free
And stringless the same as me
I've got no strings and I'm so glad
No strings at all to make me sad
I had strings but now I'm free,
There are no strings on me

Social Illness and the Ottawa Shooter

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau has been carved into Canadian history, like a scar.  We'll heal and move on, but our history will record the day shots were fired in Parliament in the way it has the assassination of Thomas D'arcy McGee.
But what of the narrative surrounding Bibeau - as he was first reported, Zehaf-Bibeau being the name that eventually emerged?  The immediate assumption when the attack began was that this was a coordinated terrorist attack, likely perpetuated by ISIS, as was threatened by Canadian Farah Mohamed Shirdon
The on-the-ground reactions were swift - one witness even said they thought they saw a turban, as though turbans are a symbol of ISIS.  Even within Parliament, MPs trapped behind closed doors had visions of a host of terrorists armed with machine guns ready to pump them all full of lead.
Even now, the rhetoric has turned towards ISIS.  It's a convenient narrative, but people want convenient narratives.  That includes politicians, but more because they are human than Machiavellian.  They need to understand what's happening and how to respond, same as everyone else; they just have a larger context to look at.  External threats are easier to objectify than internal ones. 
It's easier to stay away from a person who is sick than it is to admit to sickness within ourselves.
Especially when that sickness is of the mental variety.
Zehaf-Bibeau may turn out to have some recent connection to ISIS, or he may not.  In the context of his life, it doesn't really matter.  Had it not been this incident, it may have been another; there were clear warning signs that he would do something harmful to others.
Big picture, yes, it's a jolt to the nation that a shooter got into the House of Commons and put the lives of our government at risk.  That's one problem - the security of the House and our preparedness to deal with the lone shooter or the grander attack.
Zehaf-Bibeau represents another problem, though, that touches on ISIS, but also on gang activity, poverty, homelessness, suicide - and mental health.
What happened Wednesday could and should have been avoided.  Had Zehaf-Bibeau received proper intervention, support and treatment - whatever that may have looked like - everything could have been different.
It doesn't just go for one man, or one situation.  There are countless other might-be Zehalf-Bibeau's out there right now, crying for help through the means they know how.  If we take a laissez-faire view of the world, it sucks to be them, but it's not society's responsibly to help individuals get their act together, it's like leaving open wounds untreated. 
Jedem das Seine doesn't work.  Full stop.  We die alone, but if we want to live, we have to do it together.
That's not a race to the finish, leaving some behind and others armed an dangerous, with a reliance on increasing security intervention to make us safe.  It's about investing in each other.
Men who cleave scars into the fabric are remembered.  So to are those with the fortitude to heal it.
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.


Thursday 23 October 2014

ISIS and the Lioness

The men puff out there chests, go off to fight, come back to plant their seed, be taken care of by their mates.
Meanwhile, the females are responsible for rearing the young, food gathering and preparation, and safety.
Is that what God intended?
If you look at the human genome and then look at some of our primate cousins, it's not hard to fathom that, at some point in the past, that's exactly what our species was like - territorial, predatory males and homebound females.  In fact, there's plenty of that in recorded history.  If anything, the story of civilization and our growth as a species is the movement away from this model to one where women are more empowered and responsibilities are more equally distributed.
ISIS is not a precursor to the apocalypse; it's a step back from social evolution.
Which is fine, because the rules of evolution are quite clear - that which adapts, survives.
That's the thing about apocalyptic ideologies; ultimately, they aren't about the end of the world; they're about extinction.
Something to think about.

I'm Glad #PMSH Stressed This:

I'm very glad the Prime Minister stressed this point. 
We may like to tell ourselves we can "tough our way" through emotional trauma and just "get over it", but such is not the case.  Emotional injury is like physical injury - often it can be treated, but without appropriate response it can get worse.
PTSD is a case in point.  We're losing "tough" people to it, unnecessarily.
It's also worth pointing out that while it's an uncommon thing for such a stressful event to happen in our House of Commons, they do happen periodically in marginalized communities across our country.  The people who live, work or go to school near places where there are periodic shootings are exposed to this stress and often get no treatment, nor even acknowledgement of the impact of this stress on their lives.
I would encourage MPs to read up on the symptoms of PTSD and stress and look for them amongst each other.  I would also strongly encourage them to look closer at the impact of stress on Canadians across the board, but especially in marginalized communities.
A little bit of social emotional literacy/emotional resilience can go a long way.  A pound of prevention, etc...

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Atlas Never Wavers

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
Yes, Britain was an Empire then, but Churchill's goal was not tyranny, but defense against tyranny and, ultimately, tyranny's defeat.  He never wavered.  And he won.


Deeds not Words

True, this; it's damned scary to think how easy it was for what was likely one lone gunman to shoot his way into the home of government in Canada - and that after having already shot a soldier at least the equivalent of two city blocks away.
The response from our government has been, shall we say, lackluster.  Disappointing, in fact.  Alarming, at worst.
Parliament Hill is never short of bluster - tough words, biting critiques, snide comments abound.  When the action's about people not them overseas somewhere, the words flow easily, confidently.
Yet when it's closer to home, we have representatives barricading themselves with chairs stacked against doors.
There will be time for introspection moving forward, but I would suggest it's not just the people on the Hill we should be furling our brow at.
For this is a democracy, folks.  The leaders we have are chosen by us; their words and actions are condoned by us, even if it's by our refusal to wade in ourselves.
Our democracy is suffering; it's not something that's happened overnight, nor are the current crop of elected officials to bare all the blame. 
It would have been great for police, or the army, or Parliamentary security to have got the guy before he got into the House of Commons.  That's their job.
But how many citizens did he pass, with his shotgun, before he got there?
I've no interest in ours becoming a gun-toting culture; that's gang warfare.  Guns bring the illusion of power and safety - they're a way of putting risk at a distance in theory only.
Democracy is messy; ownership implies risk.  Part of the reason our democracy has suffered is because Canadians have been too willing to upload responsibility and risk to Parliamentarians who, reflecting us, aren't that interested in the responsibility side of ownership either.
We cannot expect our security forces to be a blanket and the world.  It's time we ask ourselves what price we are willing to pay for democracy.  And if the answer is "not that much," what we should fear is our own indifference.


Canada's Churchill

Today's attacks in Ottawa have heightened emotions - there is fear, there is anger and there are consequences to both.  It's in times like these - times when despair creeps around the margins of society - that we look to leaders for inspiration, for comfort, but strength.
It's great to have pitbulls in the Legislature who know how to attack and deflect, but in times of crisis, leaders need to carry the nation on their shoulders.
On this day, that leader was Kathleen Wynne.
We'll see what happens as we move forward and how the words of the federal leaders resonate, but the determined, authentic voice of Premier Wynne resonated with many of us today.

The Leadership We Deserve

The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died.  Strength, power and courage were born.

- Malala Yousafzai

Strong.  Fearless.  Unwavering.  Focused on one thing only - not power, but empowerment.

That's leadership. 

On a day like today, this is worth remembering.

It Doesn't End Here


Multiple shots were fired within Parliament here on Wednesday morning, and police officers rushed to secure the building and move occupants to safety.

Take a moment and reflect on this.
Canada is a country of complacence; we can count the horrific acts of political terrorism that have happened on our soil on one hand.
What's happening right now has no precedent in our country.  Culturally, it's not a reality we've ever had to deal with.
Canadian politicians may exaggerate threats, pick fights and the like, but this goes beyond partisan rhetoric. 
What's happening now is not localized to Canada, either - there is a tectonic shift happening in the global village that will be reflected on as an end of an era and the beginning of a new one, many years from now.
But we don't live in the future; we live in the present.
The beliefs we tell ourselves matter to us are under attack from without and from within.  There are no clear bad-guys or good guys; that's a simplistic narrative that has an unrealistic closed end.
We need to understand context, content and consequence of every action we take now and what it will lead to next.
Now is a time of great challenge and change.  It's not going to be pleasant, but we can come through more adapted as a society on the other end.
We have to want this, though.  We have to start embracing that other half of rights and freedoms, ie responsibility.
Are we open to change? 

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Social Art and the Enterprising Monk

I had an interesting conversation today with  a (paid) intern about social enterprise.  We chatted about a wide variety of related topics (open government, virtuous schemers, social synapses, culture change, behavioural economics, etc.) with a particular focus on the challenges of being a social entrepreneur.
One of the ideas we visited was the notion of trust and engagement.  If, as Simon Sinek says, we don't buy what people do but why they do it, it stands to reason that we want clarity of intent and purpose - a mission statement, for example.  But what is the mission statement of a social entrepreneur?
The straight-up goal of an ordinary entrepreneur (or any business person) is to make money - we specialize in something so as to develop a saleable skill or craft, then focus on getting paid for the implementation of our expertise.
The goal of a charity, on the other hand, is not about profit - it's to address a cause.  The assumption is that the money we give to charities will go to good use because the people taking our money aren't interested in profit; they've put the mission before self.
We will give to a charity for this reason; we care about the cause and want to see it addressed, but we also trust that the people we're giving our money to are only taking out of it what they need to pay the bills and putting the rest towards the public good.
Rightly, we get mad when we learn of charities misusing our money.  In a case of bad apples spoiling the barrel, an egregious case of fund mismanagement or corruption, all charities fall into suspicion - that's how seriously we view the matter.
What, then, to make of social enterprises?  They want to make money like a business, but they want to do public good, like a charity.  There's something that doesn't quite sit right with this model for many - we pay for things we get, but we give to others through donations. 
This is probably why we're seeing a growing number of hybrid models - social enterprises that will have a for-profit wing, which touches on the issue that drives them, but also a fully-mandated social good wing that doesn't or only lightly plays in the profit space.
Is this a church and state thing?  Do we not want people to make money doing social good, because making money is about self-interest?  Monks and nuns are given donations for the public good they do, but they most often also take on vows of poverty, living every aspect of their lives for the betterment of others.
We don't all want to be monks, but that doesn't mean we aren't interested in dedicating our lives to the greater good.  How might this be accomplished?
The recent #OGT14 tour was, essentially, a public good (it facilitated civic engagement) but it was framed as art.  Appropriately, Richard Pietro, the tour's creator, had no sponsor, but a patron in the form of Make Web Not War.  Richard didn't live the life of luxury on his tour, but he wasn't a monk either. 
There are no fixed rules in this space - it's still nascent.  That means there's lots of room to evolve, try new things and of course, adapt.
It may be that we are hard-wired not mix public good with public profit, but then we were never intended to fly, either.
What do you believe?
"Intelligence must follow faith, never precede it, and never destroy it."
  - Thomas Kempis


Whether Ebola or Terrorism, Don't Fence Us In

Wide open country.  Land, lots of land.  Freedom.
These are key pieces of the mythos of America - space, freedom and of course the will to defend them at all costs.
I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat - those are labels that don't perfectly reflect reality.  It's the same with the Blue/Red/Orange spectrum here in Canada - a focus on what differentiates the parties neglects the blatant similarities, plus the tendency for positions to shift, pendulum-like, all the time - even within parties.
Here's the deal.  Getting elected is about getting attention.  Fear gets people's attention.  All parties present themselves as the centurion at the gate, the only one who can keep that which we fear at bay - whether it's terrorists, or oil companies, or diseases.  Not so much natural disasters; even office-seekers know better than to go there.
Fear is a reactive emotion that draws all energy into a narrow wedge of perception.  When you're afraid, or angry - flight or fight - what matters is what's in front of you.  There's no time to waste on anything else. 
This is where the use of the term "hungry" for success comes in; people who are "hungry" feel a base need that shuts out all else - the hungry will hunt and kill because they have to, and isn't that how winning is done?
Is winning about beating the other guy, about destroying the competition?  Do you need to act fast, be aggressive to win - if you only get to eat what you kill?  In the absence of actual hunger, how do we manufacture it to pressure action?
Why, fear and anger, of course.
We are hardwired to fear that which is threatening, to close ourselves off from it.  We are hardwired to respond aggressively to that which makes us angry, generally with quick, visceral actions.
Fear is a prison.  Anger is a prison.  Worse, it's a prison with porous walls; we can't get out, but infection can seep in.  We end up trapped.
Ebola is a disease; it doesn't recognize borders, nor walls.  You can't fence it out.  Terrorism isn't a disease, it's a symptom - you can't isolate and cure it without recognizing what the broader illness is.
I get the short-term ROI of pushing the fear button and why it's an awful temptation to would-be leaders in the US, in Canada and beyond.  I can only encourage them to resist the temptation and consider the longer-term ramifications.
There is no End of Days - time marches on, the world evolves.  That which evolves, survives.  That which tries to remain unchanging in a changing world becomes at best, a fungus, like North Korea, or at worst, extinct.

Don't fence us in, for if we cannot move, we cannot grow.

TGIF Tuesday: Rethinking Growth from the Grassroots Up

It won't happen over night.  Like any good marketing outreach, you have to dip your toes, let the locals get to know and trust you, learn their language - then you make the close.  There's nothing saying we can't start this process at the bottom and work up.
And we've already started, haven't we?



Monday 20 October 2014

#TOVotes14: CCE Endorses

The value of endorsements is sometimes questioned - I believe they matter. 

I think that most of us can be hesitant to go with our gut.  When we're faced with choosing a political representative we're not familiar with, an endorsement serves a bit like a reference on a CV - if someone out there thinks well of the person we're considering, it helps us make our choice.

While the focus for endorsements tends to lean on big names - former Mayors, sitting elected officials or community leaders - the ones that often have the most impact come from the people we know and respect on a personal level. 

In both cases, what we're looking for is someone to believe in.

Toronto's City Council is in sore need of fresh blood, of voices that are unafraid to stand up for their communities, but with a mind towards solving problems, not picking fights.  Partisan voices that look at both wins and losses tactically are exactly what we don't need right now.  We also should steer clear of the attention-seekers; as we saw with four years of the Ford Show, too much oxygen gets wasted on scandal that really should be going to communities.

I'm not a resourced newspaper; I'm not going to offer a comprehensive endorsement per riding.  What I will do is single out some people I think are amazing and know would work together in powerful ways for the people of Toronto.

I cannot speak highly enough of Idil.  She's smart, she's passionate and she's articulate.  Her heart if clearly in her community, but her mind has a laser-like focus on fixing how our politics engages. 

Idil and I worked together briefly at Queen's Park, where she proved to be an absolute dynamo.  My favourite memory is her taking a room full of MPPs, including Ministers, to task over TAVIS and the need for deeper understanding of issues facing Toronto's Somali communities.

 She is exactly the type of leader we need at City Hall.

I first met Andray when he was a speaker for Why Should I Care? - I was impressed with the depth of his knowledge, the clarity of his language and the passion of his commitment.  After the chat, we got to talking about communities, youth and how we need a more Maslow-like approach for Toronto's Neighbourhood Improvement Areas - focus on building strengths instead of focusing strictly on problems.
I've had a couple of chances to meet with Andray and his team since - they're the real deal.  He is committed to his community, full stop; he won't back away if he doesn't win.  This is exactly why you want him to win, Ward 2 - imagine ideas like Techsdale coming to life with the full support of the City and the kind of private sector partners Councilors have an easier time leveraging.

This is my Ward.  I first met Pasternak during the Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods consultation; like a couple of councilors, he had opted to sit in and here some of the discussion.  Not all of them did.
What really stood out to me was the fact that Pasternak really engaged in these conversations - he knew the issues, new the people around the table and actually listened to what was being said.  That doesn't happen all the time.

Oh, and I hear he's interested in pushing forward Toronto's Open Government initiative.  That's a good thing.

Colle gets some flak for being a "political heir" that, in my opinion, is unfounded.  I used to live in Ward 15 and have been involved with Lawrence Heights in particular for ages.  I am constantly seeing Josh around, or hearing about his initiatives, or bumping in to his staff.

Josh is thoughtful, engaging and committed.  He's expressed interest in community development projects the like of which Andray Domise and Idil Burale have discussed and I know he's going to love what Toronto Youth Cabinet's Policy Advisor Chole Brown is cooking up.  We need him on Council this term.
Also for that neck of the woods - I would love to see Jennifer Arp as the next TDSB Trustee for Ward 8.  Jennifer and I met for coffee a few weeks back and had an in-depth chat about schools in the region (my wife teaches at one, my son is at one, my family has a strong connection to schools in Lawrence Heights).  She got the issues from the grassroots level up; she understood the need for education to be holistic, for parents to be involved and most importantly, for the school board to be at the table in conversations with other community partners on things like community safety.

Jennifer gets it, which is why she's garnered so much support, including from the local MPP.  She deserves your confidence as well.

Alejandra isn't entitled to Ward 17 because she's run so convincingly in the past; she deserves to be Councilor because of her unwavering commitment to her community.  Alejandra and I had an in-depth chat a while back about civic engagement, the need to get more of City Hall out into communities as well as having a council more reflective of the citizens they represent.  We talked about how to create new opportunities in marginalized communities and how to fund those opportunities.
I walked away from that meeting knowing Alejandra was someone I wanted to work with.  If you've had the pleasure of chatting with her, you probably feel the same way.  She's a leader - we need leaders.

Alex similarly invited me to coffee a couple of months back (if you haven't noticed yet, Council Candidates drink a lot of caffeine) to chat politics in general and the City in particular.  We both had a Queen's Park background and so were familiar with each other in that regard, but we'd never actually met.

I was rapidly impressed by Alex's understanding of how the system works, especially when it comes to budgeting, and how things can be done better.  Beyond this, he had really dug deep into the local issues of his community and talked comfortably about the day-to-day issues a young family, a senior or struggling New Canadians may face.  And he wants to improve conditions for all of them.

Just imagine what folk like Alex, Alejandra, Idil and my next choice could accomplish together through stuff like ResetTO.

Terri is both my friend and my leader.  As part of the Why Should I Care? team, it has been my honour and privilege to see Terri in action; how she stick-handles strong personalities, how she turns adversity into opportunity and her commitment to her beliefs and the people around her.  No matter how "big" she has gotten (WSIC has gone from a thing in her kitchen with a family doctor to an enterprise with a Bell Local show and Economic Club of Canada-level speakers), it hasn't changed her, at all.

Terri is Terri - smart, engaged, cuts to the chase, gets things done.  She is beholden to no partisan ideology and does not see being Councilor as either a stepping stone or a consolation prize.  She never wavers in what she believes in and has truly lived her motto: get informed, get engaged make a difference. 
Terri is going to make an amazing difference for #Ward20.

Dan and I have been in touch a great deal over the past year, chatting about community and issues via social media and in person.  No matter how busy he's gotten, he's always had time for me - the same holds true for everyone that tries to connect with him.
Calm in demeanour, determined in approach and thoughtful in his positions, Dan is a voice of reason with an eye for innovative solutions.  Like every candidate on this list, he realizes that Council needs to do more engaging with the people of Toronto - all the people of Toronto; the solutions we need won't be enforced from the top down, but collaborated upon from the bottom up.

That's my list - those are the candidates I know and would love to see on Council.  I hope you do, too; they won't disappoint. 
Each one of them is passionately committed to their communities.  They understand issues on the individual and structural level.  Each one of them will fight for their constituents.
At the same time, they are part of new generation of leaders that don't see Wards as fiefdoms in their care but see the role of Councilor as being a bridge between community and the City.  Each one of them is committed to empowering Torontonians to have a stronger voice in the decision-making process, which is a great thing.

These are the leaders we need to move Toronto forward. 

Sunday 19 October 2014

TGIFTuesday - Inspired by TGF

I want you to join me.  Look at all the things that people built.  You might see a mess.  What I see are people inspired by each other, and by you.  People taking what you made and making something new out of it.
On Monday 27th/Tuesday 28th of October - seven days from now - the International Economic Forum of the Americas will be hosting their annual Toronto Global Forum.  Over those two days, world leaders will be convening to discuss the state of the world economy and where we go from here through the theme of Rethinking Growth.
Inspired by this forum, Wakata, Toronto Youth Cabinet, CSI and SiG@MaRS have gotten together and created our own, one-evening event, the Toronto Grassroots Innovation Forum.
Or as we've taken to calling it, TGIFTuesday: Rethinkng Growth from the Grassroots Up.
We're much smaller-scale, obviously, and what we're doing is as much a pilot project as anything else.  Part of our motivation comes from our belief that shared solutions have to grow from common ground, rather than be imposed from above
The TGF crowd have a great deal of clout, access to resources and international experience.  Our nascent TGIFTuesday group of virtual schemers have local experience, great ideas and a more hands-on familiarity with some of the individual and community challenges that can and must be overcome for the overall strength of local and global socio-economic stability.
We're happy to share our ideas, understanding and networks with potential partners.  We'd love to work hand-in-hand with the sorts of leaders convening in global forums to turn these ideas into action. 
We've been inspired by you, @AmericasForum - now allow us to return the favour.
You are all welcome to pop by TGIF Tuesday before you go back to your busy lives.  Our door is open!

Date: October 28, 2014
Time: 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm (doors open 5:30)
Location: CSI Regent Park  585 Dundas Street East, 3rd Floor Toronto ON M5A 2B7
And yes, we're huggers.  :o)


Conserving Progress - Leadership Advice for the PCPO

This isn't the first time I offer some leadership and engagement advice to the PCPO.  Unfortunately, I expect these words of suggestion to be ignored in similar fashion.
Here goes anyway.
There are two things happening within the PC Party right now; a leadership race, in which contenders want to portray themselves as the best bet to lead the Party to victory and a broader bit of soul-searching as, if they're wise, PC partisans are asking why they've lost traction and what exactly it is they stand for.
If they study the failings of their past two leaders (which I'm sure they're doing) they may have noted that both John Tory and Tim Hudak had a particular fixation with winning.  With winning being the primary objective, everything else was stacked up to deliver a win.
Theoretically, this makes sense - it's about the system is supposed to work, right?  Give the people what they want, with a bit of strategically picking fights to mobilize action - that's how winning is done, n'est ce pas?
John Tory tried the shiny baubles and put slightly new quotes of paint on old ideas (coal plants).  Tim Hudak picked fights and positioned himself as the voice of righteous anger.  We know how well these approaches worked out, don't we?
On the other hand, I imagine they'll be taking a gander at Kathleen Wynne's massive victory, even if secretively, and trying to reverse-engineer her success.
Kathleen Wynne's greatest strength is that she is a facilitator.  She's incredibly engaging - not just charming, but when you speak with her, she listens.  She takes notes.  She follows up - and when she acts, the people know that their ideas and concerns were part of what fed that process.
I'd argue Wynne and the Liberals need to do more of this in rural Ontario; I'd argue the reverse for the PCs in urban Ontario.
With the process in place right now, contenders for the PC leadership need to sell memberships and have more people to vote them in as leader.  As always, it's a race to the finish line - no time to engage, the rush is to close the deal, period.  When winning is done, consequences can be dealt with later.
The problem is, filling bums in leadership convention doesn't necessarily translate into seats in the Legislature.  If the ranks of the PC Party are filled with angry landowners who dislike the notion of culture change, will the Party and leader be beholden to their ideology?  How well will that sort of message resonate in increasingly diverse urban Ontario, especially must-win places like the 905?
On Monday, Why Should I Care is having a discussion about Healing Ontario's Rural/Urban divide.  It's a topic that should be incredibly relevant to the PCPO, given that they desperately need inroads into the GTA.  It was in recognition of this twinning of culture challenges (the renewal of the PC Party and the need for renewal in Ontario) that we decided to invite PCPO leadership candidates to attend.
WSIC is a well-respected forum that continual draws "top-drawer" speakers while staying true to its purpose of helping everyone, regardless of rank or wealth, to get informed, get engaged and make a difference.  The likes of Art Aggleton and Alan Fotheringham have been known to pop by and listen to the insightful conversations that happen at WSIC.
It's also worth noting that WSIC's founder, Terri Chu, is running for Toronto Council in Ward 20, and has a serious chance of winning.  Terri has a strong reputation as a balanced, non-partisan voice that puts evidence over ideology.  From a political positioning angle, it makes good sense to be seen engaging with her.
I can only assume the teams of the PC leadership candidates either didn't do their homework or simply couldn't connect why being WSIC speakers would be beneficial for them.
One never bothered to answer.  Two agreed to participate quite some time ago, but backed out at the last second (yesterday, in fact) because of concerns they might appear as "lesser-thans" if the star candidate wasn't there.  This may have been the strategic reason why the star's team never made any efforts to participate, either.
While efforts are being made even now to find replacements for the backed-out speakers, the message provided is clear: the Party is saying "civic engagement in the GTA isn't a priority for us" as individual leaders and their teams are saying "our commitments are only so valid as we see their value to our strategic branding, which is focused on headline-status, not grassroots engagement."
So here's my word of advice - don't do that.  Don't play the game that has caused so many Ontarians to disengage from politics and with the PCPO in particular.  Things have changed, and this "control the message" model is no longer viable. 
Leaders engage; they go among the people, listen to the people and then bring them and their ideas together into a broader framework.  They recognize diversity of ideas and of people as a strength, and nurture them.
Going back to the same well of depleted soil that has been homeground for the PCs since the days of Mike Harris is not a great strategy for growth.
There may be no immediate wins to be had at urban engagement forums like WSIC, but as with all gardening, you've got to nurture the soil before you can plant seeds, and seeds need to be tended to with care over time.
Forget the focus on own land, folks.  It's time to be gardeners.