Friday, April 30, 2010

The worst kind of illness....ignorance.

One in five Canadians are impacted by mental health. It is the number one health issue in this country. More hospitals are occupied by people affected by mental illness than cancer and heart conditions combined. In 2008 the provincial government spent more the $2.5 BILLION dollars on treatments for mental health & addictions. Through six degrees of separation almost every single person in the country has had their life touched or impacted by the issue of mental health. It is for me, a very serious business.

I work in mental health. For the past five years I've been the Executive Director of an agency that provides support to families where any mental illness is an issue by providing education, resources and coping strategies. Families are a cornerstone in the wrap around process of recovery of those impacted by mental health issues. They become primary caregivers, case managers, medication management, crisis intervention, housing & financial support and a lifeline for those who struggle with the every day challenges of living a life with mental illness. A life, I would like to say, deserves to be lived with decency, respect and dignity.

I have been privileged to address the Honorable Michael Kirby, Chair of the National Commission on Mental Health, to be a voice for families. I have advocated for families to be included under the Federal Compassionate Care Act and I've lobbied for ongoing changes to the Ontario Disability Tax Credit. I have been fervent in my position on the use of tasers by law enforcement. I have been most critical of the Ontario Disability Support Programs that force the most ill to live well below the poverty line. More recently I've been invited to be a part of the Toronto Police Services Board newly struck committee on Mental Health. I consider myself a fortunate person to be able to do work that not only I believe in but work that impacts the lives of so many families in our communities.

I suspect a few people are wondering why I've taken off on this tangent in my blog that has been so slanted to the political offing's of my community. Well there is a reason for this direction. The first reason is this; I was pondering on Joe No Show's cheap shot at me with his reference to me working in mental illness and the stupid comment on being strapped in to a straight jacket. I was thinking to myself this morning that one of the only illnesses that I can think of that would be far worse than an illness such as schizophrenia is the illness of ignorance. Ridicule me Joe but ridiculing mental illness is just plain wrong. For that you get the Knob of the Month Award.

In Bolton, mental health services have become a focal point of interest, both from a community and a political perspective. My agency delivers family support services in Caledon and more specifically in Bolton. I have been involved with the Central West LHIN's (local health integrated network) in their ongoing efforts to address the gaping hole of health services delivered at the community level. I am so proud and so pleased to be a voice at this committee, not only from my agency but also as a citizen of Bolton. I feel I bring a much more real perspective and can speak to real grassroots concerns. So now this brings me to final chapter of this blog and this conundrum that I find myself in on this Friday afternoon....

Just before Easter my office got a call from George Smitherman's campaign team asking if my agency was having an family events for Easter that George could come out and "volunteer" at. Uh huh. (insert head shaking action here). I don't think so. Families are dealing with serious issues and you want a photo op? This is just another kind of ignorance....different from Joe No Show's but none the less looking at using struggling families as a backdrop for political gain shows a real lack of respect for families. If you think this political pandering happens only in the great big cold hearted city of Toronto, think again.

This morning during a team conference one of my Family Workers told me that on this past Monday evening at the Bolton Family Support group that a political wannabe made an appearance at this group. This person actually told my staff that they were running for office and even mentioned that they knew me. Holy hannah. My jaw dropped. The family group is sacrosanct. These groups are life lines for families in need they are not playgrounds for the political wannabes. A very big and unacceptable line in the sand got crossed on Monday night. Thankfully my staff managed to get this person out the door before other family members arrived.

There is a proverbial ass kicking that needs to be doled out. My message to that candidate (and you damn well know who you are), you better keep your head down because I've got you in my sights. You mess with my are messing with me. Geez, don't I kinda sound like Sandra Bullock in the film "The Blind Side" with that retort. Please note, you've been served notice.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Let's spin the wheel!

I love election time. I really enjoy watching it all unfold in front of me. Don't you find it interesting how people come out of the woodwork at all sorts of events and gatherings, smiling at you like the village idiot, ready to be your best friend, joining up and volunteering for every single thing they can just for the opportunity to network. These are the candidates I refer to as "Opportunists R Us" and you damn well know who you are. They literally turn an election campaign into a speed dating scenario with a timer. Ding, ding, ding! Hi,I'm ------ (insert phony smile and laugh). Oh by the way, did I mention that I'm running for office? How lovely to meet you. Here's my card. Let's do lunch. I'd love to hear your concerns about the community. Love the shoes. (insert more phony laughter) Ding, ding, ding. Rotate on to the next person. Do these people think that we are dumb as tree stumps?

So, let's see. We know who has signed on the dotted line and who's ready and willing to hang their asses out on the flag pole for a shot at a seat up on Old Church Rd. I'll get around to that crew later. For now I'd like to talk about what we don't know.

I'm wondering when our regional councillor is going to declare her intentions. The word on the wire says our little cupcake is gonna go for a mayoral run and she'll declare her intentions on May 5th. Yup, she's gonna go for the whole enchildas. It appears she is aspiring to be the Head Cheese, the Big Kahuna, her High Holiness. Does this mean if she wins I'm going to have to curtesy to her when I bump in to her at the grocery store? This begs to ask another question. Where does the money come from for a mayoral run? This is a really valid and important question. We are looking at a 6 month campaign and to have any sort of campaign with substance across Caledon, at the very, very least, you'd have to have $25K. Cha-ching. And that would be a low end campaign. I'm predicting fodder for some of my future writing endeavors on this topic.

So then what about Councillor Payne(Pain)? Inquiring minds have been punting this one about. He's been awfully quiet of late, maybe he's busy consulting God. Have you ever noticed that his lips don't even move when he speaks. (I'm betting that comment goes over most peoples heads!:) If the regional seat is up for grabs does it seem like the natural progression for J-Pain to go for it. I shudder at that thought. Hey, any guy who needs an explanation about bridge financing not actually being for bridges isn't any guy I want representing me at the region.

I couldn't help but to notice a letter in the paper this week chiding Enterprise columnist, Taylor (Hap) Parnaby about his take on campaign donations. Well lookey, lookey here, we've got Mark Pavillon's on the radar. Isn't this interesting. Could it be the former Caledon Citizen Editor might be making an end run for a spot on council as well? Oh the plot thickens. I love this stuff! Mark Pavillons could have a real shot at a legitimate run for council. He's well written and certainly knows what's going on in the community. Council could very well have it's first Star Trek fanatic on board. Beam him up Scotty!

Then I stumbled across a dude name Piotr Derus who had a Facebook page up with the title Bolton Councillor on it. WTF? I immediately messaged him. Well that was an interesting dialogue. The Facebook page has been altered with no sign of political titles so perhaps Piotr has had a change of heart.

And what of the Chamber Contessa, the Cruella DeVille of Caledon herself, the not so nice, Kelly Darnley? So much speculation. Will KD try her hand once again at trying to claim a seat at the council table or was one go around on the dizzying carousel of the last election enough of a bitter pill for her to swallow? Her growth agenda is pure vitriol and her latest behaviour is appalling. I ain't laying any bets on this call.

The next few weeks will prove to be very interesting. If anyone has serious intentions on taking their shot at making a run for office they have to come out of their proverbial closets or in some cases, crypts, soon. Oh by the way, I do welcome comments & clicks. However to the gentleman (and I use that term loosely in this instance) who referred to me a certain part of the female anatomy, that wasn't particularly clever. You did make me laugh though and it's always easy to hide behind anonymity which ultimately makes you a coward. Surely you can come up with a better four letter word that starts with C. I know that might present a challenge especially for a person whose knuckles, I'm fairly certain, are dragging on the ground.

Well I'm outta here for now. There are gardens to rake which makes for a pleasant change from raking over candidates. By the way anyone interested in joining me for a Cosmo or some other libation, drop me a note, the bar is open. Love to do cocktails with you!

Ta ta! Talk soon.

Postscript to this Blog: Thanks for the note Victoria Kaye. I love it when people threaten to report me as spam. Always nice to be compared to pressed meat in a can. As for being garbage, let me check my bluebox and my composter and I'll get back to you on that. :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

There's no place like the Home show....

I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Last weekend I headed off to the local Caledon Chamber of Commerce annual Home Show held here in Bolton up at the Sheardown Centre. First pitstop after parking was at the Kinsmen booth, natch, to pick up my back bacon on a bun. Hey a girl has her priorities ya know! Gotta have the back bacon on a bun. Kudos to the Kinsmen, it was deeelish and a bargain at three bucks.

So off I went. With a few reno's in the offing for our homestead on 'da Beaver I was scoping for a few potential purchases. As I'm walking up to the front doors I just happened upon our Mayor and her husband. Haven't seen Marolyn and John in ages so it was few minutes of catching up on kids, grandchildren and the general how ya doing sort of few moments. So off we went in to the Sheardown centre, smiling and chatting with each other.

Please, would someone explain to me what sort of person, in their capacity as the CEO of the Caledon Chamber of Commerce would not even show the common courtesy to officially welcome, greet or at least just say hello to the highest ranking official from the Town of Caledon to this event. I just don't get it. Regardless of differences of opinions and being a big enough person to set aside ill feelings, one would think that it would be proper etiquette to at least say "on behalf of the Chamber....welcome..."

Do I need to send the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce a copy of Miss Manner's latest edition on how to smile, be polite and be a proper host? I was absolutely taken aback when I witnessed the Chamber's lead person actually turn her back on the Mayor and her husband, walk towards a corner and basically stand behind a display banner. No hello. No welcome to this event. Not even a nod of acknowledgement. Okay. Be a silly girl.

Enough already. That demonstration of petty ignorance and small mindedness is completely unacceptable and should have no place at all in settings such as the one we were in. Does the membership of the Chamber and its board of directors condone and endorse this sort of behaviour? It only reinforces what I've believed all along which is that the leadership in that position is in fact not leadership at all. Where is the professionalism? Where is the ability to set aside differences and just do your job? Time to either give this person the heave ho or teach them some manners. Either way it was disgraceful behaviour to witness.

There, got that off my chest. Time to get on with the rest of my day.

Activity in Ward 5 is beginning to heat up. We've got three candidates registered for Area Councillor and one for Regional Councillor. Still no sign of the incumbents. Gets one to thinking about the chess game on the board. Are the rumours true? Is a certain cupcake of a councillor gonna take the quantum leap off the end of the plank for a run as Mayor? Is a certain Payneful area councillor considering stepping up for the potential possibility of that vacated regional seat by an incumbent cupcake? Oh so many questions. Oh so many possibilities. Stay tuned. The diva is about to start meeting with and asking questions of the candidates. This should be fun.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Doing The Right Thing

18-5. That was the vote count in the Peel Regional Council Chambers last Thursday afternoon in support of ROPA 24. Let me say that again....the vote was 18 in support of ROPA 24 and 5 against it.
Just for those of you who don't know what ROPA is (all these damn acronyms) it stands for Region of Peel Ammendment 24, re: growth and planning submission for the Province of Ontario, as guided by the Places to Grow direction.

It is a small victory, a few minutes of respite in this marathon conflict between what is right and what is wrong. We can savour this for a few minutes but I think Councillor Richard Whitehead nailed it on the head when he said "we may have just reached the end to a new beginning". Sadly to say, I believe his insight is quite correct. The shark tank activity that has turned Bolton practically into Seaworld where our Ward 5 councillors act more like trained seals will more than likely gear up for another horse and pony show. The vigilantes such as the CCRBB will re-group and re-arm themselves for another attack. It is only a matter of time until they come hunting again for their quarry. At moments living in Bolton feels like being trapped in a kill zone.

I sat in those council chambers and was absolutely astounded at the bravado and the cohones on a couple of the anti-ROPA presenters who literally referred to the Mayor of Caledon as a liar. They painted a picture of a Mayor out with a personal agenda and vendetta against one proponent and that it was her political agenda & motivation that has steered and controlled Caledon's planning vision. My jaw dropped when one presenter chided the Mayor because they knew after she was leaving the regional council today that she was heading back to the town to announce her bid for re-election. His demeanor was filled with ridicule and sarcasm. His actions played out as goading and tantamount to poking a stick through the fence at a dog. All the while I watched the Mayor as she sat composed, never flinching, focusing on the notes in front of her and at no time did she ever engage or respond. Wow, talk about taking the high road. Now those are real conads.

Oh and as for the Chip & Dale Show (Councillor Groves & Councillor Iannica) how you two treated the Executive Director from the Caledon Countryside Alliance was a disgrace. Read your notes. The Oracle poll that she brought back to council didn't ask the question "Do You Want Growth" but rather it asked what residents top concerns were and growth came out number one. When you so Wile-E-Coyote'd your rhetoric about "if you ask anybody if they want to grow they will all say no!". I just want you to know that from my seat up in the peanut gallery you looked like a couple of bobble headed dolls sitting there nodding back and forth for each other. The only thing you two didn't do, besides high five each other, was to kiss each others ass.

How do you tell a group like the Caledon Chamber of Commerce that perhaps they need to rethink their position and their strategy. Their leadership, if you can call it that, has in effect, strained their relationship with the Caledon administration and compromised their integrity so badly that I think if someone from the Chamber said good morning to me I'd have to look outside the window first. I'm simply amazed that the CCofC thinks they are within their rights to tell a Mayor that she cannot communicate or write to the businesses in Caledon. They actually accused her of spreading misinformation about economic development to their membership. Whoa. I often wonder if the membership of the Chamber fully understand the nature in which their administration has chosen to conduct themselves.

If the Chamber of Commerce really wants to champion a cause why don't they put in as much effort to help out the very beleagured local business, Garden Foods, who keeps getting charged by the Caledon OPP for being open for business on holidays. Now that is a cause a whole community could get behind.

How do we look our Ward 5 councillors in the face and say "ok, it's time to play nicely in the sandbox...get over this silliness and let's get on with the business of the corporation..." More than likely none of this will ever come to pass. It is apparently clear to me that their time has come and gone. In a time when our Council needed to stand united they chose to dissent. In that moment, through those actions, it became crystal clear to me that their integrity has been compromised and as such it compromised the integrity and values of every single resident of my beloved community. I'm watching with great interest as the election process will unfold and I remain hopeful that with it will come a new sense of hope and civility. What can I say, sometimes a girl just wants the impossible.

Finally, I don't think there is anyone in Ward 5 who honestly expects Bolton to be without any growth or expansion. It is completely unrealistic to think we can slam the door shut and not let anything else develop here. That just isn't practical thinking. I do, however, believe that we have a right to appropriate planning with its direction coming from the municipality rather than those who hold the velvet purses or the cannoli's. I am weary today...all these acronyms....CCoC; ROPA, CCRBB, OCOC....just gets me to feeling like I need some TLC from the LCBO ASAP.

The good fight continues.