Come visit me on my new You Tube channel! Today I introduce myself and answer everyone’s burning question: how do you match socks when you have 18 feet?
Come visit me on my new You Tube channel! Today I introduce myself and answer everyone’s burning question: how do you match socks when you have 18 feet?
Ha! So I blew my election predictions in every way possible: not only did the Conservative not form a minority but the NDP is not even close to be the official opposition. Some formidable parliamentarians fell to the anti-Harper sentiment, replaced by people who now have big shoes to fill. As defeated MP Paul Dewar said, there is no safe seat. But I’m still reeling from the sense that our Parliament will be diminished from the loss of the wrong people. My former boss and friend, Pierre Lemieux, a man of admirable strength and integrity, one who earned the trust and love of his constituents one intervention at a time since 2006, lost it all suddenly on Monday. I’m not one to lament the exercise of democracy, even when it doesn’t go my way. I’ve written enough polite letters to people who thought it was all about them, in some gosh-forsaken corner or rural Canada; I’ve scrolled through enough Facebook statuses calling Canadians idiots for electing a Conservative majority the last time around to fall to the same excesses. Elections are a beautiful thing, period.
In no organized fashion, here are a few of my thoughts as we move into the next chapter of Canadian history.
And a 1. I’m not one to blame media bias for the electoral loss of the Conservatives. It was annoying enough when the defeated Liberals blamed their misfortune on Conservative campaign ads. All the major newspapers endorsed Prime Minister Harper as the best choice for Canada, to the Left’s great chagrin (and even some on the right). That said, the CBC’s giddiness toward the Liberal majority government is just a little unbecoming. Call me a realist but I never expected media to be unbiased: journalists are humans, with likes, dislikes and opinions. However, there is a certain finesse in peddling your wares in a way that at least appears balanced. Showing-off your red knickers on national radio and television is just coarse.
And a 2. Speaking of red boxers, the Public Servants who live and work in Ottawa had no love lost for their Prime Minister. Their organized strategic voting campaign and open support of the Liberals and — to a lesser extent — the NDP definitely had a powerful effect on the electoral make-up of the Ottawa area, who went from tri-colour to bright red. The Canadian Public Service is rife with with bullying, mental illness and absenteeism. It is also rife with highly skilled and highly competent men and women who came to their position through a rigorous process of promotions and contests. I have never been privy to any negotiations or backroom talks between the Conservative government and its Public Servants but it always seemed to me that — in very broad strokes inadequate for such large topic — our outgoing government was approaching the relationship with the bullying, absentee Public Service in mind, whereas the incoming Liberals approach it with the highly skilled and competent Public Servant in mind. Of course, both approaches are lacking, one for being too stern and paternalistic and the other for being too soft and coddling. The truth is that the driven, committed and public-service minded Public Servants suffer from the deadwood in the Public Service at least as much (if not more) as the taxpayers and service seekers do. The clerk responsible for my maternity leave with the twins made several mistakes that cost our family dearly, among other things putting me on maternity leave rather than short term disability when I went on bed rest and my sick days ran out. It forced me back to work when my twins were 10 months-old. While I was on maternity leave trying to straighten this shit out, my pay clerk was on a never-ending series of sick days, with no one responsible for her files. Call again Friday, maybe she’ll be there. I had to make several trips to the nearest Service Canada office to wait in line for hours with my 2-3 month-old twins to lodge a request to start my mat leave on the right day, which meant a retroactive redress calling for a administrative tribunal decision. This anecdote is not meant to pile-on Public Service employees. On the contrary, it’s to show that the people who have to cover for, redress and handle the mistakes of one colleague, presumably over and over again, also have an interest in a vibrant, productive and healthy public service. Whatever the solution to the issues with the Public Service is, it should involve the people on the inside, the hands and heads who are doing the work, interacting with colleagues and dealing with the fall-out of bullying, mental illness and absenteeism. I do hope that better labour relations between the Public Service and the government will in fact lead to a more constructive approach to Public Service reform. Although if the Ontario Liberals are any indication, as far as labour relations are concerned, the only thing being a Liberal guarantees is not being Conservative.
And a 3. The upheaval in the Conservative party brought-on by their electoral defeat has given way to an unusual candour from Conservative MPs and candidates with regard to their misfortune and what may have caused it. Over the Conservative’s three consecutive governments, much ink was spilled about the “gag order” or “muzzle” Prime Minister Harper and his PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) had presumably placed on its caucus and staff. My observation as a former staffer is that the great majority of Conservative Members and staff had a natural understanding of party discipline and didn’t need a muzzle or gag order to close ranks. The Conservatives, especially former members of the Canadian Alliance and Reform Party, have always enjoyed a confrontational rapport with the media. Get misinterpreted, quoted out of context and attributed a “hidden agenda” for long enough and you stop caring about the press. I myself ended-up on the front page of Le Devoir for attending a luncheon (paid out of my own pocket, attended on my own time) at the Parliamentary restaurant with a leadership figure from the Catholic Church, leading to suggestions of somber motives and machinations. When you get grilled aggressively by a journalist for answering the phone, you stop answering, know what I mean? All this to say, being freed from the requirements of party discipline has opened the door to candidates and staffers’ analysis of what went wrong and has been cathartic for me. When I left Pierre’s employment, I had long stopped identifying with the brand of conservatism sold by the Conservative party. As far back as the 2011 campaign, when I was campaign manager, I knew that strategically-speaking we had to avoid references to the Conservative Party and especially the leader of the Conservative Party when canvassing. We knew we could win on the strength of our candidate as long as the National Campaign didn’t screw-up too badly. We won that election handily but lost the last one in a blood bath: there was only so much ignoring our voters could handle. When I left my job, I told people that I felt loyalty towards my boss but that I couldn’t support the Conservative Party as it was and had been for a number of years. When I heard Lisa Raitt on the radio lament that the Conservatives were unable to appeal to women like her (which are, incidentally, women like me just with less children), it was like a breath of fresh air. Sentiments such as these were never expressed before, at least not in public. Defeated Finance Minister Joe Oliver said that he heard his constituents over and over again tell him how much they liked him but couldn’t support the leader of the party. I’m sure this is something that my boss’s canvassers heard over and over again in the last 6 weeks. When I was campaign manager, this type of feedback was not welcomed by the National Campaign. Same for the PMO when I was a staffer fielding hate mail from Conservative Party members (you know, those who *liked* us?) about attack ads. We were always told that they had the numbers, they had the polling, they had the donations to prove that they had it right. Just stay the course they would repeat. And maybe it was true at the time but with the gift of hindsight and my own experience, I now believe that I saw last Monday’s results coming like a train wreck in slow motion. Now that the Conservatives have received a stunning blow, I hope that something new emerges from the ashes of what used to be. I still hold firm to conservative ideals, which I believe are not mutually exclusive with intelligence, compassion and vision. I also believe in federalism, the Canadian Constitution and Parliamentary democracy. How nice would it be to have a federal Conservative Party that inspires rather than scold? Many have made hay of Justin Trudeau’s charisma but leadership is about more than steering the wheel: it’s also about giving people a reason to follow. We need to be inspired.
And a 4. Bets are now being registered to see which one of the Liberals’ lofty campaign promises — I’m not sure anyone expected to be held-up to it — are going to be shelved first. Income splitting was criticized for benefiting “wealthy families” who can afford to live off one salary. As one of Canada’s new “rich” — as defined by the Liberal platform — I would appreciate the break afforded by income splitting. Believe it or not, when you have 9 dependents, a 4% tax hike makes a difference in such luxuries as groceries and dental work. I would not bet the farm on the widespread legalization of pot coming anytime soon. I don’t think that the Liberals, even given their comfort level with deficit spending, will have quite enough money to borrow to make a dent in our infrastructure deficit. They’ll give it a good try but I don’t think it will come anywhere close to what voters are expecting. What are your bets?
And a 5. You know what? I’m actually happy we have a Liberal majority, in a way. I know that many people expressed the desire for a Liberal minority with NDP opposition to level it off. Believe me, a minority Parliament is not a healthy state in our Westminster system. It is stressful, unproductive and, because it leads to more frequent elections, costly. If Canadians wanted a Liberal government, let Canadians have a Liberal government and give it the opportunity to govern. This is Canada after all: where we have scrupulously fair elections, a functioning judicial system and just about every blessing a country an ask for.
In Rick Mercer’s words:
You didn’t think I’d let you get away with a whole election campaign without sharing my pearls of insight, did you? After all, if the educated opinion of a mother of 9 is not worth having, what’s worth having I ask you? Hey, did you know that I am a former political aide and campaign manager? So there, educated opinion, but opinion nonetheless.
1) What can I say about the niqab? Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the historically left-wing, now more center-left, party took a principled and intelligent position, that is supported by Canadian law as confirmed by two instances of Canadian tribunals, and it looks like his party will pay dearly for it. That’s one thing about us Canadians, we like to make noise about hating negative campaigning, despising divisive politics and how nice it would be to have leaders who are more than talking points grinders. And I’m still looking for an example in recent Canadian history of a political leader who hasn’t paid dearly for doing just that. And don’t give me that whiny bullsh about people being victims of Conservatives attack ads. You can be a victim of many things — rape, pillage, treason, murder — but advertising? Get your big girl pants on and own the fact that people eat that stuff up. I don’t know a single Conservative MP who doesn’t despise their party’s attack ads. The only reason they keep turning them out is because folks, these hateful things work. And they’re about as subtle as my 4 year-olds: the victim card might be an overreach here. We love hating on our politicians and we get what we deserve.
2) Speaking of the niqab, have you ever been close to someone becoming a Canadian citizen? Because if you have, you know that the process is neither simple, quick nor straightforward. By the time you are standing in a swearing-in ceremony with your niqab, you’ve been vetted through every orifice for about 5 years. You’ve filled-in your weight’s worth of paperwork and submitted it upward and backward. If you’re lucky, you didn’t suffer more than 2-3 setbacks due to misinformation given to you by the people who are paid to process your application. I know because I used to work for a Member of Parliament, where we helped near-citizens caught in the collimator of Immigration Canada. Hey, citizenship is a privilege, I get that. But if you are going to invest into getting the right people 99.9% of the way there, you’d think they’d be the kind of people we want as Canadian Citizens, regardless of what sits on their heads. “But Véro, you tell me, what if Ahmed get sworn-in instead of head-covered Fatima?” Ahmed would have had to show his face to an immigration official at the ceremony, just privately instead of publicly. Bait and switch is not the issue here, the issue is the coping with religious practices we find distasteful. So could we call it that please?
3) Speaking of religious freedoms, why is it that the people who campaign the most vehemently in favour of a prohibition of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies — or in general — are coincidentally the same ones who are concerned about the erosion of religious freedom and freedom of expression in Canada? Seriously, outside of the province of Quebec where everyone is a heathen, people who have every reason to be concerned about the erosion of freedom of conscience and religion are stubbornly not seeing the bigger picture. “But Véro, you say, the niqab is a barbaric anti-woman practice that goes against Canadian values of equality and relative liberty.” To this I will tell you that I’m a Catholic woman who doesn’t use artificial birth control, which to many is a barbaric anti-woman practice. I disagree, just like I’m sure many Muslim women disagree with your appreciation of the Niqab as a barbaric cultural practice. Do you know how hard it is for women like me to find a doctor who will investigate the root causes of hormonal dysfunction rather than prescribe hormonal birth control as a matter of fact? I found one and he’s having his medical license threatened because of it. Both the Liberal and NDP parties don’t allow people with openly pro-life views to run for their parties or vote accordingly, even if said pro-life views are a reflection of the views of the majority of their constituents — which still happens in many older rural ridings. The erosion of religious freedoms: we’re in this together fellow believers. The secular world believes that religion is in the imagination of the beholders and it won’t stop washing away outward demonstrations of religious belief until our beliefs are indeed limited to the confines of our brains. As a believer, I feel a lot more in common with Zunera Ishaq’s fight than I do with those who’d prefer if she didn’t look so Muslim. To hear Zunera Ishaq in her own words — “Geez, we never thought of that!” — listen to this interview on CBC The Current.
4) Speaking of secular society, many of my Anglo-Canadian friends have expressed wide-eyed astonishment at the fact that the niqab issue originated from the small-l liberal Province of Quebec. Aren’t they progressives over there, they ask? After all, aren’t they the people with $7 daycare who made the federal NDP the official opposition? The answer is yes but no, where were you during the reasonable accommodations debates of 2007, 2011, 2013, not to mention the Quebec’s Charter of Value that became the defining election issue of the last provincial campaign? Quebeckers as a group — generally speaking — are not exactly progressive. They do not show consistency in their expressions of “progressiveness”. They look progressive on the surface but it’s a thinly applied veneer: you need only scratch a little to let the ugly come out. Quebeckers are not so much progressives as hedonists. Pleasure and self-indulgence are the highest good and proper aim of human life. I remember clearly hearing my French mother saying of the referendum campaign of 1980 that Quebeckers only wanted independence as long as they didn’t have to give-up their pools. When you cast Quebec Nation under the light of hedonism rather than progressiveness, their strident anti-clericalism and pursuit of their own individual rights — not those of others — come in clearer focus, I find.
5) In the end, it’s been 10 years of Conservative Government in Canada — where Conservative with a capital c does not always mean conservative with a lower-case c. The governing Conservatives are in some regards center-right and in way more others centre-left, depending of where the wind blows. My point is that the realities of governance are such as to erode most of the texture of political parties. Governing a country as wide — literally — as Canada forces everything to the centre, it’s just statistics. You can hang me for being an old disillusioned goat but man, sometimes when I hover over social media for too long I start hoping that October 20th will actually bring a change in leadership just to see the look on people’s face when they wake-up a year later and realize that very little has changed. They have the same Public Service, regulatory framework, law enforcement agencies and tax revenues to deal with. Because Canadians love the ideals but loathe the practice. We’re like that: we wax left-wing poetic about all the wonderful things we want to buy and shut our wallets tight like Scrooge on December 23rd when comes the time to pay for it. Change is not cheap, but we are.
A friend tagged me in a Facebook gratitude challenge whereby I was asked to post 3 thankful things for 5 days. Then tag 3 more people, do the hockey-pokey and turn myself around lest I desired to bring forth 7 years of locusts unto my descendants… or something. I gave thanks for 3 consecutive days, choosing family, faith and friends as my themes. I never met an alliteration I didn’t love and thus running out of f-words I could share on Facebook, I decided to take the gratitude to my blog. And maybe, possibly because I take a stab at –oh — roughly 2/3 of my Facebook friends in today’s first item. By publishing it on my blog, I give them the courtesy of not having it show on their timeline. I’m nice like that.
Today, 4 Very-Serious-Things I am thankful for:
1. Perspective. Because my Facebook and Twitter friends love to share how hateful the leaders of Canada and the U.S. are. One for shutting down rural post offices, the other for trying to introduce health care insurance. And all I think about are the real people trapped on Mount Sinjar who had 4 hours to flee their homes of face barbaric extermination. “Hateful” is what’s happening in Iraq and Syria. “Democracy” is what’s happening in North America. Perspective is appreciating the difference.
2. Flexibility. Someone once told me “We have to be flexible because we can.” Flexibility, the ability to adapt, to roll with the punches, to accept changes without fear, is a gift.Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.
3. Fertility, childbearing and breastfeeding. I made a commitment to Natural Family Planning 14 years ago and learning the ebb and flow of my whacky cycles has been a struggle. I was once told, in reference to an unplanned pregnancy, that I had a “fertility problem” and I have felt sorry for myself. But I have also seen many people close to my heart struggle with infertility and repeat miscarriages. As I enter my forties, I can see the pain and sadness that infertility wreaks all around me and I am thankful and deeply humbled by the gift of fertility. I have never lost a pregnancy, never had a caesarian birth or an epidural, I have given birth naturally 9 times, including a breech birth and a multiple birth. I have been able to feed my children from my breast and grow them into healthy, chubby wonders. I have experienced, without even asking for it, the natural and peaceful births that other women fight tooth and nail to have. My body is truly fearfully and wonderfully made. When people ask me if/when we will get “fixed”, I always answer “We’re not broken!”
4. Privilege. I received an inheritance I did nothing to earn when I was born white, healthy and loved in Canada. Every day I am reminded of the little things that are made easier for me just because I was born in a privileged situation. As I pass this inheritance down to my children, I try to remind them that to whom much has been given, much will be requested. We do not feel guilty for our privilege, but we honour it by recognizing it and spreading it around.
Par une belle journée d’automne, nous avons passé de bien beaux moments sur notre propriété en campagne. Pour l’instant, il ne s’agit que de champs et de forêts. Mais un jour, nous y construirons une maison. Si vous cliquez sur la première photo, vous pourrez toutes les voir en pleine grandeur.
Après un mois de septembre un peu frisquet, l’automne est venu cogner à notre porte y apportant les derniers jours de l’été qui nous avaient tant manqués. Les arbres passent du vert au rouge orangé et le contraste entre le bleu du ciel et les couleurs éclatantes de l’automne est spectaculaire. Pouvoir l’apprécier sans se geler les doigts est un de ces petits luxes que nous offre la nature lorsqu’elle se sent généreuse.
À la plage en octobre, le bord de l’eau nous appartient. Nous aimons nous y réunir pour jouer dans le sable sans la foule. Aujourd,Hui, nous y avons vu un spectacle inhabituel: un aéroglisseur de la garde côtière. Que faisait-il là? Aucune idée! Mais quel spectacle de le voir traverser la rivière et venir s’échouer (se stationner?) à la plage!
Si vous cliquez sur la première photo, vous pourrez toutes les voir en album photo.
La vie, la vie! L’été se termine lentement et nous nous apprêtons à célébrer le deuxième anniversaire des jumeaux. Et oui! 2 ans! Et nous faisons finalement nos nuits en passant!
J’ai quitté mon emploi à la Chambre des Communes et je me dirige vers de nouvelles aventures. Je travaille désormais de la maison pendant la sieste. Fini les embouteillages et les soupers mal planifiés.
Les enfants sont de retour à l’école après un été tranquille. Je vais reprendre du collier et recommencer à écrire, c’est promis… En attendant, voici quelques photos d’un bel été bien rempli.
Cette semaine, ma fille de 11 ans a été invitée à participer à une vidéo-conférence avec le Commandant de la station spatiale internationale Chris Hadfield – mes sels…. Qu’on m’apporte mes sels….- et le Premier Ministre. Voici un album photo qui relate notre expérience. J’y ajouterai des photos d’Ève et moi lorsque je les recevrai. Si vous ouvrez la première photo en cliquant dessus, vous pourrez voir l’album pleine-grandeur et lire les sous-titres plus facilement.
Vidéo de l’entrevue de ma fille avec Radio-Canada: http://www.radio-canada.ca/widgets/mediaconsole/medianet/6628097#
Video You Tube du Commandant Hadfield qui répond à la question de Marie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYWJTu_JJ_A J’adore sa réponse sur la prise de décision: “Making good decisions is a skill…” Quelle inspiration!
Le Commandant Hadfield sur Twitter: https://twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield En passant, si vous ne le suivez pas sur Twitter, vous devriez!
L’entrevue de Jian Gomeshi avec Chris Hadfield (en anglais): Je pourrais l’écouter à longueur de journée. Il m’inspire au dépassement, à la poursuite d’un rêve.: http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2013/01/25/chris-hadfield-connects-from-space/
L’entrevue de Peter Mansbridge (en anglais): http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/TV+Shows/The+National/Technology+%26+Science/ID/2329235320/ Non mais, ne vous donne-t’il pas envie de vous lever de votre chaise et de faire quelque chose de grand? “… The importance of choosing something that has a great personal import but that is also larger than yourself, that combination to internalize early and to lead a life that goes in that direction, is the type of message that I really work hard with young Canadians to get into their heads and into their core, to lead a life that is satisfying to them and that is also good for the rest of us.” (vers 11:30).
It’s been one nutty month! January is coming and we will be making some important changes to our family routine to make it more manageable. Or, more accurately, to make it more manageable by happy, competent parents. Right now we are grouchy, unhealthy, harried and exhausted parents.
(1) One thing we are doing well by necessity is Advent. No, we haven’t figured out the Jesse Tree or even the Advent calendar. We don’t even have an Advent wreath this year! The twins are 15 months and I am more tired and overwhelmed on a year of sleep deprivation than I was after 3 months (fancy that!). What we have achieved through being too busy to worry is a very simple lead-up to Christmas. “What?” you ask, “Why a simple lead-up to Christmas?” Well, because we are Catholics and this is how it was meant to be. Here is a catchy little video that explains what Advent is about. My favorite part? “If you are sick of Christmas by December 25th, you didn’t do Advent correctly!” We must have done something right then!
(2) Two Christmas dance open house(s)…. My oldest daughter started teaching Irish dancing this year and I wasn’t able to attend her first open house as a teacher but I did attend her dance class. I don’t have digital pictures of her first Christmas open house, 10 years ago or I would post a “This was then, this is now” I am so, so proud of my children. No words can describe this feeling. Here’s a little reel for the season (or a hornpipe? I feel like I should know…)
(3) Three … O Christmas Tree. My son told me this joke and because I’m a French speaker, it took me a while to “get” it: Why couldn’t the French man count to 10?” – “Because there’s a ‘tree’ in the way”… Ok, ok. We took an afternoon to go to our country acreage and chop down a piece of evergreen. The tree is too floppy to carry light garlands but it is unique. It’s ours.
(4) Four days of intense batch cooking. I subscribed to Once a Month Mom, a meal planning tool that takes the thinking out of batch/freezer cooking. The “Once a Month” is for a “normal” family of four. For a family of 10, it’s an exhausting 4 day kitchen marathon. It would have been worth it except that our oven is broken and our landlord unresponsive. My freezers are full, FULL, and I’m still making supper from scratch almost every day. But the recipes from the Whole Food menu are delicious. I plan to write a full review post soon. In the mean time, here are my two middle daughters making tortillas from scratch. Adjusted for a family of 10, it starts with “Pour 27 cups of flour into a large bowl.”
(5) Five older children got a special treat this season. The Parliamentary Dining Room is a fine restaurant located on the 6th floor of the Centre Block of Parliament. It is accessible to Members of Parliament, Senators, and selected members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Once a year, it opens its doors to Parliament staff and their guests. This is the second time that my husband and I treat our older children to the Christmas buffet at the Parliamentary Dining Room. We leave the littles with my mother and we have some good civilized fun with our table-mannered children.
So That’s what we did this Advent season. What about you?
I recently met several mothers expecting twins and I decided to post my birth story along with my Birthday Flikr photostream. The Internet is full of stories of how wrong things can get, I thought I would share my very boring story of a healthy full-term, hospital, natural, twin delivery. It’s not a beautiful home water birth or a terrifying train wreck. It happened in the operating room of a tertiary care centre in Ottawa, ON. All photo creds go to my oldest daughter Clara, minus one or two pictures taken by Dr. Doug Black, attending OB-Gyn extraordinaire.
First, some stats. My twins were di-zygotic, conceived from two fertilized eggs. Growing in-utero, they had two of everything: two amniotic bags, two placentas. We learned that we were expecting twins at 15 weeks of gestation. The girl was on the left, the boy as on the right and presenting first. They stayed like that until the end. Continue reading “Twins Birth Story: Quick, normal, natural and uneventful.”