Media

Canadian babies cry because they can

0 Comments 22 May 2017

My take on Canadian baby whiners is that, in a single generation, we have turned children into the centre of our universe, instead of encouraging them to become a part of ours.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, April 24, 2017.

OTTAWA—‘Boo hoo: Canadian babies cry more.’

That intriguing headline in The Globe and Mail caught my eye the other day, and necessitated a more in-depth review.

The article by Wency Leung published recently in the Journal of Pediatrics. examined a British study of world meta-data comparing 8,700 babies in the first month of life.

It claimed that 34 per cent of Canadian babies cried more than three hours a day at least three days a week.

That level of discomfort, medically characterized as colic, puts Canada on the top of the heap when it comes to baby whiners.

Even other northern countries were not close, with only 5.5 per of Danish babies and 6.7 per cent of German newborns suffering the same discomfort.

What followed was a compelling analysis of some potential, and inconclusive scientific reasons behind the high level of colic amongst Canuck babies.

I am no scientist, but after a quarter century in active politics, I consider myself a student of the social sciences. So what follows, is a political take on why Canadian babies cry.

Because they can.

From the moment they are born, modern Canadian babies become the centre of their parents’ universe.

In many instances, that means the condition for getting kids to sleep involves the selfless rocking of upset babies until they finally collapse exhausted into their parents’ arms.

Sleep issues continue for many Canadian children well into adolescence. The self-help sections of most bookstores are replete with tomes on how to conquer the sleep problem when children simply won’t.
 
My take on Canadian baby whiners is that, in a single generation, we have turned children into the centre of our universe, instead of encouraging them to become a part of ours.
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Media

Power of one young woman’s voice rocked the world last week

0 Comments 17 May 2017

When Malala Yousafzai received her honorary citizenship, the diminutive speaker did not mince words. She even dared to use the ‘f’ word, calling on all Canadians to become feminists.

By SHEILA COPPS

Published first in The Hill Times on April 17, 2017.

OTTAWA—The power of one young woman’s voice rocked the world last week.

When Malala Yousafzai received her honorary citizenship, the diminutive speaker did not mince words. She even dared to use the “f” word, calling on all Canadians to become feminists.

Her delivery was gentle, but the content was carefully crafted to make the ultimate point. And it did.

She underscored that if all girls around the world went to school for 12 years, low and middle income countries could add $92-billion to their economies.

She also made the link between education and peace. “When a country gives all its children secondary education, they cut their risk of war in half.”

Yousafzai also had gentle digs for Canada and the United States. She emphasized that “the world needs leadership based on serving humanity, not based on how many weapons you have.” That contradicted the decision by American President Donald Trump to cut foreign aid and increase the military budget by 10 per cent increase.

Canada, while praised for the prime minister’s decision to invoke cabinet parity, did not escape comment for promises not kept.

The country has endorsed sustainable development goals which set our percentage of support for international aid at 0.7 per cent. But last year, funding contributions dropped as a percentage of our gross domestic product. Malala acknowledged that politicians make some promises that cannot be kept, but warned “this is one you must honour.”

She called on the prime minister to make 12-year education of girls a top priority during his 2018 tenure at the helm of the G7. She also linked education to the world security agenda, insisting that “extremism grows alongside inequality – in places where people feel they have no opportunity, no voice and no hope.”

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Media

It’s time for a national portrait gallery

0 Comments 09 May 2017

If one picture is worth a thousand words, a national portrait gallery trumps a television script any day.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, April 10, 2017.

 

OTTAWA—If one picture is worth a thousand words, a national portrait gallery trumps a television script any day.

As Canada moves through the celebration of our 150th birthday, the government is swamped with ideas for the celebration of our shared story.

History is seen through different eyes by different regions of the country. Throw in language polemics, and you have a potentially incendiary mix.

Such was the reaction to the first couple of episodes of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s television series entitled: The Story of Us.

The first episode provoked a quick response from Atlantic Canada, disputing the show’s claim that the first French settlement on the continent was in Quebec City in 1608.

The Acadians, who established a permanent presence at Port-Royal three years earlier, were particularly aggrieved, and Nova Scotia’s premier is demanding a rewrite of the miniseries.

In response to critics, CBC said that 75 historians were consulted on the project.

Producers also endured the challenge of trying to engage a modern audience, which necessitates some poetic licence.

The narrative of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was recounted by none other than world-famous extreme fighter Georges St-Pierre.

After all, history has to be interesting enough for the millennial viewer to watch.

That might mean some liberties are taken with literal interpretation of the facts surrounding the formation of Canada.

Which leads me to the question of pictures.
 
Another “Big Picture” proposal which has been under consideration for the 150th birthday party is the National Portrait Gallery.

Much work on the concept started two decades ago, when then Liberal Senator Jerry Grafstein spearheaded a unique transformation for the soon-to-be-vacated American Embassy directly across from Parliament Hill.

U.S. president Bill Clinton opened the new American Embassy on Sussex Drive back in 1999. That relocation offered the possibility of a new vocation for the beautiful, Beaux-Arts edifice ideally located steps from the Parliamentary Precinct.

The portrait gallery project took the capital by storm and had unanimous support from all sides.
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Media

Odd, but Brexit debate offered up a sexism wakeup call last week

0 Comments 05 May 2017

Why is it considered fair game to make light of women’s body parts, especially in the context of a political negotiation?

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, April 3, 2017.

OTTAWA—If ever the world needed a sexism wake-up call, the Brexit debate offered it up last week.

Just as two leaders were meeting to tackle the thorny issue of the United Kingdom’s divorce from the European Union, the best a British tabloid could do was serve up a piece on the shape of the leaders’ legs. “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!,” the headline read, “Sarah Vine’s light-hearted verdict on the big showdown.”

Worse than even committing the sexist sin was The Daily Mail’s defence of its piece, admonishing upset readers to “get a life.”

One cannot imagine a “light-hearted piece” comparing the size of U.S. President Donald Trump’s butt cheeks with those of Vladimir Putin.

So why is it considered fair game to make light of women’s body parts, especially in the context of a political negotiation?

The Daily Mail’s piece served its purpose, reducing the seriousness of the conversation to a seduction attempt using women’s best weapons, sexy legs. In so doing, it trivialized the gravitas required to successfully negotiate the extraction of the United Kingdom from the rest of Europe.

The Brexit opening salvo last week involved British Prime Minister Theresa May triggering clause 50, in a six-page letter stating her intentions for a proposed departure from the EU within two years.
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Media

Two budget measures can actually unite Canada

0 Comments 25 April 2017

The re-establishment of a federal role for housing makes sense and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is the right vehicle to affirm national leadership. The same holds true for training investment.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, March 27, 2017.

OTTAWA—Everything old is new again. Two major new investments in last week’s federal budget involve housing and training.

The re-establishment of a federal role for housing makes sense and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is the right vehicle to affirm national leadership.

The same holds true for training investment. In a highly mobile world, the need for national training investment and strategy should be self-evident. But Canada has lost two decades of valuable time because of wrongheaded former federal decisions to get out of housing and training.

Does anyone remember the constitutional wrangles that almost led to the breakup of Canada? One of the core provincial demands was that the federal government vacate the fields of housing and apprenticeship training as they were deemed to be areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction.
 
Back in 1992, the federal government exited most social housing investment, making an exception for cooperative and urban aboriginal projects. That decision reflected a mistaken national consensus that provincial governments were better positioned to deliver housing at the local level, as they bear responsibility for the management of municipal governments.

During the 1990s, pressure mounted for the federal government to hand over all labour market planning and responsibility to provincial governments via individual bilateral agreements.

That move succeeded in fragmenting an existing national workforce strategy designed to analyze, forecast, and implement national labour market modernizations.

While the rest of the world moved to homogenize and synthesize in an effort to anticipate the needs of emerging global workforces, Canada’s national housing and training policies were replaced with provincial programs that differed in scope and application from province to province.  

So distorted is our national labour market that in some cases, federally funded programs designed to help students can actually attach a provincial residency requirement, blocking applicants from other jurisdictions.

The country also abandoned the development of national assessment tools designed to measure educational and training performance in different provincial jurisdictions.

According to the most recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report on Canadian education, there is only one area where standardized testing applies. That involves Grade 8 students participating in the Pan Canadian Assessment program which includes testing skill levels in reading, math, and science.

Otherwise, a review of most education curricula reveals a hodgepodge of trial-and-error methods designed individually by 13 different jurisdictions.

The Council of Ministers of Education Canada, headquartered in Toronto, manages inter-provincial liaison among Canada’s 13 ministers, who meet once a year to discuss issues of cooperation.

The formation of the CMEC occurred during Canada’s 100th birthday, when it was agreed that even though education is a provincial responsibility, there is a need for inter-provincial sharing.

That being said, there is no national mandate guiding the council, so every resolution and decision is referred back to 13 provincial and territorial ministries for implementation.

In this highly decentralized system, it is no wonder that skills training and employment mobility are often sacrificed to the holy grail of Canadian constitutional division of powers.

The same can be said for housing. It is impossible to ignore the mounting evidence that home ownership is increasingly beyond the grasp of urban millenials in most of Canada’s major cities.

Yet, because of the decision made a quarter century ago, the country’s national housing corporation was stripped to the bare bones, with little more influence than underwriting some higher risk mortgages for potential homeowners.

A national vision to tackle problems of homelessness and under housing, are no longer on the national radar, relegated to largely provincial issues. More money is generally spent on local task forces to study the problem than on concrete solutions to secure different housing solutions for changing demographics.

The major financial commitments included in the budget were welcome. The provinces need federal financial support, and these investments will get the national government back into housing and skills training.

With border turmoil engulfing the United States and the United Kingdom, Canada’s open approach can actually become a huge boost for our economy.

But we have to be smart enough to mobilize at home first.

At the moment, it is easier for many Europeans to move between countries in some industries than it is for Canadian workers to move to new jobs in different provinces.

The time is ripe for a “back to the future” look at housing and training. The issues need to be tackled through a national lens.

In a world where borders are breaking the world up, these two budget measures can actually unite Canada.
Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.

Events

Appel de propositions du Sommet mondial du design

0 Comments 20 April 2017

Quelles sont vos idées?

 

Events

Call for Proposals – World Design Summit, Montréal 2017

0 Comments 20 April 2017

What are your ideas?

See more videos about the World Design Summit on Youtube.

Media

Politics at its worst in political parties

0 Comments 18 April 2017

Retroactive cutoffs, and green light committees with no public transparency or accountability, turn voters off. More important, they turn party members off. As a volunteer, if you are not allowed to participate in a nomination, you may just take a pass on an election too.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, March 20, 2017.

OTTAWA—Politics is at its worst in political parties.

Internal decisions are usually made in secret with little recourse to the rules of due process that apply to normal business decisions.

That may change, as a disgruntled New Democrat took his case to the courts last week after his party would not allow him to run for the leadership.

Court documents filed last Wednesday say it is the first time in history that the NDP has prevented someone from running for the leadership.

Brian Graff, a former Liberal who joined the party last August, was informed in late December that he could not be a candidate. He was given 48 hours to appeal the decision.

His appeal was dismissed without any “reasons, explanation or basis for their decision” according to court documents. Graff’s lawyer, Nader Hasan, applied for a judicial review, complaining that the internal appeal process was flawed.

He told The Globe and Mail that while political parties have the right to choose their nominees “We’re saying that, if they want to vet out people, they at least have to respect basic principles of procedural fairness in a transparent and open way.”

If the courts rule in Graff’s favour, it could have wide-ranging implications for all political parties in Canada.

We saw from afar, via leaked Democratic National Committee emails, to what lengths party officials were willing to go to tilt the process in favour of the preferred choice of the establishment.

The dubiousness of the DNC decision to marginalize Bernie Sanders played out in the election. The insider rebuff of Sanders played into the hands of Donald Trump, who won the election, in part, because of Democratic hubris.

Similar warning signs surfaced in recent Liberal Party decisions involving byelection nominations.

Decisions were made which served to tilt the nomination process in the races to replace outgoing ministers, John McCallum and Stéphane Dion. Notwithstanding public protestations to the contrary, non-transparent internal steps were taken that served to benefit party-preferred candidates, facing tough nomination battles.

In one case, the meddling backfired. The popular mayor of St. Laurent, Alan DeSousa, was deemed ineligible to run by the party’s vetting committee. That move ostensibly paving the way for party favourite and former provincial minister Yolande James. Instead, DeSousa’s 26-year-old assistant, Emmanuella Lambropoulos, whose candidacy was green lighted, surprised everyone by winning the nomination.

By any standards, former PMO staffer Mary Ng, and former Quebec provincial minister Yolande James would both have been excellent candidates. They are young, articulate and reflect the diversity of Canada’s population.

But party meddling handed them a poisoned chalice.

In Ng’s case, the party approved a retroactive voting process resulting in the disallowance of 1,500 memberships sold by her chief opponent.

Ng’s obvious talents may help her overcome the rocky beginning of a controversial nomination victory two weeks ago. But party actions in both nominations have soured volunteers.

The moves provoked a hot debate among Liberals. Jack Siegel, former co-chair of the Liberal constitutional and legal affairs committee, defended the party on his Facebook page. He claimed “the Liberal Party has had retroactive blind cut-offs for close to 25 years,” using it as a means to prevent “dumping thousands of forms at the deadline, keeping their signups secret and overloading the party’s membership systems with the flood of forms, all in urgent need of inputting.”

Siegel was deeply involved in the nomination which prompted my departure from politics. He oversaw a decision to count 500 unsigned ballots that had not been initialed by the returning officer. The membership system in the party offices was so ‘overloaded’ that, just before midnight, an official deleted 378 eligible Liberals from the voting list. Party officials wanted to ensure the nomination of my opponent, who was the leader’s choice.

I was not the only one who exited Parliament under a cloud. Rigged nominations across the country ultimately poisoned the volunteer base. Many diehard Liberals dropped out of the party and two million of them stayed home when Prime Minister Paul Martin lost the election to Conservative Stephen Harper.

Thanks to the NDP complaint, the courts may ultimately decide that political parties need to establish rigorous, transparent processes so their decisions are not just seen to be arbitrary or biased.

Retroactive cutoffs, and green light committees with no public transparency or accountability, turn voters off.

More important, they turn party members off. As a volunteer, if you are not allowed to participate in a nomination, you may just take a pass on an election.

 

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.

Media

Trump effect is sweeping across Europe

0 Comments 13 April 2017

All eyes on the first round of the French elections next month.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, March 13, 2017.

OTTAWA—The Trump effect is sweeping across Europe, with all eyes on the first round of the French elections next month.

National polls have the anti-immigration party of Marine Le Pen hovering around 30 per cent, with some even suggesting her numbers might climb as high as 40.

Few are predicting a Le Pen win, with opponents working in tandem to undermine her momentum.

But no one is taking anything for granted.
 
Travelling in Paris last week, I got an earful about how the American phenom was moving east.

Everywhere I went, people were talking about Le Pen’s anti-globalization message and platform planks mirroring those of U.S. President Donald Trump.

It is not the first time the Le Pen family has caught the attention of the French political class.

Marine’s father led the National Front for almost 40 years, before Marine assumed his mantle six years ago, becoming only the second president of the party her family founded. In 2012, she placed third, behind François Hollande and Nicholas Sarkozy, in the presidential election.

Her second presidential bid for the election culminating on May 7 was launched in February.

The Le Pen brand has been around for almost a half-century, but never managed to garner support from more than one in five French voters.

But the winds of change that carried Brexit and Trump seem to be leaving their mark in France too.

Le Pen herself has campaigned to soften the image of the National Front. She went so far as to expel her father-founder from the party almost two years ago for characterizing the Holocaust as a “mere detail” of history.

Le Pen’s political manifesto is eerily similar to Trump’s. Much of her political fire has been reserved for immigrants and Islam. She has also promised to put an end to a financial system that she says is wreaking havoc with blue-collar workers.

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Media

Parliament Hill will be overrun by women this week

0 Comments 07 April 2017

This time, 338 young women will be taking seats in the House of Commons. Daughters of the Vote, a major national gathering spearheaded by the multi-partisan Equal Voice, will be debating key issues facing Canada in the next 150 years.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, March 6, 2017.

OTTAWA—This week, Parliament Hill will be overrun by women. Normally, that is not so unusual, as the majority of political and bureaucratic support staffers are women.

But this time, 338 young women will be taking seats in the House of Commons.

Daughters of the Vote, a major national gathering spearheaded by the multi-partisan Equal Voice, will be debating key issues facing Canada in the next 150 years.

Future leaders include 70 indigenous representatives, and women from as far away as the Arctic Circle. Twenty-five speakers will make 90-second statements in the Chamber, on issues ranging from equality for girls and women to humans rights, to immigrant, refugee and resettlement issues.
Daughters of the Vote is a celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, and the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in Canada.

It took 50 years for Canadian women to actually secure the right to vote. One hundred years later, we are still far from achieving equality in the House of Commons.

The appointed Senate is much closer, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made it a point to seek equality while changing the way Senators are nominated.

In our highest elected Chamber, the country still has a long way to go.

This week, Canadians will get a chance to see exactly what a Chamber of women would look like.

Kicking off the parliamentary session will be Canada’s only female prime minister, Kim Campbell. She occupied the office in 1993 after being chosen by her party to replace Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney.

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© 2017 Sheila Copps.