I always liked David Cameron. Maybe it was because we're both fans of the rock band, The Smiths, but also (and more importantly) because he tried to use the privileged position of prime minister to appeal to the better angels in our nature with the "Big Society" initiative of his early government. The Big Society ideal was first referenced by Cameron in 2009. In a nutshell, the Big Society philosophy recognizes that a country and its communities are built as much by passionate volunteers, community groups and service organizations as it is by departments of the government.
Everyone struggles. Some struggle more than others, but that doesn't mean we can't support other parents. If someone tells you about their problem, no matter how silly or trivial you think it is compared to your own, or what other people deal with, support them. Lift them up. Say you understand how hard it must be for them, and acknowledge their feelings.
Though Canada Day has come and gone, there's still a good reason to keep the good feelings alive. On July 9th, Nunavut will be celebrating its 23rd birthday and the rest of our country is invited to join in the festivities. Not only will it mark a special day for our youngest territory, but it will also laud the people who have lived the longest in this great land.
Last month, I wrote about my frustration with how slowly Canada is moving toward reconciliation with First Nations, Metis and Inuit Peoples. I despaired about the bad news coming out of reservations, the streets, the jails, our women and girls, the youth suicides... and wondered if we were ever going to move from pretty words to action.
You might know that the number one word associated with being transgender is "dysphoria," a vague medicalized word used ascribed to transgender people to describe how mirrors and people you thought were your friends now make you cry. But another common word I've heard transgender people use to describe themselves is "monster." I knew to expect all that pain before I told a single person. But what nobody had prepared me for was the joy.
As seniors age, much of their time is freed from the commitments of work and family and they start to look for ways to participate more actively in their communities. As the saying goes, doing good makes you feel good, and the seniors who continue to make a difference every day are true testaments to that.
What were once staples of daily living in our communities -- butchers, bakers, fishmongers, and greengrocers -- are now seen as inefficient when large chain grocery stores deliver all-in-one convenience. But "fast and convenient" has weakened our communities. As the African proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
Where do you put an entire city when a wildfire displaces 88,000+ residents? Alberta has seen more than its fair share of disaster in the past few years, but this is a tragedy of epic proportions and the whole country is looking on, helplessly, trying to figure out what they can do to for the people of Fort McMurray.
As mayor, I am often asked what the key ingredients are that make Markham one of the most vibrant and successful municipalities in Canada. The answer is simple. Diversity is Markham's strength. Professionals, business executives, retail operators and skilled trades persons come to our city from all over the world.
I could see my four-year-old son playing on the slide, but my two-year-old son was out of sight -- not unusual as we had a very large, gated yard. I didn't even have time to cover myself before a woman came around the corner, a look of fury on her face and my two-year-old on her hip. "DO YOU KNOW WHERE I JUST FOUND YOUR CHILD?" she screeched.
Over the past few years, the terms 'organic' and 'sustainable' have become buzzwords for health. But these words go beyond a person's health. Supporting local organic food and farming can help revitalize the economy. Community-based agriculture has the potential to create jobs and develop small businesses. Encouraging locals to stay healthy is the side job.
Canada's largest city has a world-class problem with poverty, and yet we hope that maybe, just maybe, it will go away. Rest assured it's not. Far from an old-school approach to budgeting, we need leadership and new approaches to revenue generation unless we want to be paying for the growing costs of poverty for years to come.
If you've purchased any local Ontario food before, it probably came from this region you've likely never heard of. In fact, it is the number one producer of tomatoes, carrots, seed corn, cucumbers, pumpkins, sugar beets and brussels sprouts in all of Canada. However, none of it is being consumed by its community members.
While the leaders of the world meet in Paris and craft sweeping policy that affects the entire planet, let's remember that the most important changes usually happen close to home. I've seen the positive things solar and energy efficiency can do for communities. So when we started a big infrastructure refurbishment project at Evansdale Community League, I knew exactly what to push for.
To everyone around me, it looked like our family had it all. The truth was that I lived in a house that was filthy and piled high with debris and animal waste. I was 11years old when my father began to sexually abuse me. I had become accustomed to keeping so many secrets by then that I just added this one to the list. I hoped the abuse would stop. I was terrified and lonely. I am living proof that it takes a community to lift a person up. The day I left my abusive family home was the day I stepped into uncertainty and poverty.
As my professional life blossomed so did the work expectations and long hours that I needed to put into my demanding career. It was an inverse relationship in the making: the more I worked, the less time I had for personal things in my life like athletics, friends and relationships. Something had to give. And sadly it was volunteering.