Thursday, December 31, 2009

135 ... 136 ... 137 ... 138 ... and One ...

From Left to right:
Sgt. George Miok aged 28,
Pte. Garrett William Chidley aged 21,
Sgt. Kirk Taylor aged 28,
Cpl. Zachery McCormack aged 21
were killed in a bomb blast on Wednesday in Afghanistan.

Also killed in the blast,
Calgary Herald journalist
Michelle Lang aged 34.
Thoughts and prayers for the families of the fallen,
for their comrades,
for their co-workers,
for the wounded,
for those, who enter this New Year
bearing the grief of loss ...
May 2010 move us closer to PEACE.
May it be so ...
... Lest we forget!

One year ends ... another begins ...

The year and the decade draw to a close, and it's time for resolutions and setting goals for the journey ahead ... people will promise to watch what they eat, exercise more, eat less, lose weight, volunteer more often ... and so on ...

For me my resolutions are more humble and grounded ... I resolve for 2010, to get up and face each day and keep moving forward ... I put 2009 behind me, along with the pain and trauma that has been the last decade of my life ... while I hold to the good bits that have remained with me, I resolve to leave behind the hurt and loss that has marked much of the journey from the beginning of the new millenium ...

In the coming year I want to find full time employment and no longer have to worry about having enough part time gigs to keep a roof over my head and food on my table.

In the coming year I will give back to Samaritan House the kindness and care they have shown me and my family as we've struggled to make ends meet ... the treat of day old bread and out of date sugary treats has meant much, as has having a place to go and vent and be loved while laughing and savouring life with those who know what it's like to stand on the margins ...

In the coming year I will not over look my circle of friends, and the astounding, beautiful people I have been blessed with ...

In the coming year I will continue to write for the publications who have supported me in following that dream, and I will put to paper the stories that have for too long rolled around inside of me waiting to be shared ...

In the coming year I will finally finish my Thesis and move out of my living room the enormous pile of articles and books that has swamped my coffee table and desk for too long ...

In the coming year I will intentionally build and dream of a future that is bright and that will take from the safety of my little compartmentalized boxes to a place where anything is possible, and where laughter and companionship are very real and very present ...

In the coming year I will pause to give thanks for the moment and the people who are in it, and like an old friend said over and over - I'll learn to live, love and laugh now instead of when I grow old ...

In the coming year, I will continue in ministry, both here and in whatever places are opened to me by the Spirit ... The Gospel is waiting to be shared, and the hunger for something more than the status quo is real and if the Institution that is the Church is too busy trying to defend and preserve itself it is up to the prophetic voices called by God to carry that message forward and to be the agent of change needed in our world ... it may be in the United Church ... it may not ... I don't know for sure right now ... but I DO KNOW I have been CALLED to ministry, and I will continue to respond to that call wherever I may be ...

In the coming year, I will look after myself better and lower my blood pressure and lose the weight that I've packed on AND by this time next year be in a better place physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ...

In the coming year, I will remember to tell those who important to me that I love them, and I appreciate their presence in my life, even when I'm having a hissy fit or as Ms. H. may say - "taking a spazz" ...

I'm very fortunate and blessed. Despite the losses I've experienced in the last few years, I've gained so much more ... In the coming year I will endeavour to live my life accordingly ...

So with my thanks to my circle of family that includes Noahkila, Ms. H, Beetle and thier mother M, and that has expanded to include the lovely L and her boy Halo-warrior I say "thank you and God Bless as the old year ends and the New Year begins ..."

Cheers for 2010 !!!

Today perhaps the light at the tunnel really ISN'T an approaching train ... time will tell !!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Too Funny ... "who's the guy in the white toque??"

The jist of the story is a woman was trying to take a picture of her kids with the Olympic Torch while it made one of it visit/stops in Southern Ontario. She was trying to use her husband's blackberry and in frustration said out loud - "can somebody help me with this stupid blackberry?"

A gentleman stepped up and said he knew a thing or two about them and tried to help ...

It was only later that the woman found out that the gentleman coming to her assistance was none other than Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie who obviously knows more than just a little bit about Blackberrys ...

Too funny ... gave me my morning chuckle ... check out the story here on the KW Record website.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

McNally Robinson Booksellers ...

It's a bookstore with class, and with a commitment to the city from which it has arisen ... McNally Robinson Booksellers ranks amongst my top five book stores in Canada. Though my list of book stores is populated by small independent bookstores that offer highly personalized service, for selection McNally Robinson is simply second to NONE ...

Most of our trips into Winnipeg over the last 10 years have ended with a stop at their Grant Park location before heading westward down the highway ... Noahkila, Ms H. and Beetle have ALL loved climbing the spiral stairs and hanging out in the childrens' section. Over the years many tomes in our library have originated in this wonderful Winnipeg based company.

CBC today has reported the heartbreaking news that the company has applied for bankruptcy protection and is closing its Polo Park and Toronto locations (click here for the story) ... while the company will hopefully survive - it is a loss that I for one feel personally. The new Polo Park location has become a favoured stop on Winnipeg trips, and though we will continue to patronize the Grant Park locale, losing locations and watching a fine book store company suffer is just plain hard.

When one of the Harry Potter books was launched amid a HUGE party at McNally Robinson's Grant Park location, we went to Winnipeg and booked a hotel room so we could join in the fun ... but 1:30 am, with the kids in full meltdown, and entry to the store still an hour away, we bailed and headed to our hotel room, carrying two immensely disappointed little people who wanted to frolick in "Hogwarts" like they had been reading about for weeks ...

The next morning we read a story in the Winnipeg Free Press touting the success of the party and how "no child went home disappointed ..." I sent a short email to the writer and noted that we went home disappointed because we simply couldn't wait any longer ...

My email was forwarded to Holly McNally and she replied with an apology. Then a week later a parcel arrived in the mail from McNally Robinson with a PERSONAL apology note from Holly McNally to Noahkila, Ms. H. and Beetle for their disappointment, and three wizard gifts for them as her way of saying "sorry."

Not only did it reveal the character of the people behind this company, it cemented our commitment as family to that Book Seller.

I honestly hope that McNally Robinson can restructure and survive and continue to be the amazing bookstore and company that it is. Trips to Winnipeg just wouldn't be the same without them ...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

and the memories flow ...

It started yesterday when my mom told me something had happened ... but even she didn't know what it was ... we both promised to call if we learned something ...

Today news came ... my cell rang and I heard a voice I hadn't spoken with in almost 20 years ... she filled me in on what was enveloping her family ...

I wept ... I offered my condolances ... I offered my prayers ... I choked back the tears as I said good bye ...

I closed my cell and cried bitter tears of anger ...

It shouldn't have happened ... it didn't need to happen ... but it did, and none of us could change it ... and it was profoundly sad, and overwhelmingly tragic ...

... and then in my tears came the memories ... dripping like the tears falling on my cheeks ... one by one they fell into mind, leaving me smiling amid the sadness ... laughing in spite of the anger ... chuckling as I remembered and relived the moments ...

He had a way of saying - "Jesus Christ," that left you laughing ... and he'd lift his chin and smile as he said - "What?" to your response ...

Constantly in motion, he wore a cheeky grin no matter what was happening ...

We'd worked together, played together, drank together, and formed a bond of friendship that for a time was more like brothers, then neighbour, co-worker or friend ... we had our moments ... times when we raged at each other in bitter anger, threw temper tantrums and objects ... but in time, like all good storms, the tempest would pass and in the calm aftermath we would rekindle the friendship and forget the past ...

I remember the jokes ... the laughter ... listening to music ... celebrating small achievements, and shaking our heads in bewliderment at life's set backs ...

There were days we didn't like each other much ... and days we were inseperable ...

He was chased by his demons, and too often took to the bottle to numb the pain he wouldn't speak of ... but even then, with only a few notable exceptions, his disposition remained sunny and cheery, and he was always one to laugh, even when dark clouds closed in and life took a turn ...

He was many things ... but most of all he was a friend ...

And learning of his untimely death brought a rush of emotions and memories back to me ... and over it all I could hear his voice and see his face ... a crooked, cheeky grin, a ball cap perched on his thinning hair, he glanced to his right, then his left and raised his chin as he said - "Jeeesssus Christ, can you believe it ??"

And my answer, with tears in my eyes is simply - NO I CAN'T.

Rest in Peace my friend ... and may God bless you, as you have blessed those of us lucky enough to know you ... I love Purse like a brother ... and I for one will not only never forget you, I will miss you ...

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Favourite ... The Generations Meet !!

This is one of my favourite Christmas Songs ... I love the blend of musical eras ... the old and the new meet and their voices blend BEAUTIFULLY!!!

Merry Christmas !!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


30 year old Prince Rupert BC native,
Lt. Andrew Nuttall
of the
1st Battalion Prince Patricia Canadian Light Infantry,
based in Edmonton Alberta,
died on Wednesday
along with an Afghani soldier
when an IED denonated
in the Panjwii district.

Thoughts and prayers for his family,
his comrades, and for the family in Afghanistan
who this day are mourning the fallen.

Lest we forget ...

Lt. Andrew Nuttall

One of my favourite Christmas songs ...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Contribution to the Wheat City (Westman) Journal ...

As the Christmas Season draws ever closer, and we're surrounded by the merry sounds of shopping and consumerism run amock ... it's a good time to pause and remember that for some the financial burdens and the frustrations are pushing them to the breaking point ... I'm learning this first hand ...

My latest column in the WheatCity/WestMan Journal - click here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Every penny counts ...

"Get a job ..."
"People chose to be poor ..."
"Make better choices ..."
"It's my money. I worked hard for it ..."
"I remember when I had to go through a similar thing ..."
Any of these statements sound familiar??
The comments made in response to poverty, homelessness, and the struggles that too many people are experiencing today are almost uncountable ... If we had a penny for every judgemental statement offered about the state of affairs in our society today, we could easily eradicate hunger and poverty ...
Our Government committed to eradicating child poverty in Canada by the year 2000 ... today mere days from 2010, we KNOW that child poverty is worse now then it was twenty years ago when the commitment was made. This morning on CBC Winnipeg Harvest head David Northcott stated that last year 5 000 children in Winnipeg needed food support through Harvest and its affiliated outreach programmes - today that number sits at a breath-taking 18 000!!!
I know that since I first arrived in Manitoba in 2000 the number of Food Banks has increased, with more and more food support agencies forming in smaller and smaller communities ... and the actual need has also gone up. Today in Manitoba, food bank use is 20% higher then it was last year at this time ... the numbers are simply and utterly devestating ...
In an era when shopping malls are full, and people are touting the recovery from the recession, we are hearing that over 20% of our population REQUIRE food help ... and it's not just the chronically unemployed, or those who are trapped in the social safety nets, NOW the people stepping through the doors of places like Winnipeg Harvest and Samaritan House and the countless other Food Banks across our country, include ever increasing numbers of people who are working - who, to quote David Northcott - "Are doing EVERYTHING right, but can't make ends meet".
And still poverty, hunger and homelessness remains OFF the radar of our national political parties. Instead of dealing with THIS ISSUE, our Government is hiding behind the economy and our soldiers and not being upfront nor honest with us ... and in the meantime more and more children are being forced to rely on charitable organizations to satiate the hunger pangs that they are living with ... in the meantime, hope is beginning to ebb away for more and more people who are finding it increasingly difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel ... in the meantime, the lines at Food Banks and soup kitchens and homeless shelters get longer and longer ...
And in this Advent Season, we can't help but wonder WHY????
Yet, in even vocalizing the question, the answer is frighteningly apparent ... a long time ago I remember in a Bible Study group saying that we could deal with hunger and poverty if EVERYONE gave up ONE cup of coffee a day and donated that dollar to a charity that helps people turn around their lives ... one dollar a day - 365 dollars a year ... in a church of 100 people that $36 500 dollars, that can be leveraged to 10 or 20 times that amount by groups like Winnipeg Harvest ... one dollar a day to put 365 000 dollars worth of food, care, support and HELP into our community.
Sounds reasonable to me ...
The response in the Bible Study was scary ... "That's outrageous! I've worked hard for my money, and I don't want to support someone who doesn't want to work ..."
And this came from the lips of an esteemed Church leader, who had served at every level of the Church, and who took pride in being involved in The Church ... they stood in their Pharisaic splendour that day, failing to see the unfaithfulness of thier cold heartedness ...
Looking back, and looking around, I realize that there are regretably more Pharisees than I care to think about ...
The challenge before us - as people of FAITH - is to be aware that the needs are real, and they are largely caused by factors beyond the control of those standing in lines seeking help for food, shelter and security ... the system is broken, and just because the powers that be, and those who support them, and the many people comfortable in their lives can't, won't or REFUSE to see the brokenness doesn't mean it is untrue ...
We've grown comfortable in our complacency, especially IN The Church ... in this Advent Season it is time to remember the discomfort that figures like John brought to the early stirrings that became the Church ... the Christmas Message is simultaneously warm and welcoming as well as sharp and discomforting ... John and Jesus stand side by side this advent Season ... the babe in the manger grew up and become a prophet of God, calling people to faithfulness ... and sometimes we stand in the light of that judgement ...
It's easy to offer excuses ... it's harder to live our faith ...
Excuses feed no one ... faith demands we care for others ...
Kind of a stark "what would Jesus do?" moment isn't it ??

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

been busy ... been thinking ... been reading ...

I feel like I should post an apology of sorts for not having blogged much lately ... I've been online at Facebook - mainly tending my Farmville farm ... yes, I'll admit to my farmville addiction !?!? - but I haven't been online here much ...
There's a myriad of reasons ... one has been creating play shields, swords and daggers for a Craft Sale that Noahkila's choirs were hosting last Saturday at his high school ... I frantically prepared twelve shields (like the one above), twelve swords and a handful of daggers along with some photo note cards, and an inventory of fair trade coffee ... the end result was four hours spent tending a table for less than $20 in sales ... man ... talk about disheartening ...
I've also been busy forwarding resumes and applications to jobs far and near in the hopes of finding some secure employment SOON ...
I've been doing a research position for BU's Rural Development Department ...
AND, I've been doing reading and research on my Masters of Rural Development Thesis (YES, I'm gonna get this baby birthed before the spring thaw!!!!) ...
So, my calendar has been full ... my bank account has been EMPTY ... and my path has been about moving forward day by day ... some days have been positive and up-lifting, but too many of my days have been disheartening and depressing ... But, as I've said a million times to others - "it's ALL about moving forward ... one step, one moment, and one breath at a time ..."
I know that one day things will finally turn around, and I will find myself in a better place ... but I can not, nor will I ignore the simple fact that it is incredibly disheartening to send off dozens of applications and resumes and hear NOTHING back ... it is disheartening and debilitating to be rejected by a Church you've spent your adult life living and serving ... it's depressing and hope denying to watch as every dime you've set aside and saved is needed just to stay slightly ahead of the game ... and there are no words to describe what it feels like to be kicked over and over and over ... when you gather your strength to start the long climb back up from what you think is pretty much as low as you can go, to suddenly have yet another curve thrown your way that knocks you down another peg or three ... it is indescribable ...
Fortunately, I have the support and care of a fabulous circle of friends, both near and far ... I have the care of my newly found colleagues in my adopted denomination ... and my faith has led me to an oasis of peace that allows me to take serious stock of what I still have, and value those people, and those things in my life that I might otherwise over look ...
And with a deep breath, I put one foot in front of the other and like the poet Ann Weems said:
Some of us walk into Advent tethered to our unresolved yesterdays,
the pain still stabbing,
the hurt still throbbing.
It's not that we don't know better,
it's just that we can't stand up anymore by ourselves ...
On the way to Bethlehem,
will you give us a hand?
Along the way, I've marvelled at the depth of care that has been offered by the United Church and my colleagues ... rather than offering any kind of pastoral care, I've met rejection, judgement, and BLAME ... it's truly remarkable.
Fortunately, like Gordon Turner and J. Russell Hale before him, have shown us - sometimes the most faithful people are the UnChurched who have been left outside looking in ... I've found my oasis amongst those who the "good" church people want nothing to do with ...
This Advent, I've been reminded that the Good News of Bethlehem is for EVERYONE, not just the comfortable chosen few who huddle inside the sanctuaries and reject those who are prickly, irritating and outspoken ...
Well ... back to my real life ... the bills await ... and I have a spare room to ready for my Christmas House Guests who arrive soon !!!!!
I'll be back to Blogging eventually - but for now, survival comes first ...
Peace y'all !

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Grey Cup Weekend ...

Apparently Saskatchewan Riders fans, with thier watermelons safely stowed, are making their way en mass to Calgary for tomorrow's Grey Cup which sees their beloved Riders meeting Montreal for the prize ...

I hope they ALL travel safe, have a good time, and after showers to remove the watermelon goo ... have a great celebration of thier Grey Cup Victory !!!

(time will tell)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Richard Colvin is WRONG ...

He's ALL over the news and media in Canada today.
He has been labelled a "whistle-blower" by the press.
His allegations have been the latest cause celebre in Ottawa.

The Conservative Government in Ottawa is doing EVERYTHING he can to sully his character, question his motives, and refute his allegations about the abuse and torture of detainees in Afghanistan.

The Media has found his source is the Red Cross, his information WAS conveyed to the appropriate members of the chain of command, and there is evidence to suggest that his allegations have validity.

The Government and the Military is suddenly singing a parallel tune - almost NOTE for NOTE ...

And today on CBC Radio's morning programme The Current guest host Susan Ormiston gathered three former Canadian Diplomats to speak on the topic of Diplomats who have had their careers ruined for standing in the role of 'whistle blower' and identifying corruption, and problems in the service of the Government.

As I listened, I couldn't help but laugh at the futility of trying to change a bureacracy like the Government ... today we see what happens when a lone voice dares to stand up and say - "there's a problem" ... instead of responding in a way that is open and willing to investigate the problem and seek a just and lasting solution, the Government, like ANY good bureacratic institution, rallies to villify the lone voice ... Instead of opening up the conversation and hearing the voices, they instead say - "he had his opportunity," "there was no undue pressure to be silent" and other nonsensical statements that ring hollow to ANYONE who has had ANY experience in a bureacracy that is under threat.

The JOB in a bureacracy is to "DO YOUR JOB" ...

It ALL sounds remarkably familiar ... when confronted with a toxic, politically charged bureacratic chain of command the status quo - the proverbial party line MUST BE MAINTAINED. The image of "everything is fine" must be supported. The notion that there are problems are anathema ...

It's ALL about secrecy and censorship ... it's ALL about denying the reality of the situation and painting a pretty picture in warm pink fuzzy terms that villifies those who will NOT tow the party line, and who dare to speak out - even if it is an appropriate, and democratically sanctioned setting ...

Mr. Colvin is simply wrong ... he spoke of things that are best hidden away, and NOW the Foreign Affairs department will slowly push him out of the civil service, and end his career. The villification that we've heard from Minister MacKay, Prime Minister Harper, Senator Wallen, and others will slowly continue and expand, and his career will be OVER.

No one likes a whistle blower ... no one like to have the harsh light of reality shone into the dark hidden corners where toxins, corruption, petty politicking, and bullshit lingers in a bureacracy ... listening to the three career diplomats I heard echoes of voices I've heard over the years within the Church ... every bureacracy is ultimately the same - it will protect itself no matter what, and any one who discovers cracks in the foundation, or imperfections in the paint, or concerns in the construction - WILL BE DEALT WITH swiftly and harshly ... the only difference between the Government and the Church is we expect these things from the Government, while the Church purports to be a place of JUSTICE and FAIRNESS.

Richard Colvin is wrong ... he should have "grown up", "moved on," "let it go," "stay silent," and all the other phrases those anonymous voices in the Church keep lofting at me ... no one likes to hear the truth, especially those insecure frightened people cowering in bureacracies ... they will stop at NOTHING to silence the voices that dare to utter a truth that is uncomfortable to hear ...

From where I sit ... Colvin is a hero ... he is standing up for the work our troops are doing on the ground in Afghanistan, and wanting the values of freedom, justice and democracy (and ALL the other things we've wrapped in the flag) to be maintained ... otherwise, why are we in Afghanistan any way??

... the story continues ...

Mary Walsh takes on the She-Wolf ...


So, not only does the master of interviewing, Mary Walsh find it next to impossible to talk to Sarah Palin on her book tour, the advice Sarah offers Canadians borders on the SCARY ... but, hear straight from Sarah's mouth via the loading dock out behind a Borders Store ... Mary is back, and she's awesome as ALWAYS !!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bet this guy is glad for the Afghanistan Torture Allegations ...

I would be willing to bet that Conservative MP Gerald Keddy is relieved that the media is so focused on the whole debacle that is the Afghanistan Torture Allegation, that his mis-deeds are floating under the radar ...

As an MP for Nova Scotia, he refered to folks in Halifax who are on social assistance - or assumed to be on social assistance as "no-good bastards"!!

The outrage in the house, by his fellow Nova Scotia MPs resulted in Keddy offering an apology ... meanwhile in the House of Commons, we have Minister MacKay trying to hide behind the soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan by shifting the focus to them, and God knows that today we can't criticize our soldiers without being regarded as un-partiotic!!??

The Conservative Government is turning into quite a piece of work ... You have Prime Minister Harper talking about more openness towards the press on Saturday then refusing to take questions - the irony, as my fellow blogger Gord point out over at Following Frodo, is delicious!

Then you have Minister MacKay trying to dismiss the serious allegations that some of the detainees handed over to Afghani authorities might have been tortured ... is it just me, or was this NOT a startling revelation ??? Duh !! Given everything else we know about what's happening in the Afghanistan government - like corruption and fixing elections, is it really such a stretch to think that torturing prisoners was a possibility?? Afterall, the white knights in the battle against Terror used water boarding, isolation, and let's not forget Abu Ghraib prison and the stellar performance of AMERICAN soldiers there ... if the American soldiers fell to torture and mis-treatment, why would we pretend the Afghani's would be immune ... wasn't it an Afghani police officer who turned on British troops a week or so ago and massacred five British troops ...

The litany goes on and on and on ...

I wonder how Minister MacKay can stand up and rebuff the call for a thorough investigation into these allegations ...

But to top it off, Prime Minister Harper is trying to dismiss this issue as nothing more than "Taliban propaganda" ...

All I can say is - OH MY GOD !!!!

The Conservative Government can't be serious that they don't see the need for an inquiry ... this is NOT the fault of the soldiers on the ground ... this can not however be ignored.

No doubt Mr Keddy is breathing a HUGE sigh of relief that he barely ranked a side bar on the online news sites in the midst of this ... BUT all of this just makes the Conservatives look worse and worse and worse ... too bad the Canadian electorate can't connect some dots and see it for themselves ...

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Church of Franz Bibfeldt ...

Theologian Franz Bibfeldt, the originator of the Theology of Accomodation that is rampant throughout the modern church is said to have been guided by the adage: "I dance to the tune that is played."

Writer Dennis Jacobsen observed of Theology of Accomodation in action when he wrote:

"whether it is out of neurotic need to please all sides and be liked by everyone, or because of a calculated fear of alienating the key leaders and key givers of congregations, or simply due to timidity and cowardice, the clarity of conscience in clergy often gets blurred by acqeiescence to accomodation."

Jacobsen then goes on to rightly observe of clergy:

"It is easier to worship and adore the middle-class life of comfort and security."

Fortunately, Jacobsen rejects the Theology of Accomodation that keeps the church comfortably isolated in its neat and tidy sanctuary, and rebuffs anyone who might question that exclusivity. Rather than denying the criticism of the the way things are, Jacobsen embraces the necessity to live things the way they should be.

He notes that often the Church lives a life of accomodation and silence, even when they are surrounded by injustice. The Nazi-era churches of Europe are but one example of those who were more concerned with self-preservation then with living values of faith in a public way.

It's a subtle slope this place of accomodation and silence. The first step is silently saying or doing nothing when an injustice is enacted, or supported. Then slowly, as silence deepens, the willingness to speak out lessens, and soon only whispered side conversations acknowledge the need for justice, openness, and the core values of our faith. The Theology of Accomodation is firmly entrenched, and things appear to be fine. But are they?

To those living within, things are great. The doors are firmly shut, and the status quo is invoked and enforced. Yet outside there lingers many, often more in number then those within, who will not be silent, and who do not accept accomodation nor silence.

In this moment The Church becomes nothing more than a pseudo-church that is a corporate business marketing a product. The Living Gospel is lost in the silence. The crucified Jesus is brushed aside and replaced by a warm pink fuzzy cross that makes everyone feel comfortable.

Over and over, the history of The Church Catholic and Universal teaches us that when those within deny the need for justice, the Theology of Accomodation - the theology of niceness, sameness, beigeness and BLANDNESS, has prevailed.

Fortunately, the history of the Church has also showed us over and over that in those moments, the Spirit moves among those who are outside the safe comfortable sanctuaries. And change begins to stir.

The critics lob at me the message - "move on ... ", "let it go ..." or today's "maybe you're bowling alone ..." It always strikes me as funny - those critics never come from someone directly or openly. They are ALWAYS offered anonymously. Yet for everyone of those comments I have five more, from people who are part of the United Church, but who have pulled away, or who have been forced out, and who say OPENLY - "thank you", "You speak a truth", "we're behind you," and "don't let 'them' beat you down."

My question to those who would anonymously contend that 'everything is fine' - is simply this - if everything is 'fine' why are YOU so AFRAID to acknowledge the voices on the margin who have been hurt, rejected, and beaten by the Theology of Accomodation that is producing declining numbers, withering offerings, and a dying church??

If everything is truly fine, why do I get stopped in grocery stores and hear over and over (and seldom by the same people) a litany of complaints about The Church that have never been taken seriously, and have never been heard? And it comes with the affirmation of what I've been about, and regret at the way I've been treated ...

Oh wait ... I know the answer to that question ... in the Theology of Accomodation, there is NO dissent, because we can not acknowledge that there is any problems or any offense, except by those who will not sit down, be quiet and tow the party line that worships the middle class and seeks to offend no one ... or as Jacobsen notes - "stays in the sanctuary where it can remain irrelevant and do little harm."

Such a stance might be good enough for The Reverend Franz Bibfeldt, but it's NOT faithful. As Bonhoeffer said - "The Church is The Church ONLY when it exists for others."

Just tell me one thing - If everything is FINE and I'm bowling alone, why then do I keep hearing more and more and more stories from people who express their support of my ideas and words, and who say openly they want to go home, but can't until there is a REAL CHANGE?

It doesn't sound "fine" to me, unless I stop my ears and close my eyes ...

In the meantime ... I for one reject the Church of Franz Bibfeldt and its manifestation in our midst ... the church is about living with "a clarity of vision and moral force that is desperately needed by the jaded world." Regretably, mainline denominations have by and large swallowed the Theology of Accomodation, and they can't even see it ...

Help a local school ...

George Fitton School, where Beetle is in grade five is in need of a new playground structure. The one pictured above will be torn down in 2010, leaving the kids with NOTHING but an open field ... the PAC at Fitton school is trying to get a new playground structure funded and built - with the changes to the attendance starting next fall, this will be sorely needed so the kids get some BIG MUSCLE play somewhere in their day ...

There is a poll over at the Aviva Community Fund website that needs YOUR VOTE.

Head over to the web page and vote for the George Fitton Playground by clicking HERE.

You need to register, then you can go back EVERY DAY for the next week and vote again and again and again for this worthwhile project ...

SO, do the kids at Beetle's school a HUGE favour and vote, vote and vote some more ... AND pass the word around - send a note to ALL your friends, colleagues - heck, send it to you ENEMIES for crying out loud ... just send news around over the next couple of days that George Fitton School needs YOUR VOTE.

CLICK HERE and take the time to register and cast your vote - THANKS.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Social Capital of Churches ...


Scholar Robert Putnam calls is BONDING Social capital -the interconnections that exist within a community, or within a group within a broader community. They are connections that play themselves out day by day as people function in social, business, and other settings with one another ... the capital aspect is a notion first coined by Coleman some years ago, who saw these interactions as a form of capital that is saved up ... I do something nice for someone, and in return they will do something for me - is the simplest explanation of Social Capital.

There are many nuances of Social Capital, and many ways in which it plays out in a community, an organization or a gathering of people. It is usually something benign and predominantly posititive. But sometimes it becomes something darker and more sinister ...

Putnam identifies Churches as a source of enormous amounts of bonding social capital - the social capital that binds communities together, and helps improve things around them. BUT, social capital in Churches can have a negative face when that "togetherness" becomes exclusive and single-minded.

Frequently when fear enters social capital binds together small groups, and in that fear they exclude others ...

Frequently when these small groups feel threatened they begin to form social capital within a homogenous group, and they openly resist any attempt at breaking this exclusivity ... Putnam cites as his most obvious example the Churches across the Southern US who formed socially homogenous groups to resist racial integration.

What Putnam identifies as needed when BONDING Social Capital has formed exclusive homogenous communities is BRIDGING Social Capital that will break through the walls of exclusivity, and reinvigorate communities by creating most socially tolerant and diverse communities.

In Churches today, the BONDING Social Capital dominates, and has formed communties that are operating from their place of insecurity and fear and forming tight little bands of exclusivity even when they profess to be anything but ... we speak widely of "old guard" and "cliques" and "high school like groups" throughout our congregations, yet we fear taking the next step and identifying these groups who hold sway as WRONG and toxic. Rather than perpetuating BONDING social capital, we need the BRIDGING social capital ... we need to break down the walls that divide, and build familiarity, trust, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation and mutual respect.

Step one in this process is to recognize that there exists in our greater communities large numbers of Church Drop Outs (to use Turner's term), who have been hurt, wounded, and rejected by the church and have walked away ... but they still have yearnings to come home.

Bridging social capital begins by recognizing the reality of these people, and no longer denying they exist, or simply waving them off as irrelevant. Day by Day, week by week, month by month, it is a growing group. Those rebuffed by the "old guard", or the "clique" that holds power deserve to be recognized, and invited back ... BUT, that can not happen while the leadership, and those who are in positions of responsibility will not admit to either the existence of these church drop outs, or their desire to come home.

Step one is owning the situation, and no longer hiding our heads in the sand and pretending everything is fine ... The Church is dying ... a victim of Bonding social capital that shuts out those who are unlike the inner circle ... this is not a faithful response. Jesus welcomed in ALL people, and wasn't about building an institution, or a bureacracy. For Jesus the only rule that mattered was - "we are beloved of God" all the rest was irrelevant.

The Kingdom of God is at hand ... and it is found in abandoning BONDING social capital and embracing Bridging social capital ... and that happens when we stop pretending everything is all right, and we start to invite back the drop outs, the out casts, the cast offs and the others hurt by the church and we LISTEN TO THEM FOR A CHANGE, no matter how uncomfortable their message is ...

It's ALL about honesty !!

The Spirit is calling ... dare we listen ???

Saturday, November 21, 2009

and the years keep rolling ...

I was going back over my memory cards to find winter pictures for the upcoming issue of Westman Parent Magazine and I found some of the very first pictures I took with my digital camera back in 2006 ... wow ... it's only been a couple of years, but my how my darlings have grown ...

Time for some truth telling ...

Ann Weems said it well:
First Person:
You - sitting in the pew next to me - I don't know you.
Oh I know your name.
I know the "Hi, how are you?" part of you.
I know the "Rainy weather we're having, isn't it?" part of you.
But I don't know you -
Today it happened to the umpteenth time ... I happened across one of my colleagues in ministry who put on a sickeningly sweet smile and asked - "How are you?"
I answered as I've always answered saying - "Oh fine, thank you ..." and even as the words escaped my lips my heart sank ... their bitterness lingered on my tongue as I realized I had just uttered a polite lie ...
I am NOT fine.
I do not want to pretend I'm nice any more.
I do not want to play the petty politics of our polite society that pretends life is wonderful all the time, and we shouldn't own our real feelings ...
I want to tell the truth and speak what I'm feeling ...
I'm angry.
I'm hurt.
I'm bitter.
I'm frustrated.
I'm tired.
I've spent the last three years being kicked around by the "warm, welcoming, inclusive, open, and liberal" United Church of Canada. I want the CHURCH to live what it believes and stop treating me and countless others like this ... To my colleagues in the Church: TALK the TALK or shut the HELL UP and let those called by the Spirit speak for a change.
I've been rejected by my Spiritual Home and told - though NOT in words - that I'm no longer welcomed in the place I've called home for my life ... I was CALLED and ORDAINED to a ministry of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care, yet the fearfilled gatekeeping has prevented me from embodying that ministry, even though the discernment process they (thankfully) forced me to endure has given me the green light to return to ministry ...
I've grown tired of being kicked by people who have no personal integrity, and for whom morality is a quaint object of conversation ... Theologically these folks are as deep as a puddle, and most days I think my dope on a rope dog Flute has more BRAINS then they do ...
I'm exhausted by being forced to count pennies and say "no" to my children while I wonder if I will lose my house by the end of the month because I have drained all my financial resources ...
I'm tired of having to get day old bread at the local food bank because my children are growing and need things like food to keep from going hungry ...
I'm tried of pretending it's ALL okay ...
Today I will start telling the truth.
Today I will no longer bite my tongue and pretend that a justice outcome was attained by the disciplinary process I under went ... I was taken to task and offered up far more than a mere pound of flesh, yet the "powers that be" have turned a blind eye to what really happened ... The small minded have sent the agenda for long enough ... it's time for truth and openness ... it's time to stop hiding behind polity, procedure, legal advice and posturing - it's time for living our FAITH ...
I had my tires slashed.
I had my car shot at.
I had my house shot at.
I had someone file an anonymous complaint about me BEATING my children with the CFS.
I had my reputation called into question by libel and slander.
I had my name sullied by people who have much to hide and wanted to cast the stark light on someone else lest THEIR SKELETONS fall into public view.
I've lost my job, my career and my ability to earn a living.
I've had people tear me down and tear me apart for long enough.
I'm done playing nice and pasting on a fake smile and saying "I'm okay."
I'm not okay, I'm tired of the triumph of the toxic in my life.
BUT, today I'm DONE with it ALL.
It's time for truth telling and I for one have NOTHING to hide.
It's time to scrub the toxins clean and to hold people accountable for thier actions, thier words and their cowardice.
It's time for The United Church of Canada to admit that it is NOT what it believes itself to be ... like the wise Gordon B. Turner said 20 some years ago - our ministry is to the Church Drop Outs who have been battered, bloodied, beaten and bashed by the Church and who want to come home ... The United Church of Canada has become an exclusive, restrictive, fear-filled social club that pretends everything is fine ...
Today on behalf of the others who have long been ignored by the "good" church people, I serve notice that we are not going to knock on the door and ask to be invited in ... we're gonna kick in the door and like Jesus' in the Temple, we're gonna kick over tables and we're gonna reclaim The Church ... today I'm done waiting on the ash heap ... the Spirit is calling me and I will follow ...
Today the Reign of Christ begins ... and I for one welcome it ...
Come Holy Spirit, COME !!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering ... Lest We Forget ...

Today is a day of Remembrance ... a day to recall the cost of our lifestyle, and the freedoms we enjoy ... it is a day to pause and remember those who have fallen many miles from home, and who's remain lie on foreign soil ... it's a day to pause and remember the young men and women who have willingly gone off to serve their country, and who have paid the sacrifice for our freedom ...

Today I remember Herb, the 105 year old gentleman who regaled me with stories of his involvement at a place called Vimy. Pointing at Pierre Berton's account of the battle at Vimy he snorted "I don't have to read that ... I was THERE!!" He spoke of the gas attacks, urinating on his hankerchief and holding it over his mouth and nose as the noxious clouds rolled by ... he spoke of losing comrades as they went over the top ... he spoke of his wounds and the wounds of his brother who would succumb years later to the wounds and lungs weakened by the gas ... he spoke of coming home and seldom speaking of his experience lest the dark dreams that haunted his youth would return ...

Today I remember Frank, a gentleman poet who took his experiences in Italy and wove them into power works of poetry that reflected the futility of war, and the senselessness of countless deaths on the field of battle ... he spoke of his experiences, he shared his poetry, and he vocalized a contempt for those who think war and battles solve anything ..,. "Peace is the only option," he said tearfully, "too many lives are wasted in war ..."

Today I remember the Mosquito pilot who flew planes that had in part been crafted in the factory his family owned in Southern Ontario ... the fear that came while engaging in dog fights was lessened by the knowledge that parts of his plane might have been put together by his family and friends "back home." Flying in the dark in the small wooden fighter/bomber, he felt the support of those who loved him, and who he was fighting for ...

Today I remember the quiet memories of a land craft pilot who served in Dieppe, Sicily, and Normandy, ferrying soldiers to the beaches and pulling away as the landscape erupted in cacophany of noise, sharpnel and blood ... "54 of us went ashore that day ..." he spoke quietly, "and only one came back ..." He told of turning to his co-pilot only to find a bloody mess where his head had been ... watching as the 52 soldiers who stepped into the surf were mercilessly mowed down by enemy fire ... he spoke of the boot that pushed his chest as he tried to climb out of the bloodied craft ... "Stand down soldier," barked the officer pushing him back, "you need to do YOUR DUTY !!" A boat hook removed the body and a bucket of salt water washed away the blood ... a second man leapt into the co-pilots position and 52 more soldiers climbed down to hit the beaches of Dieppe ... "it was horrible ..." His voice trailed off into a deep silence ...

Today I remember my Grandfather who shared the uproarious stories of chowing down on fried bologna and onions in a heaving North Atlantic while the newbies on board his Corvette hurled thier lunch and curled up in thier hammocks ... his tales of Polly the parrot that he brought back to a very Conservative Chesley Ontario after it had shared quarters and definitely learned how to "curse like a sailor" ... his occassional stories of the convoys across the cold grey Atlantic to places like Murminsk, Londonderry and Rjeyavik ... stories that seldom visited the grim side of serving in the Navy, but highlighted the comradery ...

Today I remember the many men and women - soldiers, sailors and aviators, who have shared their stories, and who entrusted to me the tales of thier youth spent on battle fields half a world away ... quietly, at times speaking no louder than a whisper I heard of the Horror and the Heroism of battles that would slip away into the sands of time if they didn't share their stories ... Vimy, Yrpes, Dieppe, Sicily, Juno, Cassino, Kapyong ... Soldiers, Peace Keepers, and Veterans ... they carry their stories and their memories, and today, for a brief flickering moment, we pause to share their Remembrance, and to give thanks for ALL those who have served in uniform and who have given far more than many of us every realize or appreciate ...

Today we honour those who have fallen ... and those who have served and who were forever changed ...

Today we remember ... Lest We Forget ...

Revisiting a Remembrance Day Reminder ...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Change you can believe in ... The Dream Goes On!!

The same week when the media is looking back to the time 20 years ago when the Berlin Wall came down, and a dark period in modern history drew to a close, the Media is marking the passing by the US Congress, of the bill to reform health care provision ... the shift is not as momentous, but no less historic - our southern cousins have joined the fellowship of Universal Health Care !!!

While the success of this does not rest solely on the shoulders of the sitting President, one can not overlook his fingerprints on this process. Universal Health Care was a central plank in his election campaign and last night the Bill passed and a huge step was taken - every American will have now have access to affordable and quality Health Care.

Nice job Mr Obama - you and your nation have done well !!!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Happy Accident ...

On Sunday Morning after worship Noahkila, Ms. H. and I went to "see" the Stanley Cup at the Scotia Bank in Portage ... we ended up getting our picture taken with it ...

Kind of cool, even if we're not really big hockey fans ...

check it out:

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Sesame Street Gang ...

40 YEARS !!!
My gawd ... is it possible that we've been enjoying sunny days and sweeping the clouds away in the place where the air is clear and friendly neighbours have come to play ????
It's hard to imagine that it was forty years ago today that it ALL started ...
Happy Birthday to the crew on Sesame Street, from all of us who have grown up watching, singing, dancing and playing along ... it's been an awesome journey !!!

How it ALL began ...

(This one is for Beetle ... )

Remember when?? This is how it began 40 years ago ...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Been Writing ...

I'm beginning to realize, that even though I'm not earning my living at it, I AM A WRITER. I am a contributing writer to no less then three publications - two in Brandon and one in Ontario, and I am constantly working on an article for one of them, or a short story that his wiggling around in my head ... and I'm going to try to follow the advice of Chris Baty's ideas in "No Plot? No Problem." and try to get some of the book and novel ideas I've been playing with for years, down on paper ...
So - I will say it with out shame or fear - I AM A WRITER !!!
And for what it's worth, some of my latest published writings are available on line (as well as in print) ...
For my latest contribution to the Brandon based weekly newspaper The Wheat City Journal on the benefits of Guaranteed Income click here - and for more info on Guaranteed Income scroll down to the posting for October --, and read the interview transcript from Hugh Segal's appearence on CBC's The Sunday Edition.
For my latest contributions to the November Issue of Brandon's Westman Parent magazine click here - I am so proud to be a member of the team who pulls this publication together each month, even if I am merely one of the writers ... it's a great publication, and it is almost entirely based in WestMan!!.
Now ... back to my writing ... okay, first I have to start the laundry, then do some grocery shopping, walk Flute and Oboe, AND do the dishes ... but you get the idea !!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween !!!!!!

My prezzie from Ms. H.

(her industrial arts project)

Today ...

A BOO-tee-ful Butterfly!!!
An escaped convict
on the lamb.
eerie decorations in the garden
a graveyard in lawn

and the b-day cake that

Ms. H. made for the day!!





Flute says:
WITH Ms. H and Beetle???"

Also Born This Day ...

John Keats

Peter Jackson
screenwriter, producer, film maker.
Dale Evans,
(Mrs. Roy Rogers)

Larry Mullens Jr.
The Beat Behind Bono
(Drummer for U2)
David Ogden Stiers
perhaps best know for his role in M*A*S*H
Major Charles Emerson Winchester the 3rd

and my personal favourite celeb sharing the day:
the late and truly great
John Candy
1950 to 1994
is a
Great Day
for a
Birthday !!

Beetle Breaks Out ...

Tee shirt and pants from ValuVillage: $10
Two rolls of white duct tape: $14
Twenty feet of cotton rope $ 8
One roll of black hockey tape $ 3
One foam ball from the dollar store $ 2
and with a couple of hours of work, a pair of scissors, a sharpie pen,
and some creativity, we have a one of a kind Halloween Costume!!!
Beetle went to school today as a prisoner complete with
handcuffs, ankle manacle with an "iron" ball, and
a set of prisoner clothes ... she wasn't the bell of the ball,
but she had a blast and that's what Halloween is ALL ABOUT!!!

... and it was of course:


Friday, October 30, 2009

133 ...

A Canadian soldier who had spent
less than a week in Afghanistan
was killed Friday by an improvised explosive device
while on foot patrol in Kandahar.
Sapper Steven Marshall, 24,
from the 11 Field Squadron,
1 Combat Engineer Regiment, based in Edmonton
Sapper Marshall is the 133 Canadian Solider to die in
Thoughts and prayers for his comrades,
thoughts and prayers for his family,
thoughts and prayers for the people
of Afghanistan.
Lest We Forget.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

132 ...

Today in Afghanistan, just days into his tour with the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry, 26-year-old Lt. Justin Garrett Boyes was killed when an IED detonated by his patrol which was mentoring the local Afghani Police force.

Lt. Boyes is the 132 Canadian Soldier to die in Afghanistan.

Two of his comrades were also wounded ...

Thoughts and prayers for the family of the fallen, and for the wounded ...

Lest We Forget.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Church as Commodity ...

Tonight on CBC's As It Happens, they had a segment on the creation of an Arts and Crafts style Church from Brockhampton England, on the 20th Floor of a highrise in Osaka Japan ... the 3/4 size recreation is part of a wedding experience offered by the Japanese hotel who have created and host it ... The building is beautiful, even with the odd location ...

The website for the REAL All Saints' Church is here. Check it out - it's worth it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Common Sense Approach to Poverty ...

On Sunday morning on CBC Radio One's The Sunday Edition - Michael Enright interviewed Conservative Senator Hugh Segal (above) noting that Mr Segal is one of the few voices speaking out on Poverty issues at a national level ... the following is a transcript (made by ME) of that interview ... there may be some errors and glitches, but the heart of the interview and the bulk of Mr Segal's common sense approach to dealing with poverty in Canada by implementing a guaranteed income supplement for those struggling to make ends meet is sound and has a proven track record ... following his conversation with Mr Segal, Michael interviewed Dr Forget or University of Manitoba and another guest about the five year Mincome experiment undertaken in Dauphin Manitoba that guaranteed everyone a minimum income level and had astounding results ...

Unfortunately, as with most common sense solutions - few are willing to take the chance ... we have too much invested in the bureaucracies and the structures we've built to risk dismantling them ... so instead the continuation of a rule and judgment based system continues, when the solution might be as simple as a reverse income tax ... maybe one day, as Mr Segal notes, a political party will embrace this, and our housing, homelessness and poverty problems across Canada will suddenly begin to disappear ...

One can (and MUST) continue to hope and to work for THAT day ... in the meantime - check out Mr Segal's interview online at the CBC Radio One web site for The Sunday Edition, or take a few minutes to read it here (Mr Enright's questions/comments are in bold - Mr Segal's follow):

First off, how can we solve a problem we can't even define?
Well, I think we have to be realistic about what poverty actually is. Poverty is not about measuring up to some Stats Can standard. Poverty is not having enough money to get by with the basics. And we know in every province by the welfare rolls the amount of people who fall into that category, and we also know as a whole Canada has somewhere in the range of 5 to 8 million Canadians who fall beneath ANY definition of poverty anybody might want to use. For example …
Say that, say that number again …
5 to 8 million Canadians. And if you take a look at what people who on welfare get, in no case do the people who receive welfare income actually receive as much as Stats Can calls the low income cutoff. So in all cases the average welfare family would be receiving between 11 to 15 thousand dollars a year less than what all statistical measures suggest that they actually need to get basic housing, basic clothing, heat and all the rest … food … and that is why we see an increasing uptick in the amount of use of our - of our (sic) food banks across the country. This is why you have a city as wealthy as Calgary that has 2500 people in shelters every night and another 500 people sleeping on the street. So the problem is real.

Is there a difference between poverty and inequality? Inequality to me is a gap between haves and have-nots, but what is the difference?
Yeah there is a difference. Inequality is something you're always going to have in a free market society where some people do better than others. I'm not for eradicating that. I'm for equality of opportunity not equality of outcomes. But the difference between inequality and poverty is in poverty's case it's it's it's (sic) not buying a new pair of shoes this year cause you hope your kid's feet haven't grown. It's in many parts of Canada, negotiating through plexi-glas with well meaning civil servants to have enough money to buy food for your family. That's poverty. And far too many Canadians are forced to live in that poverty. And by the way before we hear the National natting of teeth about 'well those are just lazy people that don't want to work.' 48% in some provinces of people who fall beneath any definition of poverty are ACTUALLY working. They are the working poor and in some case holding more than one job and still don't make enough because of the cost structure in their part of the world.

In the 19th Century, and perhaps most of the 20th Century Poverty was seen to be some kind of moral failure on the part of the people who are poor. Do we still believe that?
Well we say we don't, but our welfare systems operate as if we do. You know there are some welfare offices in Ontario where if you show up to apply for welfare you're asked to watch a film, a video about why you perhaps shouldn't be applying and should be thinking about other options. Then you have to come back the next day . That's …
You have to wa … Wait a minute. You have to watch a video ....
You have to watch a video.
...telling you …
… yup …
…why you shouldn't be applying for …
Yes, and why there may be other options you have to consider. And then if you have watched that video, gone all the way home, and hopefully there is public transit in that rural part of Ontario, but in fact often there isn't, you can come back the next day and apply in the normative fashion. So there is a kind of Victorian judgment made about why people are poor and my view is, in the same way as we make don't a judgment about who gets wheeled into the emergency ward, about how they got sick, or how they had their accident, we just deal with it, it would be far more efficient, far less costly, far more humane, if we really dealt with the fact that people who earned beneath a certain level need to be topped up for a temporary period of time. It would be a far more humane and efficient way.

I want to get at this whole issue of a guaranteed or basic, you call it basic income … but realistically has there ever been a society or a jurisdiction that has eradicated poverty?
Nope there hasn't. But there are jurisdictions that are doing a far far better job then we are, and these are jurisdictions like the Germans and the French and our Scandinavian friends who are productive economically, who in fact in some respects are more productive then we are, have a strong profit motive but have made decisions about the kind of investment they want to make in ensuring that the gaps are not so large as to be destroying of spirit, and destroying of any incentive. And of course what they've also recognized is that many of our well meaning welfare systems across Canada are traps that actually penalize people who try to break out, who try to get a low paying job because that's what they can get at, and the amount of money they lose in so doing is a higher rate of taxation than many of our wealthiest fellow Canadians experience on their last bits of income. So we do have some perversities in the systems that work against eradicating poverty, and I think they are ways we can work on those together and make some real progress.

When you talk about … when you look at the myriad of programmes – welfare programmes across the, across the whole political system … you – you – you complain about how these are micro managed in a particular way – 'micro-focused welfare' – I think is your expression. What do you mean by that, and what do we do about that?
Let me give you one very specific example. When the Standing Committee of the Senate on Cities and Poverty was in Nova Scotia, I got to visit with a, with a (sic) shelter that was set up for young unmarried girls and their kids. It was a magnificent facility. The apartments were large and comfortable. The young women were getting educational support and a whole bunch of other things to help them through this part of their life, help their children through this part of their life. They got 700 bucks a month roughly, of which the facility had to take 500 odd for the purpose of room and board, which only makes sense it was ...
… not for-profit. And then of course the Province beared down heavily to find out the name of the father at great cost. And if they found the name of the father, and if the father chose to deny his paternal responsibilities, they would then finance a DNA test to see if it was the father, and if it was proved to be the father at great cost to the tax payer, they'd force the father to contribute, and then they would reduce by the amount of the contribution the amount that income support gave to the mother. So that the mother and the child are no further ahead, and we had spent a small fortune to try to determine fault. The truth of the matter is that many of those mothers had decided that they didn't want anything to do with the biological fathers for whatever reason. We would be far better off to be investing that money in an income security system which help people through those temporary periods in their life in a way that was fulsome and appropriate as opposed to very very meager and frankly in some cases not all that helpful.
I just want to make sure I understand this, so as a result of a DNA test...
… the absent father ...
… is compelled to contribute something, if he choses to do and in most cases they don't ...
… that money is deducted from what the woman gets?
Bingo !! and that process of clawing back and deducting on our most poor fellow Canadians is a regular part of our welfare system across the country. If you find a job and you earn more than a 100 bucks a month, if you – if you get regular employment, if a person on welfare is able to get admission to a post secondary institution and applies for a student loan their welfare is canceled instantaneously, when the thing we want them to do is to better themselves as we would all say through education, so they can be employed and they can make a contribution and pay taxes as opposed to be beneficiaries. So those are the perversities in the system which a micro managed approach to welfare produces consistently despite by the way, case workers who are doing their best with a tough set of rules and who care deeply about their client base.

What if I put it to you senator that these people are, are a drain on society, and on the social order, that they just don't want to work, they'd rather sit home and get their welfare cheque and head off to the beer store on the 15th of the month ?
Well, ...
You've heard that argument
I've heard that argument, and is there some gaming of the system? Yes there is. But, guess what? I think we all found there was a touch of gaming on the system when a certain bank collapsed last September by people with huge amounts of income. I'm saying if we're gonna pass judgment on gaming of the system, let's do it equally. In some cases, people who gamed the system received bonuses. All we're asking for here is that we don't penalize the folks who are honest, who have no other choice, who deserve a measure of support because the one factory in their town closed and they've run out of UIC, or because there's a disability, or because there has been family violence and they've had to leave the home. Those are the people, as well as those that have mental difficulties who constitute the largest amount of client group being addressed by welfare groups across the country. Very few of them are gaming the system. Many of them have been gamed by the system, which is why they are falling beneath the poverty line.

My guest this morning is Senator Hugh Segal from Kingston Frontenac Leeds. We're talking about poverty this morning, and how it exists in Canada, how bad it is, and what can be done about it. Senator Segal is one of the few Conservatives to take up the fight about poverty and I want to talk about that in a moment, but I want to get a number from … well, not necessarily a number. If we were to put together all of the provincial and federal payments that we now push out the door of the treasury to vari …to people for various, various support things and took all that money, put it together, could we afford in this country, what you call a Basic Living Income, you say that's the rational foundation for a free society.
I believe we do. At the present time we spend roughly 150 BILLION dollars a year between the Provinces and Ottawa on all the other support mechanisms that go out to sustain people in various different parts of their lives. That does not include health and that does not include education. So, that is a very large number and what we do know now is that through the guaranteed annual income supplement, which was brought in first by Mr Davis, in Ontario back in the 1970's, the ability of the system to top people up is actually quite automatic and doesn't involve any excessive bureaucracy. One of the reasons …
And you had something to do with that as I recall back in the 70's.
Well, I was one of the juniors working around when the NDP and the Liberals in a committee reduced the salary, in a motion, of the Minister and the Deputy Minister, not by a dollar, but to a dollar, and I recall the Deputy coming to visit me as the junior young legislative assistant and asking “well, what are you going to do about that?” and I said, “We're not going to have an election on your salary – take that to the bank. Why don't we find out what the NDP was really looking for. And what they were pointing to was the fact that at that point in Ontario history seniors, mostly women whose husbands had died, without meaningful savings or pension, were in fact living in abject poverty and many were using dog and cat food as part of their menu. That was real. It's not an urban myth. And guess what? Two weeks later the Honorable Darcy McKeough, one of the most centre right pro-Bay Street finance Ministers in the history of Ontario, stood up to announce the guaranteed annual income supplement for our seniors in Ontario, because 'they had earned it. They'd invested. They had built the province, and those folks then got an automatic top up if they earned beneath a certain level.' And then that spread across the country, and we now do it federally as well. It's not as robust as it might be, but it's one of the reasons that we have until most recently succeeded in reducing the rate of senior poverty, and by the way, no civil servants, no interviews, no welfare office visits. It's all done automatically. So we have the mechanism to do this in a way that would save in my judgment, billions over what we are now spending in the administrative costs around these judgmental based, rules based welfare programmes across the country.

You said earlier that poverty is a drain on the treasury, that it hurts the national ex-checker, Gross Domestic Product and all that, why is it also bad for business?
Well, it's bad for business for a couple of reasons. First of all it reduces the amount of people who are able to consume in any kind of meaningful way, it reduces the amount of well educated people that can come into the workplace with the skills we need to expand our technological and manufacturing and other economic base. It produces a huge tax drain on business and on earning Canadians because of the excess costs that are pumped into health care, the penal system, the judicial system for reasons that relate to poverty.
You know in Las Vegas they had a guy called Million Dollar Louis. Louis was a homeless guy in Vegas, and by the time they added up the cost of all the 911 calls, police interventions, they found that over a few years he had cost the state of Nevada over one million US Dollars and they finally realized – 'you know you could build a lot of housing for low income people at a fraction of that cost,' and in that way we now have tax levels for average Canadians that needn't be as high in my judgment, because they're financing health care and other systems that are hugely expanded by the impact of poor Canadians who are the first to get ill, the most dependent upon various systems, and we know that minute you reduce the level of poverty you begin to get productivity levels, education outcomes, registration in schools … in fact there was a test in the great province of Manitoba in the mid-70's called the Manitoba Min-Com Project in Dauphin, and a wonderful economist from the Manitoba Health Sciences Centre has just begun to look at those numbers, and here is what she's found. Dr. Forget, She has found that for the five years that that Min-come operation topped up farmers and others' income when they fell beneath a basic level, school registration went up, attendance at post-secondary education increased, police interventions went down, health admissions went down. Every potential indicator of a healthy and growing society was in fact was made much more robust by virtue …
Which is why in a few moments we are going to talk to Dr Forget about that experiment, that, that … in Dauphin Manitoba. But let me ask you this – you're a Conservative, you believe in free enterprise, you are pro-business big and small – why are you such a lone voice in all of this, certainly in the Conservative side of the political spectrum. Isn't it the job of the Conservatives to grind the poor under the wheels of their carriage??

(laughter) Well, ah … No, and I don't think I'm alone in the sense that I think of Minister Flaherty with the working tax benefits, which he brought in, which was the first real measure to help the working poor out of a welfare trap. It isn't as large or as broad as I might like but it's a huge step in the right direction. He deserves great credit for that, so I don't feel alone, but because I don't carry the burdens those ministers of the crown and other carry I can focus more on the specific part of the aspect, and I consider it a privilege to do so.

But why? Why? You grew up in the east end of Montreal, downtown Montreal. Three brothers. Were you … you don't come from an impoverished background do you?
Aaaahhhh, um … well, calling us working poor would have been a pretty plummy overstatement of our status.
Yeah, we did receive food baskets from the local congregation. We were often recipients of kind of the informal aid, the financial aid of the community, in difficulty. I do recall a bailiff coming to the house to repossess the furniture, so ...
This is around St Urbain Street?
Well, it was actually in lower Outremont at the time. And so I have experienced that, and I've been very fortunate. And by the way, one of the really good things about our record on poverty, just to be even handed, is our intergenerational progress, people who do better than the generation from which they came, actually is better. We rank in among one of the top countries in the world where that intergenerational progress out of poverty is actually quite compelling. And that is because some of our policies around education for example and literacy, while not as robust as some would like, actually make a very good contribution. The problem is that for the people who are in poverty now, we can talk about the kids, we can talk about the seniors, but for the folks who are in poverty now, we really don't have any innovative answers and that is what I'm kind of fighting against.

Let me go back to this loneliness thing, because I don't recall poverty as an issue on the national table in the last election, or in the one before that. I can't remember it coming up in the leaders debates. I covered the Obama campaign fairly closely, I don't recall a major speech on poverty. Why can politicians not … how do they get away with not addressing it? Bit talking about it?
Really … really simply. Poor people tend not to vote. Poor people tend not to join politicial parties. Poor people tend not to go out to meetings. Their will to democratic participation is diminished by worrying about where they're going to sleep that night. It is diminished by worrying about whether they are going to have enough money for heat and food and pharmaceuticals in the same month. So when you fill people with that kind of angst on an ongoing basis and you give them no way out, chances of them being active participants in our political life, demanding that their issues be addressed will in fact, be heavily diluted, and that's what we see both in the United States and in Canada. And let me say this, while our unions are generally on the side of social progress, sometimes a bit excessively, but their hearts' in the right place, their primary obligation is to protect their members.
Some have stepped up on the issue, the CAW, on the poverty issue, but others have been very self-centred and frankly all of us in society, the private sector, the not-for profits, the universities, our colleagues and the media have to ask themselves Why it's not a greater issue in their lives? And why are they not more focused on it?
I think that part of it is because poverty tends to be unseen. It's not in the neighbourhoods in which many of us work. And I think part of our responsibility, people like myself who have the privilege of working on public policy in the Nations' Senate, on the payroll of the tax payer is to go to those areas with others of all political parties raise those questions and see if we can't find better solutions, and hopefully one of the political parties, I would prefer if it was my own, but I don't really care – one of the political parties will embrace a solution that is more wholistic, that is more efficient, is more humane, does respect privacy, and really moves this pro … moves this file ahead.

With great respect, are you trying to put the Progressive back in progressive Conservative?
(chuckle) … Look I'm a … I'm an unrepentant red Tory.
I feel really comfortable in the party in which I now have the privilege of serving as a Conservative. I actually think that e Harper administration has more of a heart than is otherwise portrayed, and sometimes they're embarrassed about portraying that heart. And don't know how to do it. But hopefully, that will increase over time.
Senator, thank you. It's good to talk to you again this morning …