A Money Coach in Canada

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Since being once-and-for-all put off the Mass Meat Industry after seeing Food Inc summer ’09, I’ve made an effort to mend my meat-eating ways.

I’ve ordered 1/4 pig and 10 chickens from a free-range organic farm in Alberta. And I committed to learning to fish..
I haven’t made much progress on this. To date: I went fishing with some friends and a guide last summer and literally prayed I woudn’t catch a damn fish and thank God I didn’t although every other person did and at least the guide was very quick at bonking the flopping living things swiftly so they then became very dead but still it was hard to eat the meat even though it had been deliciously panfried over an open fire and everyone else was pretty much having a fish-eating orgy but I wasn’t.

And that’s as far as it went.

So for 2010, when the opportunity arose to learn how to fillet a fish (bring your own knife; dead fish provided) I thought I should take it to the next level.

I learned a few things.

1. It’s easier to eat a fish that looks like this:

Mouth of a jackfish / northern pike

This friends, is what is derisively term a Jackfish, but we prefer to call it Northern Pike. It abounds up here. They are tough-spirited fish, and check out that set of teeth.

2. The steps to filleting a fish are:
a. Cut just behind the gills
b. Cut along the spine, from neck to tail
c. I forget how to get the side of the fish completely off next (I looked away)
d. To skin it, place your knife flat between the skin and the flesh. Keep your knife relatively motionless, but tug the skin towards you. You can cut a hole in the skin to put your thumb through (extra tugging power).

Learning to fillet fish

3. The stomach is apparently a delicacy. (I think I threw up in my mouth a bit) (probably politically incorrect)
Fish (northern pike) stomach

So here’s what money’s done to me: it’s so disconnected me from the primal life-and-death biology of FOOD that even something as basic as fishing and filleting (we’re not talking pretty goldfish here, much less gentle cattle or smart pigs) has me all disoriented. Pathetic!

In contrast, our instructor was completely at ease.

Learning to fillet fish

Do I have any readers who fish?

If so: I wanna know – how did you get past all the squeemish stuff?

Give me a fish and I’ll eat a meal. Teach me to fish and I’ll save a lot of money, eat more healthfully, and live more sustainably. If I can keep it down.

Unboxing IPad Sleeve

Originally uploaded by moneycoach

There *is* a wee bit of elitism in my character you know. I love quality. So when I saw these iPad cases from an intriquing high-craftsmanship workshop in Florida I knew it was a must-have. So I promised myself that when I hit a certain weight-loss goal, I’d make the purchase (and yes, it was pricey). Adieu, faithful Apple case, ooh-la-la, new all-leather, handmade sweet gorgeousness! Ladies and gentlemen, the Unboxing.

Union shirt

For many years I had little time for unions. I saw them as outdated, no longer necessary and getting in the way of productivity and efficiency, not to mention interfering with the rights of business owners.

I believed unions meant that:

  • Some staff get away with woeful misconduct on the job,because the union protects them
  • They create a disincentive for individuals to perform well, since raises and promotions are seniority, not performance, based
  • Often union members on strike are those providing basic public services (like dealing with our garbage) and they are  so well paid for such basic work, and we taxpayers should be able to dictate that they go back.  They often have made more than me!  And they shouldn’t be allowed to be so disruptive to society!  So let’s legislate them back to work.

On top of all that, Unions have become an industry unto itself, often serving its own interests rather than the interests of its membership.

I’ve since changed my mind.


Regrettably, I think we still need unions even if some of the byproducts are less than desirable. (“Regrettably” refers to the fact that they’re needed)

If you’ve worked more than 10 years you must have witnessed some of the same things I have – gross misconduct by an employer which goes unchecked because of who holds the cards.

Here are a few examples of poor, poor employer behaviour which I’ve witnessed first hand :

  • senior executive who made advances on many of his young female staff with impunity.  Some of the young, courageous employees  made an unsuccessful attempt to go above his head to point it out, to no avail.
  • demeaning micro-managerial “style” which included insisting on submitting daily work plans, insisting that all e-mails be filtered through the manager, summarily ordering individual staff to meetings without telling the staff the purpose of the meeting and making it clear any questioning or candid discussion would be subject to discipline
  • promises of future rewards in exchange for poor salaries and no benefits, except the rewards, years later, never materialized
  • blatant favouritism that had nothing to do with the quality of work produced by the golden child
  • isolating and bullying of a target employee who by all objective standards was entirely competent and dedicated

I’d like to think that for the good of the company, if not the good of the employees, senior management would have stepped in and kicked some ass.  To my knowledge, none of the instances saw justice done except one by a lawsuit.

So here’s my argument:  until there’s a real shift across the land (which may well come as we tilt dramatically towards a labour shortage), we need unions.   Even as messy as they are, we need them.  They offer a counter weight and provide some measure of recourse to those good folks who find themselves in a situation to which they should not be subjected.

OK Readers – couple questions:

1.  Do you know of a horror story in which a union could have helped?

2. Do you agree that until employers really, really get their responsibility to create an environment generally characterized by fair play and basic decency, that we need unions?

Have at ‘er!

Photo credit: Evan G;  used by Creative Commons Licence

This cracked me up:

Dear phisher wannabes: at least hire someone decent with photoshop or whatever to make the logo look somewhat like a reasonable facsimile thereof?

Disclaimer: I am not NDP. I am Green. But this was a great opportunity to meet some dedicated politicians in a small setting compared to whatever I’d experience “down south”. Besides, I really do believe that Loving My Neighbour As Myself is truly what all of us in my faith tradition are called to (and none of us do very well, esp. me) and NDP tries, more than other parties, to live into this.
There’s about 100 northerners here at the Tree of Peace.

7:08 pm
Couple local MLAs here (me: mildly dubious)

Prayer said by a dene man (I didn’t catch his name, sorry).

Jack, Dennis Bevington (MP), Olivia Chow here, introduced by Mark Hyack (sp?). Layton looking well – quite serene, frankly.

Jack now up. Referring to being at the top of the Nahanni falls (on my bucket list). Talking about the word Majesty. Segues into mention of Climate Change in the north.

Inuvialuit need to be part of process of northern development. Need to have a voice. Discussion must include them, not focus sole-ly on non-northern firms exploiting the vast resources in the north.

Now referring to courage and alluding to Tommy Douglas.

Layton questions Military as ways to prove Canada’s sovereignty. He says instead: support communities of the North. (OK, I totally agree on this one).

This means we must have a different relationship with the original inhabitants up here – nation to nation, eye to eye with First Nations. (again, I agree)

The recent apology needs to be accepted. At one point, the gov was not going to let the First Nations on the floor of the House to accept it. (pointed out by Bill Erasmus to Jack Layton at the time). Further, must put action.

Now moving on to affordable housing.

and moved swiftly to a call for a Pharmacare strategy.

He’s now pointing out Harper’s strategies and refuting them (eg. buying $16B of the world’s most advanced fighter jets. anyone know if that’s true?)

Now he’s asking for thoughts of the audience: What should the NDP be focussing on?

Q: drives man nuts how Ottawa has one-size-fits-all re: electricity rates. (CEO of dene first nation of yellowknife)
Q: local colour – man who previously had been on Jack Layton’s roof protesting or something – will die without seeing his children because of Bill C422. Will you go back to Ottawa and call for a revote (? missed that).
Q: Pembina Institute rep asking: unconventional energy – review of policies – how was it received by the Federal Gov’t?

Layton’s responses:

A to Q2 – we want all parents to have access to kids, but not sure what Bill C422 specifies. Will talk personally after. But we hear your pain while dealing with the system.
A to Q2 – one-size-fits-all = huge problem in Ottawa. 22¢ per kilowat/w in a cold place is indeed painful. We’ve said we should have nat’l strategy to retrofit homes to be more energy efficient.
Layton was the brunt of Rick Mercer about his own home – see below 🙂

A to Q3 by Bevington: this resolution called for complete review of all policies re: unconventional oil and gas. Why? because it’s happening all around the world – recognizes regulations were inadequate. Shale gas – what happens to underground acquafirs (?) when compound forced underground to extract gas? What are the dangers to the underground eco-systems, like water? In the fall we will be pushing hard to get this resolution back on the table. (note: the deep water drilling is close to home in the north – arctic Delta – could it be the next Gulf?)

Bevington talks about the good initiatives going on re: green energy in Yellowknife (it’s true)

More Q’s:

Q1: I just asked Q tweeted to me by BigCajanMan:
@moneycoach how will they deal with the coming pension meltdown? CPP may be OK but others seem on thin ice, how do u protect the members?

Q2: could NDP cooperate with other parties for the”greater good” of ousting Conservatives? (readers: don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just repeating!)

A to 2: that’s exactly what we attempted, and I played a significant role in trying to make that happen. I did that because of the economic crisis we were in. I’m always ready to work with other parties. We worked with the Conservatives to put more $ into EI in exchange for not calling for an election. We worked with Liberals (I missed the example). Ultimately though it’s up to the Cdn people. They wouldn’t appreciate not running candidates in particular ridings. Our party will always try to get the best result we can.

A to 1: this was the first and most important thing we needed to work on re: budget. (I don’t know if I heard that correctly). Give the banks a little bit less, and help seniors be at or above poverty live. CPP is quite solid. Guess what it is: It’s all of us coming together and creating something we can all benefit from. We’d like ultimately to see CPP doubled (me: even I am taken aback. doubled??) Wants to put some kind of insurance in place for retirees who learn their companies never put appropriate money into their pensions, and now they are left stranded.

A to Q3: tarsands – foreign temporary workers now in Alberta to provide labour. They and their money go home. We now bring in more foreign temp workers than immigrants. That’s not right.

Bevington pointing out (in my words) that changing extraction practices to be green means more attractive to market. Alberta’s brand is now Dirty Oil Alberta because they didn’t do things right. Ppl feel guilty about what they’re creating instead of good about it.

Olivia Chow now up.

Q 1: Suzette Monteuil: What is NDPs national childcare strategy?
Q2: I used to be a citizens of France where workers have rights. On paper I have rights, but my employer’s work practices resulted in an injury and employer bullied me against raising the issue. What is your stance?
Q3: Lyda Fuller (YWCA) Has the report on the long-gun registry changed people’s minds about the long-gun registry? I have a letter signed from every single shelter across the country asking the gov’t not to reconsider the Registry.

A to Q3: this is a controversial topic. It’s really about public security. We’ve ended up with a black or white vote in Sept. (I think he tried to lay down arms and work together)
[interesting sidebar – the NDP apparently does not Whip its members into voting a particular way on an issue in the House] First time he’s heard of such a letter. Lyda doesn’t sound satisfied with answer.

A to Q2: introduced her to head of local Labour who’s also here of course.

A to Q1 by Olivia Chow – why can’t we provide non-profit, affordable care for our kids? It should not be only for-profit (profiting off caring for children = weird?). To have national strategy we would need an Act, just like we have a Health Act. The childcare options would have to be local, flexible, but the financing and standards should be enshrined in law. We know a child’s brain grows the most during the first six years of their life. There is no reason why, if we have an education system, we could not extend it slightly younger. That forms the basis of the NDP national childcare plan.

(NWT MP) Bevingon: I’m very much in favour of gun control. I grew up in the north and saw the results of poor licensing, lack of training, poor training. Those things killed a lot of people. The long-gun registry has saved lives. Spontaneous shooting not as easy.

Q1: Lydia Bardack, John Howard Society – if gov’ts had to undergo the same scrutiny and accountability the NGOs do, they wouldn’t still exist. What are we doing to promote safety for gov’t? How are we supporting victims of crime?
A1: Layton: I want to connect you with our public critic on safety, Don Davies. The conservative approach is on the american style of justice, which is moving away from typical Canadian approaches. NDP has supported minimum sentences for 3 gun crimes. Conservatives were going to cover all kinds of offences -> minimum sentences. When you’ve been in jail crammed in with 4 people (double bunking), and the likelihood of getting out of jail and becoming a taxpayer again are minimal. In some cases, this is possible. How do we support them? What if they have FAS? What if they have an addition? A mental illness? Do additional jails help? And are people who want more jail times willing to pay more taxes?

It’s 8:30pm, my battery’s at 10%, twitter is on FailWhale, and i think it’s time to close.

but — last comments by Bevington: It’s time to acknowledge the War on Drugs is an abject failure. Another option needed. Look at Mexico (ie. what’s happened there due to War on Drugs)

PS – you know what was interesting? Truly and for real, there was “civilized discourse”.

oops – maybe not – woman claiming Treaty Rights to speak despite — oh wow — she states she’s hear from Ft. Smith, standing in front of Layton (who quietly stood) and talking about her experience with crack. I think I’m gonna cry.