A Money Coach in Canada

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I grew up in a mining town. When I was a kid, it was gold mining. Now it’s diamond mining. Anyway, back in the day, Yellowknife had two working gold mines, Giant and Con. Any local readers remember the Miner’s Mess and the Rec? Yep, Yellowknife had an element of rough-and-tumble to it.

I was too young to know that the mines would some day run out of gold and they’d close. And like all of us, I would never have dreamed that a strike would become so tense that a union member would plant a bomb in Giant Mine and kill nine scab labourers – one of the largest murder investigations in RCMP history.

And. And. And: It certainly didn’t occur to me that the (US) owner of the mines would OOPS! declare bankruptcy and stick Canadians with the approx HALF-BILLION-DOLLAR clean-up (arsenic) bill.

And that’s just for Giant Mine. There’s also Colomac Mine and Tundra Mine. Oh, and that’s just in the NWT! There’s also Pamour Mine in Ontario, Hope Brook Mine in Newfoundland and Kerness Mine in B.C.

The owner (formerly known as Peggy Witte, now Margaret Kent) of the now-bankrupt mine, I see, is now CEO and President of a new mining company, Century Mining Corp. Interestingly, it looks like Century is up to some shenanigans this year in Quebec. I hear she has a second home in Hawaii.

There’s worse, folks. Much, much worse.

She’s baaaccccck: in addition to Century Mine, she owns Tamerlane Mine and just guess who’s mining in the NWT – Pine Point. They’re re-opening a portion of the Pine Point Zinc deposit. (We’re in good company. Tamerlane is also doing business in Peru.)

Dear us: Who is this Peggy Witte/Margaret Kent that not only does she leave us with nearly a HALF BILLION DOLLAR BILL, but now she’s allowed to have at us again?

I’ve been a bit glum recently.
Bono summed things up for me with the query:

When you look at the world
What is it that you see?
People find all kinds of things
That bring them to their knees.

What I’m seeing up here in the north, increasingly, is just how complicated is the relationship between Canada and First Nations peoples. And it’s bringing me to my knees, frankly. It’s pretty damn dark. And that’s probably all I can say about it.

Reminders that sometimes Big Ideas that Change the World actually do get realized and really do start to change the world provide welcome cheer to me on this rainy Saturday in Yellowknife.


The RED campaign initiated by Bono is one such Big Idea. Yeah, it can appear commercial. Yeah, it probably lets us all too easily off the hook. But as Raincoaster once pointed out (kicking my ass all over town, as only she can do! -I say with gratitude and affection), small starts can lead to deeper thinking about the underlying causes of injustice. So I say, YES! to RED!

What is RED? It simply offers each of us a choice as consumers, with several iconic brands, to select the RED brand item to purchase. A percentage of each sale then goes to a their global fund, and every penny goes directly to Africa, especially towards AIDS relief.

Products you can choose include:

Starbucks – RED card/mugs

Apple – RED ipod

Dell – RED computers

GAP – RED scarves, t-shirts

AMEX – RED card (UK Only?)

Hallmark – RED cards.

Sometimes when it all seems to overwhelming, and when I just can’t see how I can possibly be of any help to anyone, it’s nice to know other people with a whole lot more influence than me have done some serious legwork. The RED campaign has already raised millions of dollars, a scale I can barely comprehend.

Me? Sure, I’m in. I’ll buy RED when I can. That’s easy. The hard work for me is to find a way to serve (I am a civil *servant* after all) and not impose upon, the original peoples of the NWT – if it’s even possible.

Thanks @Paul for finding this!

IKEA Heights from DaveAOK on Vimeo.


Photo Credit:  Laffy4K

I’m going in to my office for a couple hours tomorrow for a project that came up at 4:30pm on Friday.   I was caught completely off guard when my manager encouraged me to enter the hours into peoplesoft so that I get paid overtime.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids, or maybe it’s because much of my working life I’ve had my own business but frankly I don’t firmly compartmentalize “work” | “the rest of my life”.   Part of this is due to the fact that I’ve always ensured my work has personal meaning to me (with a couple regrettable exceptions).  When your work is connected to your values it’s not something you want to leave at the door.

These porous boundaries are amplified for all of us, I think, by web 2.0.    The ability to interact professionally or personally is no longer bounded by time or location. When I’m on facebook, am I working or simply hanging out with friends?  What if those friends gives me valuable info that I bring into my work role?  Or what if I  FB Friend someone from work, and we develop a camaraderie  which translates to a high-trust culture on the job?

Beyond that, the 9-5 model is based on industrialization and very few of us work in factories.  I don’t know about you, but many of my best ideas or insights come outside of 9-5.  This weekend I’ve spent several hours reading Finding Dahshaa (and if any canadians want to be flung back in your assumptions about First Nations and the rest of us, this is the book!) and Housecalls by Dogsled.  Both will inform, for the better, my approach to my work.   Neither are books I’d have read while in Vancouver.   So is this work, or pleasure?  What about the many times I’m reading blogs and stumble across something that will come to bear on my work?  You get the idea.

Conversely, heaven knows many hours between 9-5 are (at least on the surface) not directly yielding any particular results:  I may be distracted by my sick dog, I may have intellectually wandered far afield from the task at hand or I may be spending too much time pouring my coffee.  For myriad reasons, there’s plenty of time in the office that is not in any obvious, direct way contributing to accomplishment on the job.

What I’m really being paid to do is develop strategies to ensure the north has a world-class cadre of human capital.   Whether I do a better or lamer job of this is not a 9-5 question, but a creative, informed, get-it-done question.   And work-life balance is not a matter of walking away from this role at 5pm each day, but of ensuring all the parts of me – creative, intellect, spirit, body is nourished in all my environments.

I suppose we stick to pay-the-by-the-hour models because it’s the easiest way to measure something (but what?  other than butt in chair?), but it’s certainly not the accurate measure of value provided by employees.

Readers:  are you in a similar situation?  What do you really get paid for?  Have you heard of other compensation models besides piecemeal or performance bonuses?

Hi all —

I joined the green party several months ago.  I think it’s to everybody’s benefit that their platform – the environment especially, and also social justice – is at least on the formal political radar.

Plus, I’ve always had a thing for the underdog.   They’ve made a LOT of ground in the past few years, but they are also the little-party-that-could and does not have the corporations or labour movement behind them as other parties do (or certainly not to the same extent).   As you can imagine, running campaigns is expensive, and it looks like another campaign is going to be required.

Even if you don’t think you’d ever vote for them (although I hope more of us will!), would you consider donating to the party to ensure at least this nascent party can continue offering an alternative to Canadians? This money coach thanks you!

DONATE: here


Here’s a letter from Elizabeth May which I shamelessly cut and paste from an e-mail:

Dear Supporter,

Do you ever find yourself yearning for a time when Canadian politics was not quite so exciting?  When elections seemed to happen every four years and the two main parties represented a sort of middle ground, not great, but not scary?

Of course, these turbulent times are what is putting the wind in our Green sails, but it cannot be altogether satisfying to see our growth as a party while the country and the planet are in such turmoil.

I have never been so sure as I am today that Canada needs Green MPs in Parliament.  My own view is constantly reaffirmed by strangers who come up to me in train stations, airports, and farmers’ markets across Canada saying “Next time you have got to win a seat.  We all need you in Parliament.”

The party decision makers, the federal council elected by the members and the national campaign committee, realize this as well.  We know that an election could happen as soon as this fall.  We have learned a lot from the last campaign.  One central lesson learned is that we need to target and focus resources so that the Leader will be an MP when the election results are tallied.  But I do not want to be the only Green elected.  We have a campaign plan ready and a strategy for bringing home the results we want.

What we desperately need is to finish paying down the debt from the 2008 campaign, before we find ourselves in a 2009 campaign!  You will be happy to know that of the roughly $2.5 million we borrowed, we have paid back over $1.5 million.  Most of this was made possible through the federal financing rules and rebates from Elections Canada.  But, no surprise, the recession has affected our donors.  We need to reach out to more Canadians and we need our current donors to consider making regular monthly donations.

Would you be willing to take a moment to send this email to friends that you know support our goals and aims but may not already be members?

Even a $25 donation is a big help and, of course current Canadian tax law has important consequences. If the donor pays income tax, 3/4 of any donation up to $400 is rebated. $400 donation only costs $100.  It is an extremely cost-effective way to help make the change you want to see in the world.

Secondly, would you be willing to donate NOW knowing that paying down the debt is essential before the next campaign begins?

You know we won’t spend a penny on attack ads!  You know we will keep a positive message of hope.  You know we will work to engage young people and call for greater civic engagement by all Canadians.

That is the message of my new book, Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy.  For a limited time, if you send the Green Party of Canada a $400 donation, I will personally inscribe the book.  If you can send $500 I will inscribe two books and you can pass one along to friends and relatives.  (Never too early for Christmas shopping!)

If you cannot give more at this time, I totally understand. I hate to even ask again, as I know you have received appeals from the party before.  It is a big help if you can share this message with your email list of friends.

Thanks again, more than I can say for all your support.

Elizabeth May, O.C.
Green Party of Canada

Photo Credit:  Grant Neufeld