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Sarah Thomson

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Barbados Journal Nov 2018

I now have a rooster. Our gardener brought him to us to protect our hens. But he doesn’t give the normal cock-a-doodle-doo when the sun rises, instead he crows at 3am and it sounds more like err-accck-er- errr.  Although scrawny, he is a proud and ambitious rooster. He is scared of just about everything in the yard, but chases the young hens incessantly and pecks at them if they get too close to his food. I’ve tried to tell him to be gentle with them, but he is consumed with the arrogance and vigour of his youth.

The hens are maturing nicely, no longer cute little chicks they are growing feathers and their own personalities. There is a natural leader I’ve named Delilah, she is always first out of the hen-house in the morning. For fun she chases the mourning doves around the yard, and when the rooster (I’ve named Doug) gets too aggressive with the other hens, she will come to their rescue and get a few good pecks in at him.  The others hens tolerate Delilah because they need a leader, but her exuberance for life upsets their conventionalism.

I bought my first car with a right-hand side steering wheel.  It’s a pea-green Kia Soul and there are only a handful on the island. We discovered that one belongs to the math teacher at our kids school .   We call him Captain Holt because he reminds us of the character on the t.v. show Brooklyn99. He likes things just so and always parks his car perfectly between the lines on the tarmac. For some reason my husband and I have had the same desire to park our car directly beside his whenever we come into the school parking lot. They look so cute together and I’m trying to think of ways to amp it up a bit. Thinking of getting bow and tie to but on them. I’m a bit worried I’ll run out of ideas, but the kids are a great help. 

Barbados is filled with so many stories and so much beauty. When you turn a corner you never know what you might find. To date we’ve come across: a huge pit in the middle of the road that was later filled with a mound of rocks; a goat; a breathtaking view of the Atlantic ocean, a drunken man wielding a machete getting slapped in the head by an old man who took away the large knife and sent him on his way, oh and some adorable puppies.  In the parking lot of the grocery store I stood in awe while watching  the magnificent frigate birds soar and diving into the ocean. 

 

The beauty of the morning sun on a field glistening with dew can take your breath away. And the sunsets that stretch over the sky, painting it shades of red and orange that move over the clouds has become our evening television.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away from Toronto politics. The pecking order there reminds me of the hens in my yard – those who challenge the status quo are natural leaders in turbulent times, and they withdraw when times are calm. But there are always predators who circle in the shadows feeding off the droppings. Going 2000 miles away has put things into perspective, from a distance Toronto is much smaller.

The tourists have started to come to the island. The main beach highway is now busy and the grocery store is filled with people wearing bathing suits and flip flops. They seem so incongruous in a country where sleeveless blouses aren’t allowed in government buildings. The radio ads that promote the tourism industry repeatedly telling people that roads, water and yes even the air we breath “is tourism” have, thankfully, stopped. I was hoping the grocery stores might get a bit more consistent in what they offer, one week you can buy lettuce but then it’s gone for the next two.  I haven’t found green beans in 2 weeks but did find some President’s Choice salsa this week. Although with Tostito’s scoops priced at $23.95 a bag, it’ll have to stay in the jar until the local nachos appear on the shelves again.   I’m hoping there might be real cranberry juice instead of the sugar filled juice blends – but I know that might be a stretch.

The art-eco centre boutique hotel project I’m working on is being met with so much support and positive feedback that I was a bit surprised. One large plantation owner offered to give his 400-acre plantation as an investment in the project – but alas it has not ocean views!   I have found that the people here are well educated and want to build their community. Like Canada there is a mix of many cultures and the local Bajans embrace them all. Although people recognize the economic importance of tourism there is a desire to push Barbados beyond being completely dependent on it. 

I’m learning what it is like to be an “expat.” You become part of a community of people all adjusting to a way of life that is quite unique and different than what many are accustomed to. Everything here is slower, and some people let that frustrate them. The rural lifestyle blends into the urban areas – so that you can drive down the main highway  and see a cow feeding in the ditch between the warehouse and the road. Or walk along a busy street among people – and chickens.  Expats choose to be here, and unlike living where you were born that choice inspires more commitment. I’ve also found that expats are in the most part friendly, positive and adventurous people.

Every Tuesday there is a party at the local rum shop just down the hill from us. We sit by the pool listening to the crickets and whistling frogs, and can hear the music wafting up to us. They play old 70s songs, Rupert Holmes – If you like Pina Colodas, and now John Denver – Take me Home Country Roads. The words make me think about all the roads I have travelled and I realize that home isn’t one place, it is the space that Greg and I create with our family and friends.

Barbados Journal Oct 2018

I have spent the past month learning a great deal about Barbados, and myself. This month I discovered that selecting “allow dirt roads” on your GPS is a big mistake in Barbados.

It all came about on a beautiful sunny morning. I was driving the kids to school and a house fire on the main road had traffic backed up for miles. It gave me the perfect opportunity to explore the island and I’d grown fond of discovering new sights around every turn.

On a small island like Barbados one would think it hard to get lost… but the island is filled with roads and cart paths that run over all kinds of terrain. And in the wet season (September to November) they fill with mud and clay. The problem is that the cart paths show up on GPS apps as dirt roads, even when they are little more than tractor paths through banana fields. Combine this with a glorious sunny morning, an open road in front of you, and the kids singing “Country Roads” in the back seat and it’s easy to feel invincible.

As I drove along the heavily pot-holed pavement, the road turned into a dirt cart path, and I didn’t listen to that small voice in my head whispering – ‘STOP!’. The view was amazing; we were driving along the edge of a mountain with a steep cliff edge to our left and the mountain rising up on our right.

It had rained the night before and I began to worry when the car started sliding. The road was narrow and the drop steep. My knuckles turned white as I gripped the wheel. The car rounded a corner and I could see that a few meters ahead the steep cliff turned into a gently sloping hill, but the car starting sliding towards the edge of the cliff just as I rounded the corner, and I nervously gunned it along the path praying we’d make it to the hill. Luckily we got there and I thought about turning around but didn’t want to face that slippery corner again. So I kept going and drove the car straight into almost 3 feet of clay that had filled a dip in the cart path.

I looked down at my silk pants, white top and high heels and realized I might not make it to my morning meeting and the kids would miss school.

My son and I put sticks and branches under the tires and after about an hour of trying we rocked the car out of the big mud pit (with half of it all over us). I found a small promontory to turn the car around and slowly headed back to the main road. Getting out of the mud was satisfying, but I was taking it too slow and became stuck again. This time we were on an upward slope and there was no way that my son and I could rock the car out. Luckily some men had arrived to work in the fields and immediately offered to help. They easily pushed the car out and around the corner to the paved road.

The whole time this fiasco was going on my daughter was sitting in the back seat, taking picture and pointing out how beautiful the view was. When finally arrived back at the main road she commented “Mum you always find a way to make a perfectly ordinary day turn into an adventure.” And that is how I hope they view every stupid thing that I do!

I have noticed that I am beginning to lose some of the terribly selfish driving habits I picked up in Toronto. Here ‘Bajans’ drive slow and easy, if they see a car wanting to cross the highway, they will stop to let them pass. They are kind. It’s unsettling if you’re from Toronto and driving far too quickly behind them, but over time you slow down and start to realize that being kind, and offering that public gesture, is important. I used to think that people are drawn to Barbados because of the slow pace, but I realize there is much more to it. The people here have grace and they cherish it. I hope a little of that grace rubs off on me.

Barbados is a beautiful country but it is the people that make it a terrific place to live.

The slug, the chicken, and the monkey

It is the rainy season in Barbados – which means an hour or so of rain until the sun comes out. And everyone watches the long-term weather forecasts to see if a hurricane might develop off the coast of Africa. We’ve had rain on and off everyday sometimes a brief shower in the afternoon and other times there is a heavy downpour during the night.  This morning there are huge snails and slugs that littler the paths around the house. The slugs are about 4 inches long and the snails are the size of tennis balls and I’m getting used to treading carefully.

Between the plantation house and the carriage house is a small courtyard, in the sunny afternoons it fills with white butterflies. There is a surreal almost magical feel to it, but the plants around it are being decimated by all the caterpillars. So I’ve been thinking of ways to get the caterpillars off the plants without killing them.

Last week I picked up a book titled “The Right way to keep Chickens.” I thought it would be a funny read. But I’m now totally getting into it. I’ve learned that there are the broiler chickens (the ones you kill to eat – which the city girl in me just can’t do) and the laying chickens (which would provide us with fresh eggs).  The free run chickens are the healthiest and happiest, but they need a safe place to sleep at night. This has me thinking about the chickens in the park in Speightstown – they sleep in the trees at night and walking along the board walk you can hear them cluck above your head. The roosters strut around acting like their protectors, but the minute there is any danger they are the first to run for the trees.

I’m thinking that if we want our eggs in tact we’ll need to build a hen house.  

I find myself doing the weirdest web searches. This morning I searched “Do chickens eat snails?” The answer is yes. And the added bonus is that they also eat slugs.

I’m thinking it’s time we buy some chickens.

I find myself doing the weirdest web searches. This morning I searched “Do chickens eat snails?” The answer is yes. And the added bonus is that they also eat slugs. 

Slugs can be predators

There are huge slugs in the garden and my web search found that some are predators and they eat other slugs, snails and worms.

I wonder what the monkeys in our yard will do about the chickens – and yet another web search begins. The first thing to pop up is an old Chinese idiom ‘Kill the chicken to scare the monkey.” Which means to make an example of someone in order to threaten others. I think of the power plays that go on in the world of politics. And the ugly type of people who would actually use this tactic. I can’t help reflecting on a man who tried to destroy my credibility last year. He reminds me of slug, he’s a slimy predator who pretends to be meek. But he goes after women wanting access to his television show. He has groomed his audience and those around him to think that he’s pure and innocent, but in fact off camera he chases after married women collecting his conquests as trophies.  He tried to destroy my credibility in order to scare other women from stepping forward. But I know that eventually the truth gets out. The world is changing and these old political strategies are beginning to fail.

The Chinese zodiac reads that I was born in the year of the monkey and that people born in this year are “lively, flexible, quick-witted and versatile. In addition, their gentleness and honesty bring them an everlasting love life.” This has me hooked and reading on: “They may achieve success and earn a lot if leaving their hometown; but they may also spend a lot.” Wow this seems to have been written for me today! It also reads that those born in the year of the monkey can be selfish and arrogant.” I must watch myself and guard against this. Okay enough web surfing.

The roosters are crowing, it’s time to start the day.

Sarah’s journal: September 11, 2018

My family and I are now living in Barbados. We are getting used to the heat, and after a few weeks we’ve started to settle in, waking every morning at 5:30 with the sun. The whistling frogs that start calling at dusk fade out as the sun comes up and the birds start to sing. Our house is high up on a ridge that looks over the west coast. We have a fantastic view of the Caribbean and the sunsets are spectacular. In the early mornings you can hear the roosters crow and the monkeys out in the garden playing. There is life all around us and, as my son says, it’s hard to sleep through all the noise.

I’m discovering that the ocean and sky are a lot bigger here than in Toronto. The sea is constantly changing, this morning it is still, looking like glass reflecting the blue sky above. A goat bleats from the farm below and a rooster calls from a tree in the park down in Speightstown. We’re expecting Hurricane Isaac to pass by Barbados in a few days, but you wouldn’t know it, like the sea today the people are calm. The cars on the main road below give a double beep that is more a cheerful salutation than the angry horn blasts that seem to fill the streets in Toronto.

The first couple of weeks here have been a whirlwind of activity. From mistakenly not realizing our kids needed student visas (yes even if it is a private secondary school) and being detained when we landed — to finding the local (less expensive) hardware and grocery stores. The price of food seems staggering because it’s easy to forget that the Barbadian (Bajan) dollar is worth 2/3rds of a Canadian dollar. After paying $28 Bajan for some scoop nacho chips, I’ve inspired my family to eat more local foods, with the caveat that I’ll bake fresh bread at least once a week. So far my home-made bagels are a success.

In the past two weeks I’ve driven all over the island. I’ve learned to give a happy toot when going around a tight blind corner (the sugar cane grows too high to see over). Yesterday I discovered a shortcut that took me north along the western ridge of the island. I could see the coastline with fields of sugar cane rolling down to the sea. I turned west taking a road that suddenly dipped into a gully and found myself in a cool dense jungle that seemed almost magical. At this time of year, the flamboyant trees are all in bloom and the island seems painted with colourful orange and red blossoms.

There is a natural beauty here that I’m just beginning to understand. The people are gentle but also passionate — like the island itself.

I began thinking about moving to the Caribbean a few years ago when I realized that my actions could actually have a positive impact on the world. Keeping active and finding a way to contribute by building something drives me forward every day.

A few years ago, I started researching tourism in the Caribbean. While it has brought positive economic growth, it has also had some negative side effects. Local agriculture and manufacturing have dwindled to the point where most of the islands import most of their food and supplies. This makes living on the islands extremely expensive and feeds into the cycle of poverty that tourism was supposed to eliminate. I began thinking about ways to inspire local communities to become more self-sufficient and found that the self-sufficiency of a community relies on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. I studied ways to inspire entrepreneurs. Government and community support play a large role, but so too do the level of arts and culture available in the society. Coming from a family of artists, this opportunity intrigued me, and as I did more research, I found that most of the islands lack what communities in Canada all seem to have — arts and cultural centres. Instead, the islands have theatres and art galleries designed to cater to tourists, but nothing geared at educating local communities.

This discovery shocked me and sparked the idea of creating arts and cultural centres across the Caribbean. But then the real challenge arose — how do we sustain them?

As I did more research, I discovered a unique anomaly in the hospitality industry. Affluent travellers were changing their habits, looking for more ‘experiential’ type of vacations rather than the all-inclusive gated resorts that once attracted them. Although the all-inclusive type of resort still attracts tourists looking for great deals, affluent millennials and baby boomers want to experience the local culture more intimately, and they support environmental initiatives.

Combine this discovery with the goal of building arts and cultural centres across the Caribbean and our business model for Canvas and Cave was born. I’m living in Barbados now to steer the development of our first unique arts and culture centre fused with an environmental resort. It will cater to affluent travellers, offer a gorgeous view of the Caribbean, with an organic garden to supply our restaurant, and an arts centre where local communities and affluent travellers can connect, create, and share ideas.

Greg and I have developed the habit of sitting out on the deck to watch the sun set and the stars come out. We’ve found the planets, and this time of year Venus sits bright in the western sky. A sliver of a moon is just setting and the whistling frogs at dusk signal that the end of the day. I find that I can hardly wait for what the next day will bring.

My fear of navel-gazing

 

As a young adult, I created a bucket list of things I wanted to do in my life. I started with wanting to build a multimillion-dollar company, sidetracked by the idea that money was important. It took a few years and gaining a bit of success to realize it was an empty pursuit. So I focussed on finding a life partner and having children. As I learned more about the world, built my company, found love and had children, my bucket list grew. My life expanded and I found myself wanting to have a bigger impact on the world—to find a way to make it better. I found that the daily act of trying to make it better gave me a sense of inner strength.

I noticed that those who were guided by the desire to make money, as I once was, were also limited by it. They didn’t grow much beyond it and seem to shuffle through life, terrified of failure and constantly worried about what people might think of them. They take fewer risks and fear the bigger world beyond the mighty dollar. Sadly, they never end up making a real difference in the world.

When I think about people who have made the world better by their actions, I am drawn to those who lead and force positive change to happen—people like Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill and recently Malala Yousafzai. They stood up to a society that shunned their ideas at a time when the world needed leadership, and were guided by a strong moral code. These are the people everyone knows; however, there are so many others I am blessed to have met, who are determined to make a better world through their actions and words. They make a difference every day in the way they choose to live and in the way they help those around them. They don’t help others to gain recognition, but to make a positive impact on the world. I’ve noticed that people who want to make the world better are more focussed on the world around them—they look outward rather than becoming absorbed by their own inner drama—they aren’t sidetracked by their own positions.

This drive to focus on the world outside them allows them to find love, experience success and failures—and grow from both.

I’ve found that those who focus inward often become consumed by their own inner issues, they fear change and refuse to gain experience in the world beyond their door. Sadly, they often wrestle with depression, and the positive impact they might have on the world never gets realized. It’s a terrible cycle some people get into and I am beginning to wonder if one can slip from focusing outward to focusing inward? So my bucket list has grown to include items that force me out into the world from moving to another country, to trying to make the world better in my own small way.

I have travelled to a lot of places, but the area I’m drawn to again and again is the Caribbean for its beauty and its people. Unfortunately, tourism has pulled the population away from all other industries, to the point where manufacturing and local food production is almost non-existent—take, for example, the island of Barbados, where agricultural production is unable to sustain the local population, which now relies on importing most of its food.

Realizing that the greatest need in the Caribbean is to improve local manufacturing and food production, I began to research the best ways to inspire leadership in these areas. Time and again, I came across innovation hubs, places where artists and entrepreneurs collaborate. Cultural centres, shared work spaces, technology hubs, all create a culture of productivity and collaboration. The key to building a successful innovation hub is to sustain it long enough to spark and fuel productivity.

As I did more research into tourism, I came across changes happening in the hospitality industry. Airbnb was educating travellers to the benefits of renting homes and experiencing local communities. More and more travellers want local experiences and the opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture, from food to arts and environmental experiences. By studying the changes happening in the travel industry, I realized the the trend for all-inclusive resort experiences had peaked and the new wave just building in the industry is experiential travel. From glamping—glamorous camping—to luxury tree-house suites and ultra-luxury canvas habitats. Travellers want to experience the local culture in a natural luxury setting.

My objective is to develop a boutique-hotel concept focused around an innovation hub. We will offer travellers unique opportunities to experience the local culture with the boutique hotel sustaining an innovation hub for local artists and entrepreneurs. I have managed to build a great team to work on our first proof-of-concept site in Barbados—Canvas and Cave. My goal is to prove that the innovation hub sustained by the hotel will have a positive impact on local manufacturing and food production. At the end of this month my family and I will move to Barbados to work on this project and begin this adventure. We have the land, we have formed a consortium of investors, and we have the construction team; but I know that I’ll need more help as we grow.

If you would like to get involved, please contact me at sthomson@canvasandcave.com

Did ambition hurt Smart Track?

A group of colleagues and I set up the Transit Alliance back in 2011 to educate the public on the need for dedicated transit funding and transit development. We believed that transit development was suffering because politicians used it to garner votes, but few bothered delivering on their promises. Our goal at the Alliance was to keep transit development in the public eye, so politicians couldn’t slink away from it. By keeping the level of discussion around transit constant, the public would demand development. We started the discussion on dedicated transit funding, we worked on building support on the use of tolls, and we advocated on the need to build the Relief Subway Line.

As I look back over our work, I realize that our biggest challenges came from politicians who tried to use transit as a stepping stone to power. Politicians, who created controversy over what and where transit lines should be built, were actually delaying the development of transit across Toronto. For example the Eglinton West subway line broke ground in 1994, but was cancelled with the tunnel filled in by Premier Mike Harris in 1995, to the horror of transit development experts around the world.

Political candidates (desperate for power) continually throw out transit plans that will garner the most votes. But transit is a complex issue and planning it properly to meet with population and density growth should be left to educated experts not campaign teams. Unfortunately, in Toronto few politicians listen to the experts.

In 2014 Mayor John Tory came out with a transit plan that was put together by some of the best transit experts in North America. Their focus was to create a transit plan that would help not just Toronto, but the entire region. And knowing the political road blocks likely to happen along the way, my guess is that they created a plan that asked for much more than what is essential, as politicians and public servants would invariably widdle down the plan over time. Mayor Tory’s Smart Track plan lived up to its name and was a smart plan for the entire region. Tory pointed out that the Relief Line was the highest priority subway line, but he also knew that the connections that moved people across the region were key to a strong transit network.

What many don’t realize is that politicians rely on public servants to deliver on their plans. Mayor Tory relied on his former chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat to figure out how to deliver Smart Track efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to do it and seemed to have stalled the process. I’ve grown to admire and respect Mayor Tory. But I know him well enough to know that he would never point this out.

Today I learned that Jennifer Keesmaat, former chief planner, is now blaming Mayor Tory for her failure to deliver Smart Track. Her lack of willingness to take responsibility for her failures is shameful. But to blame Mayor Tory for her lack of success makes me wonder if she might have actually worked to hold it back? As chief planner, she could have added multiple layers of red tape, she could have delayed every aspect of the planning process around Smart Track and undermined the entire project.

I remember a dinner the Transit Alliance hosted with Jennifer Keesmaat as our guest of honour back in 2015 when she was Toronto’s chief planner. Keesmaat spoke about how great the Smart Track plan was and how it would help relieve gridlock in and out of the city. After dinner, I suggested that she should go into politics, that she might gain a lot of support. Her response – “Why do you think I’m here?”

Election 2018: how many seats needed for majority?

Majority government = 63 seats ~ Official party status = 8 seats

If liberals drop to under 8 seats they could lose official party status and be relegated to the back getting little meida coverage, no coverage for research or stakeholder outreach or a causus service bureau. They could go from the governing to having little say in any of the decisions for the next 4 years.  

There is an annual subsidy that goes to each part of $2.71 for every vote cast for them. If the Liberals drop to just 20% their funding would drop from approximately $5Million to just $2.5Million

With 124 seats available a majority government needs to win 63 seats. If the PC party wins with less than 63 seats they will have to form alliances and work to ensure they don’t lose confidence in the house. In 1985 this happend when PC Frank Miller won the general election with just 52 seats; David Petersons Liberals won 48 seats and Bob Rae’s NDP held 25 seats. Miller lost confidence in the house and David PEterson formed an accord with the  NDP – the Liberals formed government for two years on condition that they impliment a number of the NDP policies.

A minority PC government could still be pushed aside if the PCs can’t gain support and work with the other parties – an me thinks a PC government under Doug Ford will have a very hard time getting support from any party.

Oh Doug Ford what would Rob think?

Mr. Ford your first duty is to take care of your brother’s widow, there is no situation where you can ever shirk that duty – even if you really, really, want to be Premier!

Renata Ford and her children were driven to seek legal councel in her fight to gain what she alleges is their one third inheritance in Deco labels, as well as funds from the late Mayor’s life insurance.

The lawsuit alleges that despite Doug Ford’s focus on his political career he has continued to take “extravagant compensation” out of Deco even though the family business is losing money. The statement also claims

“Doug Ford knowingly and deliberately put (Renata and her two children) in a highly stressful and unfair financial position during their period of grief after Rob Ford’s death, and continued to do so for more than two years after Rob Ford’s death.”

Mr. Ford what would your brother Rob think of you now? He asked you to take care of his wife and kids;  he made you trustee of their inheritance and he believed you would do right by her. To have let your relations with her get to the point where she was driven to seek legal help is disgraceful.  

Our prayers are with Renata Ford and her children.  It isn’t easy stepping out publicly against Doug Ford. He will do all he can to discredit her, and claim her accusations are completely false. He won’t openly call her a liar after strutting her out on his campaign – so he insinuates that she is.  Doug Ford has a history of discrediting women who tell the truth. That he is now attacking Rob Ford’s widow is disgusting… and shows a man so ambitious he would destroy his own family.

The lawsuit further claims that

“Deco was worth $10-million when founder Douglas Ford Sr. died in 2006 and he had amassed personal investments worth between $15-million and $20-million. The company is alleged to have lost more than $5-million over the past six years”  

No one can know what goes on behind the Fords’ front door, but the fact remains that Rob’s widow Renata has had to turn to the courts to receive what she alleges is one third of the family business and his life insurance.

Today conservative supporters have to face the fact that the character of their leader might have some serious flaws and begin to question him.

Has Doug Ford lied to his supporters about his personal success as a businessman?

Has Doug Ford taken a salary from Deco labels that he didn’t earn and thus robbed his brother’s widow and children of their rightful inheritance?

Doug has attacked Renata Ford, suggesting that her allegations are untrue, his words work to discredit her.  His actions are of a man so desperate for power that he seems to have forgotten his first duty is to protect and care for the widow and family of his late brother Rob.  We urge Doug Ford to step down, to take the time to settle his chaotic family issues, and allow Christine Elliot to take the helm.

However we know that ambitious men rarely do the right thing. It will be up to Conservatives to decide just how low they are willing to go to support a conservative mandate. We encourage them to take a look at the Green Party platform before voting, it has some very smart and strong conservative economic policy issues within it.

Green isn’t just a dream

The Ontario election is just days away and with so much up in the air there seems to be a vacuum when it comes to smart government leadership. Moderate voters looking for balanced leadership are wondering who to vote for.

 As I sit on the GO train heading back to Toronto, I’m reminded of all the transit work the Liberal government has done over the past decade. As a transit advocate I know that they did their best to build as much as possible. But Wynne let a lot of people down in Toronto when she refused to approve the tolls Mayor Tory’s council asked for.  Tolls that would have been dedicated to funding transit expansion and relieving some of the enormous debt burdening our province.

I spent the weekend carefully analysing all the platforms –  and the quality of the party leaders. My experience as a candidate opened my eyes to the control and power the leader has over the rest of the party. Don’t be fooled by those who suggest you can avoid the leader and vote for the local candidate – the leader has total control over what the party does in government.

As a long-time Liberal I was surprised to hear Wynne give a concession speech this weekend, and I wondered why she wasn’t fighting to the very end. I have to admit that she pushed me to look outside the party for other options.

Who can moderate liberals realistically vote for?

After checking the positions each party put forward I have to admit that I was impressed with the support of the relief line that the NDP have touted as well as the huge list of all the other transit they plan to support. But read through the entire platform and their ability to pay for all the items comes into question. There are literally hundreds of special initiatives the NDP promises to make, as if trying to give each and every voter something. With promises so extensive, delivering on them would be impossible, and the level of debt it could bring on is worrisome.  I admire Andrea Horwath. Her character and contribution to this province is without question, but I worry over the lack of fiscal accountability the NDP platform reflects.

Looking over the Conservative platform I also see a lot of promises without any clear explanation for funding them.  Add to this Ford’s suggestion of selling the Greenbelt – which could devalue house prices across the GTHA – with his retraction of this policy, and it’s obvious he has little understanding of economic forces.  Doug Ford has a somewhat shady history – who can forget the ease at which he lied publicly about his brother never touching drugs? He lacks integrity, and I worry he’ll make backroom deals that would threaten the open and just system of balanced government we have achieved in the last decade.

By chance I found a printed copy of the Green Party 2018 election platform left on a bench at the Burlington GO train station. I read through every page and found it both a smart and a balanced platform that doesn’t over promise, and has a clear and concise explanation of how their initiatives would be paid for.

The Greens are the only party openly willing to consider using tolls or congestion charges to create dedicated transit funding. As well, Green Party leader Mike Schreiner told me that the relief line is their top Toronto priority.  I’ve known Schreiner for years. He’s consistent, steady, smart and dedicated.  Just the sort of leader Ontario so desperately needs. Anyone who has done their research will note that the Green party also has some of the best local community candidates in the province.

The Green party platform points out the serious transit issues that commuters have, with the average daily commute in the GTHA sitting at 80 minutes (equivalent to eight 40-hour work weeks each year).  Gridlock costs the economy $11.5 billion in lost productivity and congestion delays in trucking cost Canada $650 million per year.  The Greens plan to invest $1 to $1.5 billion per year and fund 50% of the operating costs of municipal transit systems – which would be a huge relief on our local municipalities – and they plan to pay for it all by implementing revenue tools such as congestion charges, parking levies and land value taxes, which will raise over $3.9 billion per year.

With so many people wondering who to vote for in this election I’m guessing the Green party may well get a surge of support – if they can get their platform out to voters in time. Their 2018 platform is one of the best I’ve evaluated. They will provide grants and interest-free loans to help homeowners, renters and businesses invest in energy conservation. And even better, they will pay for it by closing the Pickering Nuclear station and replacing it with the much lower cost of water power from Quebec which will save $1.1 billion per year!Ontario needs smart leadership and the vast majority in the middle need a party that can represent them. The Green party has put forward a well-balanced platform, they have a reliable smart leader in Mike Schreiner, and when combined with the excellent local candidates (52% are women) representing them, they are an excellent option for those in the middle who want an open and balanced government.  

Liberals have lost their chance of winning and the only hope for moderate voters is to go Green. It is time for Ontario residents to stop thinking that the Green Party will never get elected and start thinking about what Ontario could achieve if they did.

The impact of action

It’s one of those overly warm spring evenings at the cottage. An afternoon storm passed through Muskoka and the air is still heavy. The lake is calm, like glass, and the large puffy clouds in the distance are lit bright orange by the setting sun. Spiders are busy in the corners of the boathouse windows, I’ve just turned on a lamp and their webs will catch the bugs attracted to its light. It is so quiet I can hear the clock ticking away the minutes. A bird calls to its mate, or maybe he is just letting his friends know where he’ll be for the night.  I am feeling thoughtful  thinking about the new journey my family and I are setting out on.

Our goal is to have a positive impact on the world through the work that we do. We’re heading to Barbados to start a project working with local communities to build a culture-entrepreneurial centre that will be sustained by a unique “experiential” resort.

Tourism has become the biggest economic driver on most of the islands, but it has also had some negative impacts on local communities – like the loss of local food production and manufacturing. Even local arts and craft markets are becoming dominated by cheap Chinese imports. The cost of importing food and products has risen as local production has slowly disappeared; and many of the islands have become far too dependent on imports. Our goal is to reignite the entrepreneurial flame by providing space, encouragement and resources.  We hope to inspire local entrepreneurs, artists and manufacturers.

Barbados will be our first “proof of concept” location and we are moving there to launch the project. It’s a big life change but one both my husband and I are looking forward to.  We have some terrific local partners and just recently the island elected their first woman Prime Minister – Mia Motley.  She is a strong, smart, and dynamic woman with an excellent record. Prime Minister Motley sat in opposition to the local government as leader of the Barbados Labour Party for over a decade. She was elected in a landslide victory winning all 30 seats in Parliament and over 70% of the popular vote.  With no opposition she’ll be able to bring about significant changes to a government that was plagued by inaction.   There is a new sense of vibrancy on the island, and it fits well with our own determination to contribute to the community.

The sun is low in the sky and long shadows stretch out over the lake – a stillness has settled over things and all the possibilities that a new day will bring are just beginning to form.