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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.

Ontario election: Gloves are off!

The gloves are off in Ontario politics. Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath seemed to be a joint force while individually taking aim at Conservative leader Doug Ford  this week as the three leaders participated in a heated debate.

 

Horvath and Wynne both warned the public about what a Ford provincial government would result in. Horvath questioned Ford about his promises and how he plans to cut taxes and to be transparent, like former Conservative leaders.

“The other Conservative leaders, Mr. (Tim) Hudak, Mr. (Mike) Harris — they were very upfront about what their cuts are going to look like,” Horwath said.

“Why don’t you have the guts to tell people what your cuts are going to look like? What is in store for the people of Ontario?”

To this Ford simply stated that he was on the side of the taxpayers, also vowing to not be the cause of any layoffs if elected.

Horvath went on to describe a decision made between her rivals, Ford and Wynne, is like choosing between “bad” and “worse,” insistent on showing why she Is the best choice out of the three”

“She will now be the centre of interest “CBC reports the words of Geneviève Tellier, a political studies professor at the University of Ottawa. “Even if you didn’t think you wanted to vote for her, you’re more likely to pay more attention to her now.”

The consensus from political enthusiasts was that Doug Ford played the election debate safe yet raised eyebrows when he stated he would not support safe injection sites.

 Wynne shared her expertise on policy and her intentions to put them to use. She spoke about “inclusionary zoning” and were in a sparring match with Ford over affordable housing for young people.

Each candidate, all in the running for the provincial election on June 7th, revealed how they plan to win the election.

The provincial election debate kicks of the on Wednesday, despite the feeling that it began weeks ago, due to candidates speaking regularly to the media about their party platforms and intentions. All contenders are solid competition and it will be interesting to see how the remainder of the election unfolds.

Is Ford a fudger?

Doug Ford  is telling people exactly what they want to hear. They want lower taxes- he claims he’ll give them lower taxes. They want rich guys out of Toronto Hydro- he claims he’ll fire all the rich guys. The promises of this politician are luring people into supporting him and polling has the Tories in the lead. Ford has made promises that many people across Ontario have wanted to hear, but the question is will he actually follow through?

Liberals have announced they will launch a new ad campaign to share all the ways Ford will fall short; with the party’s campaign team pledging to expose Doug Ford’s fake promises, and show what they believe he might actually do if elected. Critics are drawing comparisons between President Donald Trump and Ford- specifically the character attacks directed at Trump during his 2016 campaign.

The Liberals have said that attacks on Trump focused too much on his personality, and it is a mistake to take the same route with Doug Ford. They see many similarities between the two politicians and are hoping to learn from what they observed.

One ad that is to air on TV, online and radio, claims under Ford’s leadership corporate taxes will be lowered, minimum wage will go down and 40,000 public sector jobs will be slashed.


Other ads will show old footage of Doug Ford from 2014, including when he talked about a Rexdale Group  home for children with developmental challenges as “ruining the neighbourhood.”

Liberal campaign co-chair Deb Matthews said  “We think it’s really important that when people make the choice — and it’s going to be the starkest choice they’ve had to make provincially for a long time — that they have the full facts on who Doug Ford really is.”

Liberals have admitted that their decision to take this step does have to do with polling that has Tories in the lead.

Ford’s campaign officials responded to the new ads:

“[Liberals] have nothing left to offer other than fear and smear. We will keep campaigning for the people, and against Kathleen Wynne’s 15-year record of waste, corruption, abuse and mismanagement.”

The move by Liberals  to educate people on the emptiness of Ford’s promises, could entirely backfire if people see these ads as an attack on Ford’s character.

As the election approaches the attacks from each party will likely get more intense. It will be interesting to see if the Liberals manage to accomplish the education they hope for, or if their ads simply end up being the typical attack ads that so often drive voters away.

Do you care about the sex appeal of your Prime Minister?

It’s started already. The “who’s hotter than who” rhetoric surrounding Canada’s political leaders. Apparently, if your Prime Minister isn’t old and balding (or orange with a toupee), this is what the press focuses on. It doesn’t matter what his or her policy is, whether or not they kept their promises, or what their plans are for the future. It’s all about their hair and winning smile.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m a woman who can appreciate a person’s good looks — but when it comes to the people who represent my interests on a national and international level, I tend to think values matter more. But, that’s just me.

It all started with the election of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister. The world exploded with jealousy, talking about how sexy he was and how gorgeous his hair is. Newspapers, magazines, and tabloids all posted pictures of him boxing or taking his shirt off for a charity event. They even made some cringe-worthy jokes involving maple syrup. To this day, the media go into a frenzy whenever our Prime Minister steps on foreign soil. There is no escaping those selfies.

Canadians could deal with one good-looking politician. Sure, the press may love to take his picture, but after the first month of his term, most Canadians were over Trudeau’s charm. But now, Canada is in trouble. There are now two — yes, I said two — good-looking political leaders vying for the position of Prime Minister in the next election.

Newly-elected New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh has been praised for his ability to connect with young people. He is charismatic, and fashion-forward. Take a look at any of his photos and you can see a man who knows how to work a camera.

Earlier this week, Singh made a comment about his own luscious locks hidden beneath his turban, saying “I have more hair, and it’s longer, and it’s nicer.” Now, people are going crazy again. Articles have popped up calling those “fighting words”, making the correlation between hair and a vow to defeat Trudeau in the next election. Poor Conservative Party Leader Andrew Sheer has to read articles that compare his sex appeal to that of his colleagues. Yes, apparently sex appeal is the newest factor for a political leader. May I suggest a catwalk for the next televised debate?

While this whole debocle is pretty funny, it’s also a big problem.

First of all, as editor of Women’s Post, I must question whether or not this kind of talk would be the same if a woman were elected as party leader. Would sex appeal be as big of a factor? Would the mere inclusion of that kind of discussion be labelled inappropriate? Would reporters get in trouble for talking about a woman’s hair and makeup instead of her policy platform? No one is talking about Elizabeth May’s appearance, so why are we talking about Singh’s? If anyone was confused about the double standard between male and female politicians, they don’t have to look much further.

While a fight over luscious locks seems entertaining, and may be a good PR tactic to gain the attention of potential voters, it also distracts from the bigger issues facing our country. Unemployment, health care, education, and Indigenous reconciliation are just a few of the important issues our political leaders need to be knowledgeable of. Those are the issues that our leaders should be discussing. Instead, voters are treated to a pageant contest, where the contestants have to dress up, smile, and describe their ideal date.

This is not my kind of democracy, and I think a lot of Canadians feel the same way.

To be fair, a lot of this is the media’s doing. Politicians know that catering to the press is how they get coverage and reach voters — and journalists love to write about sex and controversy. But, the worst mistake a politician can make is to assume voters are stupid and easily distracted. Talking about your hair is not going to make Canadians forget to ask about your policies.

Being charismatic is a good thing. Being able to genuinely connect to Canadians is even better. But at what point do we stop talking about it and focus on the real issues?

Hopefully, it’s before the election.

Ontario set to increase minimum wage to $15

Tuesday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne officially announced a plan that would see the province’s minimum wage increased to $15 by 2019.

“The economy has changed. Work has changed,” Wynne said in a statement. “It’s time our laws and protections for workers changed too.

Employees can expect the minimum wage to be raised to $14 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018 before the government phases in the last dollar in Jan. 2019. After that, minimum wage will be increased annually at the rate of inflation.

The province is also mandating equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual, and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees. This is a critical statement to make, as too often changes to employment laws only affect full-time workers, leaving those struggling in short-term contracts behind.

Other changes to the Ontario’s employment and labour laws include:

  • Increasing vacation time to at least three weeks after five years within a company
  • Managing that employees be paid for three hours of work if a shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time
  • Employees can refuse shifts without repercussion if asked with less than four days notice
  • Expanding personal emergency leave to include two paid days per year for all workers

There will also be some slight changes to union laws, which will establish card-based certification for temporary workers, among other things.

It’s still unclear how the business community will respond to this announcement, but most employees living on the current minimum wage will be supporting it. At the current minimum wage, a full-time employee will make on average $23,712. As Women’s Post has previously mentioned, this kind of salary (especially considering the state of the real estate market) doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to pay for anything other than shelter, transportation, and amenities.

This will also give the Liberal party a leg up come the next provincial election. The $15 minimum wage is a big political issue for millennials and other young people venturing out into the working world. The timing of this announcement, along with the Liberal’s plan for free prescription medicine for those under the age of 25, is no accident.

 

NOTE: the NDP came out with a plan to increase minimum wage to $15 prior to the provincial budget release.

 

Who will win Toronto’s votes?

Monday saw a battle to woo voters, with representatives from both the Conservative and Liberal Party of Ontario in Toronto to discuss their plans for housing and transit in the city.

After receiving little support in the provincial budget last week, Mayor John Tory sat down with Conservative Party Leader Patrick Brown Monday morning to discuss funding for social housing and SmartTrack.

The meeting itself was behind closed doors, but the media was given a press release following the exchange indicating PC promises to Toronto if elected into power in 2018. This included allowing Toronto Community Housing to purchase natural gas independently instead of bulk buying from the Housing Services Corporation. The idea is that TCHC will be able to save money be negotiating better prices on natural gas. The city estimates savings of about $6.3 million.

Other inclusions in the PC plan: financial support of the Scarborough subway (actual contribution unknown), supporting TTC fares on SmartTrack RER, and pledged to intervene so that Bombardier trains for the Eglinton Crosstown arrive on time.

The Yonge Relief Line, the project every transit and city building agency has indicated as its priority, was not mentioned in the statement. There was also no mention of allowing municipal sources of revenue such as tolls and short-term accommodation taxes — which makes sense considering Brown made it clear during the budget lockup that the Conservative Party was against both sources of revenue.

At the same time this statement was released, the Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca took questions from reporters in Etobicoke. In it, he re-stated that the Ontario Liberals are big supporters of Toronto and “no one was invested more than them” in the city.

The Liberal Party has only promised $105 million for the planning of the relief line.

Honestly, at this moment in time, it doesn’t seem like Toronto will win with either party. There is still no promise for further funding for social housing or important transit initiatives like the relief line — two things that are critical to the growth and survival of Toronto.

I wonder if the mayor is planning on speaking with the New Democratic Party to find out their views? During the budget lockup, NDP leader Andrea Horwath said she was committed “to a 50 per cent funding agreement along with its municipal partners” to help in operating costs for transit. It would be interesting to see what her commitment was to Golden Horseshoe Area.

It’s the perfect time to light a fire under Queen’s Park for more transit and housing — and Tory knows it. It’s about negotiating the best deal as soon as possible, because it’s all about the votes at the end of the day.

Green Party hopes to woo voters with honesty and revenue tools

The Ontario Green Party is working on a comprehensive revenue tool package that will help fund infrastructure and transit projects throughout the province. The package will include a plethora of options for drivers and transit users, including the use of tolls and congestion charges in addition to uploading the cost of maintaining and operating the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Express back to the province.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the GTHA is gridlock,” says party leader Mike Schreiner. “It affects our economy to the tune of $6 billion in lost productivity.”

According to Schreiner, the Green Party is willing to do something other political parties are not — explain honestly and openly what it will take to improve transit and quality of life in cities across Ontario.

“This is a situation where political self-interest is trumping the people’s interest,” he says. “There is a myth that somehow all this infrastructure is going to be built. Imagine if our great grandparents hadn’t paid for dams in Niagara Falls that generates electricity … or hadn’t agreed to pay for the cost of the 400 series highways that enabled us to ship goods to province and the US. It’s time for our generation to step up to plate and fund transit infrastructure desperately needed.”

As part of this plan, the Green Party is supporting dynamic tolling, where drivers are charged a larger cost for using certain roadways like the Gardiner and DVP during on-peak hours and less (or not at all) during off-peak hours. The hope is that this will encourage those who can use transit, to do so, and those who must drive, to carpool.

“A toll taxes people regardless of time of day when real problem is rush hour,” says Tim Grant, Green Party shadow cabinet minister for transportation. “The dynamic road pricing – although it sounds harsh at first glance – is really fair and equitable. It acknowledges that there is a higher cost to discourage drivers in rush hours.”

The money collected from these tolls would be dedicated to transit, ensuring that those who choose to use alternative modes of transportation are able to use a modern and well-maintained system. It’s a win-win scenario — the challenge is to convince people the long-term benefits are worth the cost.

“If you reduce traffic congestion, people have a higher quality of life,” Grant says. “Air pollution is reduced, fuel economy is reduced, which leads to higher air quality and more time on [drivers] hands.”

Grant says the problem with the current funding provided by both the provincial and federal governments to municipalities for infrastructures is that it only pays for the initial planning and construction of a transit project, but not to operate or maintain it. This results in poorer service and low ridership.

Another aspect of the Green Party’s revenue plan is to upload the costs of operating and maintaining the DVP and Gardiner Expressway back to the province, something that was promised over 10 years ago. This would free up a couple billion dollars worth of funding the City of Toronto could use to build better transit infrastructure and maintain other roads within the city.

The key, both Schreiner and Grant say, is to actually listen to experts and communicate that information honestly to the public, without political agenda.

“Part of the problem is that political parties prepare their platform and policies based on a calculation of what voters think – and it’s a sad state because the alternative is for a political leader to go out and be honest and say, you won’t like this, but you will love it afterwards,” Grant said. “It needs political leadership willing to get out in front of all this and say we are doing this because people will get to work faster, kids will have better transit, and this will be a benefit. Vote for me or not – but I will try to make life better.”

The Green Party will discuss their platform and comprehensive revenue package in May in preparation for the 2018 election.

Recipe: Post-election pity popcorn

If you are feeling blue about the election results and need a comforting treat (to be enjoyed while watching a distracting rom-com or a healthy dose of Gilmore Girls), homemade caramel popcorn with nuts will do the trick. Here is the delicious Canadian alternative that uses maple syrup — designed to cheer up any weary soul awaiting doomsday now that President Trump is in power.

Ingredients:

2 cups popping kernels

½ cup maple syrup

1 cup nuts of choice (slivered almonds or cashews)

A dash of cinnamon

Dash of sea salt

1 ¼ tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Begin by making homemade popping corn. It is easy and much cheaper than buying the packaged popcorn full of unnecessary additives. Simply place three kernels and a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil in a pot and heat on medium-high. Once they pop, remove from the heat and fill the pot with the remaining kernels. Cover and count to 30 seconds before placing back on the burner. Shake the pot while the kernels pop and remove from heat once the popping slows. Place the popcorn in a pan.
  2. Slice almonds or cashews and toast for seven to ten minutes.
  3. In another saucepan, heat maple syrup until it is boiling. Once boiling, let the syrup boil for two and a half minutes and remove from heat. Don’t let it burn! Pour onto popcorn and sprinkle with cinnamon, vanilla and sea salt.
  4. Optional: add cranberries, coconut shavings or chocolate chips for an extra kick.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for six minutes. Add roasted nuts and enjoy!

All it takes is a few layers of absolute sugary sweetness to get rid of the post-election blues. Plus, it gets rid of that nasty case of the munchies too! Enjoy!

Fear and hatred elected President Donald Trump

“This loss hurts, but please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is worth it,” Hillary Clinton said during her concession speech on Nov. 9. “And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable, powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

The United States has a new President — and that President is Donald Trump.

I’m numb. I’m not even sure I’ve completely processed this information. As editor of Women’s Post, I was watching the election results come in Tuesday night with the expectation that I would be writing a piece the following day about the first female President of the United States. Staff created some templates with details of Hillary Clinton’s life, focusing on her expertise and capability for the office. There were photos, graphs, and lots of feminist quotes to throw in. It would have been easy to put together a great profile for our readers.

Instead, I’m writing a piece about how a racist, misogynist man who thinks sexual harassment is locker talk, who was endorsed by the KKK, and who believes that all immigrants are thieves and rapists, became President of the United States.

Let’s tackle the first aspect of this question: how? How on earth did this happen?!

Obviously, there were a lot of factors. Voters were upset with how their political system worked and wanted change. There was a predominant disgust of “the elite”, an undefined group that tends to include politicians that can’t relate with the majority of the American people. When voters get frustrated with their politicians, it makes it hard for them to vote for the status quo. It also didn’t help that the FBI interfered with the election by releasing unfounded information that brought Clinton’s emails back to the surface at a critical point in the campaign.

But above all else, I think the underlying reason why Trump won is hate. Hate of “the other” and fear of “non-American values”. Throughout this campaign, Trump has capitalized on the fear and intolerance of the American people. Hate of immigrants, hate of women, hate of African Americans, hate of the LGBTQ community, and hate of the media. Hate for “the other” — people who are not like you. Hate of uncertainty.

This fact makes me sad. As a Canadian, I was raised with an understanding of tolerance and acceptance, that people, no matter their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, should be treated equally. I was taught that respect and kindness was the ultimate value. Sure, I know Canada isn’t perfect. This country has it’s own problems with racism and misogyny, but it’s nothing compared to what I witnessed during the US presidential campaign.

The Trump rallies incited violence, talks of waterboarding and torture for enemies, and general sexual harassment. Protesters were attacked for simply holding up signs that said they were anti-Trump. People of various ethnicities were dragged out of conference rooms. Is this what Americans should expect from their new president?

Trump won the election with 279 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 218 (as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday). It was a close race, much tighter than anyone expected, with large swing states flip-flopping between the two candidates until about 3 a.m. What does this mean? A lot more people in the United States let fear dictate their decision, fear of unemployment, fear of immigrants, and fear of the unknown. Instead of voting for someone inspirational, capable, and strong enough to incite real change, they voted for the person who made them scared of the future. This person told them they should be afraid, that the political system was rigged and corrupt, and said he was the only person that could protect them from these evils. And people believed him.

The sad reality is that this is democracy. I can’t say I’m angry or disappointed with the American people because it is their right to vote for the person they want to be President. I can, however, say that I’m disheartened by how much hate and fear Americans seem to have in their hearts. I’m saddened the American people felt like Donald Trump was the only solution.

In this particular case, hate and fear won the day — and now the world will have to deal with it.

Ontario Throne Speech promises childcare and electricity rebates

The vacation is over and it’s back to the daily grind for provincial government officials. Parliament officially kicked off Thursday, with a throne speech given by the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor.

The throne speech was meant to help reset the Liberal government agenda and help ministers focus on new legislation. Premier Kathleen Wynne surprised Ontarians last week when she decided to prorogue the government so that the ceremony could take place. The speech outlined a lot of the Liberal government’s successes and achievements, and presented some of the new legislation that will be introduced later this year. However, it also means that all government legislation that was on the order paper prior to the prorogation will have to be reintroduced. Our Members of Provincial Parliament are in for a busy session, that’s for sure.

The liberal government has promised to re-introduce all pieces of legislation as they were, with amendments attached only to election finance reform. This week, the government will move to prohibit MPPs from all parties to attend fundraising events.

Here are a few highlights from the throne speech:

  • Over the next five years, the Ontario government wants to create another 100,000 childcare spaces for kids up to the age of four.
  • As of Jan. 1, 2017, residential homeowners will see an eight per cent rebate on their electricity bills, equalling the provincial HST. This equals about $130 in savings for a typical Ontario household. Small businesses may be eligible for the benefit.
  • The Cap and Trade and Climate Change legislation will be introduced to the House in January.
  • Ontario will continue to invest in road infrastructure and transit via the $160 billion commitment over the next 12 years.
  • The next provincial budget will be balanced.

The rest of the 30-minute speech reinforced the Liberal’s commitment to growing the economy, reducing the province’s carbon footprint, and investing in healthcare.

With an election set for Spring 2018, this is the perfect opportunity to the Liberals to remind the public of what the government has been up to these last three years. Public support for a politician can waver after a few years — when people realize that their promises are taking longer to fulfill than originally expected. A throne speech and a new session of Parliament may be exactly what this government needs to refocus and get on track.

Either way, everyone is watching now. Premier Wynne made the bold choice to make this new vision known to the scrutinizing eye of both the public and the media. It’s a brave and democratic choice — let’s just hope they are able to hold on to that vision without faltering.