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Never have the Ontario PCs needed a woman leader like they do today!

The need for change within the Ontario PC party is hitting them hard today as news that allegations of sexual misconduct have pushed Patrick Brown to step down as leader.

Many of the party faithful are wishing they had elected Christine Elliott, who challenged Patrick Brown in the 2015 leadership race. There is no doubt the party will have a tough time in the coming election. If they elect a man, the cloud of scandal won’t dissipate quickly and voters will go to the polls questioning his propriety no matter how clean his reputation.  So, they must find a strong woman willing to lead them out of the scandal, someone willing to challenge Premier Kathleen Wynne.

It’s not a job many woman would want. Chances of actually winning the election are much lower today than they were yesterday.  But, this morning Christine Elliott is probably giving it a lot of thought. Leadership candidates who don’t win are usually pushed out of the party by leaders who don’t like to be challenged. Patrick Brown didn’t like to be challenged, and Christine Elliott was pushed out of the party.

She has to know the chances of winning the election with just five months to go with the Patrick Brown scandal hanging over them are low.

Whomever steps up will have to work hard to build their recognition and public trust.

If Christine Elliott doesn’t step up, the party will have to think outside their conservative scope to find a woman with a voice big enough and strong enough to convince female voters that she is bringing big change to the party.

As I muse over who might be a strong candidate, some are suggesting Caroline Mulroney as a possible leadership candidate. She has a pretty terrific resume – a working mother of four, she has a degree from Harvard and a law degree from New York University. And she has experience in politics. She, like Justin Trudeau, will be accused of riding on her fathers coat tails when in fact she has a very strong resume and could make a very good leader. The only issue is that she may not have enough recognition to build the public trust the PC party needs to get out of mess they are in and actually win the election.  But recognition can be earned quickly if she comes out with strong ideas that earn her support in the urban markets  – like supporting dedicated transit funding.

Today I have no doubt that Ontario PC decision makers are frantically searching for the right leader – they’ll have to find someone with enough public recognition and trust to challenge Premier Wynne.

An out of the box idea might be to look further than the tip of their shoes to someone like Jenniefer Keesmaat. She has a solid reputation in urban centres. She has experience being under fire, and she understands the importance of building strong communities. And she is a woman who would give Premier Wynne some strong competition with her core supporters.  That kind of out of the box thinking is what the PC party needs to show voters they are committed to changing the old boys club image that is haunting them today.

There is no doubt the party must find a woman leader. Whomever steps up to the challenge will be doing the Ontario PC party a huge service – I just hope the old boys recognize it.

PC leader Patrick Brown resigns after sexual misconduct allegations

Around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, Patrick Brown stepped down as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives amid allegations of sexual misconduct by two young women.

This decision came as a shock, as hours earlier Brown called reporters to a press conference to vehemently deny the allegations, and to say he will not be resigning.

“I want to say: These allegations are false. Every one of them,” he said to reporters at the 9 p.m. press conference. “I will defend myself as hard as I can, with all the means at my disposal…I know that the court of public opinion moves fast. I have instructed my attorneys to ensure that these allegations are addressed where they should be: in a court of law.”

Following this statement, Brown’s top three staff campaigners quit. An emergency caucus meeting saw a number of Member’s of Provincial Parliament call for his resignation. Ontario PC deputy leaders Sylvia Jones and Steve Clark released a statement on Twitter, saying that “In the interest of the Ontario PC Party we unanimously agree that Mr. Brown cannot continue serving as the Leader. Mr. Brown is entitled to a legal defense and due process, but he cannot lead us into an election as a result of these allegations.

“The Ontario PC Party unequivocally upholds the principle that a safe and respectful society is what we expect and deserve. We need to move forward to eradicate sexual violence and harassment across the province.”

Brown will still sit as a MPP while he fights these allegations.

More to come.

Montreal makes history with first elected female mayor

Montreal elected the city’s first female mayor this past weekend. Valerie Plante beat out long standing Denis Coderre to gain the leading position. Coderre has served as mayor since 2013 and was elected six times as a Federal Liberal MP.

Plante began her political career as a city councillor in 2013. In 2016, she served as leader of the opposition party, Project Montreal. This historic win for Plante places her in a position to act out her proposed reforms on housing, traffic and transit, key issues that affect the City of Montreal.

During the race, Plante was seen as the underdog with fresh ideas, describing herself ironically as “the man for the job.”  Gimmicks aside, it was Plante’s vision to get the city moving that pursuaded voters to put an “X” by her name. During her campaign, Plante was seen interacting with commuters in the city, discussing traffic gridlock, plans for a proposed ‘pink line’ for city rail transit, and a more solid bike-path network.

At a victory party on Sunday, Plante remarked on her historic success by paying homage to Jeanne Mance, the co-founder of the City of Montreal. “We have written a new page in the history books of Montreal,” she said. “Three hundred and seventy-five years after Jeanne Mance, Montreal finally has its first female mayor.”

Plante’s first movements in addressing her platform include issuing 300 hybrid city busses on the road by 2020 and a fight to lower the metro fares. Her immediate action on transit issues will help voters feel secure in her campaign promises. Near the end of his term, Coderre was criticized for running a one-man show and Plante positioned herself to be in opposition to Coderre’s actions by saying —less ego, more action.

Plante is a Quebec native, growing up in Rouyn-Noranda and attending the Universite de Montreal with a degree in anthropology and a masters in museum studies. Plante is 43 and previously worked as a community activist and organizer before getting into politics.

Report indicates little change to workplace gender equality gap

The number one issue for women in business is achieving gender equality. October is Women’s History Month in Canada and as a country, sometimes it’s easier to take note of the progress concerning the roles of women in society then to accept the inequalities still present.

A 2017 study on the status of women in corporate America showed that people are comfortable with the status quo. The report, entitled Women in the Workplace, is the largest of its kind, with data gathered from  over 222 companies, and was established by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company. 

The report shows women at all levels in corporate America are unrepresented, despite achieving more college degrees than men. The percentage of men in positions of power at the corporate level is at equal level at some companies, but higher at most others.

Ignorance about diversity within the workplace is the primary reason for this disparity. Women of colour are generally placed at a disadvantage where they are often overlooked for promotions of job advancements. Overall percentages from the study indicate that, compared to white women, women of colour get the least support from their office managers.

Two major themes were presented in the data:

  • Women continue to be hired and promoted at lower rates than men and the gap is more pronounced for women of colour
  • There is no difference in company level attrition and women and men appear to be leaving their organizations at the same rate.

The distribution of women weakens as you climb up the corporate ladder. Entry-level positions have a higher percentage of women compared to c-list corporate titles like CEO, COO, CFO etc. The percentage of women is also rather uneven depending on the industry. For instance, there is a lower percentage of women working in technology than you would find in the food and beverage industry.

Depending on the industry, the larger percentage of men think their companies are doing a good job at highlighting diversity in the workplace.

The report indicates the bar for gender equality is too low and on average you may only see one in 10 women in leadership roles. Men are also more likely to get what they want, like a promotion or a raise, without having to ask.

Other statistical highlights include:

  • At entry–level positions, women occupy 47 per cent of jobs and only 17 per cent of that figure is represented by women of colour
  • At a managing level, women get promoted at a lower rate (37 per cent) than men in that same position (63 per cent).
  • At a senior C-list role, women of colour make up only three per cent or 1 in 30. At this level, white women occupy a position of 18 per cent.
  • Forty per cent of white women will have their work defended by their managers. That number is 28 per cent for black women, 34 per cent for Latin American women, and 36 per cent for asian women.

The conclusion of this report doesn’t offer much hope for women in business. In order to close the still prevalent gender equality gap, most companies will need to restructure their thought patterns and policies to be more inclusive to women in the workplace.The report recommends some key suggestions such as:

  • investing in more employee training
  • have a compelling case for gender diversity
  • managers should enable change
  • employee flexibility to fit work in their lives
  • hiring, promotions, and reviews are fair and balanced

These steps are not foolproof, but it does present a chance for people to question their company’s accountability and evaluate if they are doing their part to help reduce the gap.

What are your thoughts? Comment below.

Jagmeet Singh makes history in Canadian politics

In the short moments before the final results of the NDP leadership race were announced, many spectators in the crowd were already cheering for the clear frontrunner — Jagmeet Singh. The results were announced in alphabetical order and with 35,266 votes, Singh shot past by as much as 50 per cent to win the first ballot support with majority.

Singh’s campaign consisted of a vast network of volunteers and lots of social media influence across the county that helped make it so successful. The newly elected NDP leader made history in more than one way — he is the first person of colour to lead a major political party in Canada. Singh is a Sikh and son of Indian immigrants. His deep cultural and religious connections have given him the ability to speak on behalf of the minority or those marginalized in Canadian politics.

Singh proudly highlighted the fact that he is a visible minority in Canada and often speaks about the struggle of what it means to be racially profiled. As Singh once remarked in an magazine interview, “systematic racism is an undeniable reality. It impacts young people. I want every young person to recognize their own self-worth.” This touch of diversity in Canadian politics hopefully represents a political shift that will encourage other politicians of colour to make their presence known.

Singh follows in the footsteps of those like the late NDP leader Jack Layton, who was known for being very charismatic. He plans to address issues such as affordable housing, income inequality, relations with Indigenous tribes, and climate change among others.

During his acceptance speech after being elected on Sunday, Singh addressed his different look and said,  “It makes you feel like you don’t belong, like there is something wrong with you for just being you, And that is why as Prime Minister, I will make sure no one is stopped by the police because of the way they look, or the colour of their skin.”

 

 

Canada ranks number one for civil service gender equality

By Leanne Benn

The Global Government Forum, an organization that measures standards for gender- equality worldwide, ranks Canada as number one out of any G20 country. This ranking places Canada at the top of the civil service sector for having women in leadership positions.

According to the Women Leaders Index, released in September 2017, 46.4 per cent of senior civil servants in Canada are women. There is a 3.3 percentage point difference between Canada and Australia and the gap has been slowly closing over the past few years.

The data was gathered over three years from 2013 to 2016 and measured gender equality in leadership roles in G20 and EU countries. The goal of this forum is to highlight the countries that are leading the way for gender equal roles in federal or national governments, therefore encouraging other countries to do the same.

This is the first year the data has included research from countries outside the G20 with the inclusion of European Union countries. The data collected from the EU shows that these countries are more advanced in terms of gender equality than those included in the G20. Among 28 EU nations the average is 40 per cent high-ranking women.

This data analysis covers a broader base and as a result new fields of analysis were included this year. In addition to civil service leadership and women elected into political office, the forum examined women on private sector boards. It should be noted that in these sub-sector datas collections, Canada ranked low for women in private sector boards.

The discussion of gender inequality for high ranking positions has been long analyzed and female talent should be promoted within government structures. Canada’s most senior civil servant as of January 2016 was Janice Charette. Charette, in response to the index, said public service should represent the population in order to show they are doing the best job possible. The polices and the practices of high ranking countries can have an internal impact on HR management, staff development, recruitment, and the promotion of women.

“If you look at all the research on this, the value proposition for gender equality and diversity in leadership positions, whether in the public sector or the private sector, is very clear,” she said in the report. “And I would say that in the public sector it’s even more important, because if we are to have credible public service structures and institutions that are able to give good, thoughtful, strategic advice to governments, they have to understand and represent the population they are there to serve. That’s absolutely critical.”

However, there must be a political appetite in order to change the public leadership roles for women. For instance, both Canada and France have a cabinet that includes 50 per cent women. A strong political role is required for gender diversity and this is the only way conditions may improve.

How do you feel about Canada’s ranking and what are your thought on gender equality on a global level?

Woman of the Week: Karen Farbridge

Karen Farbridge is a straight-forward, confident, and extremely successful woman in Ontario’s sustainability community.  As a previous leader in municipal government, she is charismatic and focused on making the world a better place.

When the former Mayor of Guelph is asked about her proudest accomplishments from her 11 years on council, she is quick to bring it back to the importance of community engagement. “Advancing our practice around engagement and rethinking how local government is involved with sustainability is what I feel the most proud of,” Farbridge says. “People are looking for connections to place and community and they find them in different ways in their lives, and I found it in this way in my own life.”

Farbridge has been involved in the environmental and government non-profit and public sectors for over 20 years. Most recently, she established her consulting agency, Karen Farbridge and Associates after her final term as mayor in 2014.  “The key focus is to implement projects that accelerate growth to create low-carbon and resilient communities,” Farbridge says. “That can entail work with the public sector, [for example] with Natural Resources Canada and Municipal Affairs Ontario, and also in the private sector. It also includes work with Research institutions, such as University of Guelph and York University and the Columbia Institute out of B.C.”

Farbridge has several projects on the go and uses her extensive experience in the political realm to help various organizations with sustainability initiatives. She helped the Columbia Institute in B.C. write a report, Top Asks for Climate Change: Ramping up Low-Carbon Communities, that included a report card assessing climate change initiatives, labelling the successes and which areas needed improvements. The report was released on June 1 and focuses on how the federal government is progressing towards goals pertaining to the Paris Agreement.

Farbridge is also contributing to a collaborative project with the Ontario Climate Consortium and the University of Guelph via the Community Energy Knowledge Action Partnership. This project studies net zero and low-carbon developments across five different Ontario municipalities, taking into account testimonies from a number of urban planners, economic development officers, and community management officers.

Long before becoming mayor, Farbridge was involved in municipal politics. She became a city councillor in 1994 while also working for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group Guelph at the same time. She obtained a PhD in biology and spent 10 years in academics at University of Guelph. Farbridge encouraged council to develop a group plan on climate change that focused on the Kyoto protocol. As her career progressed, she served her first term as mayor of Guelph in 2000-2003 and her second and third terms from 2006-2014.

In between her terms as mayor, Farbridge worked with the University of Guelph to develop a community energy plan that was later implemented. “I ran again for Mayor in 2006. That community energy plan was brought forward to the new council and it was adopted,” Farbridge says. “Since that time, I put a lot of time into promoting the community energy plan.”

Farbridge has received several awards including the City Builder Award from the Canadian Urban Institute in 2014 for her leadership in sustainability and community energy. She also received the Clean 50/Clean16 Award from Delta Management Group in 2014, which is awarded annually to 50 individual leaders who are advancing clean and sustainable development in Canada. In 2012, Farbridge was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Governor General of Canada for her contributions and achievements to Canada. Farbridge was elected Guelph’s first female mayor in 1999.

Farbridge is passionate about mentoring women and plays an integral role in environmental charity Nature Canada’s Women for Nature initiative, which promotes women leaders involved in nature. The organization is currently creating a mentorship program where Farbridge and other notable women in the environmental sector help younger women forward their careers. She is also a part of a mentoring project to help women who have a start-up businesses in Guelph, and has a relationship with a woman in the city to help her build up her start-up.

When Farbridge is taking a break from combatting climate change, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and is looking forward to a canoeing trip in Algonquin Park this summer. She is clearly a nature lover and has made a considerable impact within the sustainable community in Ontario.

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An open letter to the Conservative Party of Canada

My political beliefs may not entirely align with the Conservative Party, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. The entire premise of our democratic institution is based on having multiple parties and types of people representing different ideas and values within Parliament. This is a concept I am proud of.

What I am less proud of is the state of Canada’s political leadership race.  More specifically, I am disgusted by who you may support as a candidate for Prime Minister.

Yes, I’m talking about Kevin O’Leary.

Can I ask you this: When did the job of Prime Minister (or President for that matter) become something sought after by television personalities? When did we, as a society, decide this was okay?

I understand the appeal. A lot of people are sick of career politicians. Broken promises and hypocrisy appear to be taking over Parliament, and the Canadian people are tired of it. They want someone different, someone who isn’t just a pretty face for the camera. They want someone who will speak to them honestly and candidly, and actually fix some of their problems for a change.

But, the idea is to choose the RIGHT politician. Maybe you shouldn’t hire a guy who spends half his time in the United States telling entrepreneurs they don’t have what it takes to succeed in the financial market. Maybe don’t choose someone who purposely jumped in the leadership race after the French debates because he can’t speak Canada’s second official language? And maybe don’t vote for someone who offered the province of Alberta $1 million for the Premier to resign? These are just a few fun tidbits about the man now who wants to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.

The leader of a country should be a dedicated public servant, someone who has spent his or her life working for the people. Their resume should be highly impressive, with years of involvement in politics, whether in an official capacity or volunteer-based. They should have an intense relationship with their community and a real understanding of the issues facing Canadians at large.

I may not have been the biggest Stephen Harper fan, but no one could deny he was incredibly capable and qualified to be Prime Minister of Canada.

What I’m trying to say is this: the job of Prime Minister should be sacred. It should be a job that is unreachable for most – except for the incredibly dedicated and deeply committed. It shouldn’t matter how popular you are or how much money you have. All that should matter is what you stand for.

I can’t help but think of a quote from the television show The West Wing, when the communications director sits down to speak with the President about re-election. “Then make this election about smart, and not. Make it about engaged, and not. Qualified, and not. Make it about a heavyweight.”

Card-carrying Conservatives — you have the power to elect a heavyweight! Canadians are watching as the President of the United States leads the Republican Party down a giant hole of hatred and bigotry. Donald Trump’s words have impact on a global scale — and so do the words of Prime Minister of Canada.

You can avoid this same embarrassment. You can choose to hold your party, and the office of the opposition leader and Prime Minister of Canada, to a higher standard.

Have a little respect for yourselves and please vote for someone who has not only a tabloid-personality, but someone with real qualifications and a dedication to this country.  I promise you: you’ll regret it if you do it any differently.

The environment is screwed with Donald Trump as president

If the environment wasn’t under imminent threat before, it most certainly is now that the United States elected Donald Trump as their newest president.

President, Donald Trump (I can’t believe that string of words in now a reality) has proposed to cancel President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and famously claimed in a tweet that climate change was a ‘Chinese Hoax’. Trump’s various claims do not bode well for the planet and its future.

So what does Trump’s presidential win mean for the environment? Essentially, it means that the planet is in peril.

Trump represents an American ideology that focuses solely on the economy at the expense of lowering carbon emissions. At a conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in May 2016, he supported oil fracking and also stated he would minimize the U.S commitments to the Paris Agreement. The U.S is currently the second largest producer of oil and Trump’s agenda to push fossil fuels even more will increase carbon emissions tenfold. He hinted that the failing oil economy can be resolved if the United States exploited the lands that have been previously considered off limits, including the Outer Continental Shelf. He also wants to push more production in the non-renewable energy sector. This would be a short-term solution and would harm the economy, not to mention the environment, in the long term. By over-flooding the energy sector with more oil through fracking, it would further lower the value per barrel of oil and would decimate even more land that is already threatened in the United States.

Trump has publicly stated several times that he would wipe Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was a fruit of labour for the democratic president. Within the Clean Power Plan, the environmental protection agency (EPA) gave each state the power to decide for themselves how to lower carbon emissions in power plants by using renewables or nuclear energy instead of carbon pricing. States were supposed to submit plans by 2016-2018 and would start cutting emissions by 2022 at latest. The EPA estimated that the plan would lower power plant emissions by 32 per cent by 2030 as compared to rates in 2005. Trump has claimed he intends to cancel this plan and has vaguely threatened to get rid of the EPA all together. He has not recommended any alternative plans to lower carbon emissions.

The future of the environment in the United States looks dark, but there is hope. Strong environmental advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club, one of the largest environmental advocacy groups in the United States that has been fighting to protect the earth since 1892, are not going to give up.

There are many other groups that are preparing to continue the fight for climate change despite this unwelcome change of leadership in the country.

Trump may surprise his citizens by not canceling environmental agreements, though I won’t be holding my breath. It is a historical and frightening time to be living in such close proximity to a country that has a leader who cares so little about climate change. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. We can only hope he was serious about creating clean air and clean water (the only vague environmental commitments he has made), and is willing to see that climate change goals are inextricably linked to providing those very things.

Otherwise, Canada may want to start building that wall.

The Virgin Way: Inquisitive – Curious – Passionate

I decided to take Richard Branson’s The Virgin Way on holiday with me because a friend suggested I might find him a kindred spirit. I’m not sure if this is because I think having fun is just as important as making an income, but I did find that his attitude towards life is something a lot of people would do well to follow.

The Virgin Way: Everything I know about leadership reflects the positive attitude Branson has carried throughout his life. His ability to learn from failure and take risks are the foundations of a successful business leader able to adapt to any situation. Branson also believes in having fun, and some of his April fools stunts had me rolling off my beach chair in fits of giggles.

The Virgin Way and the choice of business name seems to pee all over the entire British class structure — fantastic, fun and edgy. Carefree and curious about life, Branson enjoys making people happy. If there is a secret to be learned from him, it is that true wealth comes from the happiness you create. Making someone smile, laugh, or even helping your staff excel is what  “The Virgin Way” is all about. The book is filled with stories about how offering good service and having fun go hand in hand.

I remember my first boss at a gas station telling me to smile until I felt it or I’d lose my job. He wasn’t exactly a great people person, but he taught me that serving people and smiling has a real impact on how you see the world.  I went on to build a multi-million dollar company putting convenient stores into gas stations, and I know that our success wasn’t just due to the fact that we were first in the industry to combine these two businesses. It was tied to the fact that staff had fun and took pride in providing terrific customer service. As I was reading Branson’s book, I couldn’t help nodding in agreement … when I wasn’t giggling.

Branson demonstrates that true success isn’t about being focused on making dollars, but more about creating happiness — happy staff, great experiences, happy customers. Taking risk, shaking things up, not taking yourself too seriously and above all making other people happy, is the key to true success — and Branson has a lifetime of experience to back it up.

He is a man that seems perpetually young because he hasn’t allowed negativity to affect him. While many people have tried to poke fun at him or scoff at his antics, he hasn’t allowed them to change him. And that is a true testament to his strength of character.

The Virgin Way is a book that every entrepreneur should read. If you want to leave the world better than you found it, Branson’s insights will inspire or rekindle the spark deep inside.