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Cam Broten

In order to save healthcare in Saskatchewan, we have had to pay $1m in hotel bills

This is getting ridiculous

Since signing the contract with an American consultant in 2011, the provincial government has doled out close to $1 million for his hotel bills.

The contractor is John Black and Associates (JBA), who was signed up to reform Saskatchewan health care through lean – a system to streamline health services and cut costs.

Since the 2011-12 budget year, Black and his colleagues’ flights, hotels, per diems and other miscellaneous travel expenses have collectively cost Saskatchewan taxpayers $2.5 million.

NDP Leader Cam Broten called the amount “obscene.”

And while Health Minister Dustin Duncan admitted “it’s a lot of money,” he said it was important to put it into the context of building up lean expertise in the province so Saskatchewan doesn’t “have to rely on those outside consultants.”

The government knew from the outset it would be spending $40 million on the JBA contract and that “travel was going to be a part of that,” Duncan said.

“This whole journey into lean is a part of trying to make the (health) system more sustainable.”

What’s next, adding Alison Redford to the cabinet?

I am actually not opposed to lean in the same way that others are.  I have read a fair amount about it and have seen what it can do for healthcare.  There were some excellent videos from the Saskatoon Health Region that show how hospital units have saved time, money, and improved patient care.  Those small things add up.

At the same time could the Saskatchewan Party have picked a more polarizing consultant?  $1m for hotel bills.  $2.5m for flight and travel.  What kind of hotels are they staying in.  Even at $250 a night, that is over a decade of hotel rooms and all since 2011.  As @toddintune (who just did the math and tweeted), maybe we need to get the lean consultant a lean consultant to lower hotel costs.

What Saskatoon Council is Spending Your Money On (no you won’t believe it)

You aren’t going to believe what Saskatoon City Council is spending your money on now and with the incompetence they are doing it with.

Back when the city moved to their new governance model (the one they say is like all other cities but really isn’t), they created new committees as a part of that.  Committee memberships are done in one of two ways.  They are voted on or they are decided by seniority.  There are many examples of both but when I hear seniority, I tend to think of the U.S. Senate and Congressional committees which are decided exclusively by seniority (the longer you are around, the wiser you become, or at least that is the hope).  

You always hear Saskatoon politicians speak of the “made in Saskatoon” solution.  Our solution was to draw names from a hat for one of City Council’s committees.  It was done in executive committee so it was supposed to be confidential but instead of deciding on a committee by seniority or by merit (as decided by colleagues), names were put into a hat and drawn out.  I first heard some rumours from other media and city sources soon after executive was done who didn’t think it was normal (it wasn’t).  After confirming the rumour with some people from council (who were less then impressed that I knew), I tweeted it.

That upset some on council who were frustrated that council went down that course of action and others found out about it.  As I said to more then one, “If you don’t want to look like a bunch of clowns, stop acting like a bunch of clowns”.  From that the city solicitor was asked to draw up a memo/report to remind council that they were not supposed to be leaking confidential executive committee stuff.  I assume that the term, “acting like a bunch of clowns” was not used in the report.

A couple of weeks later, I was to appear on the regular Saskatoon Afternoon with David Kirton roundtable with David and Bronwyn Eyre.  Show topics are emailed to us by the producer Brittany Higgins.  I like Brittany as she does a good job of politely refusing topics that I suggest that would take David, Bronwyn, myself and a panel of foreign affairs experts a week to talk about and instead sticks to her 5 minute topics which are way better radio.  That day she sent us a link to Charles Hamilton’s article about the Mayor again mentioning that we should have a Twitter Wall in City Council.

I don’t know why the Mayor is always asking for a Twitter wall in City Council chambers.  First of all Twitter is public already.  All of the interesting posts can be found at #yxecc and can be read by anyone at anytime.  Thirdly and I mean no offense to the Councillors that tweet, it’s pretty boring stuff.  You will get the occasional link posted to a report or something but other than that, they may be reading comments but they aren’t making that many comments in council.  Whatever it is that the Mayor wants, is already there, all they need to do is turn on a projector and go to the #yxecc link.  I doubt very much I’ll get credit for this in Council Chambers.

So Bronwyn and I start talking about the Twitter wall and it wasn’t our best segment.  On a good segment there is a sense of flow and cadence and it wasn’t there.  I also called out some on the school board for tweeting during meetings which wasn’t expected and in the end I walked out of the CKOM studio and tweeted something like, “I wish the mayor would stop talking about this stupid Twitter wall”.  If there is a topic that I never want to talk about again, it is the Twitter wall.

(This is a media roundtable gone wrong.  You really haven’t had a fight on air until this or this happens)

Apparently at that exact time, the Mayor was in executive committee and was talking about the Twitter wall.  So the conclusion was made by our wise political leadership that someone had to be leaking to me the contents of executive meetings to me.   It never occurred to anyone to listen to David Kirton’s show or to read the mornings StarPhoenix or just ask me, “what’s up with that tweet?”

A simple subscription to Google News Alerts would have told city council the truth but they decided they needed a leak investigation to find out the source of the leaks.  Or they could have asked me who told me.  While my sources are confidential, I would have no problem telling them that the source for the Twitter wall leak was CHARLES HAMILTON, you know since we talked about it on air and it him that published the Mayor’s on the record comments made during an interview to The StarPhoenix.

Well council couldn’t let this stand and decided to hire a private investigator to investigate the leak.  After rejecting some local retired cops, they rejected this guy for having too high of travel costs.

They rejected these guys because they couldn’t tell them apart.

They also wanted this guy but an agreement couldn’t be worked out with STARS over helicopter parking.

They really wanted this group of guys but they couldn’t find them.

So they hired a retired RCMP officer with the ability to question councillors and examine phone, computer and email records to see if they have been the ones that have leaked The StarPhoenix to me. If they were serious (and I don’t think they are), they would have a conversation about the FOI requests that were filed in the lead up to the 2012 elections.  Those FOI’s filed by The StarPhoenix and other media outlets covered @saskatoon.ca emails and there was a lot of embarrassing things said in those emails.  Since then councillors rarely use @saskatoon.ca email for non constituent communications.  Therefore they fall out of scope of the investigation.  Also since there are some precedents of government provided phones being able to be FOI’d, some councillors use two phones or don’t have the city pay for their own phone.  Thirdly, there is a thing called a manilla envelope and it works really well.  Some are just left in my mailbox late at night or mailed to me with no return address.

I have heard the questions that have been asked, the good cop, bad cop routine, and even the follow up questions.  I recently found out that I wasn’t supposed to find out about the investigation because that would compromise it (doh!) but that was after councillors phoned up to ask me if they had sent me anything they might have forgotten about.  Quite the investigation.  The ones that are calling for the investigation then go out and immediately undermine it.

Saskatoon City Council can’t even do a leak investigation properly (someone needs to do a Tumblr for things Saskatoon City Council can’t do properly).

Why is council doing this when most already know the truth?  Here are the answers I have gotten so far.

  • I need to be put in my place.  I am unsure how investigating each other is putting me in my place.  I have been accused (along with other media of making city councillors life more difficult before and apparently them attacking each other is supposed to change that.  While I am disappointed that they are wasting time doing this, I am unsure how this is putting me in my place.  I learn stuff and I write about it.  I am not sure how that changes.
  • This allows for frank discussions in Executive committee.  This is close to the truth.  Saskatoon City Council is the most secretive city council and city hall in Western Canada.  No one else comes close.  Executive Committee’s in camera proceedings are often used to hash out issues away from the public eye to avoid political backlash.  With confidentiality clauses, no one can voice the opposing decisions.  It’s also why media and people pack City Hall chambers from time to time to see a big issues passed without discussion.  John Gormley used to talk about the Gang of Five, now there is a Gang of Eleven.  By comparison, take a look at the Manning Foundation’s Council Tracker which looks at a much criticized Calgary City Council’s actions.  Saskatoon City Council is so secretive we can’t even track how secretive they are.
  • To weaken other councillors.  I have heard from a few councillors, “I know who your source is and they will pay”.  Umm, again… the source is the Mayor as told to Charles Hamilton?  Is this a power play against His Worship, Hamilton, Brittany Higgins, maybe even David Kirton.  I can’t keep track anymore.  In other words it is an investigation using taxpayer dollars for political games.  The truth js that some think that either Darren Hill, Zach Jeffries, or Pat Lorje are my sources.  If they are right (and they are not), then those councillors are weakened going up for re-election.  Pretty amazing work environment that they have going there. 
  • The weirdest explanation is that this will keep Darren Hill from running for the federal Liberals in Saskatoon West.  Apparently he had so muh fun running under Ignatieff and getting 11% he wants to do it again (I could be wrong but I think I was being flippant there).  Even with a 15% Liberal bump from Trudeau and the seat stays Conservative.

My favourite is the accusation that I am sort of a shadowy behind the scenes operative because I am never seen at political events.  This one makes me angry but I can understand it.  When you are a hammer, everything you see is a nail.  When you are a politician, everything is political.

First of all, I am non partisan.  I get attacked by liberals and conservatives (often at the same time).  I have a bias toward a lot of policies but the politics of council make me bored and sad for the city.  One of my most dearly held theological beliefs is best articulated by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon in their book, Resident Aliens

When politics is brought to the attention of Jesus (Luke 20:20-26), the whole discussion is portrayed with such jocularity as to suggest that we are to take none of this with seriousness. When wanting to trap Jesus and hand him over to the police (Luke 20:20), they ask Jesus, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Note that was our question, not Jesus’.)

Jesus answers (Luke 20:24), “Who’s got a quarter?”

(Note that Jesus’ pockets are empty.)

When a coin is produced, Jesus asks, “Whose picture is on it?”

We answer, “George Washington.”

“Well, if he needs the stuff so badly as to put his picture on it, then give it to him, ” says Jesus. “But you be careful and don’t give to Caesar what belongs to God.”

Okay. We give up. Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?

From this we learn that a primary biblical way or treating politics is as a joke. Certainly, politicians can make much mischief, but it would be a liturgical and ethical mistake to take them too seriously. Idolatry is as big a problem for democracies as for non-democracies.

If you ask me what I think about politics, I don’t take it very seriously.  If someone, even a politician wants some advice, I give it to them.   I guess it’s why I enjoy commenting on it.   I love policy but the politics side is nothing more of a joke.  I also like most people and I hate the partisan process.  I like going out with people and sharing ideas.  It’s gets brutal when partisan lines are drawn and it interferes with friendships.

I want our city, province, and country to be a better place but at the end of the day, I’ll give that advice to their opponent or anyone who reads this blog, my columns, listens to me on air or a podcast.    Saskatoon is a weird place in that not only are we largely ignorant of best practices of other cities (even winter cities), when we find out about them, we reject them in favour of a “made in Saskatoon” solution.  In other words most of what I suggest is ignored which is fine, even if it does seem to cost us more money as a city.  The only piece of legislation I have ever tried to change was a flawed piece of affordable housing policy that myself and other housing providers opposed.  That’s it.  A public email sent to 10 councillors and the mayor.  10 of the replied.  The mayor did not but the motion failed.  That is what is important.

Provincially I once wrote a letter Premier Brad Wall about the problems of mental health and homeless.  One of his hacks replied with a letter about about hip replacements waiting lists.  I learned two things, writing the government is a HUGE waste of time and my lobbying powers aren’t exactly immense.  I have some sway with Cam Broten.  When I say “sway”, he doesn’t reply back with letters about hip replacement waiting lists.  My big piece of advice to him is that is to never by a Rider jersey without a number because they look stupid.  I also suggest going with a classic number like Ron Lancaster, George Reed, or Ray Elgaard so if the player you choose gets in trouble with the law, you don’t look like an idiot.  There you go.  That is my expertise in provincial politics.  I hate blank Rider jerseys.  That is my shadowy behind the scenes maneuvering.  Rider jerseys and homeless issues.

As for why I am never seen, this is a bit more personal.  Wendy has long struggled with depression and it is getting worse.  She wrote about it here and this has been by far the most difficult year we have ever had as a family.  Not only is her depression worse but it affects Mark in more significant ways as he grows older.  There are many times that we have plans and either Wendy can’t go out in public or Mark has asked if I wanted to hang out with him and Oliver.  The are other times when I come home after just cleaning the house and it is a disaster again.  When there is chaos in Wendy’s mind, there is chaos in my world and it hard to keep up.  So yeah, it means that I don’t go out a lot because I am trying to keep the family together. (why do you think I write about mental health issues as much as I do.  It is largely over how hard it has been to get Wendy good help). It is this and Hauerwas’ writings (which is actually rooted in John Howard Yoder’s writings) that I will never run for political office.  That and Mike Duffy has killed many options for fat bald guys from the media.  (Full disclosure, I was a long time member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan  growing up and ran in 1995 for the Tories in Saskatoon.  I was 21.  My views, hairline, pant size, and opinions on politics have changed since then).

So after I help Wendy deal with her day, help the kids with their world, I sit down on a chair and I read, write, and research.  No shadowy meetings.  No late night phone calls.  Nothing.  Most of it is spent trying to figure out who we get through tomorrow and hoping it isn’t as bad as today was. I don’t drink.  Urban planning, systems theory, and photography are my escape.  The photography gets me out of the house and the books and looking at things through a different lens and experiencing the city in a whole new way.

Considering that I have said in many columns that politicians are psychopaths, plotting world takeovers with them isn’t really high on my to-do list.  

Yes, politicians are more likely than people in the general population to be sociopaths. I think you would find no expert in the field of sociopathy/psychopathy/antisocial personality disorder who would dispute this… That a small minority of human beings literally have no conscience was and is a bitter pill for our society to swallow — but it does explain a great many things, shamelessly deceitful political behavior being one.

As an aside, if any world dominating villain offers me the Denver Broncos, I will accept them with more grace than Homer Simpson did. 

I care about homeless issues, affordable housing, and challenging growing inequality in cities.  The stuff I write about is what I care about.   I don’t care if someone from the right or the left carries that stuff out, as long as it is done.

Maybe that is why I am so disgusted about this freaking leak investigation that isn’t a leak.  It’s cheap political games that are a pain to deal with, cost us as the City of Saskatoon citizens, and is a sham right from the start.  Plus by the fact that I know about it and councillors are actively undermining it, a city solicitor who doesn’t know realize this a game, and an investigator who doesn’t realize how the game is played, it is a massive waste of time and money at a time when the city has much more pressing concerns than finding out that I read The StarPhoenix (and apparently they don’t read Saskatoon’s paper of record).  As I have written and said before, I don’t think we are hiring (or electing) the best and brightest at City Hall.  Amateur hour shows it.

Leaks happen all of the time in Saskatoon, Regina, and Ottawa.  By the time I have heard something, I know The StarPhoenix has heard it, Rawlco has heard it, and CBC has heard it.  Even the television stations with constantly changing reporters hear the gossip because it goes right from counsellors to reporters.  It always has, it always will.  To stop all of us from finding out about what Council is up to, they have decided to do leak investigation.

My answer is the same as it always has been, if you don’t want to look like a bunch of clowns, stop acting like a bunch of clowns. We deserve more from our City Council than a bunch of silly political games but this is what passes for leadership in Saskatoon.

So in summary

  • I follow a confirmed a leak about Saskatoon City Council behaving ridiculously and that embarrassed them.
  • Saskatoon City Council is full of a bunch of gossips.
  • I read The StarPhoenix and discuss it on the air.  
  • Sometimes Bronwyn Eyre wins those debates (okay many times) and I tweet about it.
  • In summary, it would be cheaper for councillors to sign up for Google News Alerts then hiring private investigators.  It would also be helpful to somewhat aware of what you say to reporters of The StarPhoenix.
  • If council is going to authorize a sham investigation, telling me about it immediately undermines it.

Oh yeah, I emailed Mark Rhogstad at the City of Saskatoon to ask how much the leak investigation was costing us.  He didn’t return my email.

Cam Broten: Focused on What Matters

Excellent short video by NDP leader Cam Broten

Broten is right on with these issues and I am going to suggest that the problem is even worse than what he says.  I am glad he is paying attention to them.

The OurYXE Podcast with Cam Broten

I forgot to post this but we had a great interview with the Leader of the Opposition Cam Broten the other night.  The interview went well, the behind the scenes did not.

Last year I was at Cam’s house for a meeting (he is my MLA) and his wife Ruth made these cookies that everyone was raving about.  The plate went around and ran out before it got to me (am pretty sure Frank Quesnell took two).  I was sitting right beside Cam so I couldn’t really make a run at the cookies while he was talking.  The cookies were so good that their goodness actually interrupted the meeting as people savoured the cookies.

Later Ruth came out with batch number two of the cookies but Cam declined then and because of sitting arrangements, the guy next to me got the cookies and the scene was reversed.  Long story short, everyone went on and on about how awesome the cookies were.  I went home and made a note of never sitting beside a politician if there are cookies being served.

Cam showed up for the podcast with a bribe, some fresh out of the oven cinnamon buns made by Ruth.  I was momentarily excited and then I realized that I had a MacBook in front of me and computers but cinnamon buns do not mix.  As soon as the podcast was done, Sean Shaw made a move for them but only took one of the two containers.  I scared Hilary off when I pulled a cutting torch out of my bad and pretended to head towards her bike.  

There I was, the last cinnamon bun.  If I had worked fast, it could have been mind then but we were driving to the Rook and Raven in Shaw’s new Volkswagen and if I had gotten it sticky, he would have made me walk home.

After some beverages (Diet Coke), I make it home, open my bag and before I can pull out the cinnamon bun Wendy grabs it and eats it.  Says it was the best cinnamon bun she ever had in her life.  I have never been so betrayed.

I went to the fridge, gagged back a glass of V8 and went to bed.

You can listen to our podcast with Cam below.  I’m off to find something to eat.

Episode 020

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes

Shelter only place for recovering senior

This isn’t an isolated incident.  Even in Saskatoon.

An 84-year-old La Ronge woman suffering from cancer says she had to recuperate from a broken foot in a shelter for battered women because there was no acute or long-term care space for her in the area.

Barbara Blyth was recovering at home with the help of home care until her furnace quit. While waiting several days for parts to get it fixed, she couldn’t stay at home — and she ended up in the women’s shelter because there was no bed for her in acute or long-term care, she said.

Both home care staff and workers at the shelter treated her very well, Blyth emphasized. The problem is that there aren’t enough long-term care beds in her part of the province, she continued.

“People have lobbied the government for a very long time, but nothing happens,” Blyth said. “I’m displeased — it’s overall a total negation of responsibility for the north.”

Blyth, a retired professional librarian, has remained active in her community, although she’s dealing with cancer now for the third time. Her cancer is incurable, she said.

“People in the north don’t want to have to go south in order to die,” Blyth said. “They want to die with their friends and family.”

The Opposition NDP raised Blyth’s case in the legislature Wednesday. Health Minister Dustin Duncan said he would look into it.

“We’re going to follow up,” he told reporters after question period. “There may be some additional options that may be available to her outside of long-term care.

“But we do know that much like the rest of the province, in northern Saskatchewan the long-term care beds that are available aren’t always where we need them to be,” Duncan added.

He noted the number of beds in the north on the west side of the province exceeds the national average, but the number is low on the east side.

A New Generation of NDP Ads

Good job by the NDP in getting a good Cam Broten ad out this quickly.   The ads hit television tomorrow.  That the NDP website has now been updated to feature Cam.

Cam Broten wins the NDP leadership

Joe Couture reports

Cam Broten – who won the leadership of the provincial NDP on Saturday by just 44 votes – told reporters after his victory that he knows the party has “a lot of work to do in earning the trust of Saskatchewan people.

“It was a close race,” the second-term Saskatoon Massey Place MLA, who is 34 years old, admitted to the media at TCU Place, where the leadership convention was held – although, he in the next breath mentioned former Manitoba premier Gary Doer and his win of the leadership of his province’s NDP by just 21 votes in 1988.

“But we know we have a lot of work to do as a party and as a caucus,” Broten continued. “All the candidates have done such a tremendous job, their teams have done a tremendous job, and we need everyone involved to build the NDP once again and earn the trust of Saskatchewan people.”

On the second ballot at the convention, Broten received 4,164 of the total votes cast or just more than 50 per cent, narrowly beating out Saskatoon doctor Ryan Meili, who was ahead on the first ballot, but received 4,120 votes on the second.

Meili described the results to reporters as “bloody close.

“Who would expect that I could actually get closer to winning this time than last time?” he said, referencing 2009’s leadership race, in which he finished second to Dwain Lingenfelter – who ultimately led the party to a crushing defeat in 2011.

“There was, I think, an appetite for the vision that I had, but obviously what Cam brought forward also appealed very much to the party members and ultimately, his team and his campaign was successful,” Meili continued, telling reporters he didn’t expect to try to challenge the close results.

The results of the first ballot, announced earlier in the afternoon, saw Meili in first with 39 per cent of the vote and Broten in second with 34 per cent – Trent Wotherspoon, who came in third with 24 per cent, withdrew from the race minutes later.

Broten made the right moves in the winning the leadership but he was wrong about one thing

Asked about the possibility of becoming the focus of negative publicity generated by his Saskatchewan Party opponents, Broten also sought to minimize concerns.

“Attack ads can be effective in the short-term, but in the long term, I think it turns people off politics,” he said, noting he plans to “stay in touch with what Saskatchewan people want and stay in tune with what their concerns and priorities are.”

I have heard from a couple of NDP MLAs that the biggest mistake they made was not to “define” Brad Wall when he was elected Saskatchewan Party leader.  If I was the Saskatchewan Party, I would not make that mistake in trying to “define” Broten.  Of course the interesting part is that he may be hard to define negatively.  He doesn’t claim a residence in Cavendish, PEI; he didn’t spend most of his life abroad claiming to be an American and unless I missed a big gaffe in the debates, there isn’t much there.  It will be interesting on what they do and if it will stick.

NDP Leadership Race Polls

While the LeaderPost published a poll of voter intentions in the province for the provincial NDP leader, I was curious when I heard about some internal polling done by the candidates themselves.  Over the last couple of weeks the Broten, Meili, and Wotherspoon campaigns have all done some polling.  Interestingly enough, the buzz is that both the Wotherspoon campaign has commissioned two polls right after the other.  If you don’t like the results of the first poll, maybe you just keep polling?

The Broten campaign has been the only one talking about the results which if accurate, makes sense.  It is bad news for both Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon.  I know Nate Silver says to not believe campaign polling but it’s all we have.  Until the Wotherspoon and Meili camps post their numbers, I only have the Broten numbers to go on and here they are.  

When I looked at the poll, it was done by Public Polling Inc which is a polling company out of Toronto (there is a Saskatchewan Party attack ad in there someplace).  It was a large poll with a margin of error is only +/- 2.2%.   The poll asked two basic questions — (1) “If you were to vote for the new NDP leader today, who would be your first choice?” and (2) “Who would be your second choice for the new NDP Leader?”  The results of the poll show the following breakdown of first ballot support among decided voters throughout the entire province:

If the poll is correct, it looks like a 3rd ballot victory for Cam Broten and he would become the next leader of the opposition.  Trent Wotherspoon has either lost his support or pundits have really overestimated his support in the first place.  Maybe that is why he is polling so much.  According to the poll, Broten is the second choice of most of the people surveyed.  With the NDP at about 11,000 members and with the vast majority of them casting a ballot; I can’t see the convention floor delegates having enough votes to change the outcome but I have been wrong many times before.

The end result is that a) it’s going to be a boring convention b) Cam Broten will become the next leader of the opposition c) the Saskatchewan Party is probably already cutting the attack ads on Broten as I post this.

It also means that 2015 is going to be an interesting election. 

Update: I immediately was emailed as asked if who I was voting for.  I am not a member of any political party and therefore won’t be casting a ballot in this race.  I am just looking at it from the outside.

2012 Municipal Election Roundup

So after spending last night at City Hall waiting for the election results to be made public, here are my thoughts.

  • It was fun doing a quick segment with David Kirton and CKOM on the election.  I have always been a fan of Kirton and my only regret was not seeing more traction on food trucks (Twitter joke).
  • I was shocked to see Troy Davies win in Ward 4.  I had picked Sean Shaw and all of the metrics that myself and others have used to determine campaign victories showed Shaw winning. Apparently I need new metrics.  Either that or I need to start putting polls in the field.  Congrats to Troy Davies for winning and earning the right to be Ward 4 councillor.  Sean is a good friend and I am sure he will be back politically but it’s hard to see friends lose races.
  • I was also surprised to see Ann Iwanchuk win as after 10/11 polls reporting, Mike San Miguel had a sizeable lead but as the old saying goes, “it’s not over until it’s over” and all of a sudden I was looking at a result that I couldn’t believe and that is that Iwanchuk won by 28 votes.  When I talked to her and Andy last night, they kind of had the same reaction. Congrats to her on a well run race.
  • If I am Mike San Miguel, I have to questioning my decision to go negative late in the race with a pamphlet that attacked Iwanchuk and an attacking robo-call that attacked her NDP background.  If anything it probably motivated people to turn out for Iwanchuk.  It was a great campaign to watch that came down to under 100 votes.
  • Zach Jeffries not only becomes the youngest member on council ever but knocked off three term incumbent Bev Dubois.
  • So Tom Wolf came within a hair of defeating a long term incumbent after getting in the race in September.  Impressive campaign by Wolf and they had by far the best campaign t-shirts.
  • Pat Lorje won again in Ward 2 which is what I predicted. 
  • Since this will be long forgotten by 2016, I am planning to do a series of push polls, probably just to candidate homes that go something like, “Would you prefer crazed socialist (or robber baron) [insert councillor’s name here] or well respected columnist Jordon Cooper to represent your riding?” just to feed on their paranoia.  I have no intention of running but it would be fun to do.
  • I had a fun conversation with Andy Iwanchuk which is the first time we have ever met. When you think of it, the Iwanchuk family has been in campaign mode for a long time with Ann’s election a year ago, Andy’s provincial campaign and now her re-election campaign which makes for a hectic year.  No truth to the rumour that both of them are getting away for a vacation by working on someone else’s campaign.
  • After following the council pretty closely, I found the entire election disillusioning.  Part of it is the sausage philosophy where you don’t really want to know how it is made.  At the last of the last term, it was a very politically divided council.  That division came across during some of the FOI requests that dropped and also it showed that more than one councillor/candidate had lied to me about some issue or another.  Hopefully with some new councillors on council those bridges can be rebuilt but I am not hopeful that the partisanship will change.
  • I want to thank each of you last night that aggressively shook my hand.  If you noticed tears in my eyes, it wasn’t because I moved talking to you or about your victory, it is because I HAVE A TORN ROTATOR CUFF and it really HURT ME every time we shook hands.  I was ready to be put down by about 8:45 p.m.  It hurt that much.
  • The election day someone put up an anonymous Twitter account bashing Darren Hill to the media and anyone who would listen.  Sadly it was done by someone that knows Wendy and I and lives in Mayfair.  I have a pretty good idea of who it was but it’s still sad.  To be honest, if I was going to attack Hill I would stand behind them.  An anonymous account doesn’t do anything other than provide something to laugh at.
  • Got to hang out with Alex MacPherson and Liam Richards for the first time last night.  I always enjoy MacPherson’s writing in Verb and I have long been a fan of Richard’s photography (which always envying his gear). 
  • So this will be it until the next federal and provincial election when some councillors decide to run.  If they win, we get by-elections and the process starts all over again.

Ryan Meili annouces for the NDP Leadership

I am a couple of days late on this but in all fairness a) I was busy b) I was late posting about Cam Broten’s leadership campaign c) I am not a New Democrat but I thought I would post a link to Ryan Meili’s leadership website which is interesting in two ways. I am pretty sure he is the first leadership candidate in Canada to use a domain hack with http://www.ryanmei.li as his web address. If I was him I would use it as a point of attack on Broten and Weatherspoon; “How can they lead the NDP into the future when their domain names are from the past?!” And that folks is why leadership candidates don’t ask for my advice no matter which party that represent.

Ryan Meili’s logo looked familiar to me and it took me a couple of days to figure out where I had seen it before.

Ryan Meili campaign banner

Saskatchewan Liberal Party

After seeing what this logo has done for the Saskatchewan Liberal Party, I may have gone in a different direction.

I was pleased to see Ryan jump into the race with Cam and Trent Weatherspoon. Ryan has been a powerful advocate on social justice issues and has seen the failures of the system first hand. I think his contribution to the race will be significant. Like I said before, I don’t know what the NDP are looking for in a leader but I think having strong candidates are good for the province. Yes there is prosperity but there are also problems. Hopefully we will discover some answers as a province through the debates and process to find a new leader.

As for the videos, Ryan doesn’t have a campaign video yet but when he does, I’ll post them here.

Cam Broten for NDP Leader

The NDP leadership race is underway with Cam Broten announcing his candidacy.  Along with his candidacy he launched a video about why he is running.

Cam is my local MLA and has become friends with the entire family.  He has become a regular fixture at The Lighthouse and has been the MLA that I refer people to when they have problems.  I don’t know what makes a great NDP leader but Cam has been a great MLA, an excellent advocate on a variety of issues, and has a compelling vision for Saskatchewan.  I don’t know if he will win (I have never been able to figure out NDP leadership conventions) but I am glad he is running. 

Off to see the Royals

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A couple of months ago I got a note from our MLA, Cam Broten who knew that Mark did a fair amount of volunteering with me at The Salvation Army and now at The Lighthouse whenever I have a task that needs to be done.  Cam nominated Mark to win a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal.  A week or so ago this arrived in the mail inviting Mark to the Saskatchewan Legislative buildings to meet Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in a ceremony and tea.  Tomorrow morning we will be driving down to Regina so that Mark and Wendy can be a part of the ceremony.  Yes I said, Wendy as Mark only gets one guest and I am not it.  Wendy would prefer that I go as she is nervous about it but I saw the Duke and (then) Duchess of York in 1989 in Saskatoon and I thought she would enjoy it.

Sadly I couldn’t even get into the Legislature as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are apparently a really big deal so I have a couple of hours to kill in Regina by myself while Mark and Wendy are living it up.

If I could say whatever I wanted

The nice thing about this blog is every once in a while I can sneak a post past the vast jordoncooper.com editorial team and say whatever I want.  Hopefully it doesn’t upset too many advertisers. 

Over the last couple of years I have become increasingly dismayed at the level of care and effort that the Saskatoon Health Region gives to low income men and women, especially if they are low functioning people with disabilities or mental health problems.

This month at work we have had three cases that would blow your mind if you found out what happened but the scenario was the same in all three cases.  The people all needed medical attention and intervention by medical professional and in all three cases, for some bizarre the decision was made not to give them help they needed and let them carry on.  One was serious enough that the paramedics were not able to handle what they saw, an other had a mental health warrant issued (for the second time), and the third was a highly contagious condition.  All were refused the help that they needed and within minutes/hours the hospital put the problem back on The Lighthouse.

Here is the problem with The Lighthouse.  We are funded the exact same amount of money as a flop house.  We get the same amount of money for rent as the Barry Hotel did in it’s prime as a slum landlord.  We get the same amount of money as another slum hotelier in the city.  We get a small amount of money for food that doesn’t increase despite rising food costs.  Our food services people do a great job and make a tremendous amount of food from scratch.  I thought it was because they are amazing (they are) but they tell me it’s also cheaper (it is but they are still amazing).  Many of our residents have complex medical needs, HEP-C, HIV, and quite a few have full blown AIDS which have special nutritional needs.   Some are battling terminal cancer and most have concurrent disorders of mental health and addictions.  To provide care for them, we are paid the same rate as a slum landlord does.  If we did nothing more than collect rent we would get the same amount of money.

We don’t do that.  Every bit of The Lighthouse is on camera.  We are double staffed for the safety of our residents and staff.  We offer case management, we offer trustee programs for those that need help with their money.  Today, staff are bringing a bunch of residents to Table Mountain for a day of snowboarding and fun.  How many slum landlords do that?  Past outings have included Banff, Calgary Zoo, Cyprus Hills, and quite a few others.  These are life changing events for many of our residents.  If you want an uplifting time, come down and ask them about them.  I have heard stories of people getting lost (not seriously), exploring an abandoned church, and yes, some stories about going on skis for the first time.  The boss is talking about a trip east some day to Canada’s Wonderland for our residents some day.  For many of them who have never been out of the city, this is a big deal, even if it does involved strapping a piece of wood to their feet and going downhill.

There are classes to help them with self-esteem, special meals, I make everyone a personalized birthday card on their birthday, and staff last year made a list, checked it twice, and went out and bought everyone in the supported living rooms and the emergency shelter their own Christmas gift.  Yes, they hit the mall and shopped for 80 people.  They came back with the gifts and post traumatic stress disorder. Not only that but each was hand wrapped and given to them on Christmas morning.   You know what, not many other places anywhere in Canada do anything like this but The Lighthouse does.  I am proud to be a part of it.

It can be hard.  Our residents beat the crap out of our 107 year old building.  It’s the nature of the business.  It’s not so much violence but a bunch of them are developmentally challenged which means that despite having a 40 year old body, some are children inside which means they rough house and goof around.  It means the occasional door gets wrecked, elbows go through drywall and plaster.  Everyone once in a while someone has a temper tantrum and kicks a hole in the wall.  All of this adds a lot of expense to what we do.  It’s mad worse by the rather odd paint decisions the owners of the Capri Hotel made.  Like hotels even today, the walls are covered with a fabric wallpaper which means that if a hole is made, the repair job is horrible.  As we renovate and keep using a standard shade of off white paint, it should get easier and cheaper to maintain and keep up but our residents are “the hard to house” and this is one of the reasons why.

At the same time there are things that we can not do.  We aren’t paid or staffed to be a care home.  Our residents grow older, they grow weaker, and they need some place to give them a higher quality of care.  You are supposed to be able to rely on agencies like CPAS to help you.  With one person they just said he was too high maintenance and none of their homes would take him and left him at The Lighthouse.  I had no idea up to that point that I need to be low maintenance and have a high income to get into a nursing home.  I thought that is why we have a social safety net in place, for guys like this one who can’t take care of himself and has no family.  Apparently not.  Of course homecare was suggested but they don’t clean up rooms.  Service Master was suggested but that would be $1500 a month and no one would pay that.  We were expected to.  In then end we would have to pay $1500 a month to room him for $609 a month.  That is the system at work.  I know it is because of a shortage of beds in the system but who pays for that?  The hardest to house and those with the biggest need.  It’s the exact opposite of how you would expect the system to work.  The easier to house get the best treatment because they are low maintenance.  No one wants the high maintenance residents so they get the worse treatment.

You know how you get help for people who have struggles that you can’t deal with?  You need to have them sent to the hospital and then you tell them you won’t take them back.  After that happens I get berated by a series of doctors, nurses and administrators and chastised for being a “drain on the system”.  I have heard the phrase “piece of shit” tossed at my by a doctor as well.  Stay classy guys.  I was reminded by a co-worker a couple of years ago that the role of a hospital is not to help people but just to get them out of the hospital.  It explains why I have seen people come to the Salvation Army asking for help to have their wounds to be changed because the hospital won’t and just sent away with bandages and not even any understanding of what to do with them.  Recently another cognitively challenged person I know has a staph infection.  She was discharged with the medication to treat it including a IV tube to inject the antibiotics without any knowledge how to do it.

Others we have gotten mental health warrants for their own protection.  We can persuade a judge to issue one that has a track record of turning them down but 20 minutes after being at RUH, the client was released because he kept it together for 20 minutes.  I was chastised over that.  The guy they released is a threat to himself and others but for 20 minutes he was okay and played a victim and they let him go.  A couple of years later we got another warrant because his untreated condition was getting worse and escalating.  Same result.  Same lecture from RUH and the person is still untreated for a treatable disorder that has destroyed his life.

Finally, Wendy started work as a casual staff at The Lighthouse yesterday.  A resident had a contagious condition that needed immediate medical treatment.  We called homecare but they weren’t scheduled to come by for a couple of days.  We called CPAS and got nowhere.  We called Mobile Crisis who told us to call her Social Services worker.  We called Social Services but the phone message said that the worker would not be returning phone calls that day.  Finally my co-worker was about to snap and I called The Salvation Army who authorized a cab to the hospital.  Hospital didn’t treat her, sent a low functioning women who can’t read or take care of herself back with a prescription to treat the contagious condition.  What do you do?  Well Wendy and DeeAnn took on the job of basically providing medical services that no one else would.  They did a good job but the problem overwhelmed even them, the prescription, and the problem is still more or less unsolved.  On top of that they found out that one of the services we were talking to has been lying about the care they are giving. 

The end result of this is that she is going to have to be evicted to a group home.  It’s not that we want to kick her out but if no one else will do what they are supposed to be doing, we can’t keep her there as she can’t take care of herself.  What really bothers me is that she is happy there, just no one wants to be a part of her solution because her problem don’t fit into the slot of solutions that are offered.

I could go on.  During H1N1 outbreak the Health Region sent infected people to a shelter that has congregate sleeping arrangements and then demanded we provide a segregated area.  Staff hadn’t even been given inoculations yet. (no one caught it but me).  They have referred people that have had tuberculosis to sleep in a congregate area.  The same congregate areas where others with compromised immune systems sleep.  Luckily (in some cases) the guy disclosed it and we found other safer housing for him.  It’s not just health.  Many times Social Services has referred clients who have had contagious airborne diseases to shelters but don’t tell us.   Apparently it is because of confidentiality reasons.  Somehow confidentiality trumps the protection of 70 other people but in the end, it is because it is just easier to make it someone else’s problem.  Then there is this.  Many clients over the years who told me that Social Services told them to lie to the shelters about being on Social Services so they (the Saskatchewan government) could pay a lower subsidized rate.  So there you go, your donations to agencies go to subsidize people because of social workers being dishonest.

So around all of this, the City is going to debate five bylaw enforcement officers who will walk around and harass panhandlers and give the impression to downtown shoppers that a very safe downtown core, is indeed really safe.  Later plans include a downtown referral centre for those that need assistance which will be yet another agency that can’t do anything.  Housing problems are not solved with referral centres but are solved with access to housing units and supports, two things that aren’t in play right now.

I know some city councillors and MLAs read the blog and I chat with a lot of them about these issues but I am constantly amazed at how far apart their solutions are from the real problems.  Part of it comes from “they have to play the cards they have dealt”.  The other reason is that they don’t seem to want to take on the real problems of just a messed up system that is full of people who are conditioned to pass off a problem than confront it.  I think our politicians sometime suffer from the same condition.

That being said, I was encouraged to see that my MLA Cam Broten proposed a Senior’s Bill of Rights this week in the Legislature.  It’s a start.

Column: Act to ensure your voice is heard

My column in The StarPhoenix

When I write about politics, some co-workers and friends tell me they don’t read it as they have "no time for politics." Well, I hope today is the exception and they head out and vote.

I don’t expect much drama and tension, and I don’t think it will surprise any of us if Premier Brad Wall is still the premier on Tuesday, with a slightly larger caucus. Apparently, the vaunted orange wave loses steam somewhere this side of Winnipeg.

While the results of the election may not be in doubt, what is in doubt is the quality of government it will provide and what kind of MLAs we will be electing.

What’s interesting is that those factors are partially determined by us, the voters, not just tonight but tomorrow, as well.

Citizens tend to be more engaged at a municipal level. We all have the ability to connect and engage politically. If you send an email to a councillor or the mayor, you know they will get it. An increasing number of them are on Twitter, making it easier to connect with them.

If you need to talk to councillors in person, the city has a time where you can address council each meeting.

If that isn’t your cup of tea, try one of the ward town hall meetings hosted by Mayor Don Atchison and your ward councillor. The mayor isn’t there alone; he brings along a cadre of senior civic administrators. Coun. Darren Hill has been tweeting during some of the town hall meetings.

It’s not about city hall talking to voters as it is the city wanting to listen to what we, the citizens, have to say.

Despite the effort the city puts into town hall meetings, attendance has been quite low, with only 20 to 30 people at many of the meetings. We complain that civic leaders don’t listen, but we don’t go when they show up to listen.

Our provincial legislature does not have similar accommodations for citizen feedback. While all councillors have a say in the legislative process in the city, provincially the power is concentrated in cabinet. You can’t address the legislature without an invitation, and the location of government itself limits access for much of the province.

Individual MLAs have roles on committee, but they have a party whip who tells them how to vote in most situations. It’s a system designed to be controlled from the premier’s office rather than by the public, but even that is changing.

There was much written about the last federal vote being the first social media election. In the end that proved hyperbolic, as most candidates just tweeted about how great their leader was and how well everything was going. Pretty boring stuff, as they used tweets as a broadcast medium.

Time will tell if our new MLAs want to actually listen or just talk, but the technology exists for those who want to connect; and it even works after the election. Two of the best listeners were New Democrats Cam Broten and Pat Atkinson, whose use of Twitter raised the bar for how accessible an MLA could be.

Broten has directed me and others to answers to questions we hadn’t even got around to asking him yet.

Atkinson was part question period commentator, part historian, and was possibly the biggest Sheepdogs cheerleader as the band ascended to the cover of Rolling Stone. I hope the Saskatchewan Party MLAs will follow their lead.

Every election, some people get into office who don’t deserve our vote. It’s how democracy works and, if we are lucky, their party will keep them a long way away from power and then toss them out in the next nomination meeting. We also send MLAs to Regina who are going as true public servants, who want to connect and want us to be part of the process for the next four years.

While the electoral process ends tonight, governance starts tomorrow and it’s something that we have an opportunity to play a role in. At a time when voter turnout is declining, we forget that our ability to participate in government is increasing.

How you do that is up to you. Our parliamentary system has one party in power and one in Opposition to provide a check and balance. Both rely on feedback, input and participation from their constituents. Plug in on either side, for debate is needed, but don’t just send MLAs to Regina and forget them.

Our voice matters today and especially tomorrow.

jordon@jordoncooper.com

My vote | 2011

After posting what I believed to be a fair and balanced explanation of who I was voting for last year, I learned that there was no way you could announce and explain how you vote without alienating those on the other side.  Voting always has been and probably always will be (for those of us who actually vote) a personal thing that upsets those that see the world differently.   So a wise person would keep it quiet but I am going to keep up the practice of explaining who I am voting for and why.  As always, the comments are open for a rebuttal or even a good rebuke.

As most of you know, I grew up Progressive Conservative.  My first campaign I helped out on way Hon. Ray Meiklejohn’s 1986 campaign for what was then called Saskatoon Mayfair (old massive riding that was Saskatoon Northwest, Meewasin, and part of Saskatoon Massey Place).  I was twelve.  I later ran in Saskatoon Riversdale in 1995 where I narrowly (by 3000 or so votes) lost to Roy Romanow.  If he wasn’t Premier, beloved in the riding, accomplished, a better politician, well financed and far more popular than I was, I would have taken him.

In 2003 I was planning to throw my vote away and vote Saskatchewan Party (they have never run hard in the riding) when Hon. Eric Cline came to my door late one evening while campaigning.  I was his last house to door knock on and he was ahead of schedule so when I asked him some questions, he got all animated and passionate at the door and we had a good discussion about provincial policy, politics, and even some NDP politics.  It was a good enough discussion that I decided to vote NDP for the first time in my life (although I did have second thoughts while heading into the voting booth)

In 2006 or 2007, I think Linsay Martens emailed or Facebooked about Cam Broten’s campaign and asked me to check out his website and consider supporting him.  I checked out the website and I knew Cam would win but I was busy helping out with Ken Cheveldayoff’s campaign.  I don’t think I met Cam that campaign but while helping to elect a Saskatchewan Party candidate, we did vote for Cam in Saskatoon Massey Place as I thought Cam would be a good MLA and I have always been a firm believer in the need for a strong opposition.

Cam won by around 60% of the vote and I ran into him at the Community Christmas dinner for the Salvation Army and we had a good chat.  I think Cam was the first Saskatchewan politician to embrace Twitter (@cambroten) and we connected online.  Over the last couple of years I have found him easy to work with, tremendously helpful when I needed some help or a question answered and often would refer me to another MLA when I was ranting about something or had a question on Twitter.  To be honest he kind of raised my expectations for how approachable a MLA could and should be.

In the Legislature, he went toe to toe with Hon. Rob Norris and held the government accountable for a debacle over the Carlton Trail college mergers.  He didn’t score any cheap political points during those debates and I felt brought some restraint to a debate that could have gone ridiculously partisan.  While Cam is obviously partisan as a NDP MLA, we can talk about issues we disagree on.  This is a quality that not all elected officials have.

Voting NDP is not first nature for me.  I tried to like rent control and look how that turned out.  I can’t agree with a potash royalty rate review because I hate the idea of a government reneging on it’s word (a NDP government at that) with a royalty rate that was just signed.  I really like the Bright Future’s Fund but that idea was lifted from the Saskatchewan Liberals.  On top of that, I really like the Saskatchewan Party’s SAID program and I think overall, the Wall government deserves another four years.

Re-Elect Cam BrotenDespite the fact that the NDP seem to be struggling in the polls, I am going to vote for Cam Broten.  I still believe MLAs matter and Cam does an excellent job.  An effective government needs and effective opposition and Cam has shown that he can help hold them accountable in the Legislature, the media, and online.  As a resident of the riding, the issues I have, he experiences as well.  In addition to living in the riding, he is a tireless campaigner; talking to neighbours and constituents online, on the doorstep, and through his involvement in community events.  There were many days over the last four years in the freezing cold or blazing heat that his Twitter feed said, “knocking doors in ___________”. 

His first four years were excellent and he deserves another four.  The voters in Planet S magazine agree with me (they named him the best MLA two years in a row).  I have high expectations for my elected officials.  Not many have met them over the years but Cam has exceeded them.