Monday 25 December 2017

Not a day goes by......

An open letter to my four grandchildren in Gladstone, Queensland, Australia.

Dear T, AJ, R and L,

It is Christmas Day here in Canada. It has been over a month since your mother has been able to speak to you or see you on Facetime.  For me it was over three months ago that we last Skyped together. I’ve missed the twins’ birthday, you didn’t get to speak to your mom on her birthday and we both missed T’s birthday just this past week too.

Your mom and I want you to know we have tried. Oh, how we have tried. We have emailed, texted and called, but received no replies or calls back.  Maybe you even heard your dad’s phone and your step-mom’s phones ringing on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and you will hear them ring again today. Perhaps you’ll wonder why they aren’t answering the calls or listening to the voicemails. 

I want you to know it was US, that we were right there and all we wanted to do was to talk to you. My last voicemail was short; “Hi it’s Gramma, Merry Christmas. I love you and I miss you. Please call back.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve been cut off from one another for an extended period, but in my experience, this has been the most painful thus far.

I doubt you will see this letter, but maybe, just maybe someone near you; Nanna or Poppy, or another parent or grandparent or even one of your teachers will recognize who I’m writing about. All I ask is they give you a hug for me and let you know that…

...not a day goes by that we don’t love you.

...not a day goes by that we don’t miss you incredibly.

...not a day goes by that we wish we could just hold you.

…not a day goes by they we wish we could watch you grow and learn.

I know your hearts must ache for us at times, as ours do very much for you. More and more I find myself having very emotional responses to what should be ordinary things.  Like looking out our back window and seeing the tree you planted T.  Or the other day when I moved a carpet in the basement and saw the stain from AJ’s play nail polish.  And of course, Christmas always reminds me of the concert at Red Deer Lake school (right before you left Canada) where R and L danced on our laps as T performed and later AJ fell asleep on my lap.

Grampa Cory’s sister is a gramma now. Seeing her grandson the first time was very hard for me. I must admit, I’ve probably developed an unfair jealousy of her and my own brothers and sisters; who have free and liberal access to all their grandchildren.  We have friends with twins as well and whenever they post pictures, I can’t help but wish I had photos of my twin grandchildren to share or pictures of any of you for that matter.

One thing I’ve gained a greater appreciation of is my time with your cousin H. He asks about you all the time. He misses you very much too. Whenever he visits we always share memories of all of you and he asks to Skype as well, like we’ve done before.

If by chance you are reading this, you are likely a lot older and maybe I’m gone. In that case, I want you to know something about your mother.  In the past she had made some poor choices in life. But that is now years in the past and she is a much better, healthier person now. She has become a very strong and determined woman. Please know everything she is doing or will do, is to find a solution to what is incredibly complex and heartbreaking situation.  She loves you so very much, regardless of the thousands of miles that separate you.

                                     ...... not a day goes by.............

Friday 15 December 2017

Another NDP blow to small business in Alberta

Earlier this week I posted on Facebook page about upcoming changes to Alberta Employment Standards, in particular the changes to General Holidays and the pay associated with them.

In my interpretation it sounded drastic and I openly admitted that I hoped I was wrong.

I had emailed Employment Standards and as of today I had not received a reply, thus I called them.

I spoke with Carol, she was very helpful and addressed all of my questions.

Here are the key points of change:

1) the eligibility requirement of having worked 30 days/shifts prior to the General Holiday  has been removed.

2) for part-time individuals or those with irregular schedules, the requirement to work 5 or the last 9 same day of week of the General Holiday has been removed.

The result of these two points is everyone is eligible right away.

Eligibility goes on to say they must work their scheduled day before and after the holiday. Some have taken this to mean the "immediate" day before and after the holiday - this is not the case. It's any day before or after that they are scheduled.

There is no longer a definition of a "regular" or "non-regular" workday for employees.

I gave Carol the example of us having one employee in particular who only works Wednesday's. She confirmed under new rules he will now be eligible. Even though he never works a Monday or Friday (when the General Holidays usually land). Because he has worked he regular scheduled day before and after he is eligible.

We then went onto to discuss how the pay is calculated.

1) for those who work the holiday, they will be paid at a rate of 1.5 times their wage for the hours work, on top of their regular wage for those same hours.

This is the same as it is now.

2) for those who don't work the holiday, their pay will be calculated as 5% of their wages, general holiday pay and vacation pay earned in the four weeks immediately preceding the general holiday.

This point is a huge departure from the current structure, since everyone now is eligible all staff with be paid this when they don't work the holiday.  Or if your business is closed for the holiday, this will also apply to all staff.

There are nine mandated General Holidays, plus businesses must choose one more, bringing the total to ten per year.  They are relatively spread out over the year and each time (roughly monthly) employers will be paying out 5% out on all the wages paid.

Add to this the burden of making these calculations for every employee. To the best of my knowledge no accounting program will have this calculation built in.

Businesses that have mostly full-time staff they won't see much difference. Ones though who predominantly employee part-time staff - this is very significant.

Using our business as an example:

We have 15 staff, nearly all are part-time.  On General Holidays we typically have 3, sometimes 4 staff in.  Under prior rules the staff who didn't work it would only be eligible if it was a "regular" work day for them or if they had worked 5 of the last nine.

Under the new rules we will be paying all staff for every General Holiday. This is pretty much equivalent to increasing our wages cost by 5% - nevermind the additional employer portion of CPP and EI.

In closing here is a link to the Government site where you can read it for yourself.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Why I'm supporting Doug Schweitzer

Over the past many months I've been very optimistic about merging of the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservatives. I have many friends who were involved in or supported the PC's (sometimes through difficult times) and generally we had more in common than not.

With a taste of what an NDP government is like, it didn't take much for nearly everyone to realize we must work together - in the same direction.  Thus the unity vote passed at an incredible 95% in favour.

What I had been less optimistic about was who might become the leader. It was a given that Brian Jean and Jason Kenney were going to run.  Neither of these two inspire me.  Even though I'm the same age as Brian and Jason is younger; they both seem "old school". Some may interpret this as "old boys club", but that isn't what I mean.  They just present themselves as not being very flexible or forward thinking.

When Doug Schweitzer entered the race I admittedly didn't know a single thing about him. I was then involved with the LEC and hadn't had the time to do any research.  It even took me a couple of weeks to get his name right; ironically not his surname, but his first. ;)

The first UCP debate in Calgary on September 20 would be the first time I have an opportunity to learn more about Doug.  A couple of things that struck me during that debate were his love of our province and also his strong support of businesses, entrepreneurs and women.  However what really stood out and set him apart from the other candidates - was his support of GSA's.

Doug is the only candidate who has spoken out directly on the fact the new UCP has to set the tone on the social issues correctly, right from the start. This isn't something we can be wishy washy on or be one thing one week and flip flop the next.

So where do the three candidates stand on this? Here is a quote from the Edmonton Sun (after the second debate)

Kenney's response was that nothing is more important than parental choice. 
His declaration that Alberta doesn't need politicians standing between parents and kids drew perhaps the loudest cheer of the evening. 

Schweitzer, though, rejected the notion of informing parents if their child is in a GSA.
If his two girls weren't comfortable talking to him for some reason, he said, he would hope they could have the support at a GSA at school. 

Jean said afterwards he doesn't favour parental informing, either, but during the debate was keen to shift attention to improving Alberta's standard of education.

Doug used similar phrases in the Red Deer debate, which I attended on October 3rd.   His words really struck me.
Ironically, not because one of my children is a member of the LGBTQ community. More because I once was that student in school, who went to a guidance counsellor with a serious personal issue - I was 17 and pregnant.  My parents were the last people I wanted to talk to about it. That counsellor worked "with" me, not against.

Now this isn't the only reason I'm supporting Doug - but it's a big reason to be sure.

Personally I'm fiscally conservative and (small l) socially liberal.  I don't know if Doug would also describe himself this way, but I do know Jason and Brian don't. 

They are socially conservative - full stop.  They make no bones about it and are actively courting the SoCon vote. And good on them, they are upfront about it and you know what you are dealing with.

Yesterday I resigned my position on the LEC so that I may speak freely on this.
In particular this following point:

I know there may be members out there who haven't bothered to registered to vote. You may think that it's a foregone conclusion that one of the perceived front runners (Kenney or Jean) are going to win and that your vote won't matter.

I don't think it is a given. I think there are enough other members who, like me, don't want to return to regressive policies of the old reformers or of the old Alberta Alliance. And we don't have to. Doug has made it clear there is a path for us, under his leadership.

Monday 9 October 2017

Resigning with optimism

I first joined the Alberta Alliance Party in 2005. They had some archaic policies which I worked actively to remove. When we later merged with the Wildrose group (who also had regressive social policies), I worked on the merger team and my focus was to ensure those policies never see the light of day.  And they didn’t.

In the early years I was involved with the leadership races as a volunteer and as party CFO.  As the first Executive Director of the (then) newly formed Wildrose Party, I oversaw the 2009 Leadership Election. It was with that background I was asked to Chair the 2015 Leadership Election Committee. 

I’ve always viewed the governance of the party as a high priority.

Earlier this year many people called and emailed me, asking if they could put my name forward to serve once again on the LEC (Leadership Election Committee) of the new UCP (United Conservative Party).  In July I was called upon to serve and I accepted. 

Since then the LEC has truly melded. There are no remnants of which party each of us came from. It is one cohesive group of UCP members.  It is comprised of many brilliant minds, who ask the questions that need to be asked, who can see past the politics and render fair decisions. The governance of the leadership race is in sound and secure hands.

Knowing this has made my decision to resign my position easier.

I believe I could have continued in the role and remained fair and unbiased. What I wasn’t sure of though, was how I would feel on October 28th, after the race if I hadn’t spoken up on the matter of who is the best suited to lead the UCP.

And clearly, I couldn’t do both. Thus today I have resigned and tomorrow I will expand further on who I will be supporting as the new UCP Leader.