Is Wynne seeing the light?


If only they would grow up and learn to play nice. Imagine what could be accomplished.
If only they would grow up and learn to play nice. Imagine what could be accomplished.

Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario has been making noises about implementing a compulsory pension plan for taxpayers of Ontario. Recognizing that all citizens are not adequately prepared financially for retirement, the Ontario government proposed a third layer of pension contributions in addition to Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan to help fill the gap. While her concerns about us old retiring Boomers living on cat food is admirable, her solution to the problem is, well, problematic —much like her relationship with Stephen Harper; hence her Ontario Retirement Pension Plan brainwave.

If the Liberals under Trudeau are successful in winning the current federal election, Wynne has said she would consider piggybacking her plan on to the existing Canada Pension Plan. Apparently it’s what she wanted all along but because Wynne and Harper couldn’t play nice in the sandbox, she had to build her own sandbox. Whatever their differences, it’s a shame they couldn’t come together for the betterment of the people. But I guess that’s asking too much of politicians. The fact they’re on the taxpayers’ payroll and hired to work on our behalf seems to have escaped their comprehension.

Retirement should be a time of peace and contentment following a lifetime of hard work.
Retirement should be a time of peace and contentment following a lifetime of hard work.

Many retired Boomers are still working full-time or part-time to keep the wolf away. For whatever reason, many seniors still live in poverty in this land of plenty and we have a common responsibility to ensure that our fellow Canadians are adequately housed, clothed, fed and taken care of medically after a life-time of work and paying taxes. But to implement another completely separate pension plan to address this issue seems like one more giant government bureaucratic nightmare.

Having faithfully paid into CPP for my entire adult life including forty years in the corporate world, it seems to me that topping off that plan with increased deductions would be the most effective and painless way to achieve the goal. Payroll deductions are annoying but necessary for maintaining the lifestyle we enjoy in Canada.  A little more will only hurt a bit but if it means the difference between cat food and Hamburger Helper down the road, I say go for it. And do not burden Ontario taxpayers with another layer of bureaucracy when a proven system is already in place.  If only the politicians would stop their childish squabbles and get along, all Canadians would benefit. So, be sure to vote on October 19th. And, pass the salt, please.

(This is not an endorsement of any political party. In fact, it’s a condemnation of them all.)


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Newfoundland is a story-teller’s moveable feast

februaryLisa Moore’s Giller-nominated novel February languished on my bookshelf for over a year before I could bring myself to open it. Much as I wanted to read this acclaimed author, I was afraid the subject matter would upset or depress me. The book is a fictionalized account of the real-life events surrounding the sinking of the oil rig Ocean Ranger off the coast of Newfoundland in 1982. Moore assumes the first-person voice of Helen O’Mara, fictional widowed wife of one of the eighty-four workers who lost their lives when the rig sank during a storm on Valentine’s night, February 14, 1982.

With three young children and another on the way, O’Mara’s life was forever and irretrievably altered. Faced with financial hardship and soul-crushing loneliness without her husband, lover and partner, she stitches her life together as best she can to raise the children alone while working at low-paying jobs. Over time, each child presents its own set of challenges growing up and O’Mara copes with an inner strength and sense of humour characteristic of Newfoundlanders.

Now that I’ve finished February, I can say that I’m really glad I read it. While it was sad in many places, it was also uplifting and encouraging. Moore’s writing is joyful to read, ripe with Newfoundland idiom and an intelligent take on modern life. Without giving away the storyline and in order to encourage you to read it, I will say that it has a happy ending. And I’m going to read more by Lisa Moore.

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Thank you for no smart phones at the table this Thanksgiving

The sad, current state of personal communication.
The sad, current state of personal communication.

My art instructor posted an interesting photograph on her Facebook page the other day. It showed half a dozen teenagers sitting on a bench in front of a famous masterpiece at an art gallery. Every single one of them was looking down at their smart phones, oblivious to each other and their backs to the artwork. We witness similar scenarios every day; a group of people sitting around the table in a food court or coffee shop, individually intently texting or reading something on their personal device instead of engaging in real, personal conversation, the kind that involves interrupting each other’s sentences, group laughter and touching one another’s arms or shoulders in warm recognition and affection.

I’m getting really tired of the slavish devotion to smart phones. We actually managed to exist quite well before they were invented and while I applaud their benefits, let’s rein in the addiction a bit. When I’m having lunch with you, or any meal for that matter, I do not care that your grandchild wants you to know what he or she is eating, doing or thinking at that very moment. I do not want to see pictures of your son’s new deck or your husband’s trip to Home Depot for paint. Unless a close family member or friend is on their deathbed, put your phone to bed.

Thank you for our blessings.
Thank you for our blessings.

When my husband and I were visiting war cemeteries in France and Belgium last fall, we were shocked and heartbroken to see a group of teenage students on a field trip to the sacred Tyne Cot cemetery climbing one of the larger monuments to squeal and pose while they took selfies of each other. Does no one realize there is a time and a place for everything?

As we gather around the table for Thanksgiving dinner this year, let’s turn off our phones, turn on the conversation and enjoy our bounty in person. Living in the best country in the world, we have so much to be thankful for: a democracy (including a soon-to-be-over-with election campaign, thank you), our friends and family, plenty of food to eat, healthcare, community and so many other blessings. Let’s do it the old fashioned-way this Thanksgiving dinner. We’ll talk, laugh, make eye contact, hug and share. And for those blessings alone we should be truly thankful.

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Boomers will relate to The Intern

intern4If you’re a fan of movies with multiple earth-shattering explosions, alien attackers, juicy sex scenes or heart-stopping car chases, then The Intern is not your kind of movie. The fact that it was relatable by our demographic was just one reason to go see The Intern starring Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway. The other is obviously the popcorn and Diet Coke which is at least half the reason for going to the movies. When a seventy-year-old widower played by DeNiro becomes bored doing all the usual activities associated with retirement, he decides a return to the working world might energize him. He lands a job as personal assistant to the young, female C.E.O. of an upstart and rapidly growing e-com fashion business.

The plotline of The Intern is fairly predictable. Wise retired old guy embedded into crazy off-the-wall dot-com world of young millennials. Both sides learn valuable lessons from the other while experiencing ups and downs of life. Throw in some good visual gags, a bit of thoughtful dialogue and a pinch of humour and you have a worthwhile movie. The writing could have been better and I think they missed some opportunities for more humorous insights into the realities and challenges of being both retired and being young and upcoming. Producer Nancy Myers accomplished this in her earlier movie, It’s Complicated with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Hathaway and DeNiro were excellent in fairly undemanding roles. He’s believable in an understated sexy retired guy kind of way and she’s mighty fine to look at whether you’re a man or a woman. While I doubt it’ll win any Oscars, it’s worth the trip to your local theatre if you like uncomplicated entertainment.


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Am I the only dirty old lady left?

The other day I was walking through Square One Shopping Mall in Mississauga admiring the cute denim-clad backsides of three young construction workers in hard hats walking ahead of me. I’ve always had a weakness for construction workers and there’s something particularly sweet about nice tight male bums framed in leather tool belts. Then, with the precision and synchronization of a military marching band, all three heads instantly snapped to the right when a twenty-something girl wearing very snug white shorts and a sparkly tight pink tank top went strutting by on firm, tanned legs. Their reaction made my day; put a huge smile on my face. Political correctness aside, their spontaneous reaction was a joy to witness.

Nice tool belt, mister!
Nice tools!

Once upon a time, I too could possibly generate a similar reaction from construction workers. While many feminists (myself included) have derided young men for making kissy sounds or whistling as you walked by a construction site, on some level it felt flattering to be appreciated, albeit superficially. I miss those days. I clearly remember that hot July lunch hour in 1968 getting my ass grabbed in my mini-dress at the corner of Bay Street and Temperance (ironic, eh!) in Toronto. My reaction at the time was shock and indignation and I don’t condone such behaviour, but truth be told, I now regularly carry out an old lady visual reenactment of the same thing almost every day in my own version of reverse sexism.

My sixty-eight-year-old brain hasn’t quite computed that I’m no longer in the game—except in Florida where I’m still considered jail-bait. It’s like appreciating a beautiful sunset or a yummy pair of python stilettos (that I can no longer wear) on display in a store window. The appetite for beautiful things never diminishes. So, all those cute young guys in snug jeans or the junior stock traders in perfectly tailored business suits walking Bay Street at lunch time, watch out for this little old lady from Miss-iss-auga. There’s an entire generation of admirers who like what we see and we’re definitely thinking politically incorrect thoughts. You’re on our radar so walk proud. Some day you’ll be wearing mom or dad jeans just like us, so enjoy it while you can.




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The dichotomy of whether to veil or not to veil

Does this look say "I'm modest" or "I'm alluring"?
Does this look say “I’m modest”, or “I’m alluring”?

The current kerfuffle about Zunera Ishaq’s quest to take her oath of citizenship while wearing a niqab has me totally confused. On one hand, as a liberal-thinking Canadian, I’m trying to be inclusive and say what harm can it do? On the other hand, I’m questioning the deeper motives and merits of her position. We’ve all read copious newspaper articles and columns both pro and con and it’s difficult to judge what is truly right or wrong. I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps the best solution is to let Ishaq identify herself privately without the veil before taking her oath and let’s get on with the business of being Canadian.

My bigger concern here is the validity of the motive for wearing the niqab. Islam does not require it of all women. It’s a cultural choice on the spectrum of Muslim interpretations of modesty. Not all Muslim women choose to wear the niqab. Mennonites have a similar approach to lifestyle issues such as whether to drive a motor vehicle or merely be a passenger; to wear traditional prairie dresses or more contemporary clothing.  Hasidic Jewish women cover their heads with a wig while less orthodox women do not. We have no right to dictate the dress code one way or another.

Zunera Ishaq insists on her right to modesty despite wearing sparkly clothing and vibrant prints.
Zunera Ishaq insists on her right to modesty despite wearing sparkly clothing and vibrant prints.

Ishaq has chosen to push the point for wearing the niqab during her citizenship swearing-in but I question her true position on modesty. She displays an obvious preference for presenting herself attractively, perhaps even provocatively for her culture. Rather than wearing a boring, understated black niqab, Ishaq has consistently appeared in brightly-coloured outfits with coordinating niqab. In the first press photos, she was attired in a bubblegum pink jilbab with complimentary niqab in pink and purple plaid. Her eyes are artfully outlined in kohl, with skillful use of smokey eye shadow and brows perfectly groomed. In another picture in Maclean’s magazine she wore a purple jilbab with rhinestone starbursts up both sleeves. Her niqab was printed with a cascade of brushstrokes resembling peacock feathers. Her choices of attire do not strike me as discreet or modest. It says, “Look at me. I’m bright, colourful and alluring”. This message appears to me in direct conflict with her claims of modesty.

If new Canadians insist on wearing variations of head and face coverings for their swearing-in ceremony, we have no right to legislate otherwise. Canada is an accepting and tolerant society. If they want to wear a ball gown or only a loincloth for the ceremony, that too is their right. It harms no one. However, would a typically Canadian ski mask be tolerated at a swearing-in? Not likely. I do think respect for Canadian cultural norms should be considered. When Canadians travel abroad we try to respect the cultural standards of the countries we visit and do not demand alcoholic beverages in restaurants in strictly Muslim countries. There are times in life when we have to adjust our personal choices out of respect for our host country.

Being a citizen of Canada is a privilege.
Being a citizen of Canada is a special privilege.

Publicity surrounding the issue has put me in the uncomfortable position of feeling like I should make a moral judgement about something that should be a non-issue. Let’s focus on more important concerns like election and senate reform, accountability and honesty in government, the environment, poverty, prevention of violence, and other issues of far greater importance within our wonderful country. Zunera Ishaq’s situation is much adieu about nothing.

Subsequent generations of new Canadians gradually assimilate into Canadian society, frequently under protest by their old-country traditional parents. I’d be curious to check in with Zunera Ishaq in a few years when her own daughters are young Canadian women acting and dressing like their contemporaries, sans niqab. Immigrants have contributed enormously to the amazing lifestyle we enjoy in Canada and we’re still a work in progress. Zunera Ishaq is a young woman pushing the limits of our tolerance and with time, perhaps she too will come to appreciate the full meaning of being Canadian, of being free and feeling safe, respected and honest, and perhaps even comfortable enough as a Muslim woman to bare her face in public. Then, she will be a true citizen of Canada.

Here’s another point of view:

Cara Lee Leclerc's photo.

What do you think?


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