The arts of politics and baking

In his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, author Robert Prisig wrote about how dealing with the small things of daily life  – like fixing his wayward motorcycle – could teach us about the world at large. A sort of microcosm-becomes-macrocosm perspective, with the vagarities of motorcycle repair to colour the learning. What we learn in one we can apply to the other. *

Baking bread, too, offers a meta-window into other arts and crafts, in particular (for me), politics. Bakers and thinkers have oft cited bread as a metaphor for life (listen to master baker Peter Reinhart’s comments on that topic here or watch his TED talk here).

As an opener, I love making bread. I find it relaxing, rewarding, stimulating and challenging. And sometimes incredibly frustrating and disappointing. Like life. It’s both a creative process and an experimental one. When I bake, I transcend the politics, the worries, the noise of daily life and concentrate on the act itself, a focus I only rarely apply to my daily activities.**

Here are some lessons I’ve learned from making bread I feel apply to politics. They’re not necessarily in the order of importance.

Lesson one: start simple.

You can make bread with four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. Everything after that is chrome. You can make some pretty spectacular breads by adding more, but if you can’t master the four, you can’t make anything. And you can make stellar breads with nothing more – if you understand how they work together.

In politics, you have to master the basics of procedure and process, of legislation, of policies, and of budgets. These are the superstructure on which you will build everything else. If you don’t have a firm grounding in these, you cannot build anything.

Lesson two: start small.

I have a terrific textbook (Jeffrey Hamelman: Bread – A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes) about baking with recipes for commercial bakeries and restaurants. These produce from half-a-dozen to dozens of loaves. But I’ve learned to make one loaf at a time, scaling back every recipe – even many of those online that are intended for one or two loaves. If I do it properly, I’ll have a small, single, good loaf to enjoy. But if I make a mistake or try something that doesn’t work out well, I’ll probably end up tossing most of it out. I don’t want to waste bread.

Many municipal projects are grandiose dreams. But often smaller, less ambitious or even phased projects over a longer term are better and more efficient. Things change, public needs change, tastes and demographics change – what might seem a great project today in a few years might seem outdated and inefficient. Better to be conservative now than end up with an expensive white elephant in a few years. And politicians should never waste taxpayers’ money.

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What about climate change? No. 2

Climate change
A few of the apocalyptic headlines from the past few days:

Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’ – BBC news

Landmark UN climate report warns time quickly running out – Al Jazeera news

Scientists Just Laid Out Paths to Solve Climate Change. We Aren’t on Track to Do Any of Them –Time magazine

Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn – CNN

Earth has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn – ABC news

UN report on global warming carries life-or-death warning – CBC news

Terrifying climate change warning: 12 years until we’re doomed – New York Post

U.N. Panel Warns Drastic Action Needed to Stave Off Climate Change – Wall Street Journal.

Unprecedented action needed to curb global warming – UN report – ITV news

UN report on global warming carries life-or-death warning – Victoria Times-Colonist

A major new climate report slams the door on wishful thinking – Vox

Climate Report Warns Of Extreme Weather, Displacement of Millions Without Action – NPR

Alarming as it is, this is hardly the first time scientists have warned us that we have to make changes or we face a catastrophe. And it’s not like we can’t see it coming: record tornadoes, record hurricanes, record typhoons, record temperatures, record tsunamis, record droughts… this summer we were warned “2018 Is Shaping Up to Be the Fourth-Hottest Year. Yet We’re Still Not Prepared for Global Warming” (New York Times).

As the BBC story notes:

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an international panel of scientists reported Sunday. But they provide little hope the world will rise to the challenge.

A SINGLE degree. Can’t we strive for at least that?

In the US, the NOAA reported:

August 2018 was characterized by warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions across much of the world’s land and ocean surfaces. Record warm temperatures were present across parts of each major ocean basin, with the largest portions across the Barents Sea and the western Pacific Ocean, and small areas across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. During the month, the most notable temperature departures from average were present across Europe, central Asia, the northeastern contiguous U.S., and southeastern Canada, where temperatures were 2.0°C (3.6°F) above average or higher.

All of which makes me wonder why we’ve heard so little about climate change and Collingwood during this election campaign. Aside from what I wrote in my earlier post, I’ve heard only one candidate mention it. And that concerns me.
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Are facts inflammatory?

CensorshipInflammatory is the word I was told the Connection used this week in rejecting an ad by mayoral candidate John Trude*. That ad challenged some of the claims of one of his opponents by stating what actually happened at council this term in four areas: open and accountable government, the hospital redevelopment, working together with our municipal neighbours and sole-source contracts on major expenditures.

All of Trude’s comments are backed up by facts taken from the media, town agendas and town staff. Take for example, sole sourcing. You may recall back in 2014 that deputy-mayor candidate Brian Saunderson promised when elected he would oversee…

Change the purchasing policy to ensure there can be no sole sourcing of any contract for goods or services over $25,000, no exceptions.

But as the Trude ad points out, that never happened. In fact, just for sole-sourced legal consultants, the costs have ballooned every year of this term to more than $1.8 million: 2014 $268,000; 2015 $374,000; 2016 $414,000; 2017 $761,000,  and invoices are still coming in until at least year-end. By 2019 they will have topped $2 million – and that doesn’t include costs for sole-sourced consultants to create reports to justify the secretive Collus sale or the sole-sourced PR consultant hired to sell the town’s anti-hospital stance.

Is this inflammatory? Or simply truth that someone on the Connection staff didn’t want the public to read? How can the public engage in a conversation about these or other issues if the media hides them?

I suggest you ask a member of Trude’s campaign for a copy to decide for yourself. I’ve read it – it’s not an attack ad, it doesn’t call anyone names or make the sort of accusations and false allegations some candidates have been making as they go door-to-door (one council candidate was even served with a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer for doing this!). The ad simply states the facts – unlike some posts on social media about local issues and candidates, many of which spin conspiracy theories wildly distant from any semblance of factuality.

Since when does local media decide what the voters get to read or see or hear in an election campaign? Since when does local media decide for the voters what is appropriate? Isn’t that using the media’s position and power to unfairly influence the election in favour of one candidate?

Was the decision made because of personal bias or associations? Regardless of why, it’s still censorship.

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Abby the heartbreaker

She was a small cat. At first we thought she might be not much older than six or eight months, but no, we were assured, she was fully grown. Just petite. Two kilos, maybe a hair more. Black with a little white patch on her chest. Big, expressive eyes.

This was a dozen years ago, back when the humane society was in its infancy, and didn’t yet have a permanent shelter. Cats and dogs that couldn’t find homes or foster care were kenneled with willing veterinarians around the region. Susan and I had agreed to adopt one more cat, and were told to check with a vet located between Elmvale and Wasaga Beach.

We drove out one evening, along a dark road, the last people to arrive there before closing. We were led to a spartan back room where they had several cat cages, in which were two cats awaiting adoption. One was a little older, withdrawn into that sort of kennel depression cats get when cooped up too long. The other was a small, black cat who looked like she was not long from kittenhood.

We were going to adopt the older cat at first, but the little black one reached out a paw through the bars and tapped my shoulder. Then did it again. And again. I opened the cage and she crawled into my arms. We were hooked. She came home with us that night.

We called her Abby, short for Abby Normal, not because she was crazy in any way, but because we had recently seen our favourite film, Young Frankenstein, and that name stuck with us. Abby was our home’s princess.

She loved the heat. Any place in the house where the sun warmed a patch of rug or furniture, she was there. In the summer she came outdoors on a leash and would sit on a cushion basking in the warm weather. Sometimes she’d sit beside Susan on a deck chair, small enough to snuggle into the narrow space.

In cooler months, she sat on laps – mine when I was working on the computer or we were watching TV. Beside or on Susan when Susan was in the spare room, reading on the upstairs couch. If we lit the fire, she would move to a small cat bed nearby so she could be closer to the heat. We jokingly called her the perfect cat for Mexico.

At night Abby climbed onto the bed with us and slept on my lap while I sat up and read. When the lights went out and I hunkered down under the covers, she climbed atop my hip and stayed there most of the night. No matter how I might toss and turn, she managed to stay aboard my hip.

Mornings she waited in the kitchen for a saucer of milk – Abby loved her morning milk. Evenings she and Diego, our orange Tom, waited in the kitchen for the treats we gave them before bedtime. Abby liked the rituals and never missed them.

Abby was the mistress of the silent miaow. She seldom actually vocalized, but would look at you and make the facial motions without the sound. But if she was sitting by the window and saw a bird or squirrel outside, she made little cat noises to express her eagerness to give chase. Which she never did because like all of our cats, Abby lived indoors and only went outside with us, and on a leash.
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Robocalls and smear campaigns

Attack ads

Have you received the robocall yet? Many Collingwood residents have, and every one I’ve spoken to thinks they are in appallingly bad taste. And they are right.

It starts out pretending to be a survey asking who you will vote for in the municipal campaign, but after three questions it turns into a nasty attack ad against mayoral candidate John Trude.

As nasty as the candidate for whose campaign it was created. How low, how cheap and immature a tactic this smear campaign is. Well, not inexpensive – these are a huge campaign expense for a small-town candidate. But money is like politics: it gets dirty when it gets into the mud. And this campaign is in the depths of the mud.

Personal attacks like this – ad hominem attacks – are made against people with principles and ethics by those who lack them. These attacks are crass, low-class, vicious and slimy. Do we really want the sort of person who condones them for our next mayor? Someone who can’t run on his own merits, or on the issues, but instead has to attack his opponents through anonymous phone calls?

If nothing more, this shows how unsuited for the position of mayor Trude’s opponent is. Your election choice is so much clearer now. Collingwood deserves the best and the best doesn’t descend to cheap attack ads or sniping at opponents from the shadows.

My answers to AWARE Simcoe

AWARE SimcoeCandidates throughout Simcoe County were sent a series of questions by AWARE Simcoe, which describes itself as “…a citizens’ group with members in all Simcoe County municipalities as well as in Barrie and Orillia. We work to protect water, the environment and health through transparency and accountability in government.”

I have included the questions and my responses, below.

1. Water is a finite resource. Do you feel there is a need to protect water, wetlands and recharge areas from development, aggregate extraction and other intrusive activities in your municipality? If so, how will you achieve this?

ANSWER
I currently sit on the Lake Simcoe/South Georgian Bay source water protection committee. I also do communications work for the non-profit Ontario Municipal Water Association, which advocates with the province over drinking water, wastewater and stormwater issues, policies and legislation. Both associations have taught me a lot about the need to protect our water resources at all levels and in all systems, as well as the politics and the technologies involved.

I recently blogged about water as our most precious resource as a local campaign issue as well as the need for candidates to make themselves aware of the polices and legislation they will have to follow when elected (e.g. the Safe Drinking Water Act). See ianchadwick.com/blog/water-our-most-precious-resource/

As deputy mayor, I will do everything in my power to protect our water and its sources, including promoting low-impact development and natural stormwater management. As a community on the Great Lakes, I will encourage our mayor, council and staff to be actively involved in associations and agencies that work with protecting the Great Lakes. Where possible, I will volunteer my time in this area, too.

I also believe that Collingwood should be more active in initiatives to mitigate climate change – which will affect our water. We should be a leader in sustainable environmental practices, too.

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