Dear Canada – Stop pretending you want political change

Dear Canada,

Get ready for a lifetime of this

I regret to advise you that we are destined to be a two party country run primarily by old(er), rich, straight, white men from now until forever, unless we clean up our act.

I’m just finishing up the paperwork from my role in the recent Nova Scotia provincial election, and I gotta tell ya, I don’t have much hope.

Back in the dark days of the winter of 2021, my son decided he wanted to run for office in the next provincial election. I didn’t want someone else handling the money for his campaign, when the price for mishandling the money could be a possible jail term, so I agreed to act as my son’s official agent. This meant I was the money-lady. I collected donations and authorized payments.

I thought this was going to be a chance to support my son as he chased a dream and to see democracy in action up close. Instead, it turned out to be an eye-opening experience that has changed the way I think of politics and life in general.

I should clarify that my issues were not with my son, the candidate. No, I was in awe of him. He worked his butt off. While working full-time, he also conducted a full on campaign – going door-to-door, meeting with potential voters and non-profit groups; he worked with his small, but dedicated campaign team of other like-minded, mostly young people, and attended public debates, where he held his own, even while being condescended to by the sitting politician. (Side note: One of the best moments of watching the election results was seeing this pompous bag of air lose his seat. Good riddance.)

We like to talk the big talk here in Canada about how we want “representation” in our political system, but we don’t back that up with real supports. Running for office is expensive, extremely time-consuming, and requires one to put themselves out there on public display for the trolls to attack from behind their computer screens. There is no “fat pension” for candidates; in fact, if you’re representing one of the small parties, there’s no money at all. To give an example, our campaign couldn’t even afford lawn signs. The riding was filled with lawn signs, posters and even billboards from all the other candidates and parties but none from ours. The campaign team was small and the budget was even smaller.

“I can’t count the number of times that a candidate thought he was going to get all this financial support and volunteer help from their community or friends and family which never, never comes,” said Jutt, who’s worked on numerous election campaigns for several major parties, both provincially and federally. (CBC News)


Fundraising is the only way candidates can access funds to buy promotional materials, campaign signs, airtime, publicity and anything else they need to run a successful campaign. And it’s the one thing the rich, old(er), white guys have down pat. They know other people with money and have easy access to them through a variety of networking methods. In an study done of candidates in Southern Ontario, more than half were sitting or former politicians, lawyers or business executives. This is exactly how the well-off, connected candidates get an(other) advantage. The people they hit up for money are expecting that quid-pro-quo relationship. They support each other, so the cream continues to rise to the top, and the power remains in the same hands, year after year.


Running for office is a full-time job; however, unless you have enough money saved up to last you for about 6 months, you’ll need to work two jobs – one that pays the rent and one that runs your campaign. And if you have children at home? Well, that’s where privilege kicks in once again. You need to either have a partner at home who can continue to get the kids to school and soccer or have the money to pay someone to care for your children when you’re not available. Only 30% of Canadian MPs are women, which makes sense, since women still (after all these years) tend to take on the majority of the childcare and housekeeping duties in a marriage. It is challenging to get women to agree to take their very limited amount of free time and spend it doing something that not only offers very little positive reinforcement but opens them up to abuse from the general public.

Online and In Person Abuse from the Public

A political candidate needs to develop an incredibly thick skin. This is thanks in part to social media and a culture that has become more and more comfortable with hurling abuse at anyone they feel disagrees with them or has wronged them. (I also place a lot of the blame for this new acceptance of being a jerk at the feet of a former President who shall not be named, but that’s a story for another time.) Canada isn’t much better. Citizens have become emboldened to go after politicians with threats, both online and in person. “A bot analyzed more than 350,000 tweets sent to Canadian political candidates during the first week of the federal election campaign. It found that more than 20 per cent of them were considered toxic, with nearly 10 per cent containing threats of violence and other aggressive language.” (CTV News) Who would want to take this on? Women and people from marginalized groups are even more vulnerable to attack. A Canadian study showed that incumbent female candidates were five times more likely to be the focus on toxic texts (Samara Centre for Democracy and Areto Labs). Racialized candidates also face abuse that goes beyond that experienced by their white peers. “I work with a lot of candidates of colour,” Jutt explained. “You send them out to knock a few doors and they’re like, ‘Wow, I did not know that I was going to get doors slammed in my face because I’m X faith” (CBC News).

What now?

Unless our system changes, drastically, we are never going to have a government that reflects our population. “[Elected officials] inform our views of where Canadian society should go, what Canadian governments should do,” said Morden.”So we’re missing a really important piece of the demographic puzzle” (CBC News).

Based on my experience, that’s not happening anytime soon.

Now, wish me luck as I work on finishing the mountain of paperwork needed to finalize the campaign.

(Note: This is yet another way people are discouraged from running for office. The paperwork is complicated and you can be charged if you do something wrong. Sigh…it never ends.)


One of Mine

rest in peaceTeachers know the expression.

Whenever something happens to a young person in the community where you teach, the first question that comes to mind is: “Was he or she one of mine?” ie. Was this person one of my former students?

If the news is good (they won a scholarship, were on a winning team, helped the community), the feeling is one of pride. “Bravo! I’m so proud of you.” You pat yourself on the back and think, “I played a small role in that.”

But when the news is bad, the grief is overwhelming.

A 17-year-old boy in my neighbourhood died last week and the first question was, “Was he one of mine?”

Sadly, he was.

Seven years ago, I had this bouncy, bubbly, bright-eyed boy in my grade 5 class. He had that long, wavy blond hair that boys often lose when they hit school and a smile that made it easy to forgive his whirlwind nature. He was, even though we aren’t supposed to admit it, one of my favourites. I never forgot him, even though I have probably only seen him once or twice since then. He is forever 10 years old in my mind. He should have gone on to have a wonderful life, full of love and laughter. I know he would have done good in the world. My heart breaks for the loss and aches for his family and friends who have to go on without him.

Rest in peace, Simon. You were one of mine and I will miss you.


So, NO! Now, what?

Great advice. Together we’re stronger. Our stories make us stronger. Let’s get out there and share them with whomever will listen to us.

Towards A More Perfect NSTU

So. Here we are, smack in the middle of uncharted territory. Minutes after 70% of voting public school members rejected the latest tentative agreement, Minister Casey made it clear that the government has no interest whatsoever in collective bargaining that involves further negotiation. That, coupled with repeated statements from Premier McNeil in the days leading to the ratification vote that the government will not allow an arbitrator to settle any collective agreement with public sector unions, leaves us with a collective bargaining process with one final chapter: strike action or lockout.

Let’s step back for a moment to consider our lot.

Collective bargaining is traditionally a process that has a continuum of options and phases designed to provide both sides with flexibility and opportunity to find avenues to arrive at mutually agreeable terms. At times, that process is fairly straightforward. In others, these options provide complexity that empowers problem solving…

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Be Brave, Rants, Uncategorized




Hey. Psst. Teachers. Yeah, you.

NSTU members, in particular.

Can we talk?


I mean seriously. What the H-E-double hockey sticks is going on?

We are supposedly in “contract negotiations” right now, but from my perspective it looks like we are being handed our hineys on a silver platter. And those doing the handing have their hands out like they are expecting a tip and a pat on the back.

Well, you can put your hands back in your pockets, folks. No tip for you!

Our new contract is basically a dog’s breakfast made up of our old, rejected, contract. It’s like we are being told that it’s new and improved, when really it’s last night chicken and it’s just as rubbery and tasteless as it was the first day it was served and sent back.

The union wants us to trust that they have gotten us the best deal they possibly could, but sadly I lost trust in my union a long time ago.

I, like many others I’ve talked to, have gone to the union for help with a variety of different issues and been told, “There’s nothing we can do to help you.”

The straw that broke my old, decrepit back this time around though deals with an issue so small that it might seem insignificant. But when seen in the larger picture of the culture of distrust, disrespect and a complete lack of understanding of what teachers really do, it actually serves as a perfect example.

It seems there is a rule regarding the reimbursement of teacher expenses whereby teachers are not allowed to earn  loyalty card (Air Miles, Chapters, etc) points if they want to be reimbursed for their purchases.

Is this news to you?

It was news to me until I arrived at my current school last year. I have been at seven different schools over the past 12 years (thank you, term contracts – not) and this is the first time this issue has ever come up. But the accountant who deals with our school refuses to reimburse any receipts that show that the teacher has received any sort of loyalty points.


This is a major pain in the patooty because if you’re like most of us, you just scan your Air Miles card as a matter of course. I love watching the look on the 17-year-old sales clerk’s face when he asks, “Do you have an Air Miles card?” And I say, “Yes, but I’m not allowed to use it because my employer thinks I’m basically scamming the system if I swipe my card and earn 2 cents worth of points, even though I’ve driven all the way here on my own time with my own gas, to buy things I should already have in my classroom.” (Yes, sales clerks now go on break when they see me coming.)

So, I sent a request to my union rep, asking if he could look into this matter. He responded first by saying he thought teachers wouldn’t be allowed to gather loyalty points because of Revenue Canada tax implications (Not true. I checked the Revenue Canada site and loyalty points are not a problem. Check it out. http://www.crarc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/pyrll/bnfts/lylty/menu-eng.html

That kind of annoyed me because really, it took me 5 seconds to Google it and find out an answer.

But the straw that really broke my back was when he said that the union wouldn’t want to get involved with this matter because of the “optics”. God forbid. They wouldn’t want the public to think teachers were gettin’ away with somethin’.

The optics.

Are you freakin’ kidding me right now?!!!

What “optics” would these be?

The one where teachers are purchasing things for their classrooms or their students on their own time, with their own money and then waiting a week/a month to see if/when they get reimbursed?

We should be getting patted on the back for this service, not being treated like we’re criminals who are trying to double-dip the system.

Who is my union protecting? Me or themselves?

See for yourself. This is what I sent to the union asking for their support. The response was a simple, sorry, we can’t help you.


Request for policy regarding reimbursement of teacher expenses to be changed to reflect the reality of teacher expenses. I respectfully submit that this rule is insulting, discriminatory and absurd and ask that it be changed to allow teachers to use any points card they may possess when making purchases for their classrooms.

Fact: Teachers are not “getting away with something” when they use their points cards to purchase supplies for their classrooms. They are giving freely of their time, money and efforts in order to help their students meet their potential. Not reimbursing teachers for valid classroom expenses because they swiped their points card, suggests a lack of respect for people who are trying to do what’s best for their students.

Fact: Teachers are expected to purchase supplies for their classroom using money they receive through school fundraisers or from their administration. They are also expected to use their own time and source of transportation to travel to purchase these items. I challenge anyone to find a teacher who doesn’t spend their personal time and money, driving around purchasing items for their classroom.

If teachers were to charge for their actual expenses when they purchase items for their classroom:

Sample Hourly wage (based on 7 hour day) = $34/hr (Based on what I am charged if I take a day off without pay, approximate salary is $235 per day)

Mileage for school related activities – $0.438/km

Sample interest on money spent from the teacher’s chequing account – 3.2% (variable)

Value of Sample Points cards (ex. Air Miles, Chapters Plum rewards)

Air Miles

1 Air Miles point = $0.10

“It works like this: each time a collector accumulates 95 reward miles, he or she can exchange them for $10 off the bill at a participating retailer. The $10 is deducted after the payment of tax on the total bill.” – Air Miles website

At Sobeys you get 1 point for every $20 spent. So every $20 spent = $0.10 reward. Anything under $20 results in no points earned.

­Chapters Indigo – Plum Rewards

Earn 5 points for every $1 spent

1 Plum Rewards point = $0.002

2500 points = $5


This is a sample invoice of expenses for a school learning centre that was not accepted simply because an Air Miles card was used and a Plum rewards card was used. If a teacher commits the unforgivable sin of swiping their points card, they must drive back to the store, ask for a refund, then repurchase the items without using their card, in order to be reimbursed. This costs teachers time, (gas) money, and unnecessary stress and hardship.

Purchases Cost (tax incl.) Point(s) earned Cash Value of Points Expenses of teacher to purchase product(s) Invoice


Baby Wipes for learning centre (LC) students who require toileting support




(incl.$1.20 tax)

Air miles – 0


(purchase was less $20 so no points were earned)

$0.00 Mileage to and from school to Sobeys

14 km x 0.438 = $6.13


Time spent

$34/hr x 0.5 hrs = $17



$23.13 (+3.2% interest earned while awaiting reimbursement)


Chapters Indigo


Educational games and activities for LC students




(incl.$2.26 tax)

Plum points – 157 $0.34 Mileage to and from school to Chapters

36 km x 0.438 = $15.77


Time spent

$34/hr x 1.5 hrs = $51


$66.77 (+3.2% interest earned while awaiting reimbursement)
Total Cost vs. Benefit Teacher would have received $0.34 in points with no cost to HRSB


HRSB billed $89.90 for teacher expenses

And that’s what really gets my goat: The complete and utter lack of understanding for what teachers do, day in and day out.

Everyone likes to talk about how much money teachers make,“Oh, those teachers. Raking in the big bucks. Only working 10 months a year. What a life!”

But no one talks about how much it costs to be a teacher.

Teachers: How much do you spend each year on your classroom?

What types of things have you bought? Paper, pencils, games, furniture, clothing, food? The list endless.

This isn’t a hypothetical question. Please let me know in the comment section. I really want to know. I know elementary school teachers spend a fortune on items for their classrooms and that junior and senior high school teachers are often paying for large ticket items for their students for trips and supplies.

How much does your job cost you?

Everyone knows that teachers spend their own money in order to ensure their students have a classroom that is set up for their success.

Our Prime Minister (who is also my manservant in an alternative universe) knows this is true.

This past year, the Government of Canada created an income tax category for it. Truly! It’s called the Eligible Educator School Supply Tax Credit. This is, according to the CRA, a “new refundable tax credit calculated as 15% of up to $1,000 in eligible expenses per year, for supplies of an eligible teacher or early childhood educator. Therefore, the maximum tax credit is $150 per year.”

Think about that for a minute. The Government of Canada is saying: We know teachers are spending their own money in order to do their jobs properly and we are willing to give them 15% of that back. What? What?!

While I appreciate the acknowledgement of the money teachers are spending out of pocket, Prime Minister/Manservant, doesn’t this just seem WRONG???

What other group of professionals pay to do their job? And then only ask for 15% of that money back?


Scenario 1:

Jim, the nurse, is finishing up his shift when he realizes that Mary in room 4B doesn’t have a warm blanket for her bed and is all out of Kleenex. He knows there is no money left in the hospital budget, so after work he drives to Walmart, buys Mary a blanket and a few boxes of Kleenex and then goes home to his family – 1 hour later and $30 poorer. He knows the most he’ll ever get back is 15% of $30 ($4.50), but he sleeps better knowing his patient has what she needs.

Scenario 2:

Susan, the lawyer, is cleaning up her desk after her day at work when she realizes she’s out of copy paper. She has already spent the tiny budget she has been given to do her job properly, but she knows she can’t do her job tomorrow without it. So she puts on her coat, walks to the nearest office supplies store, spends $100 on copier paper, and then carries it back to work. Her boss knows she is spending her own money but feels it’s just “part of her job”. She doesn’t get reimbursed, despite the fact that she needs these materials to do her job properly.

Both of these scenarios sound ridiculous, but teachers do this kind of thing everyday.

So, this is my long, round-about way of saying, No.

Just no.

I get that our province is short of cash.

I get that our union feels they can’t negotiate a better deal.

But I’m not ready to say, that’s OK. Kick me again.

I’m too old for this crap. I’m giving 110% and I’m not even earning loyalty points for it.

I’m willing to take the risk and vote no.

We can stand up or we can lie down.

What are you going to do?




Dear Hillary: How Very Dare You!

Fantastic article.

Social Justice For All

HillaryLet me be as candid and transparent as possible: I was a very strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, and until the past four weeks, held out great hope that he would become our next President. Over the course of the past month, I have had to do a great deal of reflecting and ask myself where does this seemingly irrational antipathy for Hillary Clinton come from? Why have I participated in it? After doing some research and looking hard at systemic misogyny, I have had to confront myself with the truth that I bought into a narrative about Hillary Clinton that has been produced, packaged, and perpetuated by mostly the GOP with the help of many democrats and independents.

This narrative is a 30-year-old vilification of a woman who is bright, independent, wealthy, and powerful — a woman who asks for what she wants and needs. How very dare you…

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2014 : A year of educational opining.

Great commentary on Nova Scotia public education in 2014.


The last few weeks of December are a time of retrospect and reflection for many people. And as busy as the holiday season can become, this is one teacher for whom the annual winter break could not come soon enough. I don’t know if it was the phase of the moon or something in the water, but during the last few school days of December, the kids, at least in my school, were literally bouncing off the walls.

Now, I recognize that this state of student manicness is not something that those outside the building may understand. As well, I am sure that a few “armchair quarterbacks” may have comments about how this behaviour must mean teachers have no control in their classes. I am also sure that some of our resident “education experts” would say that this is another sign that public schools are failing our kids. But teachers…

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Mental Illness is Not a Choice – A Reminder for Educators

The following is a message I received from a reader who asked me to share.  It is so important as educators that we understand and are compassionate towards children and youth who have mental health issues. Parents and  teachers working together = happier, healthier kids.


Dear fellow educators who need this reminder,

Mental health issues are not like colds or the flu. Those attempting resilience may be overcome at nine, feeling reasonably able to fake it at noon, and done in again at four. Thus, you may not see them in class, while they are crying in guidance, but you may see them “laughing it up with friends at lunch.”

Here’s how it works, in case you missed the class in psych or any of the wellness events held at your school, or haven’t touched base with the other teachers who are amazing and helpful. Depressed kids may have two good days and a bad week and then complete an opera or go back to bed for three weeks. This is not evasion. This is not a choice.

If you also suffer and manage to force yourself to go to work, good for you. If I were your mom, or your union rep, I’d tell you to take better care of yourself. It’s not ok to pretend to be compassionate and understanding while actually judging and valorizing martyrdom, denial, and workaholism. If you don’t want to help, don’t, but don’t pretend you do and then not. It confuses the kids and confusion makes it all much worse because they blame themselves.


A Concerned Parent


A Third Grade Teacher in North Carolina: What It Is Like To Teach in My State

A heart-breaking look at teaching in the U.S. I am deathly afraid that Canada is headed down this path.

Diane Ravitch's blog

This third grade teacher responded to the post and comments about the heavy emphasis on testing students in third grade.

She wrote:

I thought that maybe a third grade teacher in NC should weigh in on this. I can only speak for what is occurring in my county, but here is what I am up against: I have to complete all reading 3D data within an approximate 2 week period. This involves a three minute fill in the blank test (whole class), three one minute timed reads with three one minute retells of each read, and a diagnosis of a students independent reading level by testing their reading, writing, and oral comprehension of leveled passages. The writing consists of two questions which are scored against a rubric and you must take the LOWER of the two scores. This must be completed on every student in my class.

In addition, our…

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I was a pregnant angel: Why Halloween is still my least favorite holiday

A re-blog of why Halloween is still my least favorite holiday.


Trick or treating was banned in the village where I grew up. It was sort of like that Kevin Bacon movie, “Footloose” where the town council bans dancing after some kids are killed returning home from a dance. Rumour had it that one year a little girl in our neighbourhood had been hit by a car and killed while she was out trick or treating. The community leaders met and decided that letting children go door to door to beg for candy was too dangerous and was henceforth outlawed.

Instead, all of the parents (read: moms) gathered together the week before Halloween, with their assigned treats, and stuffed large paper bags with all sorts of Halloween goodies – chips, chocolate bars, cans of pops, even the yucky stuff like candy kisses made into those bags. They filled enough bags so that every kid in the village would get one.


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15 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself on the First Days of School

Great words of advice for teachers who aren’t “perfect”!

Those Who Teach

Whether you’ve been back for a few weeks, or just a day or two — you did it!

You made it out of bed at an ungodly hour, rocked a fresh first-day outfit, and presented your Teacher Self to a new crop of kids.

You’re taking attendance, writing those first parent e-mails, planning lessons, doing lunch duty, attending meetings, assigning first homeworks, and collecting first homeworks.

Maybe you’re teaching a brand-new course this year, or taking on a new responsibility as coach or advisor, too.

Through all of this, you’re delivering instruction to multiple groups of differently abled, very distractible kids.

So, please remember — it’s OK if…

1. You don’t know most of your students’ names yet.

2. It takes you a full five minutes to remember old students’ names when they say hello in the hallway.

3. Your desk is already a mess of papers.

4. You didn’t…

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