Happy 150th birthday Canada! Let’s Celebrate!

July 1 is Canada’s 150th anniversary. For those readers of my blog who are not from Canada, the historical moment we commemorate is Confederation when a number of politicians in 1867 signed a document that bound a loose collection of provinces controlled by the British Empire into a somewhat vague and discontented unity.

Confederation was an attempt at compromise between peoples within a unified political framework. It doesn’t seem ideal, as an origin but Canada managed to reach proper independence, with the right to amend our Constitution without approval from Britain, which we only did in 1982.

Well here we are in 2017, 150 years later and Canada has a lot to celebrate. Our prime minister Justin Trudeau is glamorous and internationally recognized as a celebrity of progressive politics. We are among the last societies in the West not totally consumed by loathing of others. Canada leads the Group of 7 countries in economic growth. Our cultural power is real: Drake recently had 24 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time — for one shining moment he was nearly a quarter of popular music. Frankly, it’s not going to get much better than this for little old Canada. http://nyti.ms/2sDMmIv

Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, articulated Canada’s difference from other countries perfectly: “There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian,” he said when he was prime minister in 1971. “What could be more absurd than the concept of an ‘all Canadian’ boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate.” http://nyti.ms/2sDMmIv

Canadians are very fortunate to live in a country where no wars have been fought for two hundred years. A country with big freedoms – freedom of movement, freedom of political choice, freedom of religion, freedom from arbitrary persecution. Canada is, according to several international surveys, the most tolerant country in the world.  Yes, Canada is no Utopia. We still have poverty and racism and all the other problems people wrestle with – including, petty stuff that we sometimes agonize over where many countries wish they had our problems. But Canadians need to celebrate what we have … a great country.

Canadians are a very modest people and we are not big on patriotism except when we watch Olympic Hockey.  So, although there will be celebrations in communities across Canada for our 150th and a big splash on Parliament Hill on July 1st, Canadians will just love our country quietly. As we don’t want to make too big a fuss.

The virtues of Canada and its culture make overt celebration and flag waving somewhat difficult. Canada’s real glories are its hospitals and its public schools, but those, unlike the Marine Corps, cannot be paraded.

As Stephen Marche points out in his article in the New York Times  Canada Doesn’t Know How to Party, “the fact that Canadians are very reluctant to celebrate itself too much is actually something worth celebrating. It has become abundantly clear in 2017 that patriotism is for losers. Patriotism is for people and for countries that need to justify their existence through symbols rather than achievements. Canada is doing well enough that it doesn’t require spackled vanity.”

Canadian Identity

Now don’t get me wrong Canadians have some great attributes which are unique, famous Canadian author Pierre Berton pointed out many years ago, “a Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe without tipping it”.

And during the winter, one of our favorite sports is Curling which is sort of Shuffleboard on ice where participants continually yell at each other and don’t apologize (Canadians are very apologetic).

And how do you know if you are a Canadian?

  • You put on shorts as soon as it hits plus 10 C, even if there is still snow around
  • You use a red pen on your non-Canadian textbooks and fill in the missing ‘u’s from labor, honor, and color
  • You have Canadian Tire money in your kitchen drawers
  • Someone accidentally stepped on your foot. You apologize.
  • You stepped on someone’s foot. You apologize, then apologize for making them apologize
  • Your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May
  • Someone in a Home Depot offers you assistance… and they don’t work there
  • You’ve had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed the wrong number
  • You have switched from “heat” to “A/C” in the same day and back again
  • You install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked
  • You carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them
  • You design your kid’s Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit
  • The speed limit on the highway is 80 km and you’re going 90 and everybody is passing you
  • Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow
  • You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.

A few years ago, an article crossed my desk that just blew me away. There was a report in the world news that someone in Pakistan had placed an ad in a newspaper with an offer of a reward to anyone who killed a Canadian… any Canadian.

Who in God’s name would want to kill a peace-loving people like Canadians kind of boggles my mind but I guess there are a lot of unbalanced people out there.

Anyway, according to this article (which unfortunately does not have a source) an Australian dentist wrote the following piece to help define what a Canadian is, so that they would know one when they found one. Here is what he wrote.

“A Canadian can be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. A Canadian can be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan.

A Canadian may also be a Cree, Metis, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Sioux or one of the many tribes known as native Canadians. (Note he forgot our northern neighbours the Inuit). Canadian religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or none. In fact, there are more Muslims in Canada than in Afghanistan. The key difference is that in Canada, they are free to worship as each of them chooses. Whether they have a religion or no religion, each Canadian ultimately answers only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God. A Canadian lives in one of the most prosperous lands in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which recognizes the right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.

A Canadian is generous and Canadians have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return. Canadians welcome the best of everything, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services and the best minds. But they also welcome the least, -the oppressed, the outcast and the rejected. These are the people who build Canada.

You can try to kill a Canadian if you must, as other blood- thirsty tyrants in the world have tried but, in doing so, you could just be killing a relative or a neighbour. This is because Canadians are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, can be Canadian. “

On this our 150th birthday, let us all take time to reflect upon and commemorate the richness and diversity of our Canadian heritage. Let us celebrate Canada’s contributions to the world. We are an impressive country of growth, diplomacy, vision, entrepreneurial spirit and strong work ethic, while maintaining a sense of togetherness in good and challenging times. We are a young country, yet rich in history and culture. Our greatest ambassadors are the people.

And so, to my fellow Canadians, Happy Birthday Canada!

Also check out 150 reasons why it’s better to be Canadian To celebrate Canada’s big birthday, MacLean’s present one reason to love the country for every single year since 1867 https://lnkd.in/dEcvD7Q

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Is Government Failing in a Digital World

In a recent article, Gerry McGovern a well-known digital blogger states that Government, like all organizations, claims to exist to serve citizens but in reality, is usually more interested in serving itself. Digital is increasingly exposing government incompetence and how remote from the real life of people so many in government are (particularly at a senior level). http://gerrymcgovern.com/digital-is-making-government-redundant/

This year, Canada`s Auditor General Michael Ferguson wrote, “we see government programs that are not designed to help those who have to navigate them, programs where the focus is more on what civil servants are doing than on what citizens are getting, where delivery times are long, where data is incomplete, and where public reporting does not provide a clear picture of what departments have done.”

He goes on to state, “our audits come across these same problems in different organizations time and time again …. when we come back to audit the same area again, we often find that program results have not improved.” http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/andrew-coyne-canada-post-meet-the-information-superhighway

Paul Shetler resigned as Australia’s government head of digital transformation. He has talked about how it became impossible for him to witness a string of “cataclysmic” IT failures, about how this is “not a crisis of IT” but a “crisis of government”.

He criticized the government’s response to its latest IT crisis, telling Guardian Australia it was symptomatic of a culture of blame aversion within the bureaucracy. “It is literally blame aversion, it is not risk aversion,” Shetler said. “They’re trying to avoid the blame, and they’re trying to cast it wide. “The justifications that have been given I think are just another example of the culture of ‘good news’ reporting, i.e. only good news goes up through the bureaucracy.  “It is literally blame aversion, it is not risk aversion,”. “They’re trying to avoid the blame, and they’re trying to cast it wide. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jan/06/centrelink-crisis-cataclysmic-turnbull-former-head-digital-transformation

McGovern asks what is Government good for? Does it actually serve ordinary people or just special interests? Is government capable of dealing with digital transformation? Government just assumes it can continue being the same old government. There are, of course, a great many government workers who do excellent work, but they often do this great work in conflict with the very institutions they work for. As you go up the bureaucratic management tree the eyes look ever upwards, seeking to please the politicians and massage egos. http://gerrymcgovern.com/digital-is-making-government-redundant/

“You’ve got an entire bureaucracy of IT bureaucrats who are backed by large vendors,” Shetler states. These two groups are locked in a love-hate affair. Most of the people involved in this sordid affair have never once seen an actual citizen use the IT Titanic monstrosities that they allow to sail out with unrelenting regularity. The idea of creating something that’s simple to use is utterly alien to these people. Citizens are supposed to use what they’re given and be grateful. Only when things explode in an absolute mess are they forced to grudgingly look around and find someone else to blame.

“Policy is not just something you dream up on a piece of paper,” Shetler states. “It’s actually also the results that you see on the streets.” And that’s the very problem with government. It measures itself based on the creation of the policy and its ‘communication’ to the media. And the further up in government you go, the more relentless that navel-gazing focus becomes. http://gerrymcgovern.com/digital-is-making-government-redundant/

The problems that plagued the launch of Healthcare.gov — the online data hub and insurance marketplace central to healthcare reform in the USA will someday fill a book. http://www.cio.com/article/2380827/developer/developer-6-software-development-lessons-from-healthcare-gov-s-failed-launch.html

In Canada, we have the fiasco known as the Phoenix payroll system, a state-of-the-art computerized marvel with which the government has underpaid tens of thousands of its employees, overpaid thousands more, and paid nothing at all to the rest for months at a time, all at an estimated extra cost of $50 million.

 

Shared Services Canada, responsible for all of the federal government’s computer operations, hoped to have installed a new unified email system across all government departments by March 2018 that was supposed to have been finished by March 2015.

There is also an attempt to bring all of the Canadian government’s 1,500 websites onto a common platform. Originally budgeted at $1.5 million, it was to have been completed by March 2017. With just 0.05 per cent of the estimated 17 million pages of federal content online having been moved over to the new site, it is now aiming at a December 2017 deadline — at 10 times the original cost. There are also the internal costs which are now projected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly even $1 billion. The new deadline is widely regarded as a fantasy. http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/andrew-coyne-canada-post-meet-the-information-superhighway

As McGovern points out Government must become useful again, and to do that it must measure the outcome of the policy. It must measure the use of what it creates and rapidly learn and evolve based on use. What is digital transformation? What is being transformed? Digital is just the enabler of transformation. It is the government, the senior bureaucrats and the politicians who must be transformed.

 

 

 

 

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Canadian Values…What are they?

I normally write on marketing topics but I just can’t help myself from commenting on Conservative MP and party leadership contender Kellie Leitch who wants to have a conversation on Canadian values.  Leitch who is a medical doctor has been insisting lately that we consider a values test for prospective immigrants.

values-cartoon

Many have criticized her proposal by saying it is impractical, since no one person or group can define or determine Canadian values.

The key point to understanding Canadian values is that they are adopted organically. Canadian values cannot be indoctrinated into our national character by any government institution.

As a son of immigrants, I know that my parents’ values lined up with their adopted Canada. No amount of testing or screening was required to complete this transformation. Like most people, they valued the same freedom and democracy we cherish in Canada. I would even argue that most immigrants coming from places whose governments don’t value democracy value it immensely here – and is one of the reasons they seek to create a life in this great country.

My parents’ Canadian experience is not unlike many thousands of immigrants who arrive in Canada each year.

Let’s be clear, nobody is against a debate on upholding Canada’s tradition of freedom, democracy, tolerance and generosity. Wherever intolerance resides – among immigrants or native-born – it must be rooted out.

But if we have learned one thing in our history, it is that immigrants are easy to pick on, and many Canadians have no doubt that a Canadian-values debate would probably turn into an immigrant-bashing exercise. We know how one man’s intolerance is having a major impact in the U.S. and we want none of that here.

We are very fortunate to live in a country where no wars have been fought for two hundred years. A country with big freedoms – freedom of movement, freedom of political choice, freedom of religion, freedom from arbitrary persecution, Yes, Canada is no Utopia. Yes, we still have poverty and racism and all the other problems people wrestle with – including, petty stuff that we sometimes agonize over where many countries wish they had our problems. But Canadians need to celebrate what we have … a great country.

canada-day_hero_960x540A few years ago, an article crossed my desk that just blew me away. There was a report in the world news that someone in Pakistan had placed an ad in a newspaper with an offer of a reward to anyone who killed a Canadian-any Canadian. Who in God’s name would want to kill a peace-loving people like Canadians kind of boggles my mind but I guess there are a lot of unbalanced people out there.

Any way according to this article (which unfortunately does not have a source) an Australian dentist wrote the following editorial to help define what a Canadian is, so that they would know one when they found one. Here is what he wrote.

“A Canadian can be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. A Canadian can be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan.

A Canadian may also be a Cree, Metis, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Sioux or one of the many tribes known as native Canadians. (Note he forgot our northern neighbours the Inuit). Canadian religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or none. In fact, there are more Muslims in Canada than in Afghanistan. The key difference is that in Canada, they are free to worship as each of them chooses. Whether they have a religion or no religion, each Canadian ultimately answers only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God. A Canadian lives in one of the most prosperous lands in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which recognizes the right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.

A Canadian is generous and Canadians have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return. Canadians welcome the best of everything, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services and the best minds. But they also welcome the least, -the oppressed, the outcast and the rejected. These are the people who build Canada.

You can try to kill a Canadian if you must, as other blood- thirsty tyrants in the world have tried but, in doing so, you could just be killing a relative or a neighbour. This is because Canadians are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, can be Canadian. “

Let me know what you think. I would appreciate hearing from the readers of this blog.

 

 

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Celebrity advice in child health is parenting for dummies.

As someone who has been involved with running marketing campaigns to encourage moms and dads and significant others to vaccinate their children, I am stunned that the anti-vaccine movement is still very strong and causing major health problems that can easily be avoided. So with the recent outbreak of diseases which we in the public health field thought were eliminated, they are starting to appear again and it is not only quite frightening but frustrating.

There are many reasons for the re-occurrence of communicable diseases and some of it can be attributed to the anti-vaccine movement led by Hollywood celebrities.

It’s a shame there is no vaccine or cure for ignorance.

An outbreak of measles hit Toronto this week with four reported cases. South of the border, the highly contagious virus has recently infected more than 100 people in 14 states. On this continent, measles was once considered a disease of the past. It was eradicated in the United States 15 years ago. Even before that time, “measles” had started to sound as anachronistic as smallpox or rinderpest.

A recent article in the Toronto Star got me thinking. How can I as a social marketer win the minds of parents and guardians of children when I am up against celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, Kristin Cavallari, Bill Maher, Mayim Bialik, Alicia Silverstone, Rob Schneider, Donald Trump and Jim Carrey, to name just a few, who are delivering anti vaccine messages

Specifically Jenny McCarthy, a former Playboy model turned pop immunologist, has made it her mission to connect autism and childhood vaccinations. There is no medical evidence to back this connection, of course. This is a mission powered by junk science, anecdotal tales, gut feelings and widely debunked studies. But of course in Hollywood, facts are always the least of it.

While Ms. McCarthy is in a class by herself as a reprehensible mouthpiece for the anti-vaccine crowd, others have also picked up rhetorical firearms in the depressing war on science. This includes suggesting

• Vaccines are causally linked to autism (Trump, Carrey),
• Vaccines should not be trusted because the government should not be trusted (Maher),
• Vaccines should be a personal choice (Bialik, Cavallari).

This last argument is a big reason the anti-vaccination movement has spread beyond community pockets where cultural or religious beliefs were once considered the biggest threat to herd immunity.

Now the people opting out of vaccinations are just as likely to be middle- to upper-class urbanites in chic neighbourhoods. These buyers of organic produce and drivers of hybrid cars have somehow equated “vaccines” as another toxic product. At best, vaccines are optional. At worst, they are bad for us.

It’s not only celebrities but Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul a medical doctor made remarks about freedom of “choice” in the immunization issue. Christie feels that parents deserved to have “some measure of choice” when it came to vaccinations. Meanwhile, Sen. Paul vocalized in several interviews that he believes immunizations should be “voluntary,” calling it “an issue of freedom and public health.”

Alicia Silverstone, the actress made famous by her role as Cher Horowitz in the movie Clueless has friends whose children experienced adverse reactions to vaccines? If Silverstone were anyone else, her parenting expertise would be relegated to the depths of the anonymous mommy blog universe. But she’s not, which means that her pseudo-medical advice will find an audience in those who confuse fame with credibility and admiration with respect.

In the case of Jenny McCarthy, who claimed for years that her son’s autism was caused by vaccination, she relied on a highly contested and later retracted study in The Lancet medical journal, which attributed the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism spectrum disorders in children.

The impact of this fallacious assertion was, and continues to be, internationally profound, with the resurgence of infectious diseases such as measles and mumps that were once thought eradicated. The fact that no credible, peer-reviewed study has proven a link between vaccinations and autism still fails to convince some fearful anti-vaccine spokespeople, who bury themselves in fringe studies and the comfort of celebrity confirmation.

These prominent “anti-vaxxers” risk not only their own children’s health and the health of children born to celebrity-affected and/or suggestible parents, but also the children who — for legitimate medical reasons — cannot be vaccinated and rely on herd immunization to remain healthy. Without the fame attached to their names, Silverstone and McCarthy would be a couple of fringe mommy bloggers preaching to the abyss of an absent online audience.

When a celebrity joins a social cause, the response produced can range from admirable support to an eye roll. However, when the issue is whether to vaccinate their children, celebrities advocating on the “no” side can face quite the push-back.  Jenny McCarthy, the poster-woman for the anti-vaccine movement can’t even post a seemingly innocent and unrelated question on Twitter without spurring hundreds of cracks about her anti-vaccine views.

Still, unlike some of the other crazy things celebrities will do to their kids, the decision not to vaccinate one’s children – and the example it sets – can affect the wider community. As public health practitioners will readily admit vaccines do not work 100 percent of the time, and some children – for instance, those receiving certain medical treatments – cannot get them. Furthermore, many of the diseases being vaccinated against can spread before their symptoms are exhibited. The idea of “herd immunity” is that the more people are vaccinated against diseases, the more those at-risk individuals – those for whom vaccines aren’t effective or otherwise can’t be used – are also protected, and the more likely a disease can be more or less eradicated.

 

sarah-wilson-sunrise

The 2010 PBS Frontline documentary “The Vaccine War” looked into debate between the science community and the anti-vaccine movement, focusing on pockets in America where the movement has gained enough traction to be flagged by the CDC. An interactive map released by the Council on Foreign Relations showed where vaccine-preventable diseases – including measles, mumps and the whooping cough – have resurfaced in the United States in recent years.

At the end of the day, it is the parents’ choice. But they do need to understand that it’s a choice that not only impacts that individual child. It has implications for others who are around that child.

Katie Couric devoted an episode of her show to the concerns about the safety of vaccines used to treat human papillomavirus (known as HPV). Critics say she and her producers gave too much weight and credence to the anti-vaccine crowd. Couric took to The Huffington Post to respond to the fuss, where she defended the show’s goal to help parents make an informed decision about the HPV vaccine, not cause irrational fear, while concluding she personally believes the benefits of receiving the vaccine far outweigh its risks.

However, Couric’s intentions aside, that may not be the message being delivered to parents. In some places, opting out of vaccinations has been on the rise, with many parents echoing the anti-vaccine movements – and its celebrity mouthpieces’ – line of thought.

It’s worth noting that plenty of celebrities, including Amanda Peet, Jennifer Lopez and Keri Russell, have publicly taken the side of the science community when it comes to vaccines, and vaccination rate remains high in the USA and Canada. But that also may be fostering a false sense of security that could allow anti-vaccine ideas to take hold.
“We are a victim of our own success. Dr. Kristine Sheedy, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease states that “We’ve made these diseases disappear for the average person so the outcome of that is that parents don’t necessarily feel threatened, they don’t feel that urgency to get vaccinated,”

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