Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Casseroles out; cash and greetings in for Calgary

I jumped the gun earlier today. I had an idea about making casseroles for the people in Calgary effected by the floods: folks that lost their homes and people who had food go bad in their homes because fridges didn’t have any power. The Calgary Food Bank is in need of food, so I thought maybe people could ban together. Make casseroles, I thought — by the hundreds. Freeze them and then deliver them.

Thanks to my good friends Bruce and Jack set me straight. The idea would never fly, let alone go truckin’ down Highway 2. Too many health regulations. As Jack said taking a casserole over the fence to a neighbor is a whole different issue than cooking up hundreds of casseroles. And he’s right.

There’s still an opportunity to help. The best thing is cash. Then, the Food Bank can buy what they need. Their link is right here.

And if you decide to make a contribution and you add something to your gift — perhaps a few words of encouragement. Send them here and we will get them to the people of Calgary.

Twitter @camtait

Let's go! Casseroles for Calgary

Let’s get a collection of casserole recipies. All kinds. Then, we’ll put the word out for volunteers to make as many casseroles as they can by next weekend and ask them to freeze them. We’ll put the call out for a trucking company that has a refrigerated semi-trailer who will take all the casseroles for a three-hour drive south of Edmonton. Maybe, we could find some hotels that would keep the casseroles cold until they could be delivered to people who need them.

And we need a name for our project? How about Casseroles for Calgary?

Because they need help. A newspaper Monday said the Calgary Food Bank is having trouble keeping food on the shelves following the floods that hit the city two weeks ago. Not only people who lost their homes are turning to the Food Bank for help; but other Calgarians who went without power for some time. Their food in fridges has turned bad, and they need a hand.

We can ban together here. Certainly, food items are welcome at the Food Bank. But here’s a chance for us to get some home cooking to folks who could really use it. So if you would like to cook, drive, give us a name of a trucking company, suggest a few hotels in Calgary, send in a casserole recipe or help out in any way, click below.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Honor Canada Day with dignity

We’ve all done it before: when the sun rises on a day marking an anniversary of something that went horribly wrong, we — often silently — wonder if, because of the date, history will repeat itself. The folks in Edmonton probably had that very thought today — hours before darkness falls over the city and fireworks. Because this is the 12th anniversary of the Canada Day aftermath that gave this city a bad image across the country, if not North America.
...a picture from July 2, 2002

Re-hashing details of what happened after 2 a.m. July 2 where crowds grew as high as 1,200 on Edmonton’s Whyte. Ave. is pointless. Edmonton’s civic pride took a great hit, among other things. A City of Edmonton report says the police costs and some clean-up of the riot exceeded $312,000. The city had to pay for it, absolutely. But one can wonder if other services had to be paired back or even cut.
Celebrating Canada Day is a national tradition. We deserve to. We have every right to boast the maple leaf and wear red and white colors with pride. We need to. But as we do that later tonight, let’s take some pride in our cities, provinces, and of course, our country. Let’s not harm anyone or disrespect any part of our country. Perhaps if we do that we will honor the best way possible.

...fireworks in Edmonton


The view across the gravel road on past Canada Day mornings

My father's home town: Meota, Sask.: 30 km north of North Battleford
I am very fortunate to be able to picture things quite clearly in my mind’s eye. And if you don’t mind I want to share how I shared so many July 1 mornings in Meota, Sask. with my parents in their retirement home overlooking Jackfish Lake. It started with my mother making pancakes and serving them on a tick oak table. We chatted for close to an hour and drank countless cups of coffee.

...the deck where I spent hours

I wheeled myself onto a freshly-stained — Dad stained it, I think, every month. The deck was raised over the lawn where tall popular trees towered. A gravel road was right in front of the lawn where cars drove slowly. Across the road stood another bank of trees before the land took a steep dip down to the lake. We couldn’t see the shoreline from the deck, but the rest of the view certainly makes up for it.

And that’s the view I looked at for hours. Jackfish Lake is 18 kms wide: you can barely see the other side of it. My wind often got washed up in the water of the lake: on those quiet days when it looked like glass, and those times when a storm was coming in from the north, and the lake was choppy — even a little angry.
....the view we had of the lake, across the gravel road

I share such images with you in hopes Canada Day morning is filled with every person and every thing you hope to see.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Extending Friday afternoon for many decades

Friday afternoon before the July 1st long weekend is always exciting. It’s the cursor summer holidays, and perhaps the most telling sound is the laughter of children in school playgrounds today. It’s the end of the school year when so countless children — like our grandson Nicholas, who bids farewell to Grade 4. There are hundreds of Edmonton Grade 12 students who probably could use a few extra hours of sleep today since there were several graduations Thursday night.

Whether kids are starting kindergarten or graduating from university, they all have one common denominator: they are our future. They are going lead our cities, provinces and country. They are going to provide inspiration and motivation. They will, of course, need help — but that opens the doors for their family and friends to help. Every student who graduates or passes into a new chapter this afternoon needs to be celebrated.

In Canada, we celebrate the end of June with trips to the lake. Maybe the mountains. Maybe even just an afternoon trip to that special place off the beaten path for a family picnic. We will use our highways. They will be busy. Perhaps it’s a reminder to slow down, to be careful, to be alert … to drive safe. It’s a glorious Friday afternoon. Let’s make everyone has the opportunity to enjoy their full potential, starting Tuesday morning and many years beyond.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Home care worker concerned about dangerous driving conditions (PART 2 OF 2)

Just imagine the frustration. Imagine a home care worker, on a cold winter day, trying to get to their next visit to care for and to help. And their vehicle — even a four-wheel drive — breaks down because of wear and tear. Imagine how it would feel, knowing someone is depending on you, but because of a new payment structure, you’re stuck … and can’t do the thing you love to do.

Donna says that is a bigger reality than we might want to think. Donna works for WeCare and drives to and from people in the community. But Alberta Health Services re-wrote a new contract with WeCare. Donna, not her real name, says WeCare workers will no longer be compensated for the distance they drive. “We only make between $15-17 dollars an hour as caregivers. By the time we take all our expenses off our hourly wage we will be making less than minimum wage. As you can appreciate this is unacceptable and all qualified people are leaving their jobs Aug. 1.  It is impossible to run a vehicle with no money.”

She continues: “I fear for caregivers driving old, unreliable vehicles down gravel roads in the middle of a snowstorm. This is dangerous.  We will have casualties in the field.”

And that is … unimaginable.

Guest blogger Ron Plant on Rick Hansen


When I read the 4000+ word article that David Baines wrote Vancouver SUN, questioning the ‘FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP’ of the Rick Hansen Foundation, it raised a few questions for me.

1.How many months has this man devoted to this story, and what was his motivation?
2.Why, of all the prospective targets to finger point, would you choose this topic for your swan song? Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Baines.
3.What business is it of David Baines, how the Rick Hansen Foundation is run, or what compensation Rick Hansen receives?

In my opinion, if Baines is afforded months to conspire and craft his… ummm… complaint, exposé, or whatever it is, shouldn’t the folks at the Rick Hansen Foundation be given some time to respond? That is IF they feel the need to respond at all. Why is it that after a cursory read through of one reporter’s article, some members of the public (many of whom have never read a financial statement in their lives) start throwing around words like fraud, and demanding explanations? Rick Hansen doesn’t owe me any explanation, and I dare say he likely doesn’t owe you one either.

To me, Rick Hansen is a man who has made huge strides in affecting public perception of persons with disabilities. He has given hope to generations of persons with spinal cord injuries and related disorders through significant, ongoing research fundraising efforts, and has shown a spirit of determination in the face of adversity well beyond what the average person has. You ever roll around the world in a wheelchair? Me neither.
If I have any point to make here at all, it is simply: Don’t rush to judgment. Even at 4,000 words, David Baines hasn’t given us all the facts, nor do we have any feedback from the foundation. Or does that not matter in the court of public opinion?

An unlikely hero speaks volumes

We may not have heard Jacqui Brocklebank’s name until earlier last week, but it’s a name we need to remember. Brocklebank lived in High River and had cerebral palsy. Sadly, the 33-year-old died because of the flood: and the way she died was so unselfish. More importantly, Brocklebank showed how we all can help others, and how people with disabilities aren’t always on the receiving end of getting assistance.

Brocklebank’s mother Janie Pighin tells CBC her daughter knew everyone in town. Brocklebank lived in her condo on the east side of High River, which was safe from the flooding. But she was worried about others. So she left her home, concerned about friends in trouble. It was then when Brocklebank was swept up in flood waters and died. It is tragic: words can’t even come close to describing.

Brocklebank needs to be remembered as a hero. She put the safety of others before hers. She accepted the risk of her disability, but put in behind her. She has made a profound statement of how people with disabilities help others, even in dangerous situations. And, for me, her story is something I will never forget.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Guest blogger Marie Renaud Martin on Rick Hansen


It was hard to even read the Vancouver Sun's article. We live in a country where young hockey players make more than some small countries. Yes, Rick Hansen's fund raising goal was huge and he fell short. The man went around the WORLD in a wheelchair. It makes sense that he thinks big. He made a mistake. So what?

If Rick Hansen makes hundreds of thousands, I am happy he does. He has given his adult life to raising awareness. In Alberta, our government pays volunteer appointed board members hundreds of thousands of dollars in honorariums and we don't even flinch. All about perspective. So Mr. ex-Sun writer, good for you, you can read a financial statement, point out mistakes and manipulate words. How have you positively impacted our world?


Poll: What do you think of Rick Hansen Foundation story in the Vancouver Sun

 There have been many comments about the Vancouver Sun story on the weekend where columnist David Baines questions the management of the Rick Hansen Foundation. Baines, who took a recent buy-out from the Sun, took 4,100 words to examine the foundation, specifically the 25th anniversary celebration. In his story, Baines also looks at Hansen’s compensation.

Hansen declined to be interviewed for the story. In an earlier blog I said — and I still believe — he needs to publicly respond. Many of the comments I have heard say Hansen really hasn’t done anything wrong. Perhaps Chris Minchau summed it up on Facebook best:

"I glanced through the article and my mind soon glazed over. I once had a college instructor, who said "Figures lie - and liars figure". The reporter throws out a lot of numbers, and implies wrong-doing without directly naming names. Looks like a straight up hatchet job to me, a final farewell from a mean spirited reporter, who apparently just announced his retirement. I figure when the reporter has raised even 1 percent of what the Rick Hansen Foundation has over the past 25 years, then he gets to complain!”

What do you think? Is the piece justified? Do you think Hansen is hiding from something? Or is the story so out in left field and unfair? We really want to know!


We are going to close voting Thursday. So please have your say.


Rick Hansen's legacy hanging in the balance; he needs to address it ASAP

It has been five days now since the Vancouver Sun ran an investigative story on the Rick Hansen Foundation. (I have a link to it at the end of the post.) I feel I should write something … that I should have an opinion of what has been said. Because I consider him a friend: we met in 1979 when he was playing wheelchair basketball and I was a rookie reporter, and then I covered the Man in Motion World Tour for a total of three months for the Edmonton Journal.  Still, I don’t know what to say.
Hansen in Edmonton last March // PHOTO: Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal

Hansen is a Canadian hero. His tour, which began on a shoestring budget in 1985, created a multi-million dollar corporation. And that’s where the story is. Vancouver Sun reporter David Baines is known for his investigative work. Some say he’s the best investigative reporter in Vancouver. So for him to take on Hansen in a 4,100 word piece is, by itself, a statement. Haines allegations are quite alarming — even to me.

David Baines,  Vancouver Sun

I have always known Hansen as a man who faces challenges head on. It’s surprising to me he declined to be interviewed for the story. There was an e-mail exchange but, according to Haines answers were not short, or not answered at all. I cannot even begin to wonder why that is. But I know this: he has to respond to the story. And, soon. Because if he doesn’t, public perception will run rampant and the assumptions will start. Hansen’s legacy is in peril right now. Only he can change that. I guess a hero’s work is never done.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The once soothing sound of rain is a subtle reminder how life can change

The sound of rain has always soothed my soul. I think of those summer nights when I was a kid at our family cabin in beautiful downtown Meota, Sask. Cabin, perhaps, is overstating the situation: it was a two-bedroom hose built in 1911 with a very thin roof on the bedroom. Hearing raindrops late at night before was a wonderful way to fall asleep.

But as we make our way through life, experiences change the way we see things, and how we hear things. The window in my den is open and it’s after 3 p.m. For the majority of the day I have been listening to the steady stream of raindrops landing outside. My first thoughts were how relaxing it is. But then I thought of our friends in southern Alberta and how heavy rains turned into floods — which turned into states of emergencies for many communities.

I think of so many people who lost everything. I think of the journey so many must face now to start over. I think of how many people will have to put their lives on hold for, maybe, months to get back to some type of normal. I think of the thousands of generous folks who continue to help in so many ways.

The soothing sound of rain I once loved so much now reminds me life can change in a second … and how we can’t take anything for granted.

New home care contract could spell trouble for travel times

Donna loves her job as a health care aide, but she is concerned she is being literally driven out of her job. Six years ago Donna, not her real name, was inspired watching health care aids working with her mother, who became a paraplgegic. Donna quit her job as  to become a health care aide. For the last five years she has worked for We Care, a for profit company. We Care health care aides travel to work with clients in  ) in Leduc, Sherwood Park, Leduc County, Strathcona County and Bonnie Doon. “I love my job.”

But Donna is worried about the future with new changes from Alberta Health Services to We Care contract.. “Our industry is in turmoil,” she says of the pay structure changing for caregivers Aug. 1. “Previously we were paid for time in between clients if they could not book us back to back shifts and we were also paid mileage for driving to and from clients homes. The new contract that We Care has signed does not provide for call-out fees or for mileage. We are expected to work for only the time the client has on their care plan plus a small amount of travel time.”

What does that mean? Donna says: “The travel time we will be compensated for is up to the discretion of each client's case manager and is determined by distance from the closet home care office, she says. “The most troubling thing of the travel time is that this time comes out of the clients care time.”

An internal We Care memo Donna shared with Tait Talk says: “If you are allocated 45 minutes for a bath assist, 35 minutes will now be for the bath and related travel care and 10 minutes for travel.” Donna says it is impossible to do a bath assist in 35 minutes as was the example provided by We Care.

“Not only that we have now been told that client will no longer have any choices for specific caregivers, times of care, and care provided,” she says. “Whoever is available will be sent and whatever times that caregiver have available will be the time given for care. So for my mother that needs help to go to the washroom, she will have to wait for her morning care and wear Depends until the caregiver can fit her in the schedule. Unacceptable.”

Donna doesn’t fault We Care for this and thinks it is an AHS issue.

Coming up soon: what the loss of paid mileage means to We Care employees. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Home care and PDD as different as Edson and Lloydminster

Somewhere, long ago, a new friend — no more than minutes old — asked me if I knew his cousin who had Downs syndrome. When I said I did not he seemed a little miffed. He said, after all, I had cerebral palsy, and I should know every person with a disability in Edmonton and surrounding area. I explained people with disabilities have individual and unique lives.

For years people with disabilities have had to struggle in creating public awareness for our own disability. That has become very evident in the last two weeks. The provincial government is making changes to the way it is delivering services to persons with developmental disabilities, known as PDD. Changes are also coming for the way home care is being operated. But PDD and home care are not the same thing. Yet, some folks are thinking home care clients get PDD, and Albertans with developmental disabilities get home care.

Someone with a developmental disability may live in a group home. Someone with a physically disability may also live in a group home. But the support they get is as different as their disabilities: developmental disabilities are just that; physical disabilities are … just that. PDD and home care are two separate programs with very different needs.

And the battles, in both areas, are not over. Far from it. But there might be more public empathy if Albertans realize people with disabilities are unique and different … just like Edmontonians, Calgarians and all points in between.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Tait's Eight: 8 ways Edmonton can help Calgary

We need to help our neighbors in Calgary and the surrounding area after the recent flooding. But how? Here are eight possible ideas, including one from you. If you have any suggestions on how to make some of these ideas work please let me know. All funds raised will be sent to the Red Cross.

1.   Alumni hockey game between Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames held at Rexall Place
2.   Local businesses contribute 50 per cent of all sales from a specific day
3.   A concert at Telus Field with Alberta performers like k.d. lang, Ian Tyson, Brett Kissel, Tommy Banks, Paul Brandt and others
4.   A 24-hour production from all Edmonton television stations broadcasting at the same time
5.   Benefit concerts at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium and the Winspear Centre: the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at one venue and the Calgary Symphony Orchestra at the other, followed by Alberta’s biggest marshmallow roast at Hawerlak Park
6.   Fill every pothole in Edmonton roads with loonies and deliver the grand total to Calgary
7.   Every Edmontonian donate a day’s pay

Friday, 21 June 2013

Hope, however small, is in southern Alberta

Dave Hancock sat in his office several years ago when he was education minister and made a profound statement over an early morning cup of black coffee. “I am in the business of providing hope,” he said — not only of the his specific role, but provincial government’s position in every day life. Hancock’s creed echoed throughout the province Friday as southern Alberta remains in a state of emergency after Mother Nature unleashed punishing blows.

Heavy rains cause unimaginable flooding from Canmore to Lethbridge, stopping in Calgary where, perhaps, damaged is felt the most. News reports Friday afternoon estimates 100,000 Calgarians are without homes. That number grows because many people in the surrounding areas are also at danger. It is horrible. The damage and repairs to southern Alberta will take decades.

Hope, though, is on the way.

Alberta premier Allison Redford and prime minister Stephen Harper — both with strong Calgary ties — toured the damage in a helicopter Friday. They promised both governments will provide financial assistance, and more importantly, moral support for the people who need it the most. It could very well be impossible for people to even think about the future when they have lost so much. We understand that, absolutely.  But we all need to be reminded people care and want to help. Nobody is going through this journey alone. Family, friends and total strangers will help. Two levels of government — governments who are criticized all the time — are providing a small glimmer of hope when it’s needed the most. And so Dave Hancock’s statement has a new meaning this weekend.

Photo via Twitter from Neal Barton from the premier's office taken from a government aircraft late Friday

Giving pets dignity at that sad time


One of the best parts of my day happens seconds after I set my head on my pillow, just before 11 p.m. My wife Joan puts our dog Thomas on our bed beside me. Thomas, a Chihuahu-Yorkie, scampers his way up to my pillow and gets comfortable for a 10-minute chat. Darn, he’s a good listener. Then, he walks down and retires for the evening at my feet. Thomas is my buddy and, sadly, I have thought about the day down the road when he will jump into Doggie Heaven: I know he had many years ahead of him.

But when that time comes I am comforted knowing there is a place where Thomas can be remembered in dignity. Because for years I have been troubled hearing people say “I took my pet into the vet today to have it put to sleep.” I imagined how terrible the car ride home must be.

It doesn’t have to be that way, anymore. Part of The Family Pet Memorial allows family pets to me remembered with one word: dignity. They offer the same funeral services as for human beings. There’s even a viewing room and a chapel for a memorial service. On Saturday, Part of The Family is having an open house from 1 til 5:30 p.m. for folks to learn more at 11904 - 113 Ave.

We all love our pets. And maybe the biggest thing Part of the Family does is soften that rough ride home after we say our farewells. It’s late, now — so I have to cut this short. Thomas is calling for me.