Monday, 8 July 2013

Monday Motivators: Craig Styles and Andy Wigston

Sometime Sunday afternoon — perhaps around 4 p.m. — summer officially began for Craig Styles and Andy Wigston. That’s when the ice is finally cleaned at the West Edmonton Mall Ice Palace, the dressing rooms doors are closed for the last time, goodbye handshakes and hugs are exchanged, and — with one last look to make sure everything is just right — Styles and Wigston left the mall. And then their summer vacation begins. It has happened every Sunday in July for the two men since 1989. If Styles and Wigston have their way the tradition will carry on for many years to come.
Craig Styles in the middle with the red shirt

Styles is tournament chair of the Brick Invitational Super Novice Hockey Tournament. Wigston is the tournament’s director. Both employees of The Brick — Wigston is retired and Styles is vice-president of real estate — and were part of the planning process 24 years ago when Brick founder Bill Comrie wanted to start a tournament for nine and 10-year-olds. Styles and Wigston answered the bell. They have managed to produce, year after year, one of the best tournaments in North America. This year they had 14 teams playing with the Toronto Bulldogs winning Sunday’s final 3-1 over the B.C. Junior Canucks.

Andy Wigston
The tournament has seen many players go on to the National Hockey League, semi-pro and university and college hockey. Styles and Wigston are hoping many of the tournament’s alumni return next year for the 25th anniversary tournament. Styles said last week plans are in the works now for the 2014 edition. But I hope Styles and Wigston really don’t start thinking about that until, maybe, next Monday. Because after 18-hour days, countless games, attending to thousands of details, they certainly deserve a break. Well done, gentlemen.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Eskimos big gamble: game against Hamilton Tiger-Cats has many story lines

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If Edmonton Eskimo head coach Kavis Reed likes pressure, he probably can’t wait for today’s game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Because all eyes will be on Reed — and the entire Eskimo organization. He has always been a gentleman to me over the years and he is a gem of a human being. I want to see him succeed. And so, apparently, do the Eskimos.
...Kavis Reed

Reed, in the final year of a three-year deal, was given an extension to his contract Saturday and the timing seems a bit odd. The Eskimos opened the season with a 39-18 loss against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and they did not look good: not only did they lack offence, they seemed disorganized, and took several selfish penalties. Perhaps the most noticeable was when the Eskimos lined up the wrong way. Coaching? You decide.

Reed is an intense coach and wears his heart on his sleeve. He also loves a challenge, and maybe that’s the card Esks’ GM Ed Hervey is playing with the contract extension. You might not expect such a carrot would dangle after last
...Ed Hervey
week’s performance. Then again professional sports teams do whatever they have to to win. We’ll find out later today if the latest Eskimo gamble will pay off. It’s a huge wager placed: this could make or break the Edmonton Eskimos, both on and off the field.

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Thursday, 4 July 2013

How can someone in their own home getting home care be called a patient?

Alberta health minister Fred Horne’s comment in Thursday’s Edmonton Journal deserves debate on several levels. We applaud Horne for asking Alberta Health Services — what on God’s green earth were they thinking, anyway — to review drastic cut backs to home care. Earlier in June AHS moved to bring multi-national companies to carry out home care duties. Perhaps the thing that stung the most was how home care clients were not consulted in the process at all. (I receive home care and I have cerebral palsy.)

But we cannot uncork the bubbly and do the happy dance. If you read Horne’s quote near the end of Sarah O’Donnell’s story that should concern Albertans on home care, and people with disabilities throughout Alberta.
. “It’s a matter of dignity for patients who receive home care,” Horne said. With all due respect, how can a person with a physical disability, living in their own home, paying rent or owning their own place, be called a “patient?” I don’t get it. We are Albertans, living in the community, paying taxes, contributing in so many ways — out of the long dark shadows of instructional care — and we are still called patients. What a sad and somewhat archaic commentary on how Horne sees us.

I am a patient if I am in the hospital getting acute care. But not in my own home. I am a resident, a neighbor, and a member of a community league. I resent being called a patient in my own home. Should I ask my wife to wear a nurse’s cap now?

Until attitudes, language and action change towards people with disabilities, the fight for home care — and many other programs — is far from over. 


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Turning shock and grief into compassion and understanding

The immediate response to a child’s small child alone in a vehicle on an afternoon in record-setting temperatures is profound grief. How could this happen in north Edmonton in temperatures soaring to 40 degrees?  We may feel an incredible sense of helplessness. And, given the past heat wave, emotions can take shapes and sizes we may not even know exist. That’s understandable. But is there any possible way we can transform those emotions into compassion and understanding for a local family going through hell right now?

There are countless questions we can ask about the situation. We will never know the answers. Such a story reaches our emotions on very personal levels. We think of the little people in our own lives and how we would feel if something happened in our own worlds.

The family and friends of the small child needs to be surrounded by the community right now. Some of those people are close family members, others are friends and others will be strangers touched by the story. These are challenging times for our city as it weeps together in this unimaginable situation. But beyond our grief we should challenges ourselves to reach out and try to help. Perhaps doing so defines being a caring citizen.

Paul Lorieau: a man of kindness and unforgettable class

Reporters are lucky people. Because we get to see the real, human side of people: up close and personal. While thousands see and hear someone from afar or on television, we get to have interactions with stars. In some cases, we even get to have dinner with them. And those are the thoughts I am having now when I think of the passing of Paul Lorieau.

Mr. Lorieau will be known best for his thundering renditions of O’Canada at Edmonton Oiler games. He always had time to say hello — whether it be on the way to sing on centre ice or on his way out of the building. When I was writing a column for the sports department of the Edmonton Journal in 2006, I saw what class Mr. Lorieau had. I wrote my column during the Stanley Cup playoffs from the media dining room at Rexall Place and tried to file it at the end of the first period.

Mr. Lorieau came up for dinner after he sang O Canada. When I was finished writing I often asked if I could join him for a cup of coffee and piece of pie as he was finishing dinner. I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair so when I approached his table I was sitting down. Mr. Lorieau always stood up to greet me and gave me a firm but warm handshake. We would talk about many things, especially family, before leaving the dining room for second period action.

A true gentleman with endless class is how I will always remember Paul Lorieau. My job as a reporter afforded me to see that. As a person I was so lucky to have shared time with him.

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.