Saturday, 24 November 2012

thougths for #yyj and #yyc

Hello Victoria and Calgary,

I got the idea in my mind for this post about two weeks ago when I was considering how I can do my part to share my story, my narrative and have a small bit of influence when it comes to the by-elections going on in Calgary and Victoria. It’s just been in the last day that I really found what I wanted to say.

I believe that when we share our stories we give each other space to be more ourselves, to ask questions that we might feel are silly at the time and to know that other people are also figuring it out.

I am someone who 

-          is a first generation university student

-          is a daughter and sister

-          thinks buying second hand clothes is a good idea

-          likes systems and org charts

-          loves biking and hiking

-          enjoys a good pant suit every now and then

-          appreciate budgets and being accountable with money

-          loves board game parties

-          plans training and meetings with chart paper, markers and brainstorming bubbles

-          would rather walk than drive because it allows me to hear and see humanity up close

-          appreciates thoughtful debate

-          values collaboration

-          believes we are stronger together than we are apart

-          knows that a political party can’t address everything I believe

-          speak to issues, not against people

-          enjoys strategic planning

-          thinks ice cream should be its own food group

-          wants to live in a healthy community in which we consider more than just money as a definition of success

AND, I am someone who is a member of the Green Party!

I have been since October of 2011 when I decided to that I needed to define what I wanted to be for in regards to our Canada. Many of my friends would find it surprising that I haven’t been a member of a party, ever, until then.  It was the Green Party that captured me.  These are some of the influencing factors that gave me freedom to choose to be green.

1.       Holistic policy that was clear

2.       Current issues are being addressed

3.       Long term planning is being considered

4.       Isn’t just environmental policy

5.       Thoughtful pieces of policy that show care for quality of life

6.       Overall, smart and thoughtful people connected to the party

7.       MPs and MPPs speak for their electorate not for the talking points they have been given.

8.       The processes used to contribute to democracy just make sense to me.

Why does this matter? Why am I taking time to post this? I think it matters because I believe that some of you reading this can identify with me.  

Maybe in some small way you and I share some similarities.

Maybe you have always been involved in the political process here in Canada but have never been a member of a political party …….
Maybe you don't know if political parties really do make a difference

Maybe you have felt that you can contribute more but you don’t know which party to join…….

Maybe you happen to be at a place in your heart and in your head where you see what is happening in Canada and you can’t reconcile just being politically aware and voting as enough…..

Maybe you are thinking that you want to get involved but you are not sure how that might affect your relationships with family and friends and with those you work with …….

Maybe you are trying to reconcile personal beliefs with which party can best advocate for what you feel is important.

Maybe you question how getting involved in a more significant way really does matter.

Might you accept my words suggesting that it does matter. And that I have seen in my short time as a member of the Green Party that people do have the power to make a difference and that when leaders honor the people they are working for and go about their job with a dedication and commitment to always work for you, things happen that make us a better community, that make us the Canada we know we can be.  

And so, to those in Victoria and Calgary who don't have party status, or who don't think this vote really matters, would you do me a favour and would you take a moment to read through Donald Galloway’s (Victoria) web page and Chris Turner’s (Calgary) web page

And, would you know that on Monday Nov 26th you have an opportunity to make a huge statement that would benefit your ridings, and the rest of the country as we consider the influence 3 Green MPs will have for our quality of life,  for our Canada.

Thank You.


Saturday, 29 September 2012

I'M ALL IN.....for saying NO to a Casino in Kingston.

This is a copy of the letter that I am sending the Kingston Whig Standard in hopes that it will get published. I'm addressing it to City Council as they are the key decision makers in the next step of the process.

Kingston City Council;   
It is with a deep sense of urgency that I write this letter.  I believe that as a citizen it is my duty to voice my concern around issues pertaining to governance, quality of life, and legacy.
I attended the City of Kingston’s Public Form on the Casino Wed August 8th, 2012. I was encouraged and not the least bit surprised to hear a number of people speak so insightfully to issues of concern pertaining to the potential of a casino in our city. Values of care and accountability for each other were captured passionately at this meeting. Moreover, comments that were made were, in many case, supported by evidence; and those that were of a personal experiential  nature reminded us of the need to focus this decision by giving priority to the whole person, and how they are able to find quality of life here in Kingston.
I spoke to the area of governance and legacy. I said that the prospects of a casino seem to fly in the face of our Strategic Plan. I suggested that the idea of a casino does not align with the environmental, cultural and social pillars of the plan. The downtown business association suggested that the idea of a casino does not align with the economic pillar.

For this reason, I do not understand why it is that the casino conversation is still on the table. If the goals of this plan is community betterment, surely a proposition which  it will require that we make decisions that are for the benefit of this community.
I respect that there are many competing forces at work. I respect that it has taken time to gather more information. And I respect that time has been needed for reflection and considers.
I will not respect a response from council that suggests that developers and investors take priority over citizens – especially in light of the strategic plan. I will not respect the notion that the revenue generation from a casino is so significant that it could provide supports and programs to counter the harm the casino would create. I will not respect that fact that you are comfortable to let organizations, like the OLG, pervert your vision for the city.
Winston Churchill once said that “The price of greatness is responsibility”. If this is true, as I believe it is, I charge you with the call you to greatness. I charge you with the call to consider the legacy you will leave with your choice. I charge you with the call to be courageous: to speak for our city –its economic, environmental, social and cultural health. I charge at such a crucial time all in regards to the pending casino decision.
Brenda Slomka

Friday, 27 July 2012

let the games begin

I remember when the Olympics came to Calgary in 1988. I remember the mascots. I remember the red torch candles that we all bought and light when the torch came running by. I remember the glasses you would by at the gas station. I remember mom and dad talking to us about the different sports and competition. I remember learning about different countries, their traditions, their way of life, their hardships (thanks to CBC who covered the games at those times). I remember that while I cheered for Canada, I also loved seeing people just do their best. I remember elizabeth manley skating her best skate. I remember the idea that these athletes had trained hard, had worked hard, had given up much for work for this dream.

Since than I have grown up and I have come to see that there are many many conversations waiting to be had around the Olympics and I don't run away from these conversation; the idea of corporate sponsorship, the idea of access to the games for the public, not just the elite, the capital investment that could be going to other needed places of society, the countries that are waring, the role of women, pressure and expectation for gold. My heart at times is torn. I look for ways to make sure that I speak of these issues, these concerns. I make sure that while I celebrate that I don't pretend as if everything is nice and neat and tidy. I don't ever profess to have all the answers on how we can continue to have the games as they were meant to be now.  

and even with those conversations still being had, today, I'm wearing red and white. Today, I will sit in front of a TV and I will watch as country after country walks into an areas with garb that represents to them the country they deem to be home. Today I will probably tear up a little, thinking of my Vancouver 2010 experience, thinking of the pride of a country coming together to celebrate. Today I will consider dreams and determination and hard work. Today I will get excited about the number of times I will get to hear O'Canada over the next days. Today, I won't shy away from those hard conversation that need to be had, but I will celebrate.

The Olympics for me is about community and coming together.  It is about sportsmanship and good competition. It is about the celebration of setting goals and reaching those dreams. It is about celebrating people like Clara Hughes who is a role model and ambassador of compassion, honesty and determination for our country. It is about seeing countries together, for the love of sport and the passion of the game.

and yes, it is about getting to wear Canadian clothing as much as I want over the next days.....


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

we stand on guard.........

dear Canada, 

I know that we are less than a month away from your birthday and I just wanted to take a moment  to let you know that you have been very close to my heart in the last days. I feel as if you are tired. You shouldn't feel offended by this statement at all, for I know your determination, I know your conquering spirit, I know you ability to stay the course, I know of you commitment to press on. I just wanted you to know that you don't have to have it all together right in this moment. I wanted to let you know that there are many of us who are starting to take note of how you are feeling and are starting to find ways to stand up for you, to do some of the work that you need us to do for you. 

while i'm not a big birthday girl, i love celebrating others and July 1st is one of my most favourite days to celebrate  (you should know as you've seen me in my red and white dress -without embarrassment) for it is a time to find those things that make one uniquely them. those traits and qualities that separate them from all others. 

I've been reflecting on those traits that you posses in the last month and more specifically in the last days. i know that it hasn't been easy having to get up each day not even knowing what to expect--having to use all of your energy and time to deal with un-truth and scheming, having to deal with people whom you thought would act with the highest regard for your character. 

I wanted you to know now and not in a month from now what you mean to me and that I'm not going to let you stand on your own. You have afforded me the greatest opportunities a little girl could dream up. The freedom to run barefoot on red sandy beaches. The freedom to climb up glaciers to summits of views un-definable. The freedom to sweep my paddle though pristine lakes while nature serenades me.  You have given me access to education, to inquiry and research and reflection. You have given me access to culture, to learning from my elders, from our elders. You have given me road trips and adventures; moments to hear stories of regions and areas that I may never live. You have given me time to celebrate, to wear red and white with pride. You have given me courage, to speak for those who at times can't speak for themselves. You have given me time to consider peace and how we can work to contribute to keeping peace. You have given me a place that I call home. 

I want you to know that I am more resolved in my heart than I have ever been to find ways, creative, captivating, courageous ways to stand up for you, to stand on guard for you so that we may continue to SEE THEE RISE. 

so my beloved Canada, know that while you may be tired, many of us are not, in fact with our GLOWING HEARTS we are fired up committed to standing on guard for you. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

if i put abortion in the title i'm sure you will read this........

If you want me to have all the answers. I won’t
If you want to tell me that you know better. Go ahead
If you want to try to change my mind. I’ll listen
If you won’t listen to me. Don’t engage.
If you think that I’m weak in my faith. I am strong
If you are unwilling to be challenged, intelligently. This won’t go anywhere.
If you are going to judge me. I’m okay with that

This blog is a conversation on paper. One that I would love to have in person, one that I’m sure I’ll start to have in person. In the last couple days I have been reflecting on my faith, legislation, public service and how much I really don’t know in regards to the vastness of this beautiful journey we call life. (note: I’m not having a crisis of faith, not reflecting on if what I believe is true or not, not doubting the values I live my life by). I’m just being honest. These are my feeling. My thoughts. My questions.
Yesterday on Parliament Hill there was a rally. An anti-abortion rally.
“People who call themselves Christians need to take another look at what Christianity means to them and what it means to life,” Ms. Kearney said, standing with her friends under a light drizzle and cloudy skies. The Prime Minister calls himself a Christian, she said. “I’m not judging him because I don’t know the man. But, if you call yourself a Christian, then you should believe in life from conception.”
And what if he does? What if he calls himself a Christian? What if he does believe life starts at conception?
I believe in creation. I believe that there is a place for each of us. I believe that we are all broken. I believe that Eden was going to be perfect, we were perfect and than that all changed and since then there has been, is this huge void that we all fill with anything to try to make it right, to try to feel even just a bit of what Eden may have felt like. That complete-ness that love, that perfection.
As I type this, type my thoughts on a piece of paper, I’m not really scared – more preparing for the responses I’ll get back, being ready if you will for the conversation to continue.
Can I say this? Would you allow me the space to say this……that I believe that life begins at conception, that for each human being there is a plan for our lives. I look at the complexity of the human body and cant’ help but marvel at creation.  I also believe though that every single time that we suggest abortion is a sin or work so hard as to make sure that there is a punishable law, we seem to forget the people that are connected to – attached to the policy.  We seem to ignore the fact that for some reason, (insert factor here - and yes one being the individual in question was just irresponsible and didn’t want to have a kid or maybe they felt scared to admit they messed up, maybe they didn't want to be judged) an individual given the free choice irrelevant of our definition of right and wrong – choose to have an abortion.  But all of these choices, for whatever reason, just show how broken we are and should evoke in us, those of us who say we live differently a response of love.
Why have we as the evangelical church taken to two issues so passionately when the Bible isn’t just a two issue book. I feel as though sometimes we are missing out on what our faith is about. I can’t help but try to reconcile that line Jesus spoke saying “you be the first to cast the stone”.  Maybe this can help:  Tony Campolo suggested that “Those issues are biblical issues: to care for the sick, to feed the hungry, to stand up for the oppressed. I contend that if the evangelical community became more biblical, everything would change”……. And that’s what I want. I want to live differently. I want to extend grace. I want to honor my belief without dishonouring my neighbour.
Could it be that many of us just don’t have the words or even the assurance to enter into this conversation. Similar to the conversations going on in the USA right now about marriage, I am really curious as to why the debate only seems to be one way. If we as Christians believe that God’s laws are not man’s laws and than why is it so important for us to change the laws now. And why is it that we ask for separation of church and state but only for certain issues?  Another good quote that really captures my thinking:
“I don't know of many evangelicals who want to deny gay couples their legal rights. However, most of us don't want to call it marriage, because we think that word has religious connotations, and we're not ready to see it used in ways that offend us” Tony Campolo. And this makes me look more deeply into the mystery of the love and grace that has changed my life, of what I believe.
These are things that I know to be true in my life
-          We are created
-          There is purpose in this life
-          I don’t have all the answers
-          I want people to know that I care about their story
-          I want people to know that I’m not better than them
-          I want to live my life differently.
So for right now, while I ask these questions and engage in conversation and take each day to choose love over hate, I will choose what I will be for…..

"to work in the world lovingly meand that we are defining what we will be for, rather than reacting to what we are against" - christina baldwin.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

it's not easy being GREEN.......

A very famous media icon once said “It’s not easy being green” and while that rings very true in many ways in relation to the Green Party of Canada (GPC) and the Green Party of Ontario (GPO), I’m very quickly realizing that in so many ways it really isn’t that hard either because of the amazing people connected to the work being done.
The summer of 2011 was for me, one that saw me move (again?!). It was a bit hectic limiting my time for rest, required me to leave those beautiful connections that I made and re-integrate into community-  but for those of you who know me, what many may suggest is just the way Brenda does it.
I came back to Kingston, one of two cities in Ontario that have won over my heart (that other place being Waterloo) to start a new job and to reconnect in community. Lucky for me there was a provincial election waiting to greet me.
Since I can remember I have been connected to politics. So many times when asked the question “why do you like this stuff?” or “how can you find this a good vocation?” my response was “there is just something that beats a bit faster in my heart when I’m about this work”. Time has allowed me to find the words to clearly articulate that for me politics is the place where we weaves together the possibility of influence and change, where we fight for those who at times can’t fight for themselves, where we create and invite others to thread together those values that define us as a community.
I’ve never had party status. I’ve watch every major party convention since I can remember, every leadership race. I was just not in a place where I was prepare to align myself and commit so intentionally… least until I started to feel (yes feel) and observe that I needed to stop sitting in the background and that I needed to get involved. I was realizing how quickly my beautiful Canada wasn’t the country that I had grown up learning about, how much of those core values that shaped this beautiful nation were being repealed without even a thought given.
And so after some reflection, asking myself those questions that needed to be asked, and one last read through much of the party’s policies, I picked up the phone and called the local Green Party of Ontario office to tell them that I wanted to volunteer.
I saw my heartbeat written in the pages of values and policy for the GPO and GPC. Of course, not 100%, for nothing is every that deeply connected, except for me, my faith, but it was those values of community - supporting local farmers, healthy food, local economic growth for the economy, smart jobs, creative solutions for energy and business. There was a chord of connection to the idea that people shape our policies.
I decided to, because of an invitation; use my leadership capacity to contribute to the Kingston and the Island Greens as VP this year. In this capacity I have listened to and been engaged in so many community conversation that re-affirm to me I am in the right place, right now – that being using my talents and energy to contribute to the GPO and GPC, to sharing with others why I’m okay with being GREEN.
and so, as I have just returned home from my first, of what I suspect will be many GPO AGMs (that was held in Niagara).  I find myself reflecting on that experience.  I was encouraged to keep company with so many caring, thoughtful, smart people who want something more. I was able to observe a leader who is redefining what politics will look like in this Province. I listened to, and engaged in thoughtful debate around policy that considers people first. I was thankful for time I had to develop new connections, to engage in meaningful conversation & to contribute to moving us forward.
And it’s that last piece, the idea of moving us forward that I’m more connected to right now. As I look at the actions of the government I am more resolved to stay in it for the long haul. I think George Bernard Shaw captures so eloquently my feelings and thoughts:
 “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.”
So I acknowledge that in many ways “it’s not easy being GREEN”, but I’m okay with not taking the easy road……..

Sunday, 15 April 2012

I walked into the room. I observed more people than I anticipated would be there. I was encouraged.  I looked for my buddy Robb, President of the Kingston and the Islands Green Party. I looked for Fred and Ruth, two new friends I met in the pub while listening to the Gertrude’s on Thursday eve. I looked for Claire and Alex. I looked to see if there were any people that I meet at the National Farmers Union/CETA meeting on Tuesday eve past. I looked to see if there were others from work or city life or those whom I have bumped into at the market or at Sipps. I looked for my leaders.

On Saturday (April 14, 2012) at 3pm I attended a climate change discussion/forum with MP Stephane Dion and past leader of the Liberal Party of Canada,  MP for Kingston and the Islands, Ted Hsu and Professor John Smol.

We spent the first bit of time allowing each speaker share for approx 10 minutes. We than moved into questions (which I sometimes label the comment section).

This is where I struggle. I know that I’m going to post this blog to my facebook site. I know that I’m going to post this blog to my twitter site. I know that my fellow citizens are going to read it. I’m torn because I deeply care about people. I deeply care about making sure that I speak of the value of people and never, ever demean someone. I also though, believe that, sometimes it is important that we call out the leaders we have elected to be the ones to provide the context and the direction for moving forward – in essence – leadership.

I am a leader. I’m also a learner and someone who keeps getting better. I don’t have it all figured out and if I act like I do, than please hit me over the head or call me out.

Here’s the crux of what bothered me and what is causing me much reflection and evoking a response of other questions.

Notwithstanding that we can have another conversation around systems, if we like them/don’t like. If they are broken/need fixing. If they are evil/good, this conversation is around leadership and those we elected into leadership roles.

I was so upset to see that only one City of Kingston Councilor attended this forum. If you were in my head space (probably safer that you are not) you would hear me move between “it is a Saturday afternoon and people have lives” to “this is a huge issue, these are City Councilors AND we, the City of Kingston, are trying to be the most sustainable City in Canada – so where they heck are my leaders”……

And this is what I come to.

It is a privilege to be elected a leader. It costs something (time, energy, re-prioritization of activities). I can’t say that it’s okay that out of a council of thirteen (13) elected City Councilors only one shows up. I value the person, but I’m not impressed with inaction. There is so much human capital in this room (said when I was actually sitting in the room) that can be cultivated and purposed, and, if nothing else, just show up to hear what we have to say – just show up to listen. 

I hear the facilitator ask us what we can do. I hear responses from people who care. I reflect on the fact that i don't want our striving, and coming together to be in vain. I consider that part of the answer to the question is accountability. It is about accountability to the position that one has been given, by the people in their community. It is about using that position to maximize the human capital for good, for the long term so that we do not find ourselves out of time.  

I'm a smart young woman. I pay attention to current events. I try to learn about those areas of public service in which I don't naturally soak up. I don't know if I retained even half of the information - the numbers and stats - that were presented at the forum. BUT, I can tell you that I did retain the human capital present. I did retain the passion and desire that my fellow citizens have for wanting to be good stewards of this breathtaking bouncing ball we call home. I did retain that there is the potential to change the world. And, I'm just really sad that my elected leaders didn't get that same opportunity to feel it and hear it and than be moved to translate those feelings and those sentiments into action.