Thursday, 20 November 2008

Need Action, Not Another Report

Letter to the Editor in the 20 Nov 2008 issue of METRO (Toronto), in response to the launch of the 'Roots of Youth Violence' report. -Bryan

Re: Probe links youth violence to mental health neglect, Nov. 14


Dear Editor(s)

The links between mental health and violence have long been raised by clinical and social scientists, youth agencies, and community advocates. In raising the profile of the cause, we hope the recommendations of McMurtry & Curling to address the ‘Roots of Youth Violence’ are adopted so that real action is finally seen in communities at risk.

In a new approach, any provincial reorganization should consider a revised definition of ‘youth’ so that young people transitioning from the childhood to adult mental health system no longer lose proven crime and homeless-prevention services simply because they have turned 18 and no longer qualify.

The Roots of Youth Violence is an excellent study with serious recommendations. The time is now for those involved to demand real action from the Premier, and not allow this to be another report that ends up sitting in a library without affecting meaningful change.

Bryan Heal, Public Health Consultant

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Life imitating Art imitating Life

Some interesting connections between between the ascention of Barack Obama, and that of NBC’s The West Wing …

- A minority candidate from the democrats, only in Washington for a few years after a long resume in his community, runs for president while calling for unity and a different kind of politics.
- In the democratic primary he fights a long, hard and divisive campaign against an establishment candidate that everybody expects to win.
- He comes out on top after a divisive convention that threatens party unity going in.
- He delivers an inspiring speech at his party’s convention that makes people wake up and feel like he may be something special.
- In the general election, he goes up against a straight talking Republican from a western state known as a maverick in his party and more liberal than most republicans.
- He delivers an important address about race relations at a time when his poll numbers need a boost.
- A major crises hits the US which irreparably hurts his opponent’s support.
- He wins the Presidency.
- He appoints, as his Chief of Staff, a veteran of the last democratic
president with a big reputation for getting things done in often dramatic and unorthodox ways.

While these points can certainly describe Obama’s rise in real life, I had the TV character Matt Santos in mind while writing them. Not bad scripting, eh, for a show that ended well before Obama even announced he was running for President. Oh, a couple more things …

- The inspiration for the West Wing’s Matt Santos, was Barack Obama himself, after his convention speech way back in 2004.
- The political advisor the show’s writers consulted was David Axelrod, Obama’s Chief Strategist.
- Obama’s Chief of Staff, Ramh Emanuel, named just a few days ago, was the inspiration for the Josh Lyman character on the West Wing.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Let Stockwell be Stockwell

I’m lucky to have a truly great MP in Dr Carolyn Bennett – it made my decision in our recent election pretty easy.

Partisan friends aside, I’ve never before spoken to so many people utterly bored with the political process, unhappy with their choices, contemplating strategic voting and other measures to vote for the lesser of all evils than actually *for* somebody.

The result: Not a whole heap of change. On the eve of an exciting and historic US election, it’s all a reminder of just how much we could use some fresher faces and a new kind of politics in our own system.

We do have a new cabinet though – so perhaps there’s still a chance for a shuffling of tactics as well. While he’s called for more reaching out and a team approach towards competence - the looming question going forward is whether or not the Prime Minister will give his Ministers more independence to be creative with their portfolios than lead with the firm, controlled, highly centralized grip we have seen since first taking office.

As a result of that centralized approach, most people seem to know Harper and what he stands for quite well, but so many of the rest of the players in the Conservative Party remain relatively unknown on the national stage (a couple newsmakers a la Baird, Bernier aside).

Not that I’m expecting it – but I’d personally love for him to go beyond the new job titles and really shake things, loosen the strings on his crew, and open us up to all the characters new and old. Radio personality Peter Kent, for example, finally gets his turn in office – let’s give him a good test to see whether is diplomatic skills can match his ambitions; We’ve got a rookie MP (Nunavut) tapped for Minister of Health – let’s get to know more about Leona Aglukkaq; And in an era of geopolitical races against time, we have another rookie MP (Oakville) tapped for Natural Resources – do we not want to learn more about her ideas for future directions in uncertain times.

Moral of the story: The people have spoken and have given Harper another minority, but are increasingly disengaged and just plain bored. Let’s add some excitement to the game and let our ministers be ministers for a change.

Passed by a one legged man!


We’ll no records were falling at this year’s Toronto International ½ Marathon, but it was both a fun & strong finish to what’s generally been a pretty tough race season.

The day’s high was simply doing it – the downhill course, fall temp & tree colours down the long Rosedale Valley kept a smile on my face throughout.

The most interesting moment must have been the reality check where, after catching up to the pacer I wanted after a late start, and passing all kinds of tall people along the way – I suddenly found myself two thirds of the way through eating the dust of one dude who must have been pushing 100, and another with a prosthetic left leg!!

The low point was my seemingly obligatory 17-19k struggle where I wished I had followed Kei’s lead in doing some more progression runs in training. Thankfully this funk didn’t last too long – what helped snapped me out was remembering some race management tips from the courses’ “psyching team” at the Expo, and then thinking about where I am today compared to where it all started for me last year when I was clocking 40min 5k’s at NTO Yorkville on Thursdays!

So what’s next? We lay low, build up our strength, and wait till next season which hopefully will feel like just around the corner (if for any other reason than the winter will be over!). Next big goal: Ironman 70.3 (the ½ IM) in Muskoka … guess I better learn how to swim:)