Thursday, December 27, 2018

To see my book, click here  then click on the Google Preview button to browse the first 25%  
Find me via email: info(at)ascentassociates(dot)ca or visit my web site or blog 

Canada’s Arctic Today
Click here for the original edition as published in Trent University's alumni magazine, fall 2018

Bill Templeman
The challenges facing the residents of Canada’s Arctic tend to escape our notice in the information-saturated south. We may see a news item online about a dramatic search and rescue, or read a post about the impact of climate change on Northern hunters, but the kaleidoscope of the 24-hour news cycle quickly scrambles our impressions, and our moment of insight is soon lost. If we could get beyond the tweets and the video clips, what would Northerners tell us? What is actually happening in the Arctic right now? What are the top priority issues for the people who live there? How are we, as a country, dealing with these challenges? Are we seeing any successes? And what can we learn from our efforts that might help Northerners as we move into the future? We have to keep wrestling not only with what to do, but overcome our biases about how we work with Northerners. Past governments have had a tendency to develop solutions to Northern problems here in the southern parts of the country, then ship those Southern solutions to the North, only to scratch our heads in puzzlement when the solutions don’t work as planned.
TRENT Magazine reached out to Trent alumna Sarah Cox ’85, who is the director, Circumpolar Affairs Directorate of the Department of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade in the federal government, as well as the head of the Canadian Delegation for Sustainable Development Working Group of the Arctic Council. We hoped to draw on Sarah’s extensive experience in project collaboration with Northerners to find out what all Canadians can do to help Northerners discover their way forward in very uncertain times. Where do we all stand right now? As a nation, how are we doing in our stewardship of the Arctic?

Sarah Cox (SC): 
It is important to understand that while I have worked on Northern issues for 8 years, worked in partnership with northerners and I have travelled up there, I am not a Northerner. First of all, there is the sheer vastness of the place. There are about 200,000 people in the Arctic, yet it represents 40% of Canada’s landmass. There are four Inuit regions in Canada’s Arctic. While everyone has heard of Nunavut, there is also Inuvialuit (the northwestern part of the Northwest Territories), Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador), and Nunavik (Northern Quebec). All four are settled land claims, which is pretty progressive.TRENT Magazine (TM): 64% of Canadians live within 100km of the US border—and the vast majority of Canadians live closer to the United States than the Arctic. While we consider ourselves a northern nation, most Canadians don't have a firm grasp of life up North or the issues that Northern Canada is currently facing. Could you give us snapshot of the North as you know it?
The cultural reality of the Inuit is that they lived in seasonal camps until the 1960s, which means there are a lot of middle-aged people who grew up in these camps, not in communities with houses and streets as we know them in the South. Of the 53 permanent communities, most of them are fly-in only. There is no road access. The Inuit travel between settlements on snowmobiles; these trips can take two days or more. The cost of living is 80% higher than in the South. There is a very short ocean shipping season. Inuktitut is the strongest Indigenous language in the country; this is important because we know that language is a major anchor for culture. The median age of the Inuit is 18 years younger than the Canadian median age, so there is a burgeoning youth population.
The North is so diverse in terms of landscape, language, and people. There are a lot of different dialects. The Northwest Territories is treed, whereas Nunavut is above the treeline; these are very different landscapes. One of the things that strikes you is when you fly into Nunavut, you are flying over ice for a very long time. The remoteness of the Arctic is truly dramatic. That’s my snapshot of the North; it’s very beautiful in a very unique way. While you might call it rugged, in the summer you can walk across the tundra and fill your belly on blueberries. I am completely enamoured of the North, having travelled up there quite of few times.
TM: What are some of the current hot-button Arctic issues for the people who live there?
SC: Obviously a no-brainer is climate change; we all know that the Arctic is an early indicator of climate change. We all know about the melting sea ice. Hopefully every Canadian knows that the Arctic is facing serious challenges because of climate change.
Reconciliation is another top issue. While reconciliation is a big issue for the federal government, this reconciliation must go far deeper than government policy statements; all Canadians need to get involved in this reconciliation dialogue with the Inuit and First Nations of the Arctic.
Mental wellness and suicide prevention are huge issues. Suicide rates are very high in the Arctic, approximately 12 times the rate in Southern Canada. Our minister has described suicide in the North as an epidemic. Everyone in the Arctic knows someone who has committed suicide. From my perspective, one of the challenges is to discover how Southerners can collaborate with Northerners to support mental wellness. What works, what doesn’t work and how do we know? This is something that will take generations. There is likely nothing more important than this in terms of collaboration. There are so many issues driving this suicide rate, such as colonization, relocation of Inuit families in the ’50s, and the impact of the residential schools.
Housing is a huge issue for sure. There is overcrowding, which contributes to a lack of mental wellness, an inability to do homework and poor health. One person catches a cold and the whole house gets sick. Other issues include connectivity, better infrastructure, and that the whole North depends on diesel. This technology needs to be replaced. There is a lot of interesting planning going on with renewable energy.
Another issue is education outcomes for high school graduates. The curriculum that is being used needs to be looked at. The government of Nunavut has developed some very good curriculum that is more appropriate for the North.
There is also a steadily growing international interest in the Arctic. How we manage this interest is a discovery process. How do we manage that interest in a way that is beneficial to Northerners? A lot of states that you would never think might be interested are getting involved: China, Singapore, the Netherlands, Germany; they are not Arctic states but they’re very interested in Arctic research. Some of this interest is related to resource extraction, but not all. There is research interest in traditional ways of life and in pure scientific research. There is also research interest in shipping routes.
How, as a country, are we dealing with these hot-button issues?
SC: That’s a huge question! There are postgraduate programs on this topic and books have been written, hundreds of books. There are so many government departments that are doing innovative work in collaboration with Northerners. The ministries of the environment, fisheries and oceans, natural resources, emergency preparedness, and intergovernmental affairs, plus others, have extensive programs in the North. The development of a new Arctic and Northern Policy Framework in partnership with territories, provinces and Indigenous governments helps to provide a useful context. This policy framework is precedent-setting, in part because it is the product of co-development.
Another concern is that Canadians really don’t have access to the North. It is so wildly expensive to get there. If you are faced with a choice between vacationing in Costa Rica, Europe or the Canadian Arctic, the Arctic will not win very often. But it would be great if more Canadians could get up to experience the Arctic. Canadians have to stop thinking of the Arctic as an uncharted frontier. The Inuit have lived up there for thousands of years. They know the landscape, the environment and the culture extremely well.
TM: What is working well right now?
SC: I can’t speak to the work of all the other departments of the government. The amount of detail would be huge. But I can speak to the work of the Arctic Council. The Council is an intergovernmental body that promotes the environmental, social and economic sides of sustainable development in the Arctic. One of the keys to success of the Arctic Council is that it is a consensus-based organization. A second success factor is the fact that the Council has six Indigenous organizations from across the global Arctic as permanent members, so deliberations are always grounded in the lived reality of the people for whom all projects are intended to serve. A third success factor is the practice of integrating local knowledge and experience into all decision making. The Arctic Council is not about Southerners telling Northerners, “This is what you have to do…”. The Council is all about generating Northern solutions for Northerners, not Southern solutions for Northerners.
Canada plays a vital role on the Arctic Council, a role for which all Canadians, regardless of where they live, should be proud. If Canada was not at this table, we would be really missed.
One of the Council’s six working groups focuses on sustainable development in terms of living conditions and how to improve the lives of Arctic residents. This group, the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG), is evolving from doing a lot of best-practice work and research to designing and running projects that actually make a difference for Northerners living in their communities. One of my key functions is to serve as delegation head for the SDWG. My role is to work with the eight member states and six circumpolar Indigenous organizations to improve the lives of Northerners. We deal with the social sciences, not the natural sciences.
One of SDWG’s current projects is the Arctic Renewable Energy Network Academy (ARENA). Every community in Canada’s Arctic is dependent on diesel fuel for heat and electricity. One of the goals of ARENA is to foster the development of renewable-energy-literate community members. These advocates can go back to their communities, assess their local situations and determine which alternative energy solution might be best. These graduates of ARENA have the tools to get a local project set up and find out who they have to partner with in order to get renewable energy into their communities.
What is happening now that is very encouraging is that there is a growing awareness that many projects have a long time-cycle. Particularly in areas like mental health, the project cycle needs to be long, maybe ten years or more. Another exciting trend is that the six-member circumpolar Indigenous groups are beginning to put their own project concepts forward. This is fantastic, because now we can follow their lead.
We also have strong relationships with a number of academics. These relationships open up the possibility of new project ideas and the sharing of successes across all the groups.
Another successful SDWG project is a suicide prevention program focused on developing a digital resource of Inuit youth experiences with suicide. This project, which is run by youths across the Canadian Arctic, takes full advantage of the emergence of a talented pool of local filmmakers and videographers. The output of this program provides youth with a powerful, digitalized resource, created by people their own age, in their own language, and of their own culture.
We are using the power of networks or clusters to build sustainable change. For example, food security is a huge issue across the Arctic. There is a shortage of food that is nutritious and affordable. So we are developing networks of people who are working on food issues and coming up with ideas and solutions they can share using the traditional foods.

Another huge question! We need to collaborate more and enter into equal partnerships with Arctic residents. Above all else, we need to listen. Gone are the days where “made in Ottawa” solutions are shipped north for implementation without extensive input from those for whom these solutions have been designed. We need to learn more about the Arctic, and if possible, go up there. The Arctic Council and the SDWG need to do a more thorough job of communicating with Northerners and with the rest of Canada about the challenges and successes that are coming out these efforts. Southerners and others who are working with Arctic residents need to remember to always respect local experience and to value local knowledge. The Arctic needs Southerners to be ambassadors for them.TM: What more do we need to do?
Another positive development to keep track of is the growth of programs at universities like Trent that concentrate on the Arctic. These university programs lead to growth in career options for working on the full range of issues in the Arctic. Grads shouldn’t eliminate the possibility of working on northern Arctic issues. It is so engaging. The North is really a microcosm of government. Every portfolio you can think of—health, housing, education, employment, social services, economic development, resource management, environmental protection—they are all here. Whatever your interests are, you could find a way to work on them in the North.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Pints & Politics: The Little Peterborough Podcast that Grew

Like many of my projects, this one started out high on ideals and low on practical details. Back in April, I thought, "Wouldn't it be neat to interview candidates for city council, and produce podcasts that they could use in their online campaigns?" Then I heard a Trent Radio ad looking for summer programmers; I pitched my idea for a show on local politics. This would let me contribute to the election debate. Five months later, this modest little project has turned into an all-consuming monster. I recall a novelist saying that "This book started out as a playful diversion, then it became a habit, then it turned in a chore, then it became a job, and finally, it morphed into a master to whom I am chained as a slave."
Trent Radio liked the idea enough to let me try, although they made it very clear that they had a CRTC license to uphold and fundraising campaigns to run, so my program must give equal time to all sides and not become a bully pulpit for my pet causes. No partisan jabs at pro-Parkway candidates. I decided to call the show Pints & Politics after the modest weekly gathering of pundits I host at the Garnet pub. I was admonished to not advocate beer-drinking on air. The talented volunteers at Peterborough Independent Podcasters showed me how to convert the recordings of my shows to podcasts. I was ready to launch.
I sent out an email note to all the declared candidates at the time. Zach Hatton bravely volunteered to be first. Zach and I went live to air on May 1; he graciously stifled his laughter as he watched me fumble with switches and sliders on the control panel. More than once I forget to turn up the microphone volume so that I was mumbling through a profound question that only Zach, and not our listening audience, could actually hear. While the sins of live radio are there for all to hear, only the listening audience actually hears them, then they are gone.
I soon discovered that I was able to edit such bloopers out of my podcasts, much to my considerable relief. Hence my fascination with podcasting. All my verbal miscues could be swiftly excised from an audio file with a few clicks of a mouse. Never a smooth public speaker, the technology covered up the worst of my bumbling incompetence.
My next candidate was Dave McGowan. Imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach when I discovered that Dave is a veteran broadcast journalist, having worked in radio and television for many years across Ontario, including a stint with CHEX Newswatch. So there I was, perched awkwardly in a broadcast studio I did not understand in the least, while across from me sat the broadcast equivalent of Wayne Gretzky.
Dave speaks effortlessly with none of the mumbles and stumbles that come out of me. He was completely at home in the studio, while I, the putative host, was utterly in over my head. Switches were forgotten, volume levels were not checked and there were frequent patches of dead air when I forgot to adjust inscrutable levers on the control panel.
The half-hour radio broadcast was a total shambles, but thanks to the aforementioned editing software, I was able to produce a 16-minute podcast. Dave still smiles broadly when we run into each other at campaign events; he has been my most patient and forgiving guest.
Of all the 27 registered candidates for the municipal election, I interviewed 21. The other 6 chose not to be interviewed; I have to respect their decisions. Municipal elections are won or lost at the doors; door-to-door canvassing is the sine qua non of election campaigning. Radio broadcasts are not. And podcasting may still be too geeky for mass appeal. There are now 33 episodes on the Pints & Politics website. In addition to the 21 candidate interviews, there are panel discussions on local politics, and campaign launch speeches from Therrien and Bennett.
My conclusion in talking with these 21 candidates is that Peterborough is blessed to have so many smart and accomplished citizens willing to run for office. I interviewed candidates I was thoroughly prepared to dislike because of their perceived political allegiances; I discovered they had much to teach me. My only regret is that now I wish I could vote for two candidates in every ward. Contrary to Doug Ford, I believe we need more councilors, not fewer.
Bill Templeman is the host of Pints & Politics, a Trent Radio show on 92.7 FM every Wednesday at 9 p.m. This show is also available anytime as a podcast at

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Is strategic voting dead in Peterborough?

GUEST COLUMN: Politics, next to hockey, is the closest thing we have to a blood sport in Canada


Strategic voting is viewed with contempt and hope, often by the same people. We hate it and love it, all at once. As political debate in Canada becomes more polarized, and the prospect of more minority victories at all levels increases, the need for voters across the political spectrum to cooperate becomes ever more urgent. Right-of-centre voters unsuccessfully tried strategic voting in the '90s, only to discover the necessity of merging under Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party in 2003. Left-wing voters voted strategically to defeat Harper and elected the Liberals in 2015.
Is this why strategic voting still around? According to Tim Etherington on the Pints & Politics podcast of June 27 (, strategic voting becomes an attractive default when…
(1) …voters on either side of the political spectrum think they must unite to defeat a common adversary. This happened in Peterborough federally in 2015 as some Green and NDP supporters voted for Maryam Monsef
(2) …it represents a means to an end to bring in electoral reform. For those voters, strategic voting is aimed at achieving electoral reform
Strategic voting is a consequence of our first-past-the-post electoral (FPTP) system. If we had some form of proportional representation, strategic voting would disappear. Did strategic voting make a difference in the local 2015 federal election? Monsef probably would have won without it. The test will be in the October 2019 federal election, when Green and NDP enthusiasm for strategic voting — voting Liberal — will be diminished. Which brings us to this June's provincial election results:
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives won this riding with 22,939 votes. The NDP came in a close second at 20,745 votes, only 2,194 votes behind, while the Liberals came in a distant third at 15,029 votes, almost 8,000 votes behind the Conservatives and 5,716 votes behind the NDP. The Greens came in fourth at 2,055.
Eric Grenier's Poll Tracker, the most reliable aggregation of polling data available (, showed the PCs and the NDP trading the lead from May 25 to Election Day. On June 6, Grenier's projections stood at 38.7 per cent for the PCs, 35.5 per cent for the NDP and 19.6 per cent for the Liberals. Clearly the strategic vote in Ontario to stop Ford had to be NDP.
But that's not what happened. Just over a week before the election, the Ontario Liberal Party issued a directive to all their candidates to release the following claim. In our riding, this directive took the form of a letter signed by Liberal candidate Jeff Leal: "One thing is absolutely clear — here in Peterborough-Kawartha the race is going to be tight ... Internal numbers show our riding is a race between the Liberals and the Conservatives ... it's going to come down to progressives uniting behind my candidacy to defeat Doug Ford…"
Was this letter persuasive enough to convince 2,194 undecided voters to throw their support behind the Liberals? We'll never know. With this letter, the Liberals claimed to have the one thing that undecided voters were searching for: Hard data on which to make their difficult strategic voting decisions.
Which party had the best chance of stopping Dave Smith and his PCs? What methods were used to collect these "internal numbers?" How many people were polled? What did the local Liberal team know about the development of these "internal numbers?" None of these vital details were ever released. The local Liberal campaign team claimed that they had talked to 30,000 voters and knew their voting intentions. Their posts on social media are still there. What happened?
There are only three explanations: (1) the polling firm — or campaign workers — who came up with these numbers were wildly incompetent, (2) many voters changed their minds in the polling booth and voted NDP anyway, or (3) these internal numbers were fabrications.
Leal's letter was enough to make NDP supporters who held their noses and voted Liberal federally in 2015 absolutely livid. But extreme partisanship can be a dangerous drug for anyone, regardless of party affiliation. Liberals felt just as angry, for different reasons: "We are the Natural Governing Party in Peterborough! How dare you NDP dimwits claim to be the only option? If you had voted strategically, Jeff Leal would still be our MPP and Ford would not be premier!" Their Twitter hashtag was #itsgottabejeff. It wasn't Jeff. It was never going to be Jeff this time. Not by a long shot.
To be fair, this is what all campaign teams must do. Every campaign team on earth needs to believe that they will win, especially when all the evidence shows that they are going to lose. It's a tough game. Politics, next to hockey, is the closest thing we have to a blood sport in Canada. There is tripping, holding and fighting in hockey; there is deception, dishonesty and lying in politics. If you want to play either game, don't say you weren't warned.
Local campaign teams must believe the directives that come from head office. Nonetheless, these tactics may have discouraged some undecided strategic voters from shifting their votes to the NDP.
Where does all this leave us in Peterborough- Kawartha? Is strategic voting dead? Perhaps. Strategic voting in our riding usually means "vote Liberal." On June 7, the shoe had to go on the other foot. Not enough Liberal and Green voters tried to put it on. When the call goes out from the Liberals in the fall of 2019 to rally around Monsef/Trudeau to defeat Skinner/Scheer, how many strategic voters will stand up to be counted?
Or is this the wrong question? Is strategic voting not only a wrong game plan, but by placing our faith in elections, are we all playing the wrong game? Are the major issues our day — economic disparity, job losses due to technology, resource depletion, and climate change — really going to be resolved by governments, or are they going to resolved by self-organizing citizens from across the political spectrum who come together because they know their governments are incapable of making long-term changes that stretch far beyond the 4-year election cycle?
In 50 years, when future historians sit down to explain the politics of the first two decades of this century, what will they make of the arcane election strategy we call "strategic voting?" A key to solving world problems or an outmoded reaction to a dysfunctional electoral system?
Bill Templeman is a local writer and consultant.

Friday, December 29, 2017

To see my book, click here  then click on the Google Preview button to browse the first 25%. Find me via email: info(at)ascentassociates(dot)ca or visit my web site or blog 


The dead of a Peterborough winter. Snow, slush, grey, wet, bitter cold; all these are the benchmarks of our short days and long nights. Underfoot, gravel, filthy ice, cigarette butts, and frozen dog shit in sedimentary layers pave our buckling sidewalks. Spring sunlight and greenery are all too remote to be imagined. So we retreat to our screens, our friends, our families, and to whatever sustenance we can find in music. Is it not a glorious accident that ReFrame, Peterborough’s brilliant documentary film festival, always falls at exactly the midpoint of winter? If we can make it to ReFrame at the end of January, we can make it through the gloomy season.
I’ve tried all these coping strategies; they all help. But none of these distractions come close to my drug of choice: I watch NHL hockey. Even more incriminating, I am an unrepentant Habs fan.
Back in the day, such a hockey confession would be like blurting out that I couldn’t wait for the next WWE Smackdown during a seminar on Shakespeare’s sonnets. In my university days, hockey was seen as very uncool; a guarantee of permanent, woebegone celibacy. Only the seedy regulars in dingy bars watched hockey. Everyone else had better things to do on a winter evening.
Then, sometime around the millennium, the heavenly constellations shifted. Rule changes made the game faster. Better refereeing eliminated the tedious clutch-and-grab play. And the pros began playing beautiful hockey again, albeit sporadically. Who can forget Canada—5 USA—2, at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics?
While there is still much to loathe about the NHL, in Peterborough, as in the rest of Canada, hockey is many things.
First, hockey is a business. The bulbous salaries of the players are obscene. Tickets to games in top-market cities like Toronto require a bank loan. The schedule is far too long: hockey in April, OK, but not hockey in June. There are too many trades. The fact that cities like Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and now Las Vegas have NHL hockey teams while Regina, St. John’s, Quebec City, and Halifax do not speaks to the power of the dollar to control who sees the game. Given the speed and size of the players, the rinks are too small. But larger rinks are not built because of costs.
Hockey is a reflection of our national culture, warts and all. The crowd cheers for the crushing checks and fights. The game is far too gladiatorial; there are too many malicious hits to the head. Rough play too often stifles skilled, smaller players. The ethos of today’s hockey promotes dubious cultural linkages with a faux nationalism that, in the rants of Don Cherry, gives voice to a jingoistic celebration of so-called Canadian values that is truly cringe-worthy. Occasionally, Coaches Corner on Hockey Night in Canada is indistinguishable from Fox News. Of course, Cherry is free to indulge in his right-wing advocacy from his TV pulpit, but could he focus more on the performance of the right-wing (and other) players on the ice and less on the right-wing politicians he loves to promote?
NHL hockey is environmentally unsustainable. Hockey used to be played outdoors on natural ice. That was before global warming changed the rules. Now, the environmental footprint of the NHL is atrocious. Flying around North America to play hockey on artificial ice in cities with palm trees in winter is ludicrous.
Hockey is about drama. If there is compelling storyline between two evenly matched teams, as during a playoff elimination game, then a hockey game can transcend all our expectations. Such a game can produce a dramatic moment that even Shakespeare cannot touch. We watch a play for the performance, despite the fact we know the ending. But we don’t know the ending of a decisive hockey game between two great teams. On September 28, 1972, the iconic William Hutt was performing a matinee of King Lear at Stratford, when he turned to his audience after the storm scene on the heath and brought the house down with these simple words: “Ladies and gentlemen, Canada has just defeated Russia, 6 to 5.” Hutt later said that it was the largest round of applause he had ever heard in a theatre.
But most of all, hockey was be the game of our childhoods. Our nostalgia for the hockey we knew as children gets roughed up by the realities of the hockey we know as adults. Adult cynicism trumps childhood wonder.
Still, when I remember growing up in Montreal, hockey was my religion. The last organized, league team I played for was the Montreal West Central Pee-Wees back in the 50s. Someone’s father knew someone high up at Molson, which meant that my team—privileged anglo kids from the suburbs, oblivious to the gifts of class—got to play its final playoff game early one Sunday morning at the Montreal Forum, the Temple Mount of hockey for a kid.
After the game, we wandered around the cavernous old building unsupervised. I felt as if I had broken into a cathedral. Complete silence. Down one corridor we saw a bright room open with all the lights on. A salty smell in the air. We walked in. The sweaters from the previous night’s game were hanging up to dry, names and numbers facing out: Olmstead 15, Bouchard 3, Lach 16, Plante 1, Harvey 2 and Richard 9…. We had stumbled into the Canadiens’ dressing room. This was the Holiest of Holies. I remember seeing the quote from John McCrae’s Flanders Fields painted on the wall above the sweaters: “To you from failing hands we throw / The torch; be yours to hold it high.”
We touched nothing; we told no one.
Does hockey still matter? Probably not. Its time has passed. Or has it? Would a ten-year-old today feel the same way about seeing the Habs’ or Leafs’ dressing room? My reverence for the game may be dated. But the idealized mythology of hockey still exists on an organic level—despite the big business, digital swirl, and politics of hockey. It’s just that today’s fan culture uses different codes. The lyricism of the game is still there. Magic can still happen on the ice if only we let ourselves see it.

Friday, August 11, 2017


Why we need to break out from the Hunter Street Bubble

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Sitting on the patio at the Only on Hunter Street on a warm summer evening, cold drink in hand, indie tunes wafting across Jackson Creek from the Garnet, and a gallery of friendly faces in the crowd, you may be forgiven for concluding that Peterborough is the best small city in Ontario: all around you, you see people having an awesome time; they look stylish, interesting, and in love with life. An intriguing mist of evanescent pheromones hangs in air, like subtle perfume. Beware! You are falling prey to the seductions of the Hunter Street Bubble.
When you are in the Bubble, especially at the Only, all of Peterborough is cool and hip.
The craft beer you are quaffing is a gateway drug for this delusion. Hunter Street is the home turf of the alleged Usual Suspects. This alluring hipster paradise is particularly dangerous to aspiring election candidates; Peterborough is far more than the Hunter Street Bubble. I learned this the hard way when I ran for council in 2014.
If you watch City Council meetings, you have heard the Usual Suspects making presentations; these are the advocates for an array of good causes: progressive urban planning, better cycling infrastructure, and more action on poverty, to name a few. Some City Hall politicians believe that there are only about 50 activists in town who stand in the way of getting things done. An accurate view or a manipulative dismissal?
Now it is time to pay your tab, sober up, and head to the suburbs.
You will soon find other bubbles of which you are not a member. That’s fine, because you may not like them. What you may not know is how much they don’t like you. Fans of the Hunter Street Bubble tend to live downtown, be anarchists or at least left-of-centre, and be suspicious of unrestrained economic growth.
But the Usual Suspects aren’t a coordinated resistance to all the growth projects being planned by the business community and their allies at City Hall. There is only convenient stereotyping that some use to polarize debates and obfuscate issues. All sides play this game.
Resistance to mainstream policies has deep, partisan roots in Peterborough’s downtown political culture: the Save PDI campaign, the battle to stop the Parkway, the No Casino debate, the fight to save PCVS, the three Monsef campaigns, and the most recent provincial, federal, and particularly municipal elections. Advocates of growth see these resisters as idealistic fools, as tree-huggers with no understanding of how the real world works, and as professional citizens big on criticism but short on positive solutions.
In fact, many of the Usual Suspects who speak up at City Hall own homes, have careers, and hold investment portfolios. They favour smart growth, not growth to the exclusion of everything else. But they have short fuses for backroom deals that benefit those in high places. They are quick to accuse councillors of perceived conflicts of interest before researching all the facts.
The Usual Suspects are maligned, and not always unfairly, as being unduly partisan.
Some local media reporters pounce on this adversarial tendency. Other journalists take a more nuanced approach; they point out the inconsistencies on all sides over controversial issues while at the same time being careful not to annoy City Hall. The advocates of growth are correct in pointing out that the Hunter Street Bubble activists can be horrifically elitist. How often do the hipsters on the patio at the Only have conversations with the homeless on George Street before advocating on their behalf?
So are the Usual Suspects just a metaphor, an identity for a group that doesn’t exist? Whether you consider yourself an activist or not, all you can really control is how your thinking shapes your actions. Those activists inside the Hunter Street Bubble do not do themselves any favours with their stereotyping of the politicians and business leaders they dislike. And they can be intensely exclusionary. How often do known Conservatives drop by the Only? Hardly ever. Why? Ask them.
The 2014 Municipal Election taught us that elections are more about personality and neighbourhood credibility than they are about policies. Sure, policy statements matter. As a candidate, I developed policy statements that were part of my campaign in Northcrest. One of these policies was No Parkway. A mistake? Policies, at least at the municipal level, pale in importance when compared to personal profile, community service, and the strength of community relationships. Relationships, particularly relationships based on trust built up over years of community service, matter far more than policies. Northcrest, as it turned out, wanted the Parkway. I was a downtowner running in the ‘burbs. An unknown. An outsider. I lost.
How well do the Usual Suspects manage their relationships with other groups, like the business community?
Not very well. As citizens, we can choose to perpetuate this animosity, or not. Sure, let’s all work hard to elect a better City Council next year. But can we do this while turning down our contempt for the other side? This year’s Official Plan Review will be another opportunity to reach out to those we don’t agree with and together paint a compelling picture of an aspirational Peterborough of the future. These arch enemies in politics may be our customers, our employers, our students, our neighbours, and members of our families. Together we have to make this community work.
Bill Templeman is a facilitator, career counselor and staff development consultant; he also delivers seminars on teamwork. Bill has lived in town since 2000. In 2014 he ran for City Council in Northcrest.

Drumlins, delusions and Good Samaritans: Cycling 100 km in Peterborough County

Never underestimate the power of the ego to inflict suffering, exhaustion and athletic humiliation upon its host. Last Sunday, I did the Shimano Route 2 bike ride, the 100 km. My first-century ride of the season. Today, I am still stiff, lethargic and oozing in profound reverence of my own stupidity. This ride goes north through Lakefield to Stoney Lake, east to Crowes Landing, south on Road 40, then west on Webster Road, then back to Peterborough. On a map, the route looks like a compressed square with a few short sides and one long side, the slog back home.

I thought I was ready. I had done a dozen 30 km rides. I had replaced the drive train on my elderly touring bike and had put on new tires. Like me, my bike's best days are now past, but I can still keep up with slow group rides. As a lifelong weekend warrior, I usually muddle through.

The countryside east of here is a drumlin plain; retreating glaciers left long hummocks of gravel. Cycling on a north-south axis through a drumlin plain, you ride a series of long gentle inclines, long summit plateaus then gradual declines on which you can fly downhill in top gear, feeling much fitter than you really are. When you cross a drumlin plain on an east-west axis, there are many more steep inclines and declines, albeit shorter. This was the long side of my route back home. Here is where I committed the Ultimate Cycling Sin: I walked up a few of these hills, only to fly down the other side and have to trudge up the next one. But I was alone. No saw this shameful cowardice.

My map told me there were many "towns" along my route. But I assumed that the towns on the map, places like Galesburg, Gilchrist Bay, Clarina, Centre Dummer, Cottesloe and Guerin had at least a corner store. No. Many were just a few houses. It was odd to be biking through un"‹-populated mixed bush or farmland and not see any public land. The frequent NO TRESPASSING/PRIVATE LAND signs meant I had two options: stop on the shoulder to rest, or keep cycling.

At the 70 kilometer point, my bike began to feel like a torturer's rack. My neck was stiff, my hands ached, my tail bones stung, and my thighs burned."‹And I had run out of water. "‹Had I had taken on a ride I wasn't ready for?

I thought about stopping at a farmhouse for water, but I kept thinking that the next town would surely have a store. Wrong. Eventually, I stopped in the shade to lie down. A Good Samaritan stopped her car and asked if I was all right. After all, there I was, sprawled out at the side of the road like a flaccid jellyfish beached at high tide, helmet off, my bike flat on the ground. I said I was fine; then confessed that I was out of water but that I was close to Peterborough. She said I was still half an hour away; then she mercifully thrust a bottle of water on me. I thanked her profusely but did not think to pay her. She drove off. Only later did I think of taking a picture to somehow thank her.

Memo to self: Next year, before trying another 100-km ride, do a dozen or so 30 km rides, then do a few 50s, then a few 60s, then an 80-km ride or two. Or rest on my laurels, the last refuge of aging weekend warriors everywhere.

Bill Templeman is a local writer, and consultant; he is still in denial about the passage of time upon his fading athletic prowess.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Commencement Address to the Graduating Class of 2017

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Bill Templeman, June 3, 2017
Each year at this time the rich and famous are called upon to bestow a little wisdom to the new flock of graduates who are about to be ejected, utterly unprepared, into the trench warfare of life. As Margaret Atwood said in a commencement address she gave years ago: "Even in the best of times, it (graduating) is more or less like being pushed over a cliff, and these are not the best of times."
Oh, for the sweet chance to dispense a bit of free advice to this captive audience! If only I could give a commencement address....
But I am neither famous nor rich. So, in spite of my decades of diligent service at becoming who I am today, fame has successfully eluded me. I will never be called upon to give a commencement address.
Too bad. Faced with the gap between my pent-up urge to be a commencement speaker and the continued lack of demand for my services, I will have to be content with this address in absentia.
Herewith is my address to the Graduating Class of 2017:
Dear Graduates, Family Members, and Friends:
Beware of fossils like me who are too eager to dispense free advice. Don't listen to what they say about the tangibles -- careers, money and technology. But stay open what they may say about the intangibles -- love, birth, death, the passage of time, taking risks, making decisions and living life on purpose. Remember that you are not the first person in the universe to be young and to face the decision of what to do with your life.
Look in a mirror. What do you see? Whatever you see, know that this is the probably the best message a mirror will ever send you. From here on, gravity will begin to charge hefty interest. Make no mistake about it. This is your finest hour. It won't last.
Keep staring at that mirror. Now that I have told you that you won't be young forever, consider your priorities. Do things soon that the young do best. Like traveling abroad on the cheap. Or living on Kraft Dinner in a garret as you learn your art, master your field or pursue your dreams. Or climbing high mountains. Or saving the world. Get your adventure juices going and do not postpone them. If you have wanderlust, then now is the time to wander. So do the young things now. Your career can wait.
Remember what I just said about putting your career on hold? Maybe I'm wrong. You can only put your life on hold for so long. Every college town has a scattering of lost souls who never left. They delayed life's decisions for as long as they could until they ran out of time. It's really cool to be in limbo at 23. It's not so cool at 45. Some of the important things to do when you are young- like graduate school or starting a career that needs to be started young, are also things that may restrict your ability to enjoy your youth. Does this contradict what I said earlier?
Living with contradiction is a life-skill you better cultivate in a hurry.
Do not worship other people. They are not you. You have come into this existence with a unique set of gifts. Your challenge is to discover these gifts, explore them with passion and share them with the world. You are not here to fit into others' expectations of what you should be or mold yourself in their image. You are here to become you. Get on with it!
Right now you are on your way up and you believe the world had better make room for you. If only it was true. In fact, the world doesn't give a stinking toot about you.
You will have to make your own breaks. You alone are responsible for your own progress.
Another thing: Though no one else will do this for you, you can't do this alone. You will need your friends. Friendship is like oxygen. You can't see it, but it keeps you alive at all times. Cheat on sleep but do not cheat on your friends. Treasure them. In the end, they will be like a prudent government bond fund. Nothing flashy, but immensely sustaining over the long-term
Question your own assumptions. If you believe a 9-to-5 job is not for you, find out why. You may be right. Or you may be kidding yourself
Beware of ideology posing as reason. Learn how to tell the difference and do not trust those who would counsel you not to do your own thinking.
Regarding politics and saving the world: You will probably have no effect on the unfolding of reality or the Big Picture of History. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try. However, while you may not be able to alter reality, you can alter your attitude towards it. Paradoxically, this alters reality. Try it and see.
Take smart risks. Risk getting to know what you really want to do then risk going for it. Don't compromise your dreams. Ever.
Bill Templeman "skipped his graduation ceremonies, opting to receive his degrees by mail.

Peterborough Deserves Better Civic Engagement

I approach the speaker’s podium. A hush spreads over the hall. “Please state your name and your address.” I comply. “Thank you. You have seven minutes; you will be given a warning when you have one minute left.” I am about to take part in a ritual that is at once sacred and meaningless: I am about to make a citizen delegation—a presentation—to Peterborough’s City Council.

Why sacred? Civic engagement is one of the pillars of municipal democracy. A moment of silence is observed before these meetings. Flags are on display. The National Anthem is sung. These ceremonies send a message: “What we do here matters. Respect us and respect our rules. This is sacred space.”

Why meaningless? These delegations frequently happen after council members have decided how they are going to vote. Delegations from the public are often heard directly before a final discussion and the vote in council. The councillors are merely going through the motions to satisfy a procedural requirement of local and provincial law. The decision in question likely has already been made.

“Thank you for your presentation. Any questions for our presenter?” (a brief pause as the chairperson’s eye sweeps the council) “Seeing none, I thank you.” I shuffle back to my seat, chuffed to have spoken up, but angry. I know none of this matters. At all.

Why is civic engagement in such a dismal state in Peterborough?

How can all of us, the City and its citizens, move beyond the current tone of mistrust and divisive partisanship? How can we make these rituals come alive again? How can we make civic engagement matter? We have a representative democracy; our councillors make decisions on our behalf. While they listen to us, in the end, they decide, not the citizens. If we don’t like their decisions, every fourth year we can elect different councillors. Direct democracy, as practiced in ancient Athens, had citizens making all the decisions. Given the pace of modern life, most of us do not have the time, interest, or ability to study all the issues. We need to embrace the best of representative democracy, then open the windows and let the fresh air and sunshine in. We need open democracy. Here are some practical, low-cost steps City Council could take to really improve the way the City engages with its citizens:

Release key reports issues 10 days prior to the meeting at which delegations are to be heard and a vote held.

Frequently these reports are released only four days before an issue is voted upon, not enough time for citizens to prepare for effective delegations.

Invite citizens into the decision-making process much earlier by welcoming delegations or convening discussions at the outset of deliberations, instead of right before the final vote.

In the campaigns over issues such as the Casino, the Parkway, and PDI, many talented volunteers with substantial experience spoke up. Why not let City Council take advantage of this free expertise?

Redesign the City’s website and enhance its social media posts so that the public knows when decisions are being made and what the opportunities are for citizen input.

Right now, from a civic engagement perspective, the City’s website is a labyrinth of daunting complexity. The site should be thoroughly searchable via keywords, not just report numbers.

Allow real, two-way conversations between citizens and council members.

Delegations are one-way. A citizen can present, councillors can then ask questions, but there’s no dialogue. These conversations need to be between large numbers of citizens and all councillors, not one citizen at a time, standing like a condemned prisoner before a firing squad. Trained city staff or citizen groups like Reimagine Peterborough could facilitate these large conversations. A broader use of citizen advisors, as described in the 
Planning Act’s newly mandated role for citizens on committees, could improve civic engagement.

Augment the content of staff reports to include the concerns of a broader range of citizens.

Currently, all staff reports address financial implications. How about including standard sections on implications for environmental and community resilience?

Set up a way for citizens with a specific interest or area of concern to register with City Hall.That way, they could receive all notices and reports related to their area of concern by email.

Better civic engagement would make for better decisions and ultimately more effective governance. The Parkway Extension is now stalled because civic engagement was seen as a nuisance. Defiant citizens responded accordingly and petitioned the government to intervene. Now that project is in limbo, perhaps never to be implemented; a lack of positive civic engagement has costs.

The City has learned from this mistake; the public consultations held prior to the PDI vote were far more robust. City staff and PDI executives were on hand to answer questions. Consultants were hired to survey citizens. While these PDI consultation sessions were also, like the Parkway consultations, largely sales promotions, nonetheless attempts were made to at least acknowledge the importance of civic engagement.

Peterborough deserves better civic engagement. Right now, citizens and councillors talk past each other, not questioning, not listening, and not understanding the other side. We need to have real conversations, not staged confrontations. We need to tell our councillors we want more open civic engagement. Enhanced civic engagement must become an issue in the 2018 election.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Surviving PPDD (Post Peterborough Dialogues Depression): How the Peterborough Dialogues Drove Me Crazy

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Bill Templeman, June 5, 2015
With ionospheric expectations, I joined the Peterborough Dialogues in April.  My full exuberance unleashed, I leapt into my first Saturday morning dialogue, ready for an instant conversion experience.  At last, a place to build community!  At last, a forum in which to find co-conspirators to advance my revolutionary plots!  Somewhere to be and someone to do it with.  Intoxicating phrases burbled like vintage wine from the skillful tongues of our charismatic hosts: ‘let’s hold this field’, ‘let’s create a space’, ‘let’s share our gifts and offerings’, ‘let’s go with the energy in the room and see where it takes us’. It all sounded so optimistic, so positive and oh, so easy.  I really didn’t have to do much. All I had to do was show up, participate, and all manner of warm and fuzzy treasures would spontaneously spring forth, like hot, buttery popcorn, into my lap.  I had reached for what I assumed would be a paper cup of Kool-Aid and discovered instead a crystal goblet of fine Chablis.  I was an easy drunk. 
Ten weeks later, bitter reality has set in.  The earth has not moved.  The fine Chablis turned out to be grape Kool-Aid after all.  I’ve sobered up.  The issues that brought me to the Dialogues are still unresolved.  I made a few connections, but everyone has busy lives and the way forward is murky.  Why the let-down?  
First, a confession: I am a survivor of a stifling education system that does a pretty thorough job of eradicating the notion of having any agency over my own learning.  Not only did I go through elementary and high school, but then I succumbed to 8 years of post-secondary schooling that burdened me with two degrees and a teaching certificate.  To add to this millstone of sin, I taught school for 6 years and still teach contract courses at Fleming College.  So I am very skilled in matters of passive education.  I can dissolve your motivation and bore you to exhaustion with the worst of them. But what has this sorry tale of woe got to do with my bad case of PPDD?
Simply this:
I have forgotten how to learn.  I have heard (and voiced) a number of dis-satisfactions with the Dialogues.  In my case, these complaints boil down to issues of my own agency.  I have forgotten that I am in charge.   If I could press ‘rewind’ on my life, go back to April and restart the Dialogues, I would memorize the following the following 8-Step PPDD-Prevention Protocol:
·         I am responsible for my own learning
·         If I want something to happen, I must make it happen
  • I have agency
  • "Someone should" is henceforth banned from my vocabulary
  • We co-create our logistics.  Ptbo Dialogues Hosts are equal players, not Ringmasters
  • The Hosts provide the kitchen and the pots.  I have to make the stew myself
  • If I make a commitment, I need to keep that commitment
  • This is not like school  -- the learning happens bottom-up, not top-down
My hope is that this 8-Step Process will help other PPDD sufferers come to terms with their own afflictions.  Don’t let the Dialogues get you down!  I have a hunch, and I am pretty sure I am right on this one; there are lots of other kindred spirits out there.  We are not alone; together, we can rise up and take charge.  There is hope.  There is a cure.  But we’ve got to do it for ourselves.