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thoughts on life, parenting, news, and crazy shit

Month: March, 2021

Surprise, surprise, the vaccination process is a mess too.

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SOMEONE has to help me understand this ridiculous dumpster fire of a vaccination rollout.

As with everything in this province introduced by this poorly prepared, short sighted and self congratulatory, Trumpesque government, the delivery of vaccines has fallen somewhere between an inconsistent process and a total mess.

All over social media we are hearing that some people are in and out in 30 minutes, while others wait in hours long lineups snaking through super centres and all the way across city blocks outdoors.

I keep reading that those who are visiting pop up sites in smaller communities like Morden are having positive experiences (thank god!) while those who are booking their appointments here in the city are absolutely not. Anyone with some reasonable vision could see from the beginning of the organization of such large scale vaccination sites were going to be a nightmare and they were better off with smaller scale, local community sites that served smaller populations.

Hey! Wait! Local administration works better than a large centralized one? Sounds familiiar-*throat clears* Bill 64– but that is a different post.

So my Dad had his appointment yesterday in the late afternoon. He arrived 20 minutes prior to his appointment to be sure he had time to check in. When he got there, the lineup outside the Convention Centre was a couple blocks long. In 80 km/hr wind gusts. It took about 30 minutes just to get inside the building. For the next hour he gradually moved along like one bull in a cattle herd up and around all levels, until he finally reached the space where the vaccinations took place.

His comments: The amount of space dedicated for vaccine spots were only about half full. There about 4 times the amount of volunteers on crowd control then people available to administer the vaccines, which seemed useless because the paths were clearly marked. While the online booking system was seamless, the actual logistics of the site was poorly organized and managed, they booked way too many appointments for what they could realistically manage and in his words “whoever is responsible for the logistical design and process of the site should be fired”.

So, this is 5 days after the supposed “scheduling glitch” occurred and Dr. Reimer has assured us it had been rectified, with wait times back down to 10-20 minutes. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I suppose we could always decide to drive 3 hours round trip to Morden for a more positive experience. I mean, a smooth, well run operation designed to serve the local population, right there in the political base of the governing party? You don’t say.

I also enjoyed the Minister of Health’s video post over the weekend telling us what a great job she was doing getting Manitobans vaccinated. Really? We have more vaccines in storage than you can get into arms, we are about to lose the race against the variants, and you want us all to pat you on the back and say job well done? While you scream about Justin Trudeau and lack of vaccine supply? Last week we had received about 248K doses of vaccine, with about 157K administered. With ANOTHER 123K arriving this week? Over the weekend you managed to vaccinate something around 3000 people in total. Does that sound like we have a supply issue?

I’d argue that we have a competence issue, but that’s just me.

You want to figure out how to get as many people in and out in the shortest amount of time while keeping them happy? Someone get an Olive Garden Manager and a team of hosts in there and this problem will be cleared up before you can say Hospitaliano! (sarcasm- mostly)

Once you have emptied your freezers and have people waiting to book appointments, cry about supply as loud as you need to, and I’ll even cry with you . Otherwise, I’d suggest closing your mouth and fixing this latest mess.

If we could just get some accountability, some transparency or maybe even a little truth from our leaders right now, a lot of us would be a little less angry.

Don’t you guys care about us? Don’t answer that.

Throwing shade at parents who can’t afford to “make sacrifices” to do a School Trustee’s job for free is Pallister’s latest gross thing

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“A great many Manitoba parents who are heroic in their behaviour make the decision to back their kids in their pursuit of a better life through education…….made sacrifices to make sure they were involved in their children’s education, read to their children, made the sacrifice of learning themselves…..”

These are the words our Premier chose to use when asked about how parents facing various social barriers to becoming members of school councils are going to have equitable voices with the proposed changes of Bill 64. As Dougald Lamont so eloquently pointed out, many parents don’t speak English, or work long hours or multiple jobs to make ends meet, and the reality is that communities lower on the socio-economic scale will be disproportionately challenged to find enough parent resources to take on the new responsibilities proposed in Bill 64.

The statement above is insulting at best and shows a complete lack of understanding of the struggles of many people in this province. Coming from a place of extreme privilege and refusing to see this Province through anything other than is his narrow field of vision, the Premier seems to be only capable of speaking from his own life of comfort without expressing any empathy or understanding for those who do not.

The average price of a house in Winnipeg is almost $300,000 and the average cost for a 2 bedroom apartment in Winnipeg is almost $1,300/ month. Minimum wage is $11.90. From my calculations, if you work 40 hours a week, your gross income is about $1,900/ month. Even if there are two parents in the home, working full time you are grossing $3,800. BEFORE tax.

Let’s assume that the parents have 2 children. According to http://www.numbeo.com, the average cost of living per person in Winnipeg NOT INCLUDING RENT is $1,137.22. Multiply that by 4, and add in rent, and you get $5,848.

Tell me, Mr. Premier, which part of their well being should the parents “sacrifice” so that they can do the job of trained professionals for free, because you think that we are all just lazy fools who don’t love our children? Should one parent quit their job to “back their children” and either forgo food, shelter, heat, clothing or transportation?

Tell me again, Mr. Premier how two parents working multiple jobs in order to just be able to scrape by are supposed to sacrifice anything else than they already have to prove your ideals?

On a personal level, I have struggled with being a working parent. My particular field of work involves almost exclusively annual contracts that are not protected by labour laws and have no guarantee on renewal depending on individual clients, the economic climate and funding. I acknowledge that this comes with the advantage of being able to decide how much work to take on and being able to schedule ( to a small extent) around my husbands rotating shift work. But it also means I have no sick time and any work I do not complete has to be made up or refunded. We were extremely fortunate to have incredibly supportive family (parents and chosen) that minimized our childcare costs, but most people are not that fortunate.

And you know what? We still struggled financially at times, even with both of us earning decent livings. We still made sacrifices. I worked a part time job on the weekends as a bartender just to help things along. Doesn’t leave much time for developing public school curriculum and disciplining teachers for poor performance, despite my efforts to be a “heroic” parent and do it all.

And even though I said a million times that I would have loved the opportunity to stay home with our kids, there was absolutely no way that was financially viable without tossing us into a situation where we couldn’t pay what is considered a very modest mortgage and living expenses.

We are now middle class, hard working parents, live full and busy lives, give our children every opportunity we can afford, and the AUDACITY of this Premier to insinuate that we aren’t prepared to make enough sacrifices to enable our children’s ability to thrive by doing the work of paid experts for free is absolutely ABSURD.

Some of us can’t afford to turn down a shift, or not accept a new client, or take an unpaid day off to do the job of a public education trustee or superintendent because our premier wants to throw ignorant insults at us. For the kids who are not thriving in the system, it isn’t because their parents aren’t willing to make sacrifices for them, it’s because we live in a province where our Premier is actively stacking more barriers in front of them. All while he insults their commitment as parents and gives the same old “family values, pull up your bootstraps” speech every right winger likes to throw at anyone who has ever struggled with something other than deciding which Caribbean Island to buy a vacation home on .

This has got to stop, Mr. Premier. You are way out of line, and should be ashamed of yourself and your absolute arrogance on topics you seem to know little about.

A step by step review about the Better-Education-Starts-Today report: It mostly sucks, but has some valid points

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So, after reading through the “Better Education Starts Today” report I have a few comments. This whole thing has really chapped my ass if I’m being really honest, and I’m fairly sure I have only scratched the surface of the details. Not all of the changes are as fucking terrible as I thought they’d be, and a few actually make a bit of sense. Others are terrific conversation starters.

Really, that’s what this report should have been. A conversation starter. Instead, we have a Premier with an agenda that seems to include dismantling and privatizing a whole bunch of things before he retires. The scary thing is that for someone who we know is not actively seeking re-election and has a majority government, there is little accountability and those of us in opposition feel like we have no leverage to inspire a better way.

There is a lot to unpack here, but here are a few of the things in the report that stood out to me:

“With 37 different governing bodies it was difficult to be agile and respond quickly, yet that is what Manitobans
expected and needed.”
(during Covid)

Excuse me, but teachers, parents and school administrators cried, begged for, screamed for and deserved real direction from the province about how to address the lockdowns, school reopening, lack of resources, lack of space, lack of unity, lack of competency and apparent lack of fucks given by our provincial government over the course of the pandemic. They literally just threw their hands in the air and told the divisions to figure out their shit, which left them scrambling and likely compromised safety for students and staff. But it was obviously because there were 37 divisions. WHAT SHIT.

“Parents and caregivers played an important role during COVID-19, yet they struggled to access information
about changes and to inform and influence decisions.”

We lacked access to information because our government didn’t provide what we needed. It constantly changed and contradicted itself and was confusing. The government had months to get their shit together and just did not do their job.

“COVID-19 affected student engagement and learning differently, and a one-size-fits-all approach will not work
now or for the future.”

Well, interestingly enough, that seems to be exactly what the government wants to do. Standardize every classroom. Standard test, standard methods. They want everyone to play the same game with the same amount of skill and talent, but some of kids are on astro-turf, some are on wet grass, some are in a fucking mud puddle and a whole bunch of others are almost underwater.

“Retain two boards to oversee the delivery of education: a newly created Provincial Education Authority
(appointed members)”

I am all for a provincial education board as long as the representatives are education professionals that are NOT appointed by the governing political party, but rather nominated by the Manitoba Teacher’s Society and elected by them AND have specific terms of service.

“Manitoba needs a fair and sustainable funding model. We are the only province to set taxes at the school division
level. This means some divisions collect more revenue than others. Since education property taxes comprise 42%
of all education funding it leads to disparities in funding for schools and outcomes for students.”

This is so fucking stupid and such an easy fix. Taxes in general are collected on a rate level, either a portion of your income or according to property values. Continue to collect taxes in the same manner, but divide it equitably among the divisions. Meaning that (CLUTCHING PEARLS) those who are more well off will be supporting those who aren’t, levelling the playing field. Part of the price of living in a nicer, bigger house is that you will have to help to care for the well being of others less fortunate. All in the name of standardized education.

“To improve student outcomes, the Commission recommended focusing on deep implementation of the existing
K to 12 curriculum, including a focus on foundational knowledge, skills and abilities students should have when
they finish high school”

Ok so, this is a terrific goal. EVERYBODY wants the kids to succeed and improve. You know what helps kids learn? Not being hungry, or sad or scared or hurt. Anyone who has ever worked with children should understand that children who don’t have their basic needs addressed will struggle no matter how many curriculum meetings you have or how often you discipline a teacher. Address the poverty, address the social issues, and the children will have a better chance to succeed.

Not only that, but find creative ways to teach the same concepts and skills and help kids develop good learning behaviours. Make music study a priority in early years to support literacy and numeracy while giving children the ability to focus and develop consistent work habits. Help them WANT to come to school.

“Learning environments for Indigenous students must infuse culturally and evidence-informed strategies that
embed Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. Students need to see themselves reflected in the space
and in the texts they interact with by incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and being in classrooms. “

This is one part of the report I mostly agree with. I would argue that this education needs to be included in all curriculum to create empathy and understanding of Indigenous issues so that we can begin to change the perception and see the value in the culture and traditions of our Indigenous peers.

“Establish a taskforce, in connection to the Poverty Reduction Strategy, to examine the linkages between
poverty and education and support the implementation of strategies to improve engagement and outcomes
for all students.”

THIS. Nothing should really be moving forward until this happens and there are clear goals and plans in place to reduce poverty in this province. Otherwise we will chase our tails for the rest of ever.

“Build a provincial system of remote learning”

Well they’ve finally seen the light have they? There are many situations where a child may need to be out of school for a while, a parent may not be equipped to homeschool and they need education support. This should have been in place in September 2020, but what the fuck do I know? I’m just a a lowly potential candidate for a community council….

“In recognition of the importance of local voice in education, Bill 64 incorporates a number of changes to increase
parental and community engagement by replacing informal parent councils with a School Community Council
(SCC) for every school. The role of the School Community Council is to advise the school principal on school
matters, including the needs of the community it serves and strategies for improving student achievement and
well-being. All parents and caregivers of that school community will be members and they will elect an executive
to work with the principal on matters impacting the school community. This will require a renewed emphasis on
engaging parents and communities so that they are reflective of the diversity of schools.”

You guys, I just don’t know about this. I believe parents should have a voice, but I find it completely inappropriate to give parents this kind of leverage over the school. We should be able to trust the educators and the professionals to take care of our children the way they always have. And unfortunately this will not be the same opportunity across all communities. Parents who work shift work or single parents with young children will find it difficult to serve on these boards. Communities that have a lot of housing instability could potentially struggle with inconsistent representation and inability to make the commitments needed for these boards to be effective. It means that schools in highly privileged and wealthy areas will thrive in terms of their voice, and those who are already marginalized will not have a strong voice. It sounds like an enormous responsibility, the work is unpaid and the folks getting involved won’t necessarily know anything about classroom dynamics, structure or needs. And the thought of parents being able to discipline a teacher gives me the fucking willies. It’s inappropriate and foolish. A parent’s voice is important, but should not carry more weight than the professionals who dedicate their lives to our kids. What a joke.

Do better, Cliff. It’s a shit start with some actual potential. Hear what the critics are saying instead of what your puppet master is demanding.

A rant about the new Education Bill in Manitoba. {SPOILER} It’s not going to make anything better.

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Pardon me for not feeling like I can trust this government any more than than you could could trust me to leave the last shot of tequila for you, but this new education bill stinks to high Heaven.

In the guise of creating better educational outcomes for students in this province, and reallocating resources to the “front line” the province is going to create a centralized system that gives you little to no representation at the local level, other than a volunteer Community Council of parents who can have all the say in the world they want, but no voting power on issues that affect them individually.

Look, I am all for eliminating redundancies at the top and not paying 6 figure salaries to a bunch of people who have also failed to solve any of the short term or long term issues plaguing our educational system. That’s cool. Let’s stop talking about shit and actually go in and implement things and invest in the system.

But getting rid of elected representation in favour of a bunch of appointees who will probably have coincidentally contributed major funding to the political party in power is scary.

I kinda don’t give a shit what the report says. If they really want to know why the kids are “falling behind” go and spend a fucking week, a day, or an hour in some of our core area schools and you might get a real understanding of the social issues and barriers the kids face to getting a good education. If we continue to ignore that teaching the WHOLE CHILD is paramount to impacting their academic outcomes, we will continue to fail.

In Manitoba, where in some populations over 60% of children live in poverty, teaching the whole child includes feeding them, clothing them, and loving them. A child doesn’t give a fuck about learning to read when they wear sandals to school in -30C weather and haven’t had a decent meal in a million years. Unstable housing and food insecurity are problems that need solving before you can even hope to get their attention.

Once you do, you have to give them enough confidence to TRY.

Manitoba students rank the lowest in math and second lowest in reading. Meanwhile, a lot core schools don’t have enough funding to feed the kids AND provide arts programming. And you know what is one of the best precursors to numeric and phonetic awareness? MUSIC. And what is always the FIRST thing to be cut? Music.

This province needs to pull it’s head out its ass and think outside the proverbial box. Go ahead, cut the top salaries, but don’t start telling me that the representatives are going to be appointed by the government and any parent or school is going to have a real advocate. Don’t pretend for one second that I, as a parent, am going to have the same kind of access to have my concerns addressed trying to get in touch with the Minister of Education, rather than my local school trustee.

I fear that centralizing the system will allow those who are marginalized to shrink further and further into the background, while the kids with stable homes and parents who are available to advocate for their needs will be heard loud and clear. I fear that the kids who already have nothing will just drop out.

I fear that creating more standardized testing creates a situation where we are “judging a fish’s ability to climb a tree”, rather than nurturing relevant educational goals in specific communities.

I fear that the kids who learn atypically will suffer further losses to their support systems. I fear that this will be a total fucking disaster, while the government gives themselves three cheers for saving 40 million dollars in salaries, and hires a few more teachers for show.

Until I hear specific plans outlining HOW this is going to make it better rather than “we’ll save money” I’ll just assume that the whole idea is fucking bureaucratic nonsense.

BY THE WAY, saying “we estimate to save 40 MILLION DOLLARS” doesn’t sound like you intend to reinvest that money to front lines at all, CLIFF.

Apparently, Diva Cups and tampons ain’t got nothing on USB sticks in Manitoba

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Is anyone else confused about the statements made by the Hon. Cathy Cox when Uzoma Asagwara asked her whether or not the Conservative government would commit to making menstrual products accessible for all students in Manitoba Schools? The question was direct, but the answer seemed to be speaking about a completely different topic. Minister Cox rambled on about providing funding for USB data blockers to ensure safety while charging their computers or phones. As far as I know, no young woman has attempted to use a USB stick or a laptop as a substitute for a feminine hygiene product, and I am absolutely dumbfounded by the answer that was given.

Was this simply an avoidance tactic regarding a topic she had no satisfactory answer to, or does Minister Cox not know the difference between a vagina and a charging port? C’mon, honey….one is between your legs and the other is generally on top of a workspace. Unless…nevermind.

I mean, yes, they both have a few common characteristics. Both are holes that from time to time, need filling. One is typically smaller and more appropriate for the workplace. One is usually safe to play with in water, while the other may pose an unnecessary risk when wet.

Does anyone else feel a tad concerned that the Minister of “……and the Status of Women” was asked about the accessibility of menstrual products for students in our province, and she talked about keeping women safe from online dangers? Is it because of lockdown? Are the rules so strict that even Aunt Flo had to do virtual visits and Minister Cox is worried about women being conned by hackers?

Or am I missing the latest? I mean, is there some information available out there regarding the absorbency of USB sticks? Do they come in different sizes? Is there an applicator? Are they biodegradable? Can I safely use a data blocker on heavy flow days without worrying about leaks or embarrassing accidents? Will my IPhone help prevent toxic shock syndrome when safely charged?

Alternatively, perhaps Minister Cox felt uncomfortable with the topic. Perhaps she felt ashamed of menstrual cycles or didn’t want to offend any men in the room with period talk. Maybe the word vagina has been stricken from allowed language in the Legislature.

Or, maybe a tad more likely, there was an unwillingness by our government to address real concerns that are limiting to women, particularly those in challenging economic situations. Perhaps they forget that education is the best tool we have in preventing poverty cycles and that if young girls and women are having to miss school because they have their periods one week out of four, then in the spirit of equity we should support the solution- which is to make them available at school.

It really wasn’t a hard question, and the either ignorant or intentional avoidance of a conversation that should have been so obviously easy was fucking ridiculous.

DO BETTER.

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