Tag Archives: politics

Forgiveness is hard for me sometimes…

      I am a self-professed bleeding heart. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and I consider myself the queen of second chances. But I admit to having a hard time forgiving Wes McLean.

     This week the 31-year-old Victoria-Tobique MLA pleaded guilty to impaired driving.  He was fined $2,300 and was banned from operating any motor vehicle for a year.  He apologized to his family, friends and constituents and was remorseful in his acceptance of punishment.Image

     The charge stemmed from an incident last February. Police pulled McLean over in Edmunston. He was driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. This wasn’t just an extra beer. McLean was drunk. This is where my forgiveness gets a little fuzzy.

     Yes, he’s human. Yes, he’s young. Yes, he made a mistake and he’s really sorry.  But three times the legal limit isn’t a small lapse in judgment. To me, his decision to drive that day shows McLean has a huge character flaw – one that still astonishes me. At the age of 31, McLean is part of a generation (my generation) that has grown up in a time where drinking and driving was NEVER something deemed acceptable.He’s had a lifetime of MADD Canada ads, SAFE Grad events, and media bombardment of the serious dangers of drinking and driving.Image

     Yet, on a cold February day, after obviously having too many drinks, McLean, a member of our Legislative Assembly, a man who people in this region trusted and voted for, opened the door to his car, sat inside, put a key in the ignition and drove when he was in no shape to. McLean SHOULD have known better – and he didn’t. And that scares me.

     In my years as a reporter, I sat through multiple trials where THIS specific moment of stupidity and thoughtlessness has meant lives were irrevocably changed. People were killed, families were scarred, and those who caused this pain, while remorseful, were never truly able to make up for the life or lives they took.

     After hearing of McLean’s arrest I remember thinking “WHY BOTHER!!”  Seriously, think about it. If a young man like Wes McLean can make such an error in judgment – a man who, by all indications, follows media, knows the difference between right and wrong, has gained the trust of people, and had years of exposure to anti-drinking and driving campaigns – it makes me question where we’ve gone wrong?

     What have we not done that we should have?  What more should we do to convey the horrors – drinking and driving is serious – it kills – it is against the law – you should NEVER do this? It is when I try and answer these questions that I come to the conclusion that Wes McLean should not be forgiven easily.

     The fact is we HAVE done a lot – as a society we have educated our children, we’ve provided incentives through changes in court sentencing maximums to help deter people from getting behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking.  I think MADD Canada, high school anti-drinking ‘PARTY’ programs; SAFE grad events, media campaigns and law enforcement spot checks have been SPOT ON. These initiatives are making a difference.

     This is why I believe Wes McLean’s decision to get behind the wheel is more than just a mistake and shouldn’t be forgiven easily.

     I hope the government continues to exclude him from his legislative duties until his driving prohibition is completed. I hope that McLean continues to have to work and work hard to regain the trust of his constituents. I pray that this isn’t just a small ‘bump’ in his road – that his journey to forgiveness is arduous path.

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Photo credit: pcnb.ca

     His arrest, his record, and his punishment must be used as an example. We can’t be quick to forgive just because he’s young. In this case I believe we must make him work hard to regain our trust BECAUSE he is young – because he should have known better- because he was educated, because he was exposed to media campaigns, and provided with ample information to understand the consequences and, despite all of this, he STILL chose to get behind the wheel of the car.

      I’m not saying I will never forgive Wes McLean, but it will take a while. I firmly believe that when these kinds of mistakes are made – serious errors in judgment by educated people in positions of trust – the road to redemption SHOULD be a rocky one.

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MY BIG FAT LIFE: Theresa wonders what would happen if …

New Brunswickers head to the polls today. The election will pretty much come down to these two men. Today, Theresa ponders what it would be like if the province woke up tomorrow and had a 'Dallas' moment, where the recent election campaign was all just a big, bad dream...

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday September 27th, 2010

What would happen if we woke up tomorrow and realized the election campaign we’ve just endured was all just a bad dream and that the campaign was actually not over, but, in fact, just starting?

What would happen if the people asking for our votes decided not to make any promises? What if candidates started their campaigns off with a promise not to promise anything because our province is broke.

What if a main party stated, “If you vote us in, we first need to spend some time getting our finances back on track before we can promise anything?”

Imagine being told, “Hey, we don’t have much money so we’re just going to hold the line for a while, get a few smart economic and societal thinkers together to lend us their time and expertise, and then figure out the best action to take before we promise you anything.”

Just imagine.

It’s all about truth, but just like that famous line delivered by Jack Nicholson, politicians sometimes think, “You can’t handle the truth!”, especially when it comes to provincial or federal finances.

It’s our money. We’re not children. I think it would be easy to understand the basics if we were given the right information. Most of us already operate our own ‘government.’

Mind you our ‘government’ is a bit like a dictatorship, but when you look at the big picture, the running of this province, even the running of this country, is a lot like the running of our own family unit. We have those who make decisions and those who are impacted by those decisions.

When my husband was out of work, we sat down with the kids and in basic terms explained that as a family we have less to work with and that some changes have to be made.

We didn’t get to go to dinner as often, we cut out movie rentals for a long while, and there were no allowances for more than a few months. The kids easily understood and didn’t beg for things.

Our belt-tightening over the last two years went quite well. We didn’t lose the house, we didn’t have to sell a car, and we were able to keep our kids in their regular activities.

We also had to patch rust areas of our van ourselves, we didn’t get to reseed the lawn and we had to hold off on fixing a leaky sink. But we also didn’t hide these financial facts from our kids.

Why do the majority of the politicians, at all levels of government, keep numbers hidden? Even when information is released it’s usually compiled in such a convoluted manner that the regular tax-paying citizen can’t decipher what’s going on when it comes to the province’s (or our country’s) piggy bank.

This has always bothered me.

This scenario is partly our own fault, really. We’ve come to expect things in election campaigns. In some cases, we’ve demanded things. And sadly politicians know that. They correlate what they promise to the number of votes they think they’ll get. And we all lose.

They feel obligated to keep some financial situations hidden for fear of the political consequences. They have to backtrack on promises because they find out the real financial picture when they’re finally in office, and then try to spin certain financial realties so they can save face.

But then we blame them for not following through on impossible initiatives we’ve expected them to produce – sometimes forced them to create – and punish them for trying to cover things up so they don’t look bad for NOT following through.

We treat them like children in this respect, and sometimes they act the part, too.

But we’ve put them here. As a society, we’ve created this.

But it doesn’t have to continue. What if we stop trying to make political races come down to the almighty question, “What’s in it for me?”

What if we elect leaders based on integrity and trust and not who can promise the most or pay for the most political ads?

What if we tell them that the only way they’re going to get our vote is if they earn our trust? What if we tell them NO MORE PROMISES!

I’d love for someone in one of the major political parties to someday begin a campaign with, “I will not promise you anything but my dedication. I promise to do the best job I can. If I can’t do something on my own, I promise to work with anyone who can help me, no matter what their affiliation.”

Parliaments and legislatures should work better than they do.

Everyone – ministers, backbenchers, deputy ministers, prime ministers, premiers – needs to be up-front about our coffers, because the key word here is our – it’s our money.

It’s also our parliament and legislature, and we deserve better.

Just because someone is in opposition should not mean they oppose every good idea that comes across the floor.

That also goes for the party in power. Leaders need to stop shooting down private member bills that improve our situation based on the fact the idea has come from the ‘wrong side’ of the house.

Honestly, if a good bill is brought to the floor it should be passed, no excuses, because it’s to our benefit.

In the end, leaders who foster this kind of co-operation can easily take their record to the voters next time around and be proud of what they’ve accomplished.

Imagine how wonderful a campaign like that would be.

All a candidate would have to say is, “I’ve done everything I could for you and this province or this country. I’ve worked with people, no matter what their political stripe, to make things better for all of us.”

And if my fairytale ever comes true, guess who’d have my vote and my respect?

***

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE

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Column response: A local poltician completed my ‘informal’ survey.

I received this today – a response to my Monday column about provincial candidates looking for my vote.

******************************

Theresa:

I would like your vote in next Monday’s provincial election.

My name is Jeff Bradbury and I am the Liberal Candidate for the Woodstock riding.

I will answer your questions as honestly as I  can.

Volunteer Resume:

Relay for Life committee member,  last 3 years
Curl for Cancer Committee member, last 2 years.
Volunteer firefighter for the last 11 years.

Not a long list but the volunteer firefighter job is 365 days a year – so it takes a big commitment.

Financial Health:

Well,  I have been working since I was 15 so I know the value of a dollar.

I had a job up in Juniper for a while and I got laid off, so I know how to deal with setbacks.

Currently, if the lights are still on and the bank is still happy with me I’m a happy camper.

Elementary School Teachers:

I tried looking my elementary teachers up on line, but I had no luck.

Parents:

If you would like to talk with my parents I would be more than happy to send you a private note with their phone numbers.

Your importance in the eyes of at least one child:

I would like to think that I am an important person in the eyes of my step-daughter, Chloe.

I have tried to be a good role model for over the years.  She is currently in her second year of university at Mt. Allison.

Putting family first:

As far as putting my family first over any situation, I will do my best, but as you know,  the strains on public office is high.

Thank you:

In closing,  I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain myself.

Now I have a suggestion for you.

In a future article I think we need to discuss what happens when the political signs come down.

Do we talk to that P.C member or Alliance member?

I think this is why alot of good people with great ideas sit on the sidelines and never get involved publicly.

Sincerely,

JEFF BRADBURY

LIBERAL CANDIDATE, WOODSTOCK RIDING

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MY BIG FAT LIFE: When it comes to politics, Theresa thinks it’s time to get personal

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday September 20th, 2010

***Note: New Brunswickers will head to the polls for their  provincial election Monday, September 27th.

This is an open letter for people looking for my (or your) support on Sept. 27.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I understand you would like to represent us in the upcoming election.

I have a few questions I’d like you to answer.

First, I would like to see your volunteer resumé.

While I am interested in your working background, I’m more interested in seeing what work you’ve done when you haven’t been paid.

When have you volunteered your time for fundraising suppers and breakfasts?

Were you a scouting or guiding leader? Have you volunteered at a school, been a mentor, a Big Brother or Big Sister, or volunteered at your local food bank?

Have you ever run out of your home in the middle of the night to fight a fire?

I have always found those who give of their time freely, asking nothing in return, are hardworking, honest people who are in touch with the community on a much more intimate level.

They know who is in need; they understand how their neighbours in their community will react to budget cuts, tax increases and job losses. I also find volunteers are the most unselfish in this province – and I think you have to be unselfish to help run a province well.

Secondly, I would like you to please forward me a thumbnail sketch of your financial health, starting with your first year after high school.

I’m not really interested in how much you were paid and for what jobs, but would rather a resumé of sorts that outlines your ability to cope with financial fluctuations.

I need to know whether you’ve had to make a smaller grocery budget go further; if you’ve ever stretched yourself so thin you’ve had to declare bankruptcy after a layoff; if you’ve ever taken second jobs to make ends meet.

I’d like to know if you’ve ever told your children that everyone in the house needs to help out and that means no allowance for a while? Or if you’ve ever had a yard sale to help fund your kids’ school supplies?

Hardworking people who have known hard times are usually more empathetic when other people are experiencing financial difficulty.

They know the value of a dollar and are not afraid of hard work when it means saving their home from auction and keeping their family fed.

I think that any politician would benefit from this kind of experience when dealing with a province going through a recession.

I want to talk to your elementary and middle school teachers.

Were you a nice kid in school? Did you share your recess treat when a friend didn’t have one? Did you look out for younger students? Did you prevent someone from bullying another person? Were you kind?

How often did you say thank you when someone helped you out? How often did you forget to say thank you? Did you take part in extracurricular activities? Were you part of a team? Did you go door-to-door selling tickets or chocolate bars? Did you fundraise for the Terry Fox Run?

Did you ever help out with a school barbecue or special event? More importantly, did you stay and help clean up after?

How children treat people when parents are not around is a great indicator of what kind of adult you’ll grow up to be.

I’d also like to sit down and have a chat with your parents.

I think how you treat your kids is important, but how you treat your aging parents is even more important.

Have you helped them out recently? Have you mowed a lawn, fixed a fence, painted a few rooms for them?

Do you see them often? Do you call them regularly? Are you there for them when they’re lonely? Have you helped them remain independent and helped them stay in their own home? If they’re in a nursing home, do the attendants there know you by name?

A lot can be learned from a person based on how they care for those who helped them become who they are.

I’d like to find out if you are an important person in the eyes of at least one child.

When you’re at your kids’ soccer games, do you watch every second, or do you spend part of that time on your BlackBerry or iPhone?

How often do you tell your kids ‘just a minute’ when they ask you to play?

When was the last time you read to your child, or your nephew, or your grandchild?

When was the last time you got on the floor and had a tickle fight?

How often have you answered a child’s pressing question like, “Why is the sky blue?” with “Because” or “Not now”?

Are you a child’s biggest cheerleader? Do they know that?

How a person ‘parents’ – whether it be their own children, their friends’ children, or their nieces and nephews – can really give you a sense of how well a person will follow through on promises regarding education and healthcare.

When you love a child, you want the world to be a better place. I found that when I fell in love with a child, I became their biggest advocate and the world’s staunchest critic when it came to the future that child would inherit.

Finally, will you put your family first in all situations?

Will you consider wives, husbands, children, parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents in all decisions you make?

Will you base your decision-making on the floor of the legislature on what’s best for your family – a family like all other families of this province – and then follow through?

It’s not rocket science … it’s honesty, sincerity, and wanting to do what’s best; it’s not whether a decision you make today will ensure you can keep your seat four years from now.

I want your word, because if you want my vote, this is what it’s going to take.

Sincerely,

Theresa Blackburn

Wife, mother, daughter, aunt, instructor, volunteer and passionate voter

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook.  She’s also on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE.

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