Shiny happy government?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with women on International Women’s Day 2017     Source: PMO 

I have so many mixed feelings about our current Canadian government. After so many years of seeing pretty much everything I love destroyed under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, you’d think I’d be thrilled with our progressive, “feminist,” prime minister.

But I can’t shake the feeling that this government is all about photo-ops and I’m tired of seeing a slick marketing machine.

I mentioned it before on this blog. I’ve been sick. I have some sort of chronic illness that’s making me feel incredibly tired and is messing up my digestive system. I’ve undergone all sorts of tests and conventional medicine is not giving me any answers. It could be IBS-C, food intolerances, something with my gallbladder, a microbiome needing nourishment. Friends have made excellent suggestions, I’m trying out different solutions, am changing my diet (which already was mostly vegetarian and usually low-fat!), and I think I will be fine in the long run. But being home sick means I’m watching TV.

I was watching a clip of one of our federal cabinet ministers, I won’t name him, but all I could think of was ‘wow, that goes guy does not have a hair out of place and does he have a manicure?’ I’m supposed to be listening to what he’s saying but instead of listening I’m thinking, ‘wow, he looks a lot more styled than what I’m used to.'” Then on International Women’s Day, all the Members of Parliament (MPs) were gone for the day, replaced by young women who sat in the MP’s seats in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister was there addressing them and listening. The young women were amazing but all I wondered was the event even about them? Or was it, you’re such a feminist, Justin! What a gent! What a photo-op!

As a teenager I met my MP,  the late Warren Allmand, who at different times in his career was a cabinet minister in Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s government (Justin Trudeau is the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau). Mr. Allmand wasn’t ill-groomed but he didn’t look like he’d stepped out of GQ Magazine either. He looked normal.  He spoke normally too. He wasn’t on message all the time. He wasn’t looking for a camera. And he didn’t give me the feeling he wanted to be liked. He just did his job.

My high school wasn’t co-ed so I have no idea what life is like in a typical high school. But to me, Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is like some sort of student council run by the popular kids. They look good and they want to be liked and they think they’re cool. Why does everyone dress like it’s school photo day all the time?  Why is their hair so perfect? Do they have a stylist on standby? And why is everything they say so scripted? What happened to simply being yourself? Or staying on message but speaking in a normal way?

Here in the Montreal area a scandal recently erupted surrounding a nomination for a Liberal MP in the Saint-Laurent riding. The local borough mayor wanted to be the Liberal candidate in an upcoming by-election but he wasn’t selected even though he had tons of credentials and knows the area incredibly well. The word on the street was the federal Liberal party had chosen their own star candidate and wanted her to get the nomination, even though she wasn’t from Saint-Laurent. Last night the star candidate the Liberals had supposedly handpicked came in last during a nomination vote. To everyone’s surprise, a young woman from Saint-Laurent secured the nomination instead.

It’s a relief to know that not everyone is drinking the Trudeau Kool-Aid. People want an MP from their own neighbourhood, not someone the Liberal brass parachuted in. Substance matters more than style. In Saint-Laurent the people’s voices were heard.

Political parties need to remember their grass roots. Their representatives need to listen carefully to voters and connect. I would love to see the folks in Trudeau’s cabinet go off script from time to time. Life is not an endless press conference or a marketing campaign. I vote for keeping it real.




Shiny happy government?

Our bizarre experience transferring an RESP from Investors Group



Last fall our financial advisor at Investors Group told us he was leaving. Not long after, a letter arrived saying our account was now “orphaned” but folks were doing their best to find us another advisor. Eventually, another advisor took over the file for my son’s Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) but no one bothered to inform us.

It didn’t matter anyway. I was pretty fed up with Investors Group and in spite of news about a phase-out of Deferred Sales Charge (DSC) fees for existing DSC accounts, I still wanted out.

My boyfriend is pretty happy with his financial advisor and we liked the guy so in early December we started the transfer process. I figured it would take a few days, maybe a few weeks.

When we set things up, we explained a quick transfer was crucial because my son is attending university and would need the money to pay his tuition by the end of January.

Without going into detail, I’ve investigated things and I’m feeling angry and frustrated with the whole situation but also bewildered since the transfer is still not done and tuition is due on Jan 31st, plus my son needs his textbooks now and I’m going to have to borrow money if the situation is not resolved very soon.

Here’s a timeline of what’s happened with our file, based on my investigation:

  • Dec. 2:  opened file with new advisor
  • Dec. 8: new advisor’s company set up our new mutual fund with new company
  • Dec. 9: Investors Group does a trade for the money in the RESP
  • First week of January: I follow up with new advisor’s company and am told transfer is not complete.
  • 2nd week of January: New advisor’s company phones. Someone from support staff says Investors Group is one month behind with its transfers and is refusing to go any quicker. Maybe if I call Investors Group that would speed things up or I could request the funds so my son has his money?
  • After hearing from the new advisor’s office, I phoned Investors Group’s local office and tracked down the guy who was handed our file. He says the new advisor’s office should have phoned him first and not dealt with Investors Group headquarters. Says he’s handled transfers and they take three days to complete. I relay this to the woman in my new advisor’s office and give her his phone number.
  • Apparently, a cheque containing my son’s RESP funds was sent by Investors Group’s headquarters in Winnipeg to the new mutual fund company in Toronto by snail mail on January 12th. It still hasn’t arrived.
  • On Friday (Jan. 20) the new mutual company says if they don’t see the cheque soon (they said they scan their mail and would know if it had arrived), they’ll ask Investors Group to cancel the cheque and reissue. They’ve apparently sent Investors Group several “notices of delay,” to no avail.

When we’ve dealt with the new advisor there’s been a lot of badmouthing of Investors Group for having such a slow process but when I’ve phoned Investors Group they’ve been helpful except for the bit about mailing all of our RESP money in an old-fashioned cheque via Canada Post by regular mail, no tracking whatsoever!

I don’t feel like anyone in this whole mess really cares about me or my son and the problems we’re having accessing the RESP money. There’s no one proposing a solution. (UPDATE: On Monday, Jan. 23, a customer service rep from Investors group offered to have the original cheque cancelled, reissued and sent by courier to Toronto but it would only get to Toronto next Monday or Tuesday. This was way too close to the Jan. 31st deadline for me and I decided to borrow money instead. The cheque has still not arrived and it’s unclear when this situation will be resolved). No one is forwarding the funds so we can pay for tuition and books. And because I’m not getting many updates on what’s happening, I’m looking into it myself.

If you’re leaving Investors Group, my advice is to budget a couple of months for a transfer. And be careful about transferring because I was charged DSC fees. Apparently, if your money is in a DSC fund, the fees apply for seven years from the last day you made a monthly payment, something I was never told.

I wish I had withdrawn my son’s tuition money before beginning this transfer. I had no idea it would be such a nightmare.

I’m calling Investors Group tomorrow to find out exactly where that cheque was mailed. If it went to the wrong address, I will track it down!








Our bizarre experience transferring an RESP from Investors Group

Plate-smashing Trumpageddon

30-Day- Writing Challenge – Day 12

Peter McQueen/Facebook

Tonight NDG’s Cheap Art Collective gathered outdoors to literally smash away their frustrations with Donald Trump’s presidency.

But when NDG Councillor Peter McQueen posted an invite on his personal Facebook page for people to come by and join in the fun, several people objected. They thought that since Peter McQueen  is an elected official, he had no business getting involved with something like this.

Here’s a sampling of the comments. I’ve stripped the names.

One woman wrote:

I am so tired of Canadians making all that Free violence for nothing , this man is not our president !!why not taking care of the damn graffiti problem we have here ? Why not taking care of the new tragic flow on Sherbrooke which is become super dangerous these days? NO , let’s talk about american politics , anyway ,very disappointing that encouragement toward violent acts in our street

A man posted:

How about doing something for residents of NDG instead of meaningless plate breaking???

Said another man:

WTF does Yankee BS Politics have to do with the Borough of NDG/CDN and politics that MATTERS HERE??? Plates? Why plates?

Who gonna clean it up and foot the Bill? Not planning on walking barefoot or in sandals anytime soon, believe you me!! This is as Silly as blowing $40 million on lights for Jacques Cartier Bridge to Celebrate the 375th anniversary and/or the Beginning of the Slaughter of the Indigenous People residing here, peaceably! Either thru Violence or Disease…Pick One!

Sorry Peter Mcqueen…I aint into a Show & Tell Trash-Fest for a Saturday Night…Christmas is coming!! BTW…WTG showing children what to do when they’re pissed!!!

NO VIOLENCE is KEY!! Why be like those that differ?

And yet another man posted:

I think that it totally unbecoming of an elected official in Montreal to participate in a Trump hatefest. I am not a fan of Trump…but dammit he was elected democratically. The people spoke. Period. For you to engage in this sort of demonstration is for you to insult approximately 50% of our American neighbours. I think that this shows an incredible lack of judgement. I fear Peter that you have been swept up in the media created tidal wave of fear and loathing that surrounds this election. Your responsibility I think is to respect the democratic system that got your ass elected and to work for NDG. Not to comment on the internal politics of a foreign country. I repeat, I amnot a fan of Trump……..I was for Bernie…but the people have spoken. Ironically all this hatred towards Trump is pretty Ironic especially because you are accusing him of being a hater.

For his part, McQueen wondered what the fuss was all about:

Geez, Trump threatens violence on all kinds of people and y’all are getting upset cause we smashed some old plates???

He also wrote:

And we are not smashing any private or communal property, just some old plates, the pieces of which we will use to make a mosaic mural… and to prove it, just go down to St-Henri, Village des Tanneries mural at the corner of St-Jacques and DesNoyers and see the beautiful mural the Cheap Art Collective already made down there!

Plate-smashing Trumpageddon

Two things tomorrow (November 12)

30-Day Writing Challenge – Day 11

guardiansbestI nearly forgot about it but tomorrow the Guardian’s Best Animal Rescue Foundation is holding is holding its annual Quebec Animal Rescuer of the Year Award event in NDG. It’s a great way to meet local rescuers and other animal lovers, find out more about what rescue groups are doing for animals and support them by making a donation. There’s also plenty of free food and beverages. I went a few years ago and it was amazing.

This year’s lineup includes the granting of unsung hero awards, certificates of appreciation for young volunteers,  cash grants to three local rescues and the awarding of the 2016 Quebec Animal Rescuer of the Year.

Admission is free but you need to register your attendance before going. I’ve posted this late so if you see this on Saturday morning, register right away.

Bring cash to buy raffle tickets and if you have a well-behaved dog, bring him or her along too.

When:  November 12, 2016, 5-9 p.m.

Where: Monkland Community Centre, 4410 West Hill Avenue, Montreal (you can get there from Benny and Terrebonne ) or from West Hill and Monkland.

You can register and get a free ticket here.

Help WordPress from the comfort of your home

Love languages? If you have some free time today and have translation ability, the WordPress Polyglots team is holding its second Global WordPress Translation Day on November 12 where you can  “translate  WordPress into one of more than 160 languages.”Everyone is invited to join and you can help from anywhere in the world.”

Even if you don’t know a second language and you’re limited to English, you can learn about English variants and help make sure any English is correct for where you live since “English is spoken and written differently in Canada,  Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom.”

Based on what I’ve read so far, Translation Day has already begun here in the EST time zone, since it starts Saturday, November 12th, 2016, at 0:00 UTC and ends 24 hours later. Discover the correct time by visiting See what time that is for you!

Looking for informatiom? Find out more here.


Two things tomorrow (November 12)

Hey Montreal, what happened to gender-neutral pricing for haircuts?




30-Day Writing Challenge – Day 10

I used to get my hair cut at a place in Montreal called Coupe Bizzarre way back when. It was on Duluth Avenue and difficult to get to by public transit. I can’t remember the cross-street but for me, it was easier to walk there from St. Laurent and Duluth than from St. Denis and Duluth.

Jimi Imij ran it with his partner, Robert and what I loved about it was its inclusiveness. You could be very vanilla or look like a freak. You could be young or old, gay or straight. Heck, you could be anyone and it didn’t matter. Everyone paid the same price for a haircut and everyone used one unisex bathroom and they used and sold only one kind of pomade to style your hair, Black & White.

Sadly the Coupe Bizzarre I knew disappeared when Jimi and Robert moved to Toronto and set up shop there in 1995. (It existed in Montreal for a long time under the same name but with different management and it just wasn’t the same without Jimi). One of the stylists from those days runs Kenzo Kenzo Hair pretty much across the street on Duluth from where Jimi Imij’s Coupe Bizzarre used to be.

Why is this on my mind? I need a haircut and the place I usually visit has just hiked their prices.  I visited their website and carefully read the prices, hoping I was mistaken. Then I checked out some other hair places. I couldn’t believe I was seeing a $10 or $20 difference in price between women’s and men’s haircuts, with women paying more. My usual place charges women between $46 and $56 for a haircut, while men pay between $36 and $47 for a specialized cut and between $28 and $36 for a clipper and scissors cut. My hair is straight and easy to cut. Hair stylists love it. Why must I pay $20 more than a man does at the same salon when it takes about the same amount of time to cut my hair? I’m not talking about barber shops but hair salons and hair stylists. This price difference does not make sense, nor is it justifiable since a specialized haircut can take just as long for a man as a wash and wear cut does for a woman.

Apparently, gender-based price discrimination is illegal in California, in Miami-Dade County, Florida and in New York City, Massachusetts and Washington D.C.  In February an Edmonton salon eliminated its gender-based haircut pricing. We can only hope Montreal salons will follow their lead.

Coupe Bizzarre was incredibly progressive and I suppose ahead of its time. It’s 2016. I can’t believe how backward we’ve become.

Hey Montreal, what happened to gender-neutral pricing for haircuts?

Birds & (coffee) beans

30-Day Writing Challenge- Day 9


Blackburnian Warbler — Rondeau Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada — 2005. (Mdf Wikimedia Commons) This little bird is among the species that spend their winters in Colombia.

How shade coffee is adding to Colombia’s bird habitat

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great resource if you have bird-related questions or care about birds. They’re always sharing interesting tidbits about different bird species and bird behaviour. Today their email newsletter points to a fascinating article by Gustave Axelson that was originally published in Living Bird Magazine, about how in Colombia shade-grown coffee “sustains songbirds and people alike.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Among 42 migratory songbird species known to overwinter in coffee plantations, more than half (22) have significantly declining populations. The morning cup of coffee has the power to directly help, or hurt, migratory birds. It’s an old refrain that’s been sung by Scott Weidensaul in his classic book Living on the Wind; by Canadian scientist Bridget Stutchbury in Silence of the Songbirds; and by the late, legendary Russell Greenberg at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, who helped create the Bird-Friendly coffee certification for birder/coffee drinkers who want to support habitat with their cup of joe.

If you’re looking for Bird-Friendly coffee, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has put together this handy list.

Birds & (coffee) beans

I’m biting my nails

30-Day Writing Challenge – Day 8

I’m in shock. If the predictions are right, for the next four years our good neighbour to the South will be led by President Donald Trump. Or should I say Voldemort?

How is this even possible?

At a high school reunion in May, one of my classmates who was visiting from California mentioned wanting to reclaim her Canadian citizenship. Though her mom was Canadian, my classmate was born in the United States and gave up her Canadian citizenship when she was 16. She wanted to get it back because she and her husband were seriously thinking of moving back to Canada if Trump gets elected.

I wonder what they will do now.

I think Clive Thompson, a  Brooklyn-based Canadian freelance journalist, blogger and science and technology writer, wrote this script to deal with election night-related anxiety. I think he’s got the right idea.

So does cartoonist Matthew Inman , who runs a humour website called The Oatmeal.


I’m biting my nails