Thursday, October 23, 2014

Don’t be shy about participating in Tampon Tuesday

Did the title of this article give you pause? That just proves the need for a very important program called “Tampon Tuesday”. Started by CTV London and expanded to Barrie by Kris Hughston, co-organized by Stephanie Lampron, this monthly event in support of the Barrie Food Bank is meant to coordinate with another monthly event most women face.
Although featured in a lot of upbeat TV ads these days, it’s not discussed in polite society, which is part of the problem. When we think of a food bank, we picture families who cannot afford basic groceries, and envision filling shelves with canned and packaged food to distribute among the hungry. Or, more recently, we may recall programs like FruitShare which add fresh local food to supplement a diet that would otherwise be too high on salty, sugary, starch-and-fat-based processed foods.
Groceries are more than just food
Yet rarely do we think about other things we get on our regular grocery shops, things that those with financial difficulties may also struggle with: toiletries and, as the Barrie Food Bank puts it, “monthly supplies.” When your grocery budget falls short, food may not be the only basic need you can’t bring home. And it’s not something that’s easy to include in the traditional food donation asks at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or for public school or special event food drives.
Luckily, Kris and Stephanie are on the case, partnering with the Barrie Food Bank and local sponsors to put on the monthly “Tampon Tuesday” event, targeted to this specific need. Although it’s a collection specific to these items, it’s also a networking event. Hosted by a local restaurant, currently Moxie’s Classic Grill on Bayfield St. who provides free hors d’oeuvres and drink specials, attendees drop off their feminine product donations in the bins at the door before meeting other local businesspeople or non-profit members, making new contacts, and learning all that’s new in the Barrie business community.
Fun activities include finding another guest based on half their business card, or draws for door prizes donated by various generous sponsors. Chay Today 93.1 FM attends to offer draws and radio coverage of the event.
Barrie’s Tampon Tuesday event has moved a few times, having started at Moxies and visited Michael & Marion’s, Lone Star Texas Grill and Il Fornello before returning to Moxies. It starts at 5 PM and runs for a couple of hours, on the last Tuesday of each month – which this month is October 28th. Although a majority of the attendees are businesswomen, men are also welcomed and a brave few of us get past the title to attend this fun and supportive event.
Local businesses or individuals are also welcome to provide door prizes to liven things up and thank attendees for filling several large bins with feminine products each month, so the Food Bank can continue to support the holistic grocery requirements of needy families. Contact Kris at 705-790-8123 if you need information or want to give. And if you can attend, we’ll see you one of these Tuesdays. Don’t be shy!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Green leaders keep Barrie clean

Have you ever sprung into clean? Every April on a weekend near Earth Day, Barrie residents “Spring Into Clean” through community litter clean-ups, tidying parks, schoolyards, parking lots, roadsides, and other areas where litter accumulates. Living Green pioneered this activity in 2003 when the Georgian College student group Responsible Adventure Travel Society (R.A.T.S.) contacted us about doing a waterfront clean-up right around the same time that Tim Horton’s contacted us about sponsoring one, so we brought them together and got the City’s permission to coordinate a clean-up along Centennial Beach. The event grew by leaps & bounds, more sponsors came on board, and Living Green handed over coordination to the City of Barrie and moved on to start more new initiatives (the latest being FruitShare Barrie).
But litter doesn’t wait for spring, so the City also has the Adopt-a-Park or Trail program, which allows individuals or groups to take on spring and fall clean-ups of any city-owned park or trail. Your group can adopt here, or you can join in with an existing adoption, for example, Living Green has adopted Queen’s Park and the Barrie Green Party has adopted Kidd’s Creek Trail at Sunnidale Park.
Barrie Greens are crazy about collecting litter!
In fact, this Sunday, October 19th, marks a special anniversary for the Barrie Greens’ adoption of Kidd’s Creek: this will be the 10th year we tidy it up, having started the adoption process way back in the spring of 2005. To help us celebrate, Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner will take a break from trying to clean up politics and instead join us to clean up this wonderful green space in Barrie.
This is the first of two Green Party leader visits to Barrie; the second will be when federal leader Elizabeth May presents her new book at the Southshore Centre on November 22nd. (Watch this space for more info about this exciting visit.) Green leaders like to visit Barrie because of our enthusiastic support: in the past 11 years, the Barrie riding has consistently shown about 50% higher Green support than the provincial or national average and been in the top 10% of Green vote results.
This clean-up is now a long-term tradition with us; photogenic Barrie Greens at work are even featured prominently in the City’s official Adopt-a-Park/Trail brochure. We’ve found some pretty startling things alongside the normal litter: bikes and shopping carts (both functional and junked), waterlogged down comforters, wheel rims, tires, and clothing, to name a few. Getting this garbage out of the stream and forest is an important way to help nature thrive in our urban surroundings.
You can be a part of this, too! Our clean-ups are always open to the public, and are great fun for the whole family. Meet us at the Dorian Parker Centre at Sunnidale Park this Sunday morning at 10 and join us for 2 hours of tidying, then we’ll treat you to lunch! You also get to roll up your sleeves and get down & dirty with a provincial party leader; how cool is that? Dress for the weather and wear something tough and waterproof on your feet; we’ll provide gloves and trash bags. See you there!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "A variety of community clean-ups to choose from"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rosie's dinners build community

I’ve written before about Rose “Rosie” Romita’s holiday dinners at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, which she puts on with volunteer assistance and donated food. But it’s time to update the story, because her dinners are evolving from charity to community, becoming something even more than just feeding the hungry.
Regularly serving as many as 800 meals to people who otherwise might not have a chance at a good holiday feed is pretty special, but sharing a meal together is a bonus. And that’s why more people are being invited this year: not just to get food, but to share community.
Although our city and our houses are getting bigger, our families seem to be shrinking. Many people either don’t have much or any family to spend the holiday with, or have family who are too far away. Eating alone or as a small family is fine, but on traditional holidays it can seem lonelier, somehow.
So if you find yourself in that situation this year, please come to Rosie’s Thanksgiving dinner! Students, seniors, or anyone who doesn’t have a big group of family or friends to spend the day with, please join us at the Community Wholeness Centre (CWC) at 59 Maple on Monday from noon to 6. You can bring kids or friends, too. All ages, all incomes, all kinds of people; the more, the merrier!
The event is also open to local musicians if you’d like to have a welcoming audience, and even if you aren’t so musically skilled, the karaoke machine will be set up for your singing pleasure.
This is the only turkey - please donate more turkeys!
Photo credit: J.T. McVeigh
Of course, none of this can happen without the support of the community. There are always plenty of volunteers willing to lend a helping hand, so many that it’s not worth leaving your family behind just to come down and help out. But other donations are always needed. The CWC is getting the ball rolling by donating the kitchen and dining space, but there is still a great need for turkeys to be the main course. Beverages, desserts, and other treats are always appreciated, or care items like new socks or toiletries that can make life a little easier for those getting by with less.
So again, one and all are welcome this Monday from noon to six at the Community Wholeness Centre at 59 Maple street. If you are able to donate a turkey or any other kind of food or supplies (or grocery money or gift cards), please email or call 705-722-7763. Your donation and your company are appreciated by all as this dinner grows into a tradition for the whole community, a chance for us all to come together and give thanks for our blessings many or few, most of all our thanks for having each other.

A version of this - with Rosie's name censored out (!) - was published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Thankgiving dinner truly a community event"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. Comment on Root Issues at

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Local government can be the most responsive to voters

Municipal elections are the poor cousin in our democracy. People pay much regard to national media – whether TV, newspapers, or online news digests – but the national media pays little heed to local elections except for the odd high-profile mayoral candidate who gains attention for a stunningly successful social media campaign or shockingly criminal behaviour. That leaves us with the local media’s dwindling staff and space to cover the particulars of local races.
And this is ironic, because local government can be the most responsive to voters, sets new tax rates every year, and provides much of our day-to-day public services, like roads, transit, recreation, and social benefits. You have a far better chance of reaching your councillor on the phone, or even having the mayor call you back, than you have of such personal contact with your MP or MPP. And since our municipal officials aren’t beholden to specific party platforms or leadership, you may have more luck swaying their point of view, or introducing a bold new idea into the process.
Although the Examiner ran this stock photo with my column,
Barrie actually uses touch-screen electronic voting.
This makes municipal elections important. Once the votes have been counted, the person elected will serve the next four years, with almost no chance of recall or dismissal even due to the most egregious abuses of office or common sense. So knowing about your choices before you vote is crucial.
One handy way is to compare candidates’ answers to the same questions and meet them in person at all-candidates meetings. To candidates, it may seem they have to attend many of these meetings, they may even find it a nuisance – which should be your first red flag, because the job of city councillor requires a seemingly endless regimen of meetings and consultations. So I would take very seriously the willingness of a candidate to attend as many of these events as possible.
One upcoming all-candidates meeting has a special twist. Hosted by Grace United Church (at 350 Grove St. E.) and the Barrie chapter of the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness, this event that starts at 6 PM on October 7 includes the special “Day in a Life” interactive role-play. Presented by Alliance members, it challenges participants to make it through a month’s expenses (rent, food, incidentals) without exceeding the fixed income of a pension, welfare, or disability cheque. All Barrie candidates for mayor and council have been invited to navigate a Day in a Life before taking their seats to answer questions from the public about their vision for Barrie.
A majority of candidates, including all in the mayoral race, are planning to attend this meeting, so this is a wonderful chance to come and see how they stack up. And because the debate format is always limiting, there will be a meet-and-greet afterward where you can talk one-on-one with candidates, in case you haven’t had a chance to meet them at your door. Refreshments will be provided by Grace United.
All questions will be taken in advance, so if there is something you feel should be asked or answered, you can submit it to to be put to the candidates for response. You can also leave questions at the event and we will ensure they are passed on to the candidates in your ward for personal response. Make an informed vote!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How your business needs can support our community's wholeness

Many elements go into a successful community. Of course, a proactive environment for business is important, with jobs and incomes and profit and all those other good things, along with supplying the goods and services we need.
But there are also many important aspects of community that come from the volunteer or non-profit sectors, where people donate their time and effort to worthwhile projects and enterprises work on the principle of serving rather than financially enriching their backers.
You can see the Heart of Barrie from CWC
The Community Wholeness Centre (CWC) is that kind of project. Founded by Yolanda Gallo and a team of volunteers late last year, CWC is still expanding under Yolanda’s executive directorship, where she is charged with mobilizing the community to embrace the CWC’s opportunities. Located in the heart of Barrie, CWC is a conference and business centre combining office space rentals and meeting facilities with a new grassroots model of self-sustainability for Barrie’s volunteer headquarters.
If you are planning a trade show or need a facility, this location offers ideally-located space that can accommodate up to 350 people in various configurations using a gym, a large kitchen, boardrooms and meeting rooms. There is also private space available for short-term or long-term rental. To date, 9 community groups are calling CWC home. What makes this business model unique is that all of the rental fees are reinvested back into the community.
Guided by a business advisory committee of local experts knowledgeable on entrepreneurialism, volunteerism, marketing, and growth, CWC has leveraged approximately $30,000 in donated materials, supplies and services from local supporters like Tile Master, Giant Carpet, Barrie Trim and Moulding, Sue Kay/Allandale Decorating, Hunter Electric, Kwik Kopy, Moore Packaging, Horizons, Simcoe North Visual Printing, Artistic Frameworks, Lloyd Management Services to name a few, as well as a similar amount of financial investments by key affiliates and up to 25,000 volunteer hours to renovate, decorate and run the day-to-day operations of CWC.

From a facility rentals perspective, not-for-profit groups will find very reasonable rates for their facility needs. Businesses can co-locate their office in a supportive, holistic environment for their staff and clients.
Do you already volunteer in the community, or would you like to? As a home to Barrie Volunteer Headquarters, CWC will serve as a clearinghouse for volunteers with an objective to support all not-for-profit organizations by providing volunteer intake, screening, obtaining police record checks, training, mentorship, networking, and free rewards. A benefit for volunteers is that they can treat themselves to free services like Spanish, music, martial arts or meditation classes offered by the CWC, to restore their energy so they can continue to serve.
If this initiative sounds as wonderful to you as it does to me, there are several ways you can connect and show your support. Rent office or facility space for your business or events. Host or attend the scheduled trade shows. Register as a volunteer. Provide financial or in-kind support to help build a legacy for our whole community.
I believe Barrie can be a more complete and resilient community if we focus on this kind of “paying it forward” initiative, don’t you? For more information email, telephone 705-733-5683 or visit

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Would you like to volunteer in our community?"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Speak now, or forever suffer FIPA

If you want to hide a story from the public, release it late on a Friday afternoon, with no fanfare.
This past Friday, the government quietly announced they had ratified the FIPA trade pact with China. Negotiated secretly and signed by Prime Minister Harper in Vladivostok, Russia, 2 years ago, ratification had been delayed under protest from many sectors about its flaws.
Franke James' nightmare is now our reality
And what flaws they are! Essentially, this treaty allows Chinese companies, including state-owned enterprises, to sue Canada for any new law or regulation they feel threatens their profits. So laws to protect our environment, health, resources, jobs, culture, or values are now subject to Chinese approval! But in keeping with the secrecy under which this accord was negotiated and signed, those lawsuits will be secret until an award is issued by the unelected tribunal; if a settlement is reached, it might never be made public at all, even if it involves paying huge sums of our tax money to Chinese companies!
And unlike NAFTA, which has similar (although much weaker) investor-state provisions but can be cancelled with only six months’ notice, this trade deal locks us in for at least 31 years. Yes, that means the next 7 governments, regardless of who we elect, are bound by it.
At least we had a good debate on this first, right? Wrong. There were no public hearings or consultations, no vote in Parliament, and only a single hour of discussion in committee. If, as proponents argue, this deal is such an amazing advance for Canadian interests, why were all of us supposed beneficiaries kept in the dark? Government should be eager to trumpet good new trade initiatives.
Outstanding court challenges should have prevented ratification, especially a rather solid one from the tiny Hupacasath First Nation. Caring greatly about our future, they have been on the forefront, trying to protect all of our constitutional rights. They know what it’s like to have your rights stolen away, and this deal will overrule not only indigenous rights but also those of our provinces, municipalities, and federal government. And even though their ruling has yet to be reviewed, the Harper government has gone ahead and ratified, also apparently not caring that this pact probably violates the Canadian constitution.
Who benefits? The main winners look to be huge Chinese enterprises, including state-owned ones, looking to buy up more of our resources and expand tar sands extraction, for example. This deal seems like nothing more than a sacrifice of most of our values for the sake of some big investment money to dig up more dirty bitumen to ship to China, at the cost of our air, water, and forests.
Can we stop being locked into this horrible deal? We’re told we live in a democracy, so let’s try. Greens, NDP, and to an extent Liberal MPs have gone on the record against this, even some Conservative supporters and Cabinet members have expressed reservations, so we’re not starting from square one. Sign this or similar petitions hosted by other groups. Write letters to the editor to show your outrage. Contact your MP and demand your concerns be raised in the House. Make your voice heard, or for the next 31 years hold your peace!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "China deal all but hidden from  public"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

Thursday, September 11, 2014

24 Hours for Hope on how we can address climate

Things are heating up on the global warming front. In New York City on September 21st, hundreds of thousands of people from across the US and around the world will gather together to make an un-ignorable demand that world leaders at the following UN Climate Summit act faster and more decisively to reverse the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, I have a friend walking across America as part of the Great March for Climate Action, and I’ve been invited to give more Climate Reality presentations in my local community.
Of course, there are entrenched interests who want to expand our self-defeating fossil-driven economy for their own selfish gain, so naturally they are beating the drum of climate denial. Last week Lorne Gunter trumpeted a study by an economist in a pay-to-publish Chinese journal which supposedly refutes global warming, showing the past couple of decades have had a relatively stable temperature. Now, stable is hardly the word I would use to describe the weather weirdness we’ve seen over the past decade, but I guess economists see things differently.
But it’s a weak argument. There is no denying our climate has warmed significantly over the past century, as our growing population’s land and energy use have altered the chemistry of our atmosphere. The past 354 months, without exception, have all been warmer than the 20th century average. That means that anyone born since February 1985 has never, in their whole entire life, ever experienced a month that was at or below global average temperatures.
Pick two points at the same height and call it a "pause".
Who cares about the bigger trend?
This supposed “pause” only appears when you cherry-pick your end points and focus solely on surface temperatures that under-sample arctic regions, and totally ignore the actions of the world’s oceans, a major heat sink. It’s expected for climate change to come in fits and starts, rather than as a steady one-way trend, just as a road ascending a mountain has level or even short downward stretches.
The key is to look at the wide range of indicators – temperatures at the surface, in the high atmosphere, and in the oceans are a start, but shifts in weather patterns (like floods and drought) are also important, as are the responses of natural species. When you put those together, the picture is quite clear – we are rapidly changing our climate in unpredictable ways by adding more heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere.
It’s ironic that even climate deniers must admit the climate is warming to give the term “pause” any meaning.
This whole politicization of climate change is unique to English-speaking nations; in the rest of the world, the debate between left and right isn’t whether our pollution is changing the climate, but how best to address it. Even here, at the municipal level and among building and infrastructure professions, climate change is a given.
Now is the time for the conversation on climate to shift from debate and despair to determination and solutions. Accept no more fuddle-duddle from our national leaders! This Tuesday, September 16th, you can tune in to “24 Hours of Reality: 24 Reasons for Hope” at and learn what is happening to our climate, and the many existing tools we can activate, either individually, as communities, or as a nation. We have the technology, let’s build the will and the movement to use it!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Reversing the growth in greenhouse gas emissions"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a certified member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps