Montreal's senior monthly since 1986

Feb '10

Columns

Candidates show at Generations breakfast

Thursday September 18, St. Viateur Bagel on Monkland was filled with morning diners. But none of the profits were going to the restaurant. Everyone who decided to buy their breakfast that morning between 6 and 10 was helping feed 7000 Montreal kids.

It would look like an average bustling restaurant if you didn’t notice the presence of Q92 and four federal election candidates – Irwin Cotler, Marlene Jennings, Anne Lagacé Dowson, and Claude William Genest.

Ironically, “Generations gets no government funding whatsoever,” according to co-founder Natalie Bercovici.

Every year St. Viateur hosts a breakfast where all the proceeds go to Generations. This year $15,000 was raised. The foundation has come a long way since it began in 1999. “It started in our basement where it was for two years,” recalled Adrian Bercovici. “Now we occupy a building on Notre-Dame and serve children in 75 schools and centers across the island.”

Kids receive breakfast, snacks or a hot lunch. “There are no limits,” Adrian said. Adrian and Natalie were inspired to start Generations because they have always felt that “an empty stomach can’t think – how can we expect them to meet the challenges of their day if they haven’t eaten?”

“All the evidence shows that kids who haven’t eaten properly don’t last till lunchtime,” said Anne Lagacé Dowson, NDP candidate for Westmount–Ville-Marie. “They can’t concentrate. The evidence is incontrovertible – a seemingly small thing can make an enormous difference.”

“I’m a big supporter of Generations Foundation,” said Marlene Jennings, Liberal candidate for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Lachine. “I thought it was important that I come and show my support.”

Staff from the Monkland RBC branch were sitting on the terrace. “Our boss told us about this cause several years ago and we love to come and show our support,” Patricia Rodriguez said. “Kids need to eat when they go to school.”

Generations runs a summer camp program for the students. “The Foundation helps send approximately 350 kids each year to summer camp,” Adrian said. “Kids go for a minimum of two weeks to two different camps where they learn various life skills. They have to make their beds, clean their area and they make friends. It’s a bridge between the end of one school year and the beginning of another.”

“We recently started a program with the Montreal Juniors [hockey] where NHL players donate money to Generations which is used to purchase tickets for Junior Hockey games,” Adrian explained.  “So far this year we’ve sent close to 350 kids to hockey games. By the end of the season, we expect several thousand kids to attend the games.”

“To help these kids we must keep them off the streets and we must definitely keep them out of metro stations, where they get into trouble with gangs,” Adrian said. “It’s all about the kids.”

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Conversation with Peter Deslauriers

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Lachine NDP candidate Peter Deslauriers says there are good reasons to vote NDP but fear is not one of them. 

“One thing that makes me very angry is the way [other parties] play on the fears of elderly people in particular,” Deslauriers says. “It’s not hard to whip up fears. It borders on the unconscionable.” He cites Harper’s “get tough on crime” policy as one example of fear mongering: “Violent crime is in fact going down.”

The current American economic upheaval doesn’t change the NDP’s vision fiscal vision. Deslauriers suggests that though there are implications for the Canadian economy, voters keep things in perspective. “Certainly none of what I said [about NDP plans] is meant short term.”

The “big-picture” issues like climate change preoccupy Deslauriers, a retired history and economics professor. He sees the NDP Cap and Trade proposal as the most efficient way to combat fossil fuel emissions. “The environment has been neglected for 20 years. We need rigorous legislation in place,” he says, describing the NDP plan that requires multinational companies to trade a limited and gradually shrinking number of carbon credits, in effect paying for the permission to pollute and being penalized if they exceed their quota. The revenue collected would promote green alternatives over time. Deslauriers rejects critics who say the plan takes too long, saying it’s a matter of months, not years. “A lot of the infrastructure to implement a Cap and Trade system already exists. There is a carbon trading centre in Montreal at Place Victoria in the old stock exchange tower.”

He criticizes Stephane Dion’s Carbon Tax. “The Liberals are relying entirely on market forces and taxing individuals regardless of their income.” Targeting “big polluters” makes sense, Deslauriers says, since 55% of emissions come from corporations, 10% from cars and 9% from home heating. There is no danger of oil prices increasing, as these are determined by world market prices in which oil companies must remain competitive. 

Provided incentives to use greener technology, these companies may discover other savings, Deslauriers says, adding that oil companies now make $20 billion a year while polluting. “The Tar Sands in Alberta need a lot of energy to extract oil, which must be heated in order to remove it from the solid material it’s embedded in.”

Deslauriers dismisses as “nonsense” Dion’s warning that NDP intentions of rest­oring previous tax levels to large corporations —“we’re talking 22%” — would be a job killer. “Since taxes were cut, has there been a benefit?” he asks rhetorically, adding that banks made $20 billion last year. 

Deslauriers says corporations benefit from the presence of government and gave as one example the hiring of skilled people trained in the public education system. He said the $50 billion in re­venues generated by restoring taxes would enable the government to better assist people.

“It’s important to recognize we know exactly where money would come from,” Deslauriers says, citing the pulling of Canadian troops from Afghanistan as another significant source, up to a billion a year.

He says the NDP supports the military but questions the nature of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, originally supposed to end by February 2007. “The presence of NATO troops makes things worse because we are essentially taking sides in a civil war — because that’s what’s going on there, like the Americans did in Vietnam. We know that when Americans withdrew, the total level of violence dropped and once [the Vietnamese] were left to resolve their own problems, they did.”

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Collecting can tabs for charity

Solomon Isenberg has been collecting can tabs for Mount Sinai hospital for the last six years.

“I’m giving back as a senior citizen,” Isenberg, 90, said of his charitable contribution. He takes these can tops to the Mount Sinai Hospital where they are sent to an aluminium factory, weighed and converted to their cash value. They are then given back to the hospital in order to buy walkers, canes and “whatever they need for handicapped people,” Isenberg said.

His collection is up to 3000 can tabs, which he will bring to “the fellow that works in the food court,” to be sent to the hospital. 

“I don’t have a car anymore, so sometimes they have to come and take them from me,” Isenberg said. “Everybody recognizes me. A lot of them are patients too.”

Living in Côte St-Luc since 1966, Isenberg has kept himself busy. He has been a member of the Côte St-Luc Seniors Men’s Social Club for the last 18 years. He attends the weekly meetings and the end of month breakfasts. He collects around 50 can tabs a day.

To help Solomon Isenberg with his collection of can tops, go to Cavendish mall food court or the Côte St-Luc Seniors Men’s Social Club and he’ll surely be there to accept donations.

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Idyllic Istria

View from atop the church tower

I took a bus from Trieste, an Italian port city, through a one-laned twisty hilly road down through Istria – the peninsula that lies at the northern point of the Adriatic Sea. It took three hours for the bus to travel the 100 kilometers down the western coast, stopping at little towns along the way, to reach Pula – located at the southernmost tip of the peninsula. This port city is the largest in Istria with just over 62,000 residents. It holds a beautiful mix of mostly Croats, with some Serbs, Italians, Bosniaks and Slovenians. Istria is a melting pot of Italian, Austrian and Croatian cultures.

I walked across the city, passing the first century Roman amphitheatre (aka Colosseum) and the old town to get to my hostel. Famished, I decided along with several new friends I had met at the hostel to pay a visit to one of Pula’s most frequented Italian restaurants, Jupiter, located at Castrapola 38 – a couple of blocks above the forum. Pizza was the specialty – there were 18 to choose from. The five of us stationed ourselves in a booth with a rustic wooden table. We each ordered an individual pizza at a reasonable price. Little did we know that in Croatia an “individual pizza” could easily feed two… or three. The pizza was exquisite.

We then decided to be mature and cultured travelers. Instead of a typical night of finding the local pub or club, we decided to attend a concert of traditional Croatian choral music at the Colosseum for $40. The amphitheater was lit beautifully and packed with locals. The men’s choirs took the stage one by one to sing songs that everyone in the audience knew and sang along to. And though it was nice, we were getting bored and cold and were somewhat regretting not hitting up the clubs.

I explored the narrow streets of the old town the next morning. Though beautifully lined with medieval and Renaissance buildings along the ancient Roman stoned streets, I couldn’t help but notice the many tourist-targeted shops and overpriced restaurants. I ran into two Portuguese friends I had met in Trieste a couple of days before. We ate a very mediocre and overpriced lunch at what looked like a nice restaurant. We were later told by one of the locals that for these restaurants there are two prices – the local’s price and the significantly higher tourist’s price.

We trekked up the stairs of the central hill of the old city to explore the star-shaped 14th century castle that sat atop. The princess that I am, I make a point of visiting the castles along the ways of my travels. This one had a moat. It was converted into the Historical Museum of Istria. It certainly was no Palazzo Ducale of Venice. For a few dollars we walked through 5 or 6 open rooms filled with old weapons, kitchenware, and pharmaceuticals. The city views alone were worth the visit.

That night we hit the clubs. We started at the beach and slowly made our way inland. By 4am we were at the fourth club of the night. The Portuguese boys were still going strong. I was fading and the smoke was getting to me. I headed back to the hostel, squeezed in a couple of hours of sleep, and the next day, caught a bus to Rovinj.

Rovinj

I had convinced Tristan (British) and Chris (Australian) from the hostel to join me in Rovinj. A short one-hour bus ride north along the coast brought us to a stunning little town by sea. Rovinj was originally an island separated from the mainland. In 1763 the channel was filled in. Its nickname is “The Hitchhiker’s Thumb.” Its population of just over 13,500 consists of mostly Croats and Italians. The town clearly had a strong Italian influence. It even had an Italian school. Tristan said it reminded him of Venice.

We could not take enough pictures. Every moment, every turn was a treasurable scene. We walked along the boardwalk filled with restaurants and tourists, sailboats and yachts, and up the rickety stairs of the church tower, which stands tall in the middle of the island. The views were breathtaking. We spent half an hour up there snapping away with our cameras.

The boys hopped on the last bus back to Pula and I had the evening to myself. I got a cup of hot chocolate and sat on the boardwalk near the boats to watch the sun set behind the island. The stray cats kept me company as love struck couples walked by. If I had known this place would be swarming with lovebirds, I would have saved it for my honeymoon.

I woke up early the next morning to soak in the beauty of this city one last time before heading to Rijeka to catch the ferry down to Hvar Island. The bus cut through the stunning Istria countryside. I didn't have much time to explore this industrious port city before I boarded the ferry heading south to Hvar Island. I ran into Tristan and Chris in the boarding line. We watched the city lights slowly get further and further away as we sailed south until it was darkness. We stayed up late laughing, reminiscing and sharing travel stories. The three of us made up a commonwealth of Canada, Britain, and Australia. Too cheap to get a cabin, we fell asleep on chairs in the lounge. Next time I’m definitely getting a cabin. The ferry docked at Hvar Island at 6 am. The boys were continuing on to Dubrovnik. We said our goodbyes and I got off the boat.

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Retreads harmonize for 30 years

They’ve been rehearsing since May and now the Retreads Harmony Group, comprised of 14 retired men together for 30 years, are ready for another season of song.

Although the group has been reduced from its original 30, the choir is still going strong, organizer Doug Cooke, says of his longstanding West Island group: “We perform from October to Christmas, then from February to May.”

They perform in residences and bring a repertoire drawing largely from the 1920s and 1930s: “all the songs that they remember.”

The group performs mainly in the West Island with members “from Hudson to NDG and everything in between.”

When the audience starts to sing along, says Cooke, it’s amazing. That’s what they aim for during these performances.

Over the years, the choir has raised money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, NOVA and many more beneficiaries. Their donations have amounted to over $30,000.

The Retreads Harmony Group is seeking volunteers to join the choir. “We just want bodies,” Cooke says. “If they can carry a tune, then great!” The only requirements are to be willing and able.

Performances are once a week in the afternoons and last from an hour to an hour and a half.

Their first performance of the season will be at 7 pm Monday, October 13 at 20 Vermont in Pointe Claire.

Info: 514-630-9660.

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Film Fest a unique window to independent film

In 2004, before Chris Landreth’s short film about Montreal animator Ryan Larkin was screened at that year’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema, Larkin gave an interview to a local journalist. The profile was headlined “With a little help from his friends, Montreal prodigy turned panhandler Ryan Larkin is ready to get off the streets and back into animation.”

At the time, Larkin, who died in 2007, talked about a new film he was planning with his friend Montreal musician Laurie Gordon, and his hopes of finding a “good creative team of computer graphic animators” to work with. The film was to be about his “happy-go-lucky” life as a street person. Now, Larkin said, he was “panhandling for hundreds of thousands of dollars” for his new film called Spare Change. “It’ll be anything but spare change, I can tell you that!”

Few, except Gordon and others closest to him, believed him at the time, as Larkin was then living at the Old Brewery mission and still dealing with alcoholism.

However, the headline must have been prophetic, because in an eerie coincidence, Spare Change is scheduled to premiere before Adrian Wills’ film about the Beatles, composers of the classic With a Little Help from My Friends, at the 37th edition of the Festival du Nouveau Cinema ­October 9. In Larkin’s film, described as “a surrealistic journey through the extraordinary imagination of Ryan Larkin,” Larkin’s unforgettably melodious speaking voice is heard once again, in his alter ego Astral Pan, as he guides the audience through the streets of Montreal and some unlikely places. The film’s whimsical and unexpected images are enhanced by the soundtrack, created by CHIWAWA’s Laurie Gordon and Krassy Halatchev, revealing Larkin as the artist he has always been, his soul irresistibly playful and joyful.

In All Together Now, Adrian Wills chronicles the extraordinary partnership between the Beatles and the Cirque du Soleil which led to LOVE, a sold out run in Las Vegas. The project grew out of a friendship between Beatle George Harrison and Guy Laliberté, founder of Quebec’s most beloved Cirque. Filmed in London, Montreal and Las Vegas, Wills focuses on the human side of the mega-production from the first glimmers of the project to the first night performance. Archival footage and interviews offer a window into the creative processes of artists Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon, Olivia Harrison, George Martin, Giles Martin and LOVE director Dominic Champagne. A great celebration, open to the public, will follow the screening of these two films.

The Festival of Nouveau Cinema brings 250 independent never before seen films to Montrealers. Formerly known as the Montreal Festival of New Cinema and New Media, its raison d’être remains steadfast. It is dedicated to fostering and promoting new approaches to film and media and to screen the best and most original new films from around the world. All genres of film figure at the festival, including shorts, feature-length films, documentaries, fiction and animation, from 60 different countries.

The Festival du Nouveau Cinema runs October 8 to 19. The Festival Info Line can be reached at 866-844-2172.

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Safe havens for an unsafe time

With all the uproar in the US relating to financial markets, I am often asked by clients approaching retirement or living on fixed income if there are any safe havens or strategies to keep their retirement assets from eroding or being severely diminished.

These are difficult times we find ourselves living in and no matter how secure we feel living in Canada, the impact of US market troubles will extend here. We are in no way immune. Unfortunately these troubles have really taken a toll on seniors who are largely dependent on fixed incomes and company pensions. Many have investments in mutual funds and blue chip financial stocks which have been decimated.

Seniors living on fixed income or approaching retirement have options. It is essential to review your investment portfolio and understand what asset classes you hold. Examine the prospectuses of your mutual funds to evaluate risk and determine whether they measure up to your level of tolerance. This is easiest to do online.

There are some very interesting guaranteed income products that are now available in the marketplace such as Manulife’s Income Plus which is designed to offer guaranteed sustainable income at retirement and limit the downside risk of market investing. In addition, annuities offered by insurance companies provide guaranteed income for life. These products offer greater levels of security.

Segregated Funds offered by insurance companies guarantee your invested capital at maturity, which is usually a ten year period, and guarantee your original capital at death. Some plans even allow you to lock in your guaranteed returns up to three times a year, providing higher maturity values.

It pays to shop around for GIC rates and bond yields. Make sure youère comfortable with the companies underwriting these products. Ratings are easily checked online as well.

Now more than ever it is essential to review your portfolio. Take stock. Some simple measures can go a long way to ensure that your nest egg is safe and sound.

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Cookbook evokes lost traditions

Let’s talk about food. One of my favorite cookbooks is “Gourmet’s Old Vienna Cookbook” published in 1959. It was a present from my husband and his dedication gave me a message: “This document of European civilization from the one most likely to benefit its study. December 1960.” It makes me want to get into my kitchen, put on an apron and get the saucepans out, but I know that in today’s diet conscious world nobody would dare to prepare veal chops with walnuts that need 6 tablespoons of butter, 5 tablespoons of liver pate, ½ cup of heavy cream and more cream if necessary! Or veal kidneys in truffle sauce requiring 6 tablespoons finely chopped truffles, 3 egg yolks, 1¼ cups of heavy cream and served in puff pastry. There is a section on dumplings, noodles, different ways for serving potatoes and rice – every dish full of calories.The cake and dessert section have to be hidden from anyone with a sweet tooth, or reluctant weight watchers.

The famous Viennese “Sachertorte” needs a cup of butter, cup of sugar, 10 egg yolks, 8oz of chocolate, 12 beaten egg whites, 2 cups flour, apricot glaze and chocolate fondant icing served with sweetened whipping cream. Franz Sacher invented it in 1832 but the recipe got into the hands of Demel through inter-marriage. The fight was over whether the jam should be spread in the middle of the Torte or right underneath the chocolate glaze. A famous court case ensued and the judge ruled that Sacher call theirs “the original Sachertorte” and Demel theirs “original Demel’s Sachertorte”. There still is some bitterness about this decision. When we were in Vienna we tried them both – though not on the same day - and preferred the Demel one!

The section on sauces is mouth-watering especially the Hollandaise with the ingredients of butter, 4 egg yolks – all carefully prepared in a double boiler that needs the kind of time to cook that most people do not have. Vegetables, according to today’s dietary rules were routinely overcooked, usually prepared in a mixture of cream, flour and butter; nouvelle cuisine had not been invented yet.

It brings back delicious memories: mother sitting in her kitchen on her low stool holding a big bowl close to her body stirring the dough with a large wooden spoon. No cuisinarts, osterizers or mix-masters around to make life easier! After her death I found the mixmaster I had given her the way I had wrapped it.When she baked she tried to get me out of the kitchen but would keep the bowl for me to lick clean. I can still taste that dough and smell it. She lived until her 89th year on this kind of diet. One of my uncles got to be 103 and I remember my lovely maternal grandmother in her long white apron making fabulous dishes on an old-fashioned stove. I have a faded hand-written notebook with recipes my mother prepared before her marriage. Girls had to know how to cook before tying the knot in those days. “Love goes through the stomach” (Liebe geht durch den Magen) was what they were taught.

Going through my fridge now and deciding on fat-free cottage cheese and a lettuce leaf I feel virtuous but emotionally challenged.

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Food for thought

Bonnie Soutar at NDG Market

October 16, declared to be World Food Day by the United Nations, is observed worldwide as a day of raising awareness and rallying support around the issues of hunger. In Montreal, that day, one out of six people, including children, will miss a meal. “It’s been the same for the last 10 years,” says Josee Belleau, coordinator of Nourrir Montreal, a committee composed of various organizations dedicated to building food security in the city. “About 15% of the population is food insecure; some a few times during the year, some all the time.”

According to the Canadian Association of Food Banks, food bank use in Canada has escalated by 91% since 1989, the first year such statistics were collected. Though the economy has improved and unemployment rates are down, 50% of lowest income households and 30% of lower middle-income households across the country experience food insecurity. The most vulnerable groups are single people, families or seniors, relying on disability or social assistance or the “working poor” — representing 16% of the workforce — trapped in low paying/temporary jobs.

Advocates say children are over-represented at food banks. At the NDG Food Depot over 3,200 people are helped each year, with 30% being below the age of 14. Exe­cutive director Michael Kay says that over the last 10 years he’s seen the same people being poorer for longer. “In very concrete terms, this deepening and broadening of poverty is: the new-born who is not given enough nutrition in the early years of life and suffers the consequences of that lack for the rest of his/her life; the normally bright child who is hungry three out of five school days and is often listless; the loving parents who develop depression because they blame themselves for not being able to provide the necessities and make ends meet; the busy senior who has to go without essential medication in order to buy food, thereby posing unnecessary dangers to his/her health.”

Food banks were set up in the eighties as a temporary emergency measure. As it becomes more evident that for the time being food banks are here to stay, the thinking about hunger and its consequences is changing as people try to understand its root causes. Statistics are kept with the reservation that they only represent the tip of the iceberg. “The research on household insecurity indicates that only a fraction of the people who are experiencing income-related food problems uses food banks,” writes Valerie Tarasuk, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. In her foreword to CAFB’s Hungercount 2007 (a yearly survey of food bank use) she says: “We now have a very good understanding of the circumstances that render individuals and families vulnerable to problems of food insecurity. We also understand that food insecurity is a serious public health problem, linked to nutritional vulnerability. What we haven’t figured out though is how to get our political leaders to take this problem seriously enough to do something about it.”

The concept of food security is a direct outcome of the recognition that hunger is a human-rights issue that is not simply caused by a lack of food. Long term solutions are needed to persistent problems such as a shortage of full-time jobs that meet a family’s basic needs adequately, an income security system that allows many to fall “between the cracks” and the lack of affordable housing and child care.

These new solutions involve the community in activities such as collective and community gardening, group purchasing of food, cooking and nutrition activities, skills-exchange workshops, and other programs.

On each Saturday in September, a pilot project brought citizens and farmers together in several boroughs in a pilot pro­ject organized by Nourrir Montreal. “We made public spaces such as schoolyards and city parks available to citizens and food producers to provide access to healthy food for the harvest season,” Belleau said. In five boroughs 1890 people visited the market the first Saturday it opened, attracted by the proximity, the prices and the country fair atmosphere.

The Good Food Box, a collective buying group that started out in NDG but now is city wide and spearheaded by Harvest Montreal, did much of the purchasing of the food. It operates year-round to provide fresh vegetables grown by local farmers at low cost to everyone.

“We have clients from all income levels,” says Bonnie Soutar, Good Food Box coordinator. “The larger the number of people who participate, the more you can buy for your money.” Access to fresh foods is not to be taken for granted, Soutar says. “In some areas there are only depanneurs or supermarkets with very high prices.”

Now operating in 10 boroughs, the Good Food Box is great for the value conscious shopper, the struggling local farmer and the discriminating cook alike. It comes in three sizes and may be ordered in advance at a pick up point in participating boroughs.

“We are in the midst of rebuilding a real sense of community,” Kay writes in the Depot’s annual report, “one without exclusions, one that does not let its members go without food or health care, one that values the abilities and contributions of all — and also one that demands that its governments and businesses undertake their full responsibilities in relation to the general population. Attitudes and projects addressing these issues need to be furthered or created.”

For information on The Good Food Box call Bonnie Soutar at 514-582-6908.

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Sun Youth seniors shine

Sun Youth seniors club on Bingo Day

It’s a well known fact that our country’s population is aging rapidly. In 2005, Statistics Canada indicated that senior citizens (65 and over) were representing 13.1% of the population. By 2036, they estimate that seniors will constitute 24.5% of the population.

For Sun Youth, senior citizens are esteemed members of our society. As a result, we work very hard each day to improve their quality of life. A multitude of services specifically catering to their needs are available to them. Emergency services such as our monthly food supplement programs and our medication program are aimed at assisting seniors in distress. Sun Youth also offers recreational acti­vities through its Seniors Club.

The Sun Youth Seniors Club has 136 members, all very active in the organization. People 55 years young and up are eligible to become members. Fees are $5 a calendar year (January to December). There are additional fees for organized outings but they are very moderate and vary between $15 and $25 depending on the event. The rest of the activities are free with the annual membership fees.

Every week, the Sun Youth Seniors Club offers a full schedule of activities with something for everyone to enjoy. Tai Chi classes are offered every Monday and Thursday afternoon and allow our seniors to stay in shape. On Tuesday mornings, a sewing and knitting group meets, where seniors share their techniques and work together on projects. On Wednesday afternoons, it’s bingo day, one of the most popular activities of the Seniors Club. On Fridays, outings are organized and bring our group to venues across Quebec, Ontario and the States. For a reasonable price, Sun Youth offers transportation and lunch.

Each year, the members get a chance to visit various locations such as Quebec City, Park Omega in Montebello (a wildlife park where animals roam free) and enjoy events such as the Tulip Festival in Ottawa and the Mondial des Cultures in Drummondville. They also go shopping in Vermont, apple-picking and sugaring-off in season and take cruises. Apart from these trips, theme-oriented parties are also organized throughout the year: Mothers’ and Fathers’ day, Hallowe’en, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and Easter.

The Seniors Club is self-funded by its members. In addition to membership fees, events are also organized to help finance the club’s activities. One of the events is the Seniors Club Annual Bazaar. Each year, volunteers of the club invite bargain hunters to take advantage of incredible offers on new and used goods. The very popular Bingo activity and the theme-oriented parties also help to finance the Seniors Club’s activities.

The members of the Seniors Club are also very much involved Sun Youth through volunteer work. They are responsible for individually wrapping the 12,000 brand new toys distributed to families in need through our Holiday Baskets Campaign.

For more information on the Sun Youth Seniors Club, please contact Mr. Tom Stewart, President of the Club at 514-842-6356. We hope you will become part of our big family!

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What I learned one weekend in September

Last month I learned what it feels like to watch your child in pain and be utterly helpless to do anything about it.

I began to understand what parents go through when their children are seriously ill and spend months in and out of hospital, what it is like searching for a doctor who can tell you something… anything that will reassure you that your child will be okay, that your child will stop hurting and smile again.

I learned that friends can be like family. I learned that my cousin, Paula, knows how to turn fear into humour.

Molly visited Montreal from L.A. this month for a friend’s wedding.

On the Saturday the wedding took place she woke up with severe pain. She said it was the worst pain of her life. I could barely steady my hands to call 911. The ambulance drivers arrived and began to question her. She could barely talk so I tried, as I am wont to do, to intervene and answer for her. They were curt with me, telling me she is 27 and can answer for herself. As if this changed the fact that she was my baby and I wanted to explain to them what she was feeling.

The pain started to subside and they told her she could choose to go to the hospital or stay. She decided to stay and soon the pain went down to “1/2” out of ten.

Together we prepared her for the wedding. She looked like a princess in her Betsy Johnson dress, asked me for make up, and together we decided on the necklace and the gold earrings with the tiny rubies, her birthstone, that I had bought her in Greece this summer. I decided to accompany her and her date, Don Patton, a friend of ten years, to the wedding service. We drove her father’s car to pick him up. The wedding was beautiful.

The bride looked beautiful but no woman in that church looked more beautiful than Molly. Yes, I know I am her mother but now I am being perfectly objective.

We left the church and I said good bye trusting Don to take Molly to a hospital should the pain start up again. It did, not 30 minutes after I left them. It was intense and Molly ended up not far from the reception hall where she and Don were heading, the Santa Cabrini Hospital. I had never heard of it before.

I was on the metro going home, when Don called me. I left the metro shaking and got in a cab not knowing how far the hospital was.

After ten minutes of Molly being in great pain, a triage nurse assessed her and calmed me down, saying she had two children and knew what it felt like. I will never forget her kindness. Apart from being able to speak English she calmed me down several times during Molly’s 24-hour stay in Emergency.

The pain subsided and then it got worse. She was on a cot lying in a room, where the average age must have been 70 and no doctor was coming. She started writhing and moaning and I grew desperate, walking over three times to a nurse who was distributing cake among her co-workers, begging for a doctor or something to relieve the pain.

I wanted to change places with Molly. I wanted to believe in a god. I couldn’t imagine how this had happened or why no doctor thought my daughter was more important than people with gun shot wounds or the 87 year old lady, whom we later got to know well, who had fallen and was covered with bruises.

Finally Molly was given morphine and a harried doctor told me he was sending her for blood tests and an X-ray. I was so relieved she was getting something for the pain, I forgot to ask for his pre-diagnosis. I felt myself becoming overwrought and feeling more and more helpless. After another hour I begged a nurse to tell me more. She mentioned the area of the liver and a possible inflammation. When I heard the word liver, I freaked out. After the X-ray and after the two shots of morphine had taken some effect, the doctor returned at 11 pm and told me it might be gall stones or a stomach infection of some kind. He mentioned the word “virus” then too but I could only remember gall stones and liver and started to worry about surgery. He told Molly’s father and me that he was booking an ultra-sound for the next morning to investigate the gall bladder.

We decided to go home at midnight to get some sleep and leave Don to look after Molly till about 1:30 am. We were both exhausted but as soon as I got home my body became wracked with fear and regret that I had left my baby alone in Emergency.

At 7 am we were back with Molly. At 9 am she had the ultrasound. We had to pay cash for it, $180 and by the time we left the hospital that day, we learnt the hospital stay would cost $900. We paid cash $150 for two doctors. This was nothing to me but Molly commented that she marveled at our wonderful health care system and the fact that people pay nothing for all this care while people in the US have no access to healthcare. So much for our complaints about our health care system!

Finally after more hours of helpless waiting and a few jokes, and great relief from cousin Paula, who came to the hospital that morning and regaled us with her anecdotes of the trials of my uncle’s hospital stay (four days in emergency in great pain with no food) and generally lifted our spirits so that the fear in my body lessened to the point where I could laugh. Of course Molly, by this time, was in no pain at all but still connected to an IV.

After another two hours a 30ish doctor who looked like she had stepped out of a fashion magazine, wearing street clothes, appeared by Molly’s cot-side and told us she was betting on a virus because the ultrasound had shown no gall stones, that in fact, the area was clear.

I asked her, how could such pain come from nowhere? It happens, she answered. She gave us medication for the “spasms” should they come again, and told us if they do, we should return to the hospital.

What a scare! What relief! Monday morning as I looked at my beautiful daughter sitting beside me petting the cat, I thanked those who looked after her, my friends who were there for me by phone with kind words and reassurances, my cousin Paula, Don, who held Molly’s hand through the worst of it, Molly’s father who put up with my hysteria, and the doctor who gave us the good news.

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Oil's well that tastes well?

I received a bottle of olive oil in the mail a while ago. I don’t often get food products delivered by courier, but a local importer wanted my opinion on a new product. As the Flavourguy, I am predisposed to food that tastes good and costs little. I am not keen on forking over fistfuls of dollars for colourful labels and exaggerated claims. Olive oil – along with its sneaky cousin balsamic vinegar – leads the line in the over-hyped aisle.

“Extra virgin olive oil” is ubiquitous. The adjectives tell us that there should be lower acidity and better quality; that noted, it gets a little slippery.

Technically, regular olive oil is more acidic than virgin which is slightly more acidic than extra. The lower the acidity, the less chance of olive oil going rancid (and yes, it can turn rancid in a warm kitchen after a long time on the shelf). Extra virgin should also be cold pressed which means that it was processed with as little heat as possible. But it really comes down to taste.

The brand delivered to my door was MonteAntico. It is available locally for $16.95 for a 500 ml bottle and it’s even on eBay. Price-wise, it’s not bad since olive oils of this quality can easily sell for more than a decent bottle of Chianti. The real question is, why would you pay more than you need to?

Maybe it’s a gift to impress your friends. In that case, go for what you can afford. Just hope that they like it. Maybe it’s to add a subtle aromatic note to your salads. Well, if you cut it with lemon juice, salt, pepper, vinegar, or Dijon mustard (mmmm…) how much of that extra virgin finesse will make it to the table?

Most extra virgins are meant to be consumed sparely. Italian bread is a good match because it usually has less salt (and less flavour) than a baguette. Or try it on romaine where the bitterness of the lettuce compliments the sweetness, succulence and flavours of good olive oil. Never in the frying pan – as soon as olive oil reaches a useful cooking temperature, the flavours burn off - better to use canola.

So the other night we set up some bottles and asked a half dozen dinner guests to sample them. The mix included a Loblaw’s President’s Choice from Spain, and two with similar names: the MonteAntico and a $3.99 Antica Bontà.

All three are basically OK. Each looks and tastes different. MonteAntico has grassy and herbal flavours; it is a little peppery at the back of the throat with a distinctive style. This is an olive oil that you can appreciate on its own. I liked the flavour but none of the others did. They found it overpowering. The President’s Choice Cataluña was a favourite and is mild. It would work well with most salad dressings. The lowest priced oil – Antica Bonità was hit and miss. In fact, it is not necessarily from Italy. I usually like its mild, slightly grassy taste but I have found that bottles can change. This is because it is packed in Italy.

Here is the caveat. Read the label. “Packed in Italy” is not the same as “Product of Italy.” Almost all olive oil comes from the Mediterranean. So although a bottle claims to be packaged in Italy, the oil could be Tunisian, Lebananese, French or from any country with olive trees. It might even be Italian! The Cataluña uses Abrequina olives and is from Catalonia in Spain. The Monte Antico is even more specific and has its own Italian pedigree.

This authenticity guarantees a level of quality you won’t find in most generics. However, the bottom line is - would I buy the MonteAntico? Probably not. As the only one in my household who appreciates it, I’m not going to save it, like a fine cognac, for when the right palate drops over. But I will continue to look for good quality olive oils. There are tasty ones in other countries, each with its own character. French olive oils tend to be lighter and peppery. Greek ones are heavier with a ripe olive flavour. Many people blend Greek olive oil, at home, with a lighter oil.

In the meantime: try this – crush a clove of Quebec garlic (yes look for it!) with a little salt until it is mushy. It’s worth while buying a mortar and pestle for this. Add some freshly ground black pepper and a half cup or so of olive oil to make a liquid paste. Add white wine vinegar or cider vinegar (the ratio will be about 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar). Put in a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard to bind the dressing. Let it sit for a half hour before putting it on the salad. Forget Newman’s Own. This stuff is great.

You can reach Barry Lazar at flavourguy@theseniortimes.com.

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Foster parents needed for rescued mutts

In two separate raids on puppy mills in Quebec, 275 animals were rescued from living, and possibly dying, in squalid conditions. The potential pets, mostly dogs, are being housed at the Montreal SPCA’s emergency shelter and are receiving medical care.

Advocates have a message for would-be pet owners: don’t buy live animals from pet stores or on the Internet. “Animals from puppy mills are mostly sold online or in pet shops. If you want to stop puppy mills, don’t buy from them,” said one volunteer as she was hosing down animal cages outside the emergency shelter. Inside the shelter, other volunteers were in the midst of “processing over 100 dogs,” many of which were in need of medical treatment.

Some of the dogs, including a variety of small and large breeds, will become available for adoption within the next few days. Others need time to heal from the effects of gross neglect, and need a foster home until they become healthy enough for a permanent home. People willing to adopt, foster, or volunteer with the SPCA are urgently needed because of the recent crisis, but throughout the year there is a severe shortage of people available to help. Fostering allows another chance at life for animals that are too young or have temporary medical conditions that prevent them from being adopted.

To foster or adopt an animal rescued in the recent raids call Jenn Colahan at 514-739-4444. To volunteer call Anita at the same number. The SPCA can be reached at 514-735-2711.

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How to overcome SADD (Shakespearean Attention Deficit Disorder)

Recently, I saw an excellent production of Hamlet at the Stratford Festival but was disheartened by the great number of empty seats.

While the musicals playing at the festival were well-attended – notwithstanding seat prices that were many times more expensive – a fine production of arguably the greatest play ever written was at least 40% vacant. Don’t blame the critics – this production has received universal rave reviews. Why then was this Hamlet so poorly attended?

I think that lack of comprehension of the language used by the Bard is a partial answer. Shakespeare’s comedies, with their myriad double entendres, are even more inaccessible, but the tragedies present many situations not really appreciated by a modern audience. For example, when Hamlet resolves to avenge his father’s murder he states, “Yea from the table of my memory I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records.” Here “table” has the sense of “writing tablet” and “fond” means “frivolous.” When Hamlet’s mother, terrified by her son’s behaviour, is struck with “admiration,” she is struck with “astonishment” and not “approval.” When Horatio says to Hamlet that “one with moderate haste might tell a hundred” he is using “tell” in the now obsolete sense of “itemize.” Similarly, in Hamlet, Shakespeare employed the word “abuse” to mean “deception,” “accident” to mean “incident,” “coil” to mean “turmoil,” “conceit” to mean “understanding,” “dismal” to mean “sinister,” “flaw” to mean “squall” and “protest” to mean “proclaim.”

This brings up the obvious question: does anybody aside from a rarefied elite understand Shakespeare’s vocabulary? Take the following famous passage in Hamlet when Polonius provides fatherly advice to his son Laertes who is embarking on a journey:

And these few precepts in thy memory

See thou character. Give the thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.

Here “character” means “to inscribe,” “thoughts” refers to “intention” or “plan,” and “act” means “execution.” Thus, Polonius is advising his son to mark his advice in his memory – not to show his hand, and not to act on his intentions until they are completely thought out. Later on in the passage Polonius advises his son to “bear’t” and to “take each man’s censure.” It would appear to the modern listener that he is telling his son “to cope” and to “turn the other cheek,” but this is not the intent of Polonius. “Bear’t” here means “make sure that” and “censure” means “to judge.” Thus Polonius is telling his son not to “grin and bear it” but to “strive for excellence” and not “to defer” but to view people with insight.

There are times when the context helps make the meaning evident. I suppose when Hamlet tells Horatio and Marcellus, “I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me,” many people will fathom that “let” here does not mean “permit” – in fact it means “hinder” or “prevent.” But one may be easily thrown off assuming that Shakespeare was employing it in the modern sense.

The meaning of words over the past 400 years has changed enough to render any comprehension of Shakespeare by a modern audience partial at best, and only the Shakespearean cognoscenti or a trained expert in Elizabethan English can get a full understanding. Ironically, the French can appreciate Shakespeare to a greater extent than we do, being able to enjoy it in a language they understand.

Clearly, English-speaking theatregoers are suffering from a case of SADD: Shakespearean Attention Deficit Disorder. Well-annotated programs explaining Shakespeare’s vocabulary would be very helpful in bringing back what the author intended – a thrilling and witty narrative understood by a large audience.

Howard Richler’s latest book is Can I Have a Word With You?

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Cotler pleads for doomed of Darfur

Arguably the most forgotten of forgotten issues in the current election, human rights policy in general, and foreign policy toward Sudan in particular, has been left largely untouched by press and politicians alike in favour of domestic concerns.

Ex-Justice Minister Irwin Cotler is one of few candidates raising the extraordinarily unsexy issue during the campaign rather than skating around it or giving it cursory lipservice, and nearly the only individual in public life capable of a straight answer about what the holdup is in deploying peacekeepers to Darfur. He’s alarmed about Canada’s absence from international efforts to intervene, and frustrated with the inattention it’s received from government and the media.

“It never gets covered,” he says of the subject and his efforts to talk about it. It can’t be for lack of a good quote admitting past mistakes: “The Liberal government in which I served was not as good as it should have been on Darfur – I acknowledge that. I think we should have done more. I was critical of my own government.”

But, he insists, it’s been all downhill from there under the Conservatives. “At least we had it on the radar screen – at least we said we’ll provide humanitarian assistance, we’ll support a hybrid United Nations and African Union protection force to stop the killing. It was in our speech from the throne,” he says, contrasting it with the Tory throne speech. “The most serious area of foreign policy concern, and there’s no mention – not of Darfur, not of Africa, nothing.”

Once chairman of the all-party Save Darfur Parliamentary Coalition, he’s seen it dissolved and his Save Darfur Action Plan ignored.

Not nearly catchy enough for the back of a t-shirt, the Save Darfur Action Plan entails a number of diplomatic objectives, largely immune to the influence of mass marches and passionate oratory. A scant African Union peacekeeping force of 10,000 is already in Southern Sudan, but impeded by lack of equipment and logistical support, and nearly helpless to protect the Darfuri against the ethnic cleansing campaign of their government and its Janjaweed militia. As an immediate stopgap measure, the plan calls on countries to properly equip this tiny volunteer contingent. “Canada can help as part of NATO,” says Cotler, “by supplying helicopters and by maintaining pressure for a Darfur Summit.”

To get more and better-equipped peacekeepers into the area, a Darfur Summit, the centerpiece of the plan, would bring together key international players to replace the “underfunded and undermanned” AU mission with a 26,000-strong hybrid UN/AU force. But already, regrets Cotler, “the Sudanese government is refusing key contingents from non-African countries... the Catch-22 is that the Responsibility to Protect provision [of the UN Charter] prohibits unilateral action. It says it has to be authorized by the UN. The problem is that there may be a veto at the UN, certainly by China, if not Russia. China is buying Sudanese oil and then Sudan is using the revenue to buy weapons from China – weapons that are then used to kill Darfuri. All this makes China complicit in that genocide by attrition.”

Likewise, China stymies enforcement of Security Council resolutions demanding a no-fly zone over areas where Sudanese planes have bombed Darfuri villages.

Other state actions called for by the plan include trade sanctions, asset seizures, and travel bans on Sudanese government officials. It demands that conditions be attached to World Bank and IMF aid. It also puts pressure on investment funds and portfolio managers to divest holdings in PetroChina and China Petroleum, two key funders of the Khartoum regime.

But failing an epiphany at the UN or capitulation under economic pressure, is Darfur doomed?

“We have to use whatever leverage we may have with regards to China,” Cotler maintains. “But if none of these things work, and we can’t get a [UN] resolution, the other choice would be to do what we did with Kosovo – we got NATO authorization rather than a [UN] resolution, which we couldn’t get because Russia would veto it at the time.”

Failing both UN and NATO action, US Democratic VP nominee Senator Joe Biden offers a solution notable for its familiarity: unilateral invasion. He has said that with the Sudanese junta “it’s time to put force on the table and use it,” because “those kids will be dead by the time the diplomacy is over.”

The ex-Minister’s reaction? “I’m hopeful that if Biden is VP and Obama is President, that they’ll act on what Biden has said – that ‘we will not wait, and we will give notice to al-Bashir that if a, b, c, d, and e aren’t done within a certain period of time, then we will intervene’ – and I hope McCain will take the same position.”

“Nothing has pained me more while I’ve been a Member of Parliament than to see this unfolding and ongoing genocide by attrition... Hansard isn’t a bestseller, but I’ve been speaking about it since 2002. The question is: how long does one wait? And Biden makes that point.”

Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson and NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar declined comment for this piece.


What is a Mandate and do you need one?

In my assessments of families dealing with Alzheimer’s, I will ask whether there is a mandate. Some families are not clear on what a mandate is and often confuse “mandate” with “power of attorney.”

I explain to the best of my ability and advise people to contact their notary or attorney for further details. But knowing the importance of accurate information, I turned to Joyce Blond Frank, attorney from Elder Aide, who provi­ded me with the following information.

Joyce says it’s important to know that in the Civil Code the mandate is the same as a power of attorney and the Mandate Given in the Event of Incapacity has its own chapter.

A Mandate Given in the Event of Incapacity is a document that is prepared while you are fully capable of making decisions. You can designate someone to provide needed care and protection with regard to health and property, instructing chosen people to carry out your wishes when you are no longer capable of doing so. You can assign one person to handle all these matters, or divide the responsibilities of financial and health care between two people.

If a mandate is not in place, then should the time come when decisions need to be made, and you are deemed incapable of making these decisions, then someone will be named for you. When there is no mandate, the court may decide that you need “protective supervision.”

In this case, if there is nobody to care for you, the Public Curator will become responsible for your assets. The care of the person, except in very rare cases, is left to a relative, friend, or the facility where the person resides. To avoid this, it is best to have a mandate and choose the person or people you trust to carry out your wishes.

Joyce goes on to explain that the Mandate Given in the Event of Incapacity should not be confused with a will, which takes effect only after death, nor should it be confused with a power of attorney, which allows someone to act for us in activities that we may be perfectly able to do on our own, such as banking.

A mandate can only take effect after a representative of the court decides you are no longer able to care for yourself or manage your own affairs. This is called the homologation of a mandate. The judge or clerk will study reports of both a physician and a social worker’s psycho-social evaluation before arriving at a decision, and may also listen to what you have to say. This means that as long as you are capable, your mandate will not be put into place.

I am often called upon to provide these psycho-social reports for the homologation of a mandate. At times the situation is urgent and the lawyer will take the proper steps to speed up the process. In general, the homologation of a mandate could take a few months.

In order to protect yourself for a possible time when you are not able to protect yourself, a mandate is strongly advisable. I have a mandate and encourage my family and friends to do the same. My daughter often reminds me that should I become incapacitated she will be making the decisions regarding my care. It is a gentle reminder, or not so gentle depending on the day, that I had better be nice to her. As the bumper sticker that I often see on cars reads: “Be nice to your children, they will be choosing your nursing home.”

Comments and questions are welcome at bonnie@servingmontrealseniors.com and may be used in future articles.

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Fighting for children’s rights runs in the family

EMSB school commissioner Ginette Sauvé-Frankel is not satisfied with just championing the rights of children and youth locally. A year into her second term, her efforts are focused on Canada’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and creation of a Children’s Commissioner for Canada.

Sauvé-Frankel’s life has been dominated by her passion for children’s rights since she herself was a child. “[As] a grade five student at boarding school I witnessed a little girl who had been tied to a chair by the teachers and was just crying. I couldn’t believe what I saw and I can still see her there sobbing. I don’t know what was worse, seeing her tied to the chair or realizing I had not done anything to try to stop it,” she recounts.

Sauvé-Frankel grew up in a family actively involved in social changes in Quebec, particularly those concerning education. Her grandfather was Arthur Sauvé, MNA for Two Mountains and leader of the Quebec Conservative Party before becoming a federal politician and later Postmaster General and Senator. Her father, former Quebec premier Paul Sauvé, was also the first ever Minister for Social Welfare and Youth, and her mother Luce Pelland was president of the Conservative party in Quebec in the 1960s.

Sauvé-Frankel was studying fine arts at the Ecole des Beaux Arts when she met and fell in love with one of her professors, celebrated photographer Hugh Frankel, 25 years her senior. The two would later marry and raise two sons.

After pursuing a career in the arts and completing an MBA at Concordia, Sauvé-Frankel settled down to run her own graphic design business. What altered her career path was an exhibition in 2003 featuring her family’s heritage of service to the province, which prompted her to think about how she too could make a difference.

Shortly after, longtime School Com­missioner Joan Rothman told Sauvé-Frankel she was retiring, and encouraged her to run for the position.

Sauvé-Frankel ran an effective campaign and won with a strong majority. She spent the first year getting to know the schools and finding out specific needs. As an advocate of literacy, she became particularly involved in trying to increase librarians’ hours. “I didn’t see the sense of pouring money into books in libraries if there wasn’t a trained librarian available at all times to teach the students how to use it.”

Sauve-Frankel has been on the board of the Quebec English School Boards Association for the last five years, and is the commissioner who introduced the inspiring Roots of Empathy program to inner city schools. The Vancouver-born program brings 3- to 4-month-old infants into the classroom in monthly sessions with a trained facilitator, who helps students learn about child development firsthand over a nine-month period. The results are impressive, reducing levels of aggression among students by increasing social competence and empathy skills.

Looking back, Sauvé-Frankel can credit her own unhappy school experience with motivation to help ensure it’s not repeated for others. “I’ve become a fierce defender of children,” she says, “giving them the voice that little girl in the boarding school didn’t have.”

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Electoral showdown in Ottawa and Washington

I don’t know a single one of my friends or acquaintances who plans to vote Conservative in the federal election, now less than 10 days away. Yet polls show Stephen Harper so far ahead that there is now talk of a Tory majority.

How did Harper, who everyone agrees is a superb tactician, do it? My view is that Harper, right out of the gate, defined the central issue of the campaign. That issue is leadership. And Canadians by a country mile see Harper as a far more accomplished leader than any of his opponents.

Entering the campaign, Harper wanted to build on his leadership advantage by showing a new side. He would smother one of his main negatives: the image of him as a sinister, overly partisan operator. Ads showed a soft, caring family man and a benign and understanding human being. Never mind that Harper, the one-time Reformer, is so straight-laced, you would think he walks into the shower in a three-piece suit.

Harper’s main opponent, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, also tried to define the major issue for the campaign. First it was the tax on carbon, the Green Shift. But it never caught on. Either the Green Shift was too complex to explain, or Dion hasn’t found a formula to translate it into everyday language that his candidates can use on the doorstep.

After a couple of halting weeks, the Liberal strategists pretty well buried the carbon tax. Instead they began to showcase their team – Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff, Martha Hall Findlay, and Gerard Kennedy.

The idea was to emphasize the strong Liberal team as opposed to Harper’s weak and nameless cabinet.

It might have worked but it didn’t. One reason is that the people around Dion, strong communicators and politically savvy, simply brought their leader’s weaknesses into bold relief.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve thought Stéphane Dion is a remarkable person ever since I first encountered him at a speech at Concordia during the last referendum. I further think that if he ever got the keys to 24 Sussex, he could well become a splendid prime minister. Dion is not ideologically driven and he’s as honest as the day is long. No matter. Dion, who lacks poltical street smarts, has not been able to communicate his message in either official language.

The result is that the Liberal vote has collapsed in British Columbia and there will almost certainly be significant losses in Ontario and Quebec. Only in Atlantic Canada is the Liberal vote holding.

Another problem is that, with the exception of someone like Marc Garneau, Dion has not been able to attract star candidates in Quebec or anywhere else. Nor did the debates change the momentum in any significant way.

At this stage, the prospects for the Liberals are bleak indeed. If Dion can’t hang onto the seats he has now – 95 – it is difficult to see how he can survive as leader.

The same judgement could be made about Senator John McCain in the American election. If Senator Obama loses he would almost certainly run again four years hence.

But as this is being written, about four weeks ahead of the election, it does not appear that Obama is losing. The latest ABC-Washington Post poll shows Obama nine points ahead. You have to go back to Tom Dewey’s surprising loss to Harry Truman in 1948 to find a candidate this far ahead at this stage of the election who subsequently lost.

McCain has two problems. So long as the news is about bank bailouts and a faltering economy, Obama has the advantage. In the first debate McCain needed a game changer. He didn’t get it. Obama needed a tie. And in my view he surpassed that.

McCain’s other problem is Sarah Palin. The bloom is off the rose so far as the governor of Alaska is concerned. Even conservative columnists, like David Brooks in the New York Times, complain that Palin’s answers, in the few media interviews she has done, are so incoherent and painful that he cannot bring himself to watch her anymore.

But Palin is nothing if not resilient. She smiled her way through the vice-presidential debate, answered questions when she could, ducked them when she couldn’t, and lived to campaign another day.

It will not likely be enough. The tide is moving strongly toward Obama and it is hard to say what will change it.

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We've got rhythm

Dance is all the rage in 2008. With the recent craze in popularity for shows like Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance,  we are starting to see dance as more than after-school ballet class, or what the kids get down to in the hip hop clubs. It is for anybody who can catch a beat.

Edgar Lion and Roberta Woloz Mendelson are a tap dancing duo who have been bringing the beat, or tapping the beat, since 2000. They prefer to go by Eddie and Bobby.

As a teen in 1930s Vienna, Eddie frequented the cinema, which at the time was playing only gangster movies and musicals. He loved the musicals and took up ballroom dancing in high school, which has become a life-long passion. He fled the Nazis in 1938 and was later brought to Montreal by a distant relative.

“I’ve always loved tap dancing, but there was no instruction in Vienna at the time,” Lion said. In 1986, at the age of 66, he saw a newspaper ad for tap dancing instruction at the Westmount YMCA and has been “hooked ever since.” It’s never too late to learn. He met Bobbie Mendelson in 2000 when they were both performing in plays at the Cummings Jewish Center for Seniors.

Bobbie Mendelson, born in Montreal, learned tap from an early age. A mother of 5 and grandmother of 10, her legs are those of a girl in her 20s. She’s a born entertainer. “It all started with my mother’s love for the piano,” she explained. “We danced around the piano as kids.”

She grew up with a “creative passion” keeping busy with tap dancing, ballet, acrobatics and school plays. She was a member of the modern dance group at McGill University and taught fitness classes for many years.

“I’m passionate about entertaining and keeping in good shape. I never liked to say ‘for my age.’ That’s out, I hate that… I’m supposedly a good looking girl!”

Staying fit is an integral part of her life. “Body, mind, love and passion,” she said. “It’s kept my mind happy. When you have that passion, it diffuses out to every area of your life like when you read stories to your grandchildren.”

No doubt dancing keeps us in tip-top shape, but it can also be a fun and interactive way to keep you young, long and lean. Next to Bobbie's killer legs, Eddie stands tall with excellent posture at 6’1”. He is thin and strong. "My dancing has kept me in good physical shape. No problems. Always a positive attitude," he says. "My GP says he hasn't met anyone in as good a shape as I am in my age group."

For someone interested in joining in on the dance craze, Bobbie suggests looking into centers that offer fitness courses that integrate rhythmic aerobics. "So much of it has become like hip-hop."

Eddie and Bobby create their own choreography or modify an existing routine. Their one-hour show is sprinkled with jokes. Their  repertoire includes popular tunes like The Joint is Jumping by Fats Waller, and other favorites like Tea for Two, We've Got Rhythm, Love is a Simple Thing, and In The Mood. 

They perform in social clubs, hospitals, and senior residences in the Montreal area without charge. "They always ask for encores,"  Bobby says. "We feel like we owe them money for the fun that we have performing and for giving us the pleasure and satisfaction that light up their days. We connect with them, people catch on to it and they smile."

If you are interested in contacting Eddie and Bobby to book a performance, please call 514-486-8138.

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Current champions keep title in shuffleboard curling match

Team Place Kensington

The competition was fierce but friendly in the quarter-final of the annual Shuffleboard Curling Tournament in Westmount last month. Home team members from Place Kensington in Westmount battled to win back the trophy from Manoir Westmount, the visiting champions. In spite of a valiant effort and a supportive cheering section, at the end of the hour-long tournament Manoir Westmount went home again with the coveted Shuffleboard Curling Cup.

The players, who are in their 80s and 90s, played in style, dressed in the Place Kensington colours of green and white and Manoir Westmount uniforms of black and white. Team members strategized their moves in the hybrid indoor game, which evolved from floor curling and outdoor shuffleboard.

With the NHL enthusiasm of Danny Gallivant, Place Kensington program director Doreen Friedman gave a play-by-play commentary of the moves and the score. “What I really like about this game is that every resident can play, even those who are weak on their feet or use a cane. We can assist them to and from the playing board but they can do their own planning and follow-through of the moves, and it is great fun for all the players.”

Simona Buth, Friedman’s counterpart at the Manoir, agreed. “Both Doreen and I feel very strongly about the benefits of shuffleboard curling for seniors. At the Manoir we have a weekly floor curling program. We have about 10 players on each team with several cheerleaders and spectators popping in.”

Mary Sancton (in black and white) playing for Team Manoir Westmount

In addition to the fun, both directors discovered an unexpected benefit of playing. “It’s a game that brings out the competitive spirit and there’s always a lot of noise and laughter,” Buth said.

“The game brings out a part of their personalities we don’t often get to see,” according to Friedman. “Their competitive side and team spirit come out at the tournaments. At every practice and game they challenge themselves when they plan and deliver their moves. They are energized and really love the game. After the tournament the teams enjoy tea and sweets and get to know each other.”

Buth and Friedman challenge all Montreal residences to get involved: “Yes, the equipment costs a bit of money, but we’ve been playing weekly for about eight years and the activity and tournaments continue to generate excitement, laughter and healthy competition.” Buth and Friedman are happy to answer questions about shuffleboard curling, and invite activity directors, recreation therapists, facility managers and others to drop by and attend a game.

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Campanelli’s campaign cachet contagious

Campanelli and Jennings outside campaign HQ

Carmela Campanelli got her first taste of grassroots politics in 1957, volunteering for Louis Saint-Laurent’s Liberals in their battle against John Diefenbaker.

Now putting her formidable people skills to work for NDG–Lachine MP Marlene Jennings’ 2008 campaign, she has the capacity to ruin a cynic’s skepticism in minutes, and enough perspective to soundly trounce the notion that politics can’t change things in the long run. Since before there existed a Charter of Rights, Medicare, EI, or official bilingualism, she’s soldiered through fair weather and foul on behalf of three successive generations of Parliamentarians.

Campanelli relocated to Montreal from Italy after the Second World War, leaving behind a town where ordinary people had little say in the running of their affairs. Being able to get involved in the democratic process made Canada seem full of possibilities by comparison. “When I talk to people I tell them how lucky we are in this country,” she says. “Here you count.” Those who disdain the political scene have little right to grumble in her opinion. “Apathy – it’s no good. Don’t just sit home and criticize,” she says. “Don’t be a complainer. Be a doer.” This year marks her seventeenth straight time leading by example – “I’ve never, ever missed an election.”

Working the phones on a busy afternoon at campaign headquarters, she finds her canvassing beat to have changed little over the years, encountering familiar voices and familiar themes again and again. “You talk to a lot of the same people and you get to know them,” she says. “They feel like someone’s listening to them. Sometimes they have a lot to say.” In spite of public hand-wringing over declining participation and mounting disillusionment, she sees neither more nor less cynicism towards politics than when she started. “This is something that’s been said for centuries,” she notes affably. “Times change. Be patient. When the time comes, the young people do exactly what they have to do.”

“This is an exciting time,” she says of the current race, noting climate change in particular as an impetus providing new blood. “I see young people getting more involved… it’s very busy.” As she shows new volunteers the ropes, her depth of experience puts issues in a more philosophical context. “We’ve come a long way. The young people, you have to let them know we had to fight for these things we take for granted now.”

In one of the reddest ridings in the country, many of Campanelli’s conversations with voters would make volunteers elsewhere green with envy. Her candidate is exceptionally popular. “There’s something special about NDG! We’ve been very lucky. We’ve had amazing MPs.” She warmly relates having worked alongside Warren Allmand during his tenure as Justice Minister, when he toiled against stiff opposition to abolish the death penalty, an issue predating the political memories of most Canadians. “I really admired Warren,” she recalls. “He was so dedicated. A real man of integrity.”

Her impression of Marlene Jennings has so far matched his example in every way and more. “Marlene took over and she’s doing a great job for NDG,” she says. “She’s amazing.”

Jennings is indeed an easy sell in the riding, with a high profile in the previous Liberal administration as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and the Solicitor General, and notable efforts in opposition working for employment equity among women, first nations, and minorities. Her appreciation for Campanelli’s expertise and background in the community is known by everyone working on the campaign: “Carmela’s been there for us every time from start to finish, so everybody knows her... I don’t know where she gets the energy, she tires me out!”

Campanelli urges voters to do whatever they can to get to the polls October 14. “You have to get out and participate,” she says. “We pick people up any time they want, door to door, they just need to give us a call and let us know.”

Polling station information is available from Elections Canada at 800-463-6868 or www.elections.ca.


Strong candidates make voting decisions tough

With storm clouds signaling economic meltdown hovering over the United States, the debates in the Canadian general election seemed liked a passing sun shower. Add to that the drama of Obama versus McCain, and his risky choice of Sarah Palin as running mate, and you have all the makings of drama, even if at times it resembled a daytime soap opera.

But we have a real battle going on right here, with all the opinion surveys pointing to a renewed Conservative victory under Stephen Harper. Still, his vision of the role of government has yet to win him a seat in Montreal or Toronto.

The ridings where The Senior Times is distributed are solidly Liberal and many of our readers reflect this reality. But some fine candidates are running for the NDP, Conservatives and Green Party who are attracting attention and would make excellent MPs. Green Party leader Elizabeth May urges Canadians to vote with their hearts, but some are calling for strategic voting, to support whomever is strongest to prevent a Tory majority.

Some may feel that Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, an honest, hardworking, principled and brilliant man, has been pilloried for not being as good with soundbites as others. But the past week has shown him to in fact have an exemplary capacity to articulate his ideas in both languages.

The NDP hopes to repeat their byelection win in Outremont and to pick up Westmount–Ville-Marie as well, where CBC broadcaster Anne Lagacé Dowson is waging a high-profile campaign. Former astronaut Marc Garneau is the Liberal star candidate there – certainly a man of honour and achievement, who has proved his dedication to the common good. The NDP’s Peter Deslauriers, former head of the Dawson College teachers’ union, is also an attractive candidate for NDG–Lachine, up against Marlene Jennings, who has become a well-known advocate of minority rights. It goes without saying that we fully support Stéphane Dion in St. Laurent, and human rights advocate and former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler in Mount Royal.

We know many of our readers will have difficulty choosing this time due to the unusually high calibre of candidates running across the island.

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