Category Archives: Features

News, articles and opinion pieces

An unanswered question

You’ve asked that question again, and then

dropped your head, posing so purposefully in thought

and I stare blankly at your hair, hanging in suspension

like us, hung, in some past memory of ours

or perhaps in a future dream

 

I see your life before me (and I search for me in the picture)

Is it that we have so many roads and no time?

or so much time and not enough road?

I have no answer,

 

– Chris George 

September 1980 

A Resolution for A Good Life

Rise early 

Do as much as you can, to the best of your ability 

Be present in each moment, with each encounter 

Stay positive in thought and deed

Be grateful and count your blessings 

Share memories with the ones you love

Sleep well

etched in your consciousness, a resolution for a good life

 

– Chris George 

Why obfuscate the facts about the Wuhan Coronavirus?

A traveller wears a mask at Pearson airport arrivals, shortly after Toronto Public Health received notification of Canada’s first presumptive confirmed case of novel coronavirus. Photo: Carlos Osorio/Reuters.

The Niagara Independent, January 31, 2020 — During Parliament’s first week back to business, Canadian news media were not focused on the MPs’ theatre, but rather on the breaking international story of a spreading coronavirus from Wuhan China. MPs and federal government officials fumbled about making statements about the coronavirus. However, they were background noise to newsmakers from Beijing to Toronto who were providing Canadians with less than satisfactory answers on the details of the evolving health scare. Many details remain unclear – and obfuscating the facts on what is a deadly serious issue has the potential to undermine public trust; something our federal leaders cannot ignore.

Here are the facts. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains coronaviruses are a group of viruses that are transmitted to people from animals such as cows and pigs – and bats – and it can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. WHO describes the symptoms: “Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.” WHO states that the virus can be transmitted from person-to-person and symptoms may not be detected for days. The virus can survive on inanimate surfaces for short periods of time.

In the case of the Wuhan coronavirus there are (as of Thursday noon) more than 6,000 cases of the illness reported globally with 132 related deaths. The vast majority of those affected are in China and all fatalities are in China. (An aside: To put these numbers in perspective, the U.S. Centers for Disease control estimates that “so far this season there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths from flu” in the United States alone.)

The first case of the Wuhan coronavirus in Canada was confirmed in Toronto last Saturday, January 25th. A man in his 50s travelled from Wuhan, arrived in Toronto on Wednesday, became ill within a day, and self-reported to local health officials. Since, the man’s wife is confirmed to have the virus. Now there is another confirmed case in Vancouver.

In Ottawa on Wednesday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told MPs that a vaccine for the flu-like coronavirus is at least a year off. In the meantime Canadians are told they can reduce their exposure and transmission to all strains of coronaviruses by washing their hands often, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and practicing proper cough and sneeze etiquette. Canada’s Minister of Health Patty Hadju counsels: “Those who have travelled to an affected area of China and subsequently developed flu-like symptoms to reach out to their health care professional.”

Presently, this is not considered a health crisis in Canada. However, for Canadians this conjures up memories of SARS, which was also first reported as a virus that need not raise concern. Recall some 16 years ago, outside of Asia, Canada was the hardest hit by SARS, accounting for more than 400 cases and 44 deaths. SARS overwhelmed our public healthcare system. This fact makes the current dismissive commentary from canadian and international authorities about the Wuhan coronavirus – “a novel virus” with no known cure – so discomforting.

The Chinese Government has been caught spreading misinformation to reassure world health authorities it has the outbreak under control. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs published an image of a building they claimed was a Wuhan hospital specifically constructed (in just 16 days!) to manage the coronavirus patients. This “hospital” has been fact-checked by the international group Human Rights Watch and found to be an apartment building. Chinese state media is actively tweeting photos of roadblocks, checkpoints, and calm medical personnel caring for patients in Wuhan. It is discrediting a local nurse video that has been released to the world that states there are close to 90,000 people in China with the disease (Chinese officials report there are 1,975).

It is ironic that Chinese state officials are using Chinese news organizations and social media to combat what they are describing as “disinformation campaigns.” Officials are repeatedly stating that the outbreak was not planned nor is it the result of bioweapons experimentation. They are also stating “bat soup” is not responsible for the disease, though health experts are speculating that Chinese “wet markets” selling warm, freshly slaughtered animals may be the breeding grounds for diseases like this novel coronavirus. (The bat soup videos have gone viral even if Chinese officials are correct in saying they are not the cause of the virus.)

WHO officials warn the spread of the disease outside China is a “grave concern” and all of the 15 countries that have imported cases, including Canada, must be at “full alert.” On Thursday, the head WHO bureaucrats and medical specialists are considering whether this virus constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Yet, in Toronto news, Mayor John Tory assembled with community activists and City Councillors at a press conference to chastise Torontonians for being racist. The Mayor stated he’s “very troubled” to hear of Torontonians response to the evolving health scare. He profiled colleague City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam who said, “There will probably be more harm caused by racism, xenophobia, discrimination, harassment, racial taunts directed specifically toward the Chinese Canadian community, and others of Asian descent, than will be caused by the coronavirus.” Mayor Tory also advised against any calls to quarantine travelers coming from Wuhan because that demonstrated prejudice and displayed anti-Chinese sentiment. Tory insisted “this kind of stigmatization discussion can actually make us less safe because it spreads misinformation at a time when people need real information and real facts.”

The editorial team at Sun News immediate challenged those at the Mayor’s press conference: “Toronto’s leaders seem more worried about hurt feelings than they do about the spread of the virus. People avoiding Chinese restaurants or shopping areas are not bigots but concerned about their health…. the real facts are people are not racist for trying to avoid a virus that could kill them.”

Real facts are what Canadians deserve with this troubling health concern (crisis or not). We don’t need to hear spin from our politicians, nor filtered or fabricated facts from authorities. No obfuscation please.

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/why-obfuscate-the-facts-about-the-wuhan-coronavirus/

Like the ancient mariner

Like the ancient mariner, I hack at the neck of the albatross

I must be free. It’s all I can do to imagine

its head stuck at the end of my stick

held high above my head – with its swollen tongue

protruding out its beak, its bulging eyes

glaring straight ahead, piercing through me.

 

– Chris George 

2015 

Who brings this undesired intrusion?

I heard a cry in the middle of the night

like it has come across a decade

accusatory and pain-filled

leaving me chilled and wet

 

who has wanted to make this point?

who other than my own conscious?

I have too many memories suppressed

and some long forgotten

with my focus on the here and now

 

it was a cry of desperation that awoke me

a cry that signaled out me and my

hapless sense of responsibility to the past –

it was like a strawman’s backbone had been snapped.

 

who brings this undesired intrusion?

violating my peace of mind

leaving me with piercing headaches

and a troubled hollowness in my soul

echoing endless questions about past conduct,

current responsibilities, future intentions

 

(more troubled reflections –

I need to better ‘know thyself’

to realize its my own innermost thoughts

that haunt my sleep)

 

Chris George 

From the collection entitled “At 42” 

June 2004

Self-depreciating rot

I have sat through this scene before

Witness to my past and forever future

I didn’t move then – and am not about to now

I simply lack the will to change

 

I need to find my balance — and then set it off kilter

 

At the core of every scene has been a troubled soul

There needs to be a yearning to uncover, explain, fight, expose

— and I have none of that.

What do I yearn for in my comfortable surroundings?

Nothing…

 

So, life becomes like a death spiral of personal depreciation –

It is the quiet moments, early in the morning,

When you’ve just woken from your dreams –

And you realize that it is another day.

 

Aching, stifling anxiety

Permanently reflecting on what can be

What could have been, what should be

Rendering one’s self worthless

 

An eunuch of what once was…

 

I long for nothing more than to look into the mirror of my soul

and to say again, “I know that man, and I respect him for his action.”

 

and yet, these are nothing but the idle thoughts of middle age

that take interesting men and thrust mediocrity upon them

 

Chris George 

From the collection entitled “At 42” 

June 2004

a spray of anxiousness

Each day breaks, as a wave would

Crashing into my senses and awakening me to

my bedrock of nonsense and idleness.

 

I awake with a spray of anxiousness.

I imagine gull cries to herald the morning

(another wave crashes, then it lapses away without notice)

I stand dumbfounded, uncertain, before another day

I search for a fresh breeze and wipe a salty sting from my brow

 

scene after scene, incident after incident,

wave after wave, each with a potential to

crash the shallow meaninglessness I wade in –

and provide real hope of achieving,

of completing one’s self

 

Chris George 

From the collection entitled “At 42” 

June 2004

Consuming consumption

In this dizzying, consumer-driven world

where we are what we buy

we are no longer concerned about what we create,

what we produce – our being, our doing, our making

 

life is a mall alley and we are challenged

to put as much as we can in our shopping carts

 

so, like DeNiro in the Mission, we drag our purchases along

through each phase of life… and in the end, to have it sorted

by an auctioneer or a Salvation Army volunteer –

and, the legacy we had hoped for

becomes, simply, a legacy we must accept – not of our making,

and reflecting nothing of our soul

 

hinging on a decent Sally Ann cheque for deposit into our Estate

 

– Chris George 

2004 

Pictures of me in my younger years

The vivid pictures of me in my younger years have all

but yellowed and blurred, all details hidden ‘neath a smoky hue

I’ve noticed I am no longer the center of my world;

where once there were clear thoughts and purposeful intent,

today, I’m no longer sure footed, planted

but left with an awkwardly lean, unbalanced and uncertain

I can stand unnoticed in a middle of a crowded room

trying to catch a phrase or a single word to pick up on

and then contribute a thought, any notion,

something intelligent and real and interesting;

perhaps reflecting my insight and wit and yet

there’s nothing but pensive glances, grins and nods

as I grimace through another conversation,

straining to remain interesting – and interested

saying anything to cut through the silence and exhume

those lost hopes and dreams of my blurry, faded younger self

 

– Chris George 

2015

10 Proverbs for Legislators

  1. Law is a necessary evil.
  2. Pass as few laws as possible, consistent with the demands of justice and the maintenance of order.
  3. Where custom is sufficient, there is no need for law.
  4. Do not pass laws that cannot, or will not, be enforced, for such breed contempt for both the law and the State.
  5. Penalties must be minimally sufficient to deter infractions, given adequate enforcement. Less renders the law ineffective; more inflicts unnecessary pain.
  6. There is an inverse proportion between the severity necessary to deter infractions and the certainty of punishment.
  7. Enshrine your principles in constitutions, codify your common sense in laws, and leave the rest to regulation.
  8. Even more than on your wisdom, the legitimacy of the State depends on your integrity.
  9. In public life, integrity requires not only an honest heart but an honest face.
  10. Your primary object must always be not the satisfaction of your constituents but the continued legitimacy of the State, for upon that depends the welfare, even the survival, of us all.

 

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

A Keyboard Swan Song

click

 

life’s a click away

clicking away

mentally turning over, churning out,

burning out

click:  new topic, same perspective – need to refocus

click. double click (let’s delete that thought)

AND wipe clear that idea

 

it’s a major shutdown

fatigued – no chance to stretch my imagination

or hide away in my gray matter, with what matters

 

So hopeless, I remain scratching words to form phrases

with a desire to describe a riddle of humanity for those who

struggle under the weight of the human condition

 

Yet, reaching inside is harder than stretching forward

It is exhausting to reach and grasp nothing but air

to attempt to grab hold of your guts and have them

slip from your hands

 

click

(longing for those brief moments of exhilaration…)

 

click

(…when there’s a connection that grounds you in the present…)

 

click

(…and forces you to admit that life’s for the living…)

 

I think of Nietzsche: Even the bravest of us

rarely has the courage for what he really knows.

And I hear echoes of Springsteen’s refrain:

Is a dream a lie that doesn’t come true?

 

as I reach for the delete button

 

– Chris George 

2005 

Canada Sinking In a Quagmire of Debt

The International Monetary Fund recently reported that Canada’s federal government spending is now at the highest level in Canadian history.

The Niagara Independent, January 24, 2020 — Delivering continuous deficit budgets is like spinning your wheels in mud; it’s inevitable that you will eventually get stuck. That common sense is beginning to creep into the conversations about the federal Liberal deficit spending as more Canadians are starting to appreciate what it means to be sinking in a quagmire of debt.

The Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently provided an update of Canada’s finances in which he reported the government’s projected deficit is $26.6 billion for this 2019-20 fiscal year – a total of almost $7 billion more than originally planned for in his budget of last March.  Finance Minister Morneau went on to project next year’s deficit would be even higher. He pegged a budget deficit of $28.1 billion for 2020-21, but that is not accounting for several costly campaign promises – and the spending orgy the Liberals are expected to make in advance of the next election.

In his fiscal update, the Finance Minister matter-of-factly stated that the Liberal Government is planning five more years of double-digit deficits. He told Canadians the federal debt should reach $713 billion at the end of the current fiscal year and grow to $810 billion by 2024-2025. He made no mention of a balanced budget in the Liberals’ future fiscal plan.

This is noteworthy given the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently reported that Canada’s federal government spending is now at the highest level in Canadian history. The federal Liberals, under the watch of Bill Morneau, are outspending all past federal governments, including those governments that had to respond to world wars and global recession crises. According to the IMF, spending by all levels of government in Canada accounts for more than 40 per cent of the country’s economy. This rate is well above what research indicates is the optimal size of government at 26-30 per cent of GDP. If unbridled, this government spending will jeopardize both Canada’s economic growth and our social wellbeing.

The Fraser Institute is an organization that has been consistent in its message stating that continuous deficit spending by our governments is unsustainable. In a number of fiscal reports through this past year, the Institute demonstrates that budget deficits and increasing debt have become serious fiscal challenges – if not the greatest challenge – facing the federal and many provincial governments today. Today, combined federal and provincial net debt is expected to equal 64.3% of the Canadian economy or $39,483 for every Canadian. The growing concern is the interest payments that must be paid on this debt. Money spent on interest means there will be less money available for government programs such as health care, education, and social services.

The HEC Montreal’s Centre for Productivity and Prosperity issued a report underlining that recurring federal deficits could be risky for future generations of Canadians. This policy institute warns posting continuous deficits with no deadline to balanced budgets is a risky fiscal strategy for the federal government that may just “indebt itself indefinitely.” It underscores its potentially dire outlook for intergenerational equity is its conclusion, stating: “In addition to passing part of today’s bills on to future taxpayers, Ottawa is unduly increasing their risk exposure by accumulating deficits, to the point where tomorrow’s taxpayers might be unable to enjoy the same services if interest rates were to increase significantly or if the Canadian economy experienced a serious economic crisis.”

In the next decade the Federal Government will also be pressed to meet the financial commitments to seniors. By 2030, one in four Canadians will be aged 65 and older. Today, seniors account for 17 per cent of the country’s population and the $56 billion the federal government spends on seniors’ benefits make up the single largest expense of the federal government’s budget. That line item will rise to $99 billion as “the grey tsunami” washes over Canada. In a recent report, Royal Bank of Canada warns of the consequences related to the rising costs for elderly benefits over the next ten years: “The financial demands of an older population will make it harder for governments to fund key growth priorities like education and skills development, let alone the vote-getting niche initiatives they often advance at election time.”

In a rather bleak end-of-year assessment of the country’s fiscal state of affairs, Financial Post columnist Diane Francis asks, “Who’s going to look after Canada’s economic wellbeing for the next five years?” Francis sees a troubling horizon, “Canada slips and there’s nobody to catch it, not Parliament or other levels of government. The Liberals spent five years variously pandering to environmental, regional or anti-capitalist interests… The country’s governance, like a 100-car pile-up, is a tangled mess that is transiting out of the free enterprise system every year.”

Still, when presenting his fiscal update last month, Finance Minister Bill Morneau expressed no concern in forecasting continuous and indefinite deficit budgets. No concern for the growing debt. No concern for the future generations of Canadians, nor aging seniors. And yet, for many Canadians it is now clearer that the Liberals’ cavalier approach to government deficit financing has become of great concern.

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/canadians-sinking-in-a-quagmire-of-debt/

Requiem for the Disheartened

None of us will ever accomplish anything or commanding, except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

[ This is for the hopeless who recognize and accept their lot ]

 

How do you feel in the silence of the night?

Betraying your own promises,

breaking your personal pledges…

When you know you haven’t done your best

and given your all?

When unrealized potential is lost and has slipped away

When you don’t want to open your eyes

and stare into the mirror

Blinded by too much of very little – and not enough of reality.

 

At the end of a day, there’re no regrets, because there’s an acceptance that

there’s no more to discuss.

 

There’s a creeping dread found in quiet times – no epiphanies

sitting in the dark and not daring to turn on the lights.

How unsettling – finding comfort in holding your head in your hands and

repeating the first thing that comes into your mind

and ruminating the unsatisfactory answers with blank stares.

 

There is only a cold comfort keeping company with an empty casing

where you have come to understand your soul should be –

wanting for more where there is none.

And there is no comfort at all uncovering simple truths –

knowing they are for simple minds.

 

Tomorrow will dawn, yet, another day that doesn’t count for anything

Just falling into a timelessness – lost yesterdays and unplanned tomorrows

and you lay, uneasy, in bed – counting all misfortunes,

lost opportunities, the times you wish you could have back…

 

– Chris George 

2005

Seemingly in a permanent state of reflective discomfort

At 42, I’m content.

I am sitting in my easy chair,

surveying my blessings

My only desire seems to be a yearning

to ‘freeze-frame’ this happiness

 

Is there anything more to say… I think not…

Honestly,

this state of mind has driven out any aspirations

 

I don’t think I’ve ever been so honest with myself

 

Yet, there is much to ponder:

If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of potential – for the eye that, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints; possibility never. – Soren Kierkegaard

 

So, I wish to redefine and refine myself

to illuminate the darken corners of my world

with energy, hope, inspiration

 

I ponder all of this often – of course, with my feet up

 

Chris George 

From the collection entitled “At 42” 

June 2004

My inability to count blessings

The shallow breaths betray my guarded uneasiness

The heaviness in my chest

The lightness in my head

 

I fight this meaninglessness with

hand to temple, eyes firmly closed

A pool of bile churning in my stomach

 

Until every mountain has been ground down

Until every river has run dry

I need to count my blessings.

 

Instead, I count black crows

I smell damp dirt

and I wonder why I don’t get it

 

What part of life must I come to understand

beyond a child’s laugh or my boys squealing ‘Dada’

 

‘Dada’ — nada

 

really, nothing

 

and, yet,

 

Chris George 

From the collection entitled “At 42” 

June 2004

I need purpose and passion and…

muck mire

no burning desire

simply damp and cold

feeling old

and sick

 

For what end?

What’s the product?

What result?

 

I need purpose

to provide focus

and I need passion

to produce results

 

I want to shed my skin

to redefine and refine

to illuminate the darkened corners

of my world

 

with energy, hope, inspiration, and…

 

to be refreshed and

clear my mind so that

I charge into the day

Spry, positive, hopeful

 

– Chris George 

2005  

20 Quotes of Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
  • “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  • “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”
  • “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
  • “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”
  • “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  • “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
  • “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
  • “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
  • “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”
  • “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
  • “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
  • “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.”
  • “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
  • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
  • “Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”
  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
  • “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
  • “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”

 

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

I try

I try to answer the question of purpose, of meaning, of what significance my life is

I’m grasping for answers

 

Life isn’t found in a summation, but in the right question.

A person’s own self-exploration is the answer to life.

 

O’ Oracle of Delphi, you’ve given us the answer in a riddle:

Know thyself

 

It is not where you are –

it’s the direction you’re heading in

 

It is not the destination –

it’s the journey

 

It is not the conclusions –

it’s the honest attempt of explanation

 

Seek and ye will find

The search is your salvation

 

– Chris George 

2005 

Contemplating a Glass of Life

Do you stare at the rim of the glass, and strain to see if there are any smudged fingerprints or lip marks?  Or does your gaze settle on the rich redness of the grape and your mind wonders, as you count your blessings?

I was told that middle age brings a new level of self-awareness. Yet, my middle age has delivered more questions and an uneasy feeling on what my responsibilities are to those around me and to those I’ll never meet.

Are there absolute morals — absolute rights and wrongs?  In our world of constant conflict, can we distinguish immorality anymore or are we living in an amoral world? Do any actions have consequences?

Reflecting on these matters leaves me feeling psychologically violated. I’m left disoriented, unsettled, disheveled, and wary. Like a snake shedding its skin, I rip away layers of pretense to expose ugly realities and my own unfulfilled promise. I arrive at more questions about myself and the world I live in.

At 42, I’ve learned that life is too short to have regrets and second thoughts. Much of the time I choose to live ‘the here and now.’ When troubled, I’ll refocus on the good and on my blessings. Yet, I am uneasy knowing I am but a voyeur to the larger world and its absurdities.  I believe more than ever in thinking globally and acting locally. It’s time that I act on my thoughts.

So, I ponder if the glass is half full or half empty..

 

Chris George 

From the collection entitled “At 42” 

June 2004