In a recent survey of female MPs conducted by Canadian Press, more than half (58 per cent) reported having personally experienced some form of sexual misconduct during their term in office.
The process for handling complaints of harassment – established in 2014 – was considered difficult to evaluate by one-third of respondents. They called it a first step, but insufficient on its own.
But perhaps the real story emanating from the survey is the fact only 38 of 89 female MPs took the time to participate in the voluntary, anonymous survey.
One who chose not to respond was Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, Karen Vecchio.
We caught up with her this week and she offered some candid insight into sexual harassment, an obstacle she has not faced in politics.
She expressed concern the outburst of harassment allegations surfacing from Hollywood and elsewhere may come back to, as she puts it, “bite us in the butt.”
But why did she choose not to participate in the CP survey?
As she explained, she sat on a committee struck in 2014 to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against two Liberal MPs.
“The whole thing was such a debacle,” stressed Vecchio, “after going through that situation and pulling me away from my work so people could make something go so political, I don’t have the time for it. I like to get my work done.”
So, the danger lies in turning the debate into a political circus?
“There are politics about this, because I’m really tired about Justin Trudeau telling me what a feminist he is.”
She added, “In Ottawa, surveys happen every day. This is just another survey and that’s the way I look at it. I don’t trust the way people sometimes use these surveys. You have to look at those who have responded. Those people who have not responded, why not?”
While she has never faced sexual harassment, she admits the conditions are right for it to exist in politics.
“For people who want to climb in the jobs, for some of the young women, I think it could be an issue. I’m referring to staff, not so much MP’s. They are low on the pecking order when it comes to job stability.
“I have never seen it first hand,” advised Vecchio, “but I do recognize that it’s a ferocious race. People want to get ahead and sometimes they are getting ahead on somebody else’s back. And I’m not saying that in a sexual nature.
“They are getting ahead by working those extra hours and just really chomping at the bit. Being very, very aggressive. And sometimes I think people lose sight because we’re in the Ottawa bubble.
“And power becomes a little bit of an issue. It might be growing for power because you might be allowing somebody to harass you or whether you are doing the harassing.”
If harassment is not an issue for Vecchio, then what are some of the obstacles? Especially faced with balancing a career and family.
“In politics, it’s difficult being a woman. How do you deal with those issues at home when you’re sitting in an office. Those are my obstacles. It has never been a man being my obstacle. It has never been harassment being my obstacle. My obstacle is trying to be all things to all people. Which is not possible. And coming up with that understanding that you can have it all, but you can’t have it all at the same time.
“I’m really worried that it’s going to come back and bite us in the butt. You can be a working mom, you can have a great husband, you can go on lavish vacations, your children will be getting all A’s in school and never touch drugs, but that is not reality.
“The pressures we are going to have are mothers and families. When I have to miss out my son having surgery and I have to be in Vancouver. Things like that are where we’re going to have difficulties.”
For Vecchio, the starting point for eliminating harassment, in any form, begins at home.
“It’s a cultural shift we have to make here and it has to be made in our communities. When we talk about #MeToo, whether it’s harassment or abuse, you always have to think how would I want my daughter treated? And also, how would I want my son treated?
“So, in the workplace, I have a very beautiful daughter and she has been sexually harassed and my advice to her is to go right out and tell them right off . . . and then go and tell somebody. You can’t put up with it, take the bull by the horns and you have to act on those things. And some times that can cause a lot of friction for people, I understand people worry about jobs, but I think it’s a moral code issue, too.
“We may want something really, really badly, but we either call the person out on it or we recognize do we really want it because this person has the key to our future.”
The danger, warns Vecchio, is painting all men with the same brush.
“I’ll be honest. I know every male in my caucus knows I’m not harassable. I have those relationships with the men in our caucus. I honestly say I’m either their niece or their sister. Because those are the relationships we should be having. Be a family member. We’re like family.
“We’ve gone so far over the edge. Telling someone they look nice shouldn’t be a problem. We’re going to lose ourselves on political correctness. Harassment has no place in the workplace. Especially sexual harassment, but at the same time, we have to make sure we’re creating resiliency as well. That we are strong individuals and we need to create strong individuals. Those are things we can deal with in the school levels.
“Sometimes we go so far on these issues. I watched the Golden Globes and Oprah Winfrey’s speech was very, very true. But I think what we need to do is empower women. And we need to do that through our husbands, our fathers and our brothers.
“I sit on the Status of Women committee and, as the chair, I look at this issue . . . and men are being seen as all bad. Men are not all bad. I know some really decent people in this world and I do have my Pollyanna approach to believe that there are really good people out there.”
The conversations that have transpired over the allegations of sexual misconduct – many originating in Hollywood – are a turning point, in the opinion of Vecchio.
“I think what’s happened in the last few months is going to change things. But, let’s recognize there are some really incredible men in this world. That celebrate when women do well and celebrate when men do well. When we talk about status of women, we forget about men sometimes. When I sit and talk about child care, I don’t think of it as my issue. I look at it as our issue. We need to focus more on families. How can families deal with issues?
“People like Rona Ambrose and Chrystia Freeland have done great jobs out there. We have some really strong women MPs, but I don’t believe in quotas, as well. Work your ass off and you’ll get to where you want to get. If we’re going to break the glass ceiling, then don’t have someone put me up 50 feet so I can break the glass ceiling. I want to break it in an equal way.”
A BLUEPRINT FOR AN AGE FRIENDLY COMMUNITY
The city has released the final version of its Age Friendly Community Plan. Such a community is defined as “one where policies, services and structures
related to the physical and social environments support and enable older people to live in a secure environment, enjoy good health, and continue to participate fully in their communities.”
Needs were identified across various sectors: transportation, housing, recreation and health care.
Thirty goals of the plan address priorities related to those four areas.
Under housing, key targets include increasing the number of long-term care spaces in Elgin St. Thomas; pursue a new bed subsidy for retirement homes; and advocate for mandated provincial regulations for retirement homes.
Developing a multi-modal transportation system across Elgin county including buses, rail/train passenger connections, ride share arrangements and coordinated scheduling was a critical goal under transportation. And for transit within the city, improve existing public transit to provide flexible and accessible service with more availability.
Under recreation, it was deemed important to expand access to existing recreational facilities for families and seniors tailored to ability and age.
And dealing with health care and community life, critical areas include increasing access to primary care through clinics, mobile units, increased use of nurse practitioners and expanded use of technology; and design and build seniors HUBs with access to shopping, recreation, entertainment, services and information.
The plan concludes with, “The ultimate success of the initiatives in the Age Friendly Community Plan will be dependent on broad and sustained engagement of the city and county service providers and agencies, community members and most of all, seniors themselves.”
The full plan is available here
BLAME THE MEDIA
To get further insight into the man who operates Walnut Manor – in addition to numerous other facilities across southern Ontario – it is worth reading an interview undertaken last spring by Quinte News.
Reporter Tim Durkin spoke with Vishal Chityal – also known as Charlie Duke – about his management agreement to come in and operate, for a short period of time, Bel Marine, a trouble-plagued home in Belleville.
Here are a few highlights from their conversation.
Chityal describes his company, Niagara Supportive Living, as being “a little bit more in the spotlight, we’re a larger company. People follow us and see what we do. We inherit bad situations. It takes a while to turn these things around.”
I guess we’re still in a holding pattern for the turnaround at Walnut Manor.
As to complaints at Bel Marine about the food – apparently heavy on macaroni and cheese – Chityal set the record straight.
“Absolutely, they were getting the proper nutrition. You also have to take a look at where the complaints are coming from. As far as only having macaroni and cheese, that’s not the case whatsoever. There was a very healthy, well-rounded diet.”
Wish the same could be said for the nutritional value of the food served at his St. Thomas home. And shouldn’t residents dealing with diabetes be served food appropriate for coping with that affliction?
Chityal added, “There’s a lot of individuals again with cognitive issues or mental health issues and from day to day they are very hard to please.”
Not a lot of compassion there.
When Durkin asked about stories he had read highlighting the situation in St. Thomas the response was, “That was a building we took over four years ago, management wise, and we walked into a really bad situation. And then shortly after, there was this big thing in the media about how the food was no good and the building was decrepit. The sad part was, it was like that for about eight years before we got there. No one said anything.”
In the four years since, there is no sign of a turnaround, unless the bottom line is the only thing that matters, not the well-being of residents.
I guess the residents of Walnut Manor and other facilities like White House Lodge in Harriston should be thankful for the great management team taking care of their every need.
“We’ve got a great team,” Chityal expressed to Quinte News. “Everybody does what it takes to keep the residents happy and housed.”
So why has the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association ended their relationship with Niagara Supportive Living, even though we were told this past week there is a crunch for space in the community.
You can read the full Quinte News interview – and listen to the accompanying audio of the conversation – here
FOR THE CALENDAR
The Ministry of Transportation and Dillon Consulting Ltd., are holding a public information centre from 4 to 7 p.m., Feb. 1 at the Stoneridge Inn to unveil their technically preferred plan for interchange improvements at the Hwy. 401 and Col. Talbot Road interchange.
From the information released by the province announcing the upcoming meeting, it would appear Glanworth Drive is to be realigned to the north and the existing bridge over the highway will be replaced with a new bridge further to the east.
If such is the case, area farmers will be breathing a sigh of relief as they rely on Glanworth Drive to move their heavy equipment. The initial plan had been to remove the bridge with no replacement.
This year’s Great Lakes International Air Show will be held June 16 and 17 at the St. Thomas Municipal Airport. The popular event will again feature the Canadian Forces Snowbirds CF-18 demo team.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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