This site is mostly dedicated to my columns on politics and public affairs. As a lawyer, another passion of mine is law. I have written about law for various publications such as Canadian Lawyer and Law Times, but it is time to create a permanent home for my law commentary. I am excited to announce the launch of Lawsome.ca - your home for all things law related in Canada - Law news, industry, jobs, cases, work/life, articling, law students, etc. Also follow on twitter at @lawsome_
When I first started this column nine months ago, I knew I wanted to lift the veil on government waste at the municipal level. Little did I know just how much fiscal mismanagement was going on behind the doors of city halls.
From city councillors using public money to work on their golf swing to million-dollar playgrounds, the jaw-dropping stories of waste go on and on.
The reality is that local governments simply do not have the same measure of accountability as other levels of governments. The media doesn’t pay as much attention, and the lack of party system at the local level means we don’t have opposition parties asking the tough questions in certain cities.
In fact, many municipalities are even banning public questions during city hall meetings. This is not a healthy trend in our democracy.
The provincial government, to its credit, tried to improve transparency and accountability by creating the Auditor General for Local Government. But that did not end well. After years and millions wasted, with little work to show for it, the AGLG was fired.
So now we are back at square one. Municipalities are still being run virtually unchecked, and the need for accountability and transparency couldn’t be higher.
Since the November 2014 election, local governments across Metro Vancouver have brought in tax hikes and given themselves pay raises as their first orders of business. Of course, none of these politicians campaigned on pay hikes or tax increases during the election.
These sorts of actions are outrageous. It is time to bring in some effective accountability. During municipal elections, voters sometimes get to vote on additional measures, like city borrowing. There should be a new law. All politician pay raises and tax hikes above the rate of inflation must be voted on by the electorate at election time.
This way there will be no more post-election surprises and politicians will be forced to actually run on their plans to take more money from taxpayers.
This is a better method than separate referendums, which are costly. Instead, get voters to vote on these matters while they are already at the polls.
There you have it. This is my grand idea to make things a little better at city hall.
On a personal and sad note, this is my farewell column. I am relocating to Toronto at the end of the month and will be passing the torch for this column. It has been a great ride. Thank you!
When I was spokesperson for Ethical Oil back in 2012, I was the target of a lot of sexist taunting. Horrendous sexually explicit messages and name calling were sent my way via social media. The purpose was to intimidate and demean me. Perhaps scare me away from doing my job.
I often wondered who these faceless people were, and what their families and employers would think of their secret pass time of harassing young women on the internet. They would be shocked and sickened, no doubt.
Sexist insults and harassment is something women who are involved in politics, the media or head up public organizations unfortunately have to deal with on a daily basis. This sort of taunting has become extremely commonplace in our digital world. It is all too easy for someone, hidden behind a computer screen, to toss out a few disgusting jabs. It is cowardly and shameful.
This week a foolish young man and his friends said some pretty awful, sexist stuff to a female reporter while outside a soccer game. Apparently there is a new trend– to embarrass and belittle female reporters while they are on the job by yelling obscene sexual things into the microphone. These young men apparently thought it was hilarious and seemed surprised that the very brave, and very awesome, reporter stood up for herself and called them out.
Unlike the anonymous cowards who spew their sexist insults from a keyboard in the comfort of their basements, these young men were not faceless. They chose to shamelessly berate a woman in public while being filmed by a camera. When she called them out, instead of apologizing to her they continued their shame game.
Now one of them has paid a big price by getting publicly sacked from his high paying job. Some people are saying this is an overreaction and that the punishment does not fit the crime.
I say it is about time someone experienced some real consequences to this very real form of harassment. These young men chose a very public forum for their very public displays of sexism and misogyny, and now they are rightly being very publicly shamed.
In 2015 women continue to face serious issues of harassment in the workplace. Social media has provided a new means by which abusers can engage in their harassing behavior.
This is not okay, it is not acceptable, and society should take a strong stance against it – whether it comes from in front of a camera or behind a computer screen.
This column originally appeared in the Law Times.
The question of how to fix the articling problem has been a ubiquitous topic of discussion among lawyers. From the Law Society of Upper Canada’s controversial Law Practice Program to calls from many lawyers to scrap articling all together, the debate has become particularly vigorous in recent years.
A group of 15 Ontario lawyers are about to shake the debate up even more with an extreme proposal that, if put into practice, would have disastrous outcomes. On May 13, they will be tabling a motion at the LSUC’s annual general meeting that proposes making it mandatory for law firms of eight lawyers or more to hire an articling student selected at random.
The rationale is that it will make things fairer for everyone and cut back on the rivalry and anxiety felt by law students as they compete for coveted articling spots.
This is the most flawed solution proposed so far in the great articling debate.
Firstly, it kills competition, and that’s a bad thing. A healthy dose of competition motivates people to work harder and be better. It goes without saying that law school is a competitive environment. It is the natural outcome of putting bright students together for three intense years. From grades to moots and even law rugby, students compete with one another from Day 1 and strive to come out on top.
It should come as no surprise that law students are competitive when it comes to job opportunities, too. Just like there are only so many As to go around, there are only so many jobs available, too. Students, then, need to ensure they are doing the right things both inside and outside of the classroom to give themselves a competitive edge.
Secondly, the proposal wrongly assumes every student is entitled to a job. Getting a university degree does not mean you deserve to have a job waiting for you at your doorstep the moment you graduate. A degree from a good school certainly gives you an advantage, but you still need to go out and hustle to land a great gig.
Law graduates, like all job seekers, need to make their own opportunities. When I was searching for articles, I ended up getting a job at a firm that hadn’t hired a student in nine years. I was able to convince the firm that taking on a student was a great move and that I was the right person for the job. Students shouldn’t expect a job to land in their laps; they should get out there and network, hit the pavement, and even make cold calls if necessary.
Thirdly and most importantly, the proposal strips both the students and law firms of their free choice. Many articling jobs lead to permanent law positions. One of the most important factors in hiring an inexperienced lawyer is whether that person is a good fit for the firm. Personality plays a big part in that. With random assignments, neither the firm nor the student has any say in the hiring process. Students cannot seek employment at firms they gel with and firms cannot hire students they feel would fit well with their culture. This is a recipe for unhappiness in the workplace and could have a very detrimental impact on the legal profession as a whole.
Hopefully, lawyers will scrutinize and vote the motion down. While there is no doubt a problem with the articling system in Ontario exists, going to the extreme and forcing students on law firms in a random lottery system is not the answer.
My latest column for 24 Hours Vancouver.
Imagine someone held a convention for lawbreakers and city hall blocked off some streets to give the convention goers more room.
It sounds pretty ridiculous, right?
But that’s what happened on Monday. It was 420, the “celebration” of pot and cannabis culture which has become an annual traditional rivalling Earth Day.
Every year on April 20 thousands of marijuana “enthusiasts” descend on the Vancouver Art Gallery lawn. And this year, Vancouver City Hall and the police made it easier for them.
As in a few previous years, the city closed Howe Street and for the first time closed Robson Street as well. So all day on Monday the easiest route to the Granville Bridge was closed i n order to accommodate the pot people and their air-polluting, grilled cheese-fuelled carnival.
For the city to shut down major streets is ridiculous. The city claims that 420 is technically a protest, but let’s face it, it’s an annual party. This year was one of the largest turnouts ever, and included tons of vendors and food trucks which had to pay a fee to the event organizers to get a prime location. Any other group trying to organize a major revenue-generating event such as this would have to apply to the city for a permit.
Why do the 420 folks get a free pass?
This column isn’t about debating the merits of marijuana legalization, but to draw attention to the fact that city hall has gone from ignoring this lawbreaking, to condoning it, and now to now pretty much endorsing it.
Our governments should never condone, much less encourage lawbreaking.
But Vancouver City Hall takes a different approach – people who are ideological allies of Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver seem to get a free pass.
We have seen this sort of free pass from our city before. From activists occupying public spaces for months and months, to protesting cyclists slowing traffic to a crawl, and getting a police entourage to do so.
Time and time again, people breaking the law not only get treated with kid gloves, they get encouraged by our own city government.
I have said this once and I will say it again.
Imagine if a bunch of people protesting a property tax hike decided to pitch tents in front of city hall. How long do you think would last? The cops would have them out of there before nightfall.
It’s time for Robertson to stop picking and choosing which laws the city is going to enforce on which groups of people.