Habits

This blog was written on Thursday, June 2, 2011

AHHHH!

That is the sound of my abdominal muscles today as I sit at my desk and feel the burn from last night’s work out at World Health Club. It was my first time back at this whole fitness thing in a long while … last year was a great year for physical activity and Christina Rontynen. I was swimming, squashing, working out, attending fitness classes. I had made it a habit and a part of my routine.

Then life happened – as it does for all of us.

I was in the final stages of my thesis, on a job hunt and in the midst of starting my own company. Needless to say the end of the day was meant for sleeping and shutting my brain off. My habit of physical activity had been broken.

Over the last 5 months I have finally learned the concept of the “skinny jean”. I’ve never owned a pair of jeans that I wore on my “skinny” days – my jeans were my jeans. Now I have several pairs. Ha. And no … my “skinny” is not an unhealthy “skinny”. Like most over achieving young women I’ve been down that path and understand that healthy lifestyle and healthy weight are important.

All this being said yesterday marked the first day of starting new healthy habits. It was day 1 of … RONTYNEN GET BACK INTO SHAPE SO YOU CAN ENJOY LIFE. Yes, that’s me yelling at myself, drill sergeant style.

Habit is also the answer to the riddle that @ppilarski posted over the weekend.

Habits aren’t necessarily physical activity. They are anything from bad food habits (hopefully you’ve been following @Carter_BBold’s cleanse via twitter. Loving it. Especially last night’s mention of cheese platters everywhere) to bad work habits.

What habit are you going to strive to change? Let’s start an evolution & let’s have some fun this summer. Yes there is a lot going on … from festival season to political leadership races but don’t get too bogged down. Take my advice and take time to create healthy habits in your life and break the unhealthy ones … and remember to form some fun habits with your honeys’ too. @ppilarski is certainly joining me on the physical activity kick.

CR xo

Energy in Action … Spread the Word

There is a stigma that the energy industry avoids educating the public. That stigma is played up by the media, the environmental NGOs and unfortunately by the average Albertan. That’s why I’m excited about my new gig at CAPP. Yes, my faithful followers, I have made the leap from government to the industry association world. Perhaps following in the footsteps of @ppilarski … but not really.

It’s been a whirlwind month as I find myself on the other side of the coin. I like this side. I like knowing that as I sit at a desk, meet with members or go to a CAPP event I am advocating in my own way for the energy industry.

Within my first few days I discovered an excellent program run by CAPP yearly. The program clearly breaks the stigma the energy industry is often painted with … it educates students and communities about the oil and gas industry; not just in Alberta but in Canada.

Energy in Action is an incredible energy literacy program sponsored by the member companies of CAPP. CAPP delivers this program to schools in rural oil and gas operating communities across western Canada. Energy in Action provides those member companies with a hands-on approach to community relations. The program brings industry and communities together to demonstrate their commitment to environmental stewardship – after all they do interact everyday; they might as well get to know each other!

Each May, students partner with local volunteers from the energy industry and their communities to participate in education sessions and environmental renewal projects. Since 2004, 59 companies and close to 2,000 company volunteers have participated in events in 55 communities across Canada. They planted almost 6,400 trees and shrubs, and taught almost 6,000 students, teachers and community residents about the petroleum industry and the benefits of careful resource development. 2011 is no exception … the Energy in Action team has been travelling already and will visit 10 communities across three provinces by May 31. They even encourage us to follow along through their Facebook and Twitter profiles.

So next time your wondering what your energy industry is up to … think of Energy in Action. Tell your friends, your colleagues, and if you’re in the industry, a rural teacher, or even an engaged student ask your community to get involved. May 2012 will come sooner than you realize. We need to be proactive – it’s our job to educate the average Albertan (each other) about all the great things going on in the energy industry. Especially in Alberta… after all Alberta is Energy.

Getting educated and spreading the word,

CR xo

It’s Coffee Time: Doug Griffiths arrives in Living Rooms across Alberta

Okay – I admit it. I had never been to a coffee party before May 5, 2011. It seems to me that the era of the coffee party was a bit before my time. I’ve heard the days of the coffee party praised by board members from both Calgary Shaw and Calgary Foothills. Many claiming that that was the way Premier Lougheed won – that was how they met him – and that is how they knew he was a great leader.

There is something about coming into someone’s home, being on their turf, and embracing their friends, their neighbours and their community. It’s the principle of breaking bread together but in this case it’s sipping coffee. I laughed when I saw some comments on a Facebook photo Chris Harper posted of a coffee party he hosted this past week – his friends were amazed that a PC leadership candidate would come over to his house just to talk to his friends. It really is the simple things that amaze people the most.

And a coffee party is a very simple thing.

There is nothing to know about a coffee party before you have one. Nothing to learn. No membership to buy. No prerequisites. No expectations.

A coffee party is whatever you want it to be. It’s a passionate Albertan coming to talk to, get to know and share their vision with other passionate Albertans. A coffee party is what comes to my mind when I think of the term grassroots engagement. It’s literally invite your friends – gather them in your living room – listen to a visionary – ask questions – mingle.

My favourite part? The questions! That’s when you see people truly engaging. The questions are when you find out what makes your neighbours tick and what has been on their mind. It’s when you find out that many of us are passionate about the same things and want the same things for Alberta’s future. The questions are what get a room excited. And the answers to those questions are what keeps the room excited and triggers a desire to purchase a PC membership and get involved in the process – at least that’s what is happening at coffee parties featuring Griff.

I may be biased but Doug Griffiths’ strength is certainly in the coffee party. It’s no secret that he is passionate about people and communities. Without strong communities we cannot build a better Alberta together. In a room full of new friends his excitement about Alberta’s future is clear. He is personable, thoughtful and enthusiastic. You can tell he feels right at home in the living rooms of his volunteers and supporters – why? Because that is the kind of man he is. When he has the day off work he is hanging out in the living rooms of his family and friends. That’s where he watches his boys grow up, that’s where he invites his friends to watch the game and that’s where he hammers out his vision for Alberta.

Doug wants to get to as many Albertan living rooms in the next several months as possible. He wants to come to you … not make you come to him. He wants to build a better province … and he knows he can’t do that alone. Every community is different, every group of people gathered will be different but we are all passionate about Alberta and passionate about making it the best it can be today and for future generations.

So why don’t you have a coffee party? The latest people to sign up for coffee parties in Calgary? My parents! Lisa Mackintosh’s friends. A new supporter who DM’ed us on Twitter. And an incredible 70-something women I met at Chris Harper’s coffee party for Griff. She is so excited. She told me that it isn’t time for change in this province … it’s time for the next generation to step up and take their place in Alberta … and that place is in leadership roles. She told me that the last time she was this excited is when she attend a similar gathering for Premier Lougheed decades ago.

Everything old is new again. Why? Because Alberta has realized the importance of the community, of personal connections and that the only way we can advance this province is if we advance it together.

If you want to have a coffee party email the campaign or even just reply to this blog post. We will get you in touch with the right people and do our best to get Doug into your living room.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to have a coffee party. Political engagement is personal – it’s flexible – it’s simple. Doug Griffiths’ coffee parties are political engagement.

Can’t wait to have a coffee with you in your living room and watch your neighbours get excited about our next PC Leader, Doug Griffiths.

CR xo

Inspired by Calgary Centre MP

With a spring federal election upon us I was reminded of a blog I wrote about Calgary-Centre MP Lee Richardson last March; on March 30, 2010 I blogged about Lee’s visit to the University of Calgary Campus Conservative Association and his inspiring conversation with the students.

Although I won’t be getting involved in any sort of significant way in the federal election I will be remaining engaged and informed about the candidates, the race itself and the issues. There is often an attitude surrounding federal elections in Alberta – one of apathy and disinterest. I challenge you to think differently this time around.

Lee Richardson’s visit to the University of Calgary last year was an unforgettable moment for me. I really did leave inspired – and I still tell the story of Lee coming in and sharing with the students in a casual and personal way. I had never experienced a politician coming to deliver a speech and then moving the chairs into a circle, sitting down and engaging with students. It was simple and genuine. It was exactly what the students needed and it perfectly exemplified what Lee was all about. Lee is about real connections with real people. Those people are young, old, engaged or political newborns.

He is a fantastic representative of Calgary and is a reason why I will vote CPC in the May election.

Whatever your reasons, get engaged and get out to vote. Your opinion matters. Inspiring individuals that give all Albertans their time the way Lee does deserve at least a bit of your attention.

Happy #elxn41!

CR xo

On March 26 the UCCCA hosted MP Lee Richardson for an afternoon of casual conversation and light refreshments. As our conversation with him began it became clear why he was the perfect choice to come speak to university students – he was encouraging, inspiring and reminded all of us that the future ahead of each of us is what we choose to make it.

I sat fascinated by his stories about his time at the University of Calgary – his time in the Conservative Association, attending his first national convention, and his role on the Students’ Union as a strong conservative voice. His journey continued in politics as a young adult. I won’t forget the moment he said “…and then I turned 24”; I had to laugh because at that point in his life he already seemed to have a lifetime worth of accomplishments. But, lucky for us, he continued on to become a highly respected advisor to top politicians, and a powerful voice for Calgarians as an elected Member of Parliament.

I am so glad Mr. Richardson could come to share with us – walking away encouraged is what I believe these events should be about. That is why I love my role in the UCCCA.

If we learned anything from Mr. Richardson it was to keep following our dreams and never give up on what we believe in. I’m excited about the possibilities that are ahead of all UCCCA members.

Thanks for inspiring all of us Lee!

Christina
UCCCA President

Cross Posted on March 30, 2010

Hush Money

Much has been said in the past month about a “culture of intimidation” in Alberta’s healthcare system.  Allegations of bribery and corruption, hush money and two sets of books have been made with virtually no proof, and Alberta’s opposition parties have added a healthy dose of drama and theatre to the whole event in an attempt to keep the story alive.

It’s been quite a show and it may continue for a while.

But I’m here to argue that Albertans have accepted and condoned a culture of intimidation in this province, and the consequence has been a substantial erosion of our public services, as well as a democratic deficit.  If this culture continues, I’m afraid that the hard working silent majority of Albertans will continue to lose.

I have spoken to several seniors on a board I serve on in the past few weeks who have been asking me why Alberta’s teachers are receiving these relatively large raises in this economic environment.  While these individuals are not against paying teachers well and don’t suggest that the Government should not support public sectors employees, they feel that the raise this year is too high relative to the economic realities in the province.  The fact that most of these seniors received an extra ten dollars a month from government support programs, while teachers received much more doesn’t exactly sit well with them either.

What also doesn’t sit well with them or with me is that despite the fact that teachers are getting these increases, the quality of our education system is eroding.  What makes this pill even more difficult to swallow is the fact that most individual teachers I have talked to say that they would rather see this money go into the system to support their ability to teach effectively.  Teachers, like every other professional, need tools and resources to be effective.

Have you ever tried to fix something in your house or on your car without the proper tools?  You can usually get the job done, but it will typically take much longer and the final product will not be as good as it could have been.  This is the situation our relatively well paid and over worked teachers face on a daily basis in their professions.

Why?

Five years ago, the government and Alberta Teachers Association signed a historic 5 year labour deal, which turned out to be a very bad deal for tax payers.  At the time, the government was comfortable signing huge cheques to pay for the unfunded pensions and generous pay increases.  After all, the future was bright for our province and there was no place to go but up!

WRONG!

The global economy tanked and Alberta’s economic situation flip flopped more extremely than Rob Anderson did on Bill 36 after switching political parties.  Down was the new up – red the new black; and many Albertans found themselves in financial difficulty.  So did the Alberta Government.  Teachers, however, received pay increases that did not fit the economic realities of the times and classroom resources suffered.

Actually, Alberta’s students suffered and the many hard working taxpayers with kids in the system are picking up the tab.

The Alberta government and ATA are now in the preliminary stages of discussions about what the next collective agreement should look like and the province has once again indicated that another five year deal is desirable.  At the same time, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has mounted an offensive against the government, asking Premier Stelmach “to confirm he is not considering U.S.- style attack on the rights of public sector workers.”  These two things are not happening at the same time by accident.

AFL is throwing up a smoke screen to create an environment where the government has its back up against the wall during negotiations with the ATA.  The rhetoric is getting ratcheted up and a completely unfounded environment fear is being created.  The AFL’s open letter to Premier Stelmach is nothing more than public fear mongering and intimidation.  As a tax payer, I find the entire exchange appalling!

The ATA and AFL are working together to give taxpayers another raw deal, while the quality of our education system continues to erode.  We are buying the silence of public sector unions at the expense of future generations and it’s not right.

If the government insists on a five year labour deal with the ATA, that deal should have no pay increases for teachers in the next three years and very modest increases in the last two.  Money needs to be directed back into the system.  Taxpayers got a raw deal last time, so the ATA should be reasonable.  Teachers need the right tools to effectively do their jobs and all available resources should go toward providing the tools.

I have no faith, however, that the ATA will agree.  The rhetoric will continue to get ratcheted up and the culture of public fear will be alive and well.  AFL will play trusty wing-man and help to create this “culture of intimidation” against taxpayers based on claims of a potential attack on the public sector, which are made with virtually no evidence or substantial support.

Tax payers should not be so willing to give into this culture of public intimidation that is created by the ATA, AFL and other public sector unions and we should not be OK with buying their silence.

Either the government or the opposition parties should stand up for tax payers.  Enough hush money – lets fix our problems.

PP

Inspiring Education Requires Innovation

This blog was inspired by this 15 minute video – If you care about education you need to watch the video – if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, watch minutes 5-7 for some key points.  Also, at about 9 minutes and 40 seconds, they say the program costs $5000 per child – I would love to know how much we pay per child in Alberta and what that cost includes.

I don’t have children in school, but since my good friend, Bill Campbell, asked me to join the Save Our Fine Arts group (#sofab) I have taken a keen interest in Alberta’s education system.  I have been learning about the role of teachers, school boards, principals, trustees, parents and lastly – unfortunately – students.  I have also discovered that employers are not part of the discussion in any substantial way.   (In health the hierarchy goes doctors, nurses then everybody else).

I have spent much of my professional life working for industry associations, where I get to study the economy from a macro level and observe patterns and trends from a birds eye view.  My degree is in Human Resource Management and while HR has never been in my title at work, every job I’ve had has dealt directly with workforce issues.

While I believe we have a decent education system in Alberta, I support Minister Dave Hancock’s vision for a transformational shift in how we approach the cultivation of tomorrow’s leaders in our schools.  I applaud Minister Hancock for bringing the Inspiring Education Initiative forward and for the approach he has taken, which attempts to be collaborative and inclusive.  Not everyone will agree on the details, but the direction Minister Hancock is trying to take education is right.

Looking at the interaction between the education system and the economy from a bird’s eye view, I see disconnect between the type of workforce employers say they need and the system we use to prepare students for that workforce.  If this disconnect continues we will fail our children and leave future generations without the tools they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.

The broad range of employers I have spoken to over my career consistently tell me they need a workforce that is innovative, creative and sharp – able to adapt to an ever changing world.  How can a system that rewards seniority over innovation and creativity achieve that type of workforce?

We need to provide our young students with confidence – that is the secret ingredient that wakes a child up and allows them to explore.  Teachers (I’m sure many already do) should take on the role of facilitator and confidence coach and our education system should reward creativity and innovation rather than stifle it.  How can we breed the confidence to innovate and create into our children when we don’t give our teachers the confidence and tools to do so in their classrooms?

We need a system that allows for honest and open dialogue amongst ALL participants.  Teachers need a voice that is separate from the ATA so that they can speak publically and with confidence when they don’t agree with a direction being taken.

We all remember Bill 44.  A great online debate took place but there seemed to be one voice missing.  Through @crontynen’s MA research, she learned that on several occasions the ATA told teachers not to get involved in the online debate and that the teacher’s views would be expressed by the ATA.  While this was fine for some, @crontynen spoke with teachers that were craving a platform to discuss how they personally felt whether they agreed or disagreed with Bill 44.

The type of transformational change Minister Hancock describes will not happen and we will not nurture the innovation and creativity we need in tomorrow’s leaders unless we address these disconnects directly today.  These old paradigms simply won’t get us to where we need to go.  We also need to involve business leaders in the discussion since learning is a life long journey that business takes over once people enter the workforce.  It’s in everybody’s best interest to allow and encourage business to help the system get better.  Business has created the innovative approached in education and compensation that can be modeled after to make the education system more effective.

I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest that this transformation could be facilitated though a focus on fine arts education.   Music, dance, theatre, poetry, art are expressions of creativity which can be used to educate children about every single subject.  Education through a fine arts lens can help foster the creativity, innovation and, most importantly, confidence our children will need to succeed.

We also need to fund the education system adequately.  This does not mean giving into teacher salary demands to buy their silence over the course of a collective agreement, it means rewarding innovation and creativity in the classroom.  It means providing enough money to supply the tools and resources teacher need to get their job done – but first we need to define how many resources are needed to get the job done.  It means bringing measurement and accountability into the school system and getting away from a system that rewards seniority.

To actually achieve a transformational shift in Alberta’s education system we will have to approach the system in a completely new and different way.  Everybody must have an opportunity to participate and we must be completely honest about the discussion.  We need to shine a very bright light toward the fact that the system we use does not mirror the outcomes we are looking for.  Then we need to have the courage to go there.  Old attitudes will do everything to stop us from moving in this direction.  We cannot let them stop us. Our children are changing and we need an education system that is fluid enough and innovative enough to change with them.

PP