March 15, 2007

Simple Living (live cheap, but live)

Last week The Hour's latest installment of Portraits of Canadians aired featuring Simple Liver Marv from Omemee, Ontario. Everyone wanted to know how he managed to live without a job. Marv said:
"Simply, the key to the whole thing is learning to live within your means. Getting out of debt and staying out of debt is the only way out. If you can at some period in your life become debt free and end up with a roof over your head and owe nothing to anybody, at that moment you will sense a great feeling of freedom. ... Take pride not in what you have saved but in what you don’t spend. Resolve to separate your needs from your wants."

A friend summed it up best, "If I don't spend it, I don't have to make it." Works for me.

March 14, 2007

Small Things with Great Love

(This was on a yellowed clipping by Craig Kielburger, Chair of the Board, founder and volunteer with Free The Children)

We learned our greatest lesson in humility in the slums of Calcutta. Marc and I spent a day with Mother Teresa at her convent. We asked how she kept hope alive surrounded by much sickness and death. "They die one at a time, so I save them one at a time," she humbly replied.

It's easy to get bogged down by staggering numbers. It's natural to feel over-whelmed by the immensity of problems. But with her simple words, Mother Teresa reminded us that behind each problem, each issue and each statistic, there is a human life that can be made better through our choices, our actions and our passion. Through one small meaningful action after another, any of us can change the world. Her parting words to us became our touchstone:

"In our lives, we can do no great things," she said, "only small things with great love."

March 12, 2007

Ottawa just finished its budget debacle again and I can see so many ways they have saved money - and my tax bill. The city recreation department offers fitness classes (aerobics, aquafit, yoga, etc.) well below market rates. This not only puts local fitness businesses at a big disadvantage trying to compete, but also costs us higher taxes to subsidize these classes. A private business has to pay for facilities (pool, rooms, lockers, change rooms), sports equipment, parking (and snow removal), first aid, emergency equipment, insurance, advertising, web site, office services, and even a lifeguard! The city doesn't appear to cost these things into their pricing - how else can they charge a third as much for year-round membership? And that includes (in some cases) 16 classes a week to choose from rather than 3! I personally know two people who were teaching privately who work for the city recreational programs. It's only a matter of time before my favorite class disappears as the paying customers follow them.

Another obvious saving would be to amalgamate school systems. One office instead of several. One school bus system instead of ... let's see, how many buses are there? Buses for public and Catholic, primary and high schools, kindergarten and junior kindergarten, more for french schools. Every single bus you see involves a huge amount of cost, operating, maintenance, insurance, salaries, parking, etc. It's no wonder I was paying more for taxes in Kanata in 2001 (small house, 35' wide lot) than someone with a half million dollar house on a quarter acre of land in Richmond, B.C. Not to mention that I lived within walking distance of 3 schools, yet at least 4 school buses went down my street every morning.