Question has to be asked: Are we an inclusive society — or are we not?
Take a look at the issues in the runup to the municipal election in 2013 and little has changed except we have added a few categories to those we think of as the entitled minority.
In 2013, the very idea that seniors, who had been using the Veiner Centre, thought it should be replaced had the community up in arms about the “few” seniors who were asking for money to be spent on them.
There was a campaign about seniors not being the biggest demographic in this community and that we should be focusing on younger people instead — those who are the future and not the past in Medicine Hat. It went on at each station along the way when any proposed plans and budgets were revealed for a new seniors’ centre. Eventually it seemed seniors were so worn down they lost interest and gave up.
Take a look at the lovely “new” seniors centre being built now, where the Veiner Centre was quietly demolished. Things are looking good now with an attractive building under construction and work is progressing very well. Curiously, this option turned out to be cheaper than not having to demolish and build new in another location.
Regardless of all of that it is fitting and, yes absolutely necessary, that we have such a facility on a number of levels including the physical and mental health of seniors in Medicine Hat. Perhaps the next hurdle looming on the horizon, after the election, will be a budget cut for service to seniors.
Now that other demographic — the “minority” who use public transit. They are as small as the group of “entitled seniors” in the opinion of some. So in a community the size of Medicine Hat perhaps it is beyond our ability to support those who need this public service.
If you fall into the category of thinking seniors and those with special needs are too entitled then it would be appropriate to contemplate the following.
For seniors the loss of driving privileges looms on the horizon like a boil about to erupt. It is life changing. One of the ways to soften that blow and even encourage seniors to give up driving on their own terms is the option of public transit.
It is true this city is used to people earning the big bucks in the oil patch and in government jobs often with happy pensions for old age. This is not the case for everyone. This also happens to be a community that does not have any government owned seniors residences — they are all privatized. There are seniors in this city who consider it a luxury to have a coffee in a coffee shop with friends — once a month.
If as a community we are not prepared to consider the needs of others, even if they are a minority, then we’d better start warning seniors not to retire here because God help them if their driver’s licence is revoked. Let’s also tell parents with children who have special needs that they need to move to a bigger city because we can’t accommodate their need for independence here. Tell college students too that there is no point in coming to study here unless they are fortunate enough to own a vehicle.
It is time to ask ourselves if we are an inclusive society or not.
(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions or call her at 403-528-8635.)