Ques­tion has to be asked: Are we an in­clu­sive so­ci­ety — or are we not?

Medicine Hat News - - COMMENTS - Gil­lian Slade

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.)

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