I have sat down (kind of redundant statement considering I’m wheelchair dependent) numerous times in the past couple of weeks to put some thoughts to paper but to no avail. Traditionally when I’m writing I have CBC News World on in the background, a practice I have now stopped. It was becoming to difficult to stay focused on writing with all of the political commentary and spin going on in the background.
Some of the crap I hear coming out of Stephen Harper’s mouth is beyond amazing and it is very obvious that he lives in the great nation of Denial. Unfortunately I can’t afford to live there so I maintain my place in reality. To that end I have created my own hashtag #CanadiansAreNotIdiots so please feel free to use it. For today I want to focus on a couple of different but related issues, a national seniors plan and affordable housing.
I have mentioned numerous times that I am part of a generation that represents the largest social experiment in our countries history and it wasn’t planned. As a baby-boomer I am one of thousands who survived the polio epidemics of the early 50’s and went on to be integrated into mainstream society, sort of. I say “sort of” because many of us went on with our life’s while the more severely affected lived out their remaining years in institutions.
Up to 1954 the number of reported cases was staggering. There were few options and even fewer “social programs”. Those things just didn’t exist which is why I maintain we were a social experiment and I guess you could say it worked. One of the contributors to the success was the recent return of so many injured veterans from WW2. They set the table and the rest of us got to sit there.
At the time the life expectancy was 25 to 30 years post disability. Not just for polio but for the vets and any other type of illness you could think of. That changed with the advent of modern antibiotics and the continual improvements in health care. It was usually an infection that would kill an injured person rather than the illness. Less than 10% of polio cases died due to the polio and even that is loose since many of those deaths were due to complications. Anyway we survived and here we are in the midst of a new social experiment.
Why do I refer to it as another social experiment? Well I recently hit 65 and I am horrified to find Canada has no national seniors strategy let alone any plans for people with disabilities. I have spend the last year arguing with various government agencies over what type of supports I can look at to help cover the additional costs associated with a disability.
I have worked all of my life in which time I was able to establish a set of pensions that total $1800/month before taxes. My wheelchair accessible (and I use accessible very loosely here) apartment is $900/month. That is modest amount in the city I currently live in, Nanaimo. I moved back to the Island to get away from the over priced market in Calgary as well as being closer to my son and grandson.
When I went to the Renters Assistance office I was refused helped because my income was too high. I was then given a list of “affordable basement suites”. No word of a lie, I’m sitting there in my wheelchair and this women is telling me about “basement” suites. When I asked about wheelchair accessible housing I was told a five to seven year wait list with a comment from the same women “those people just never move”.
Here is the reality of this social experiment, people living with permanent disabilities have additional costs that most don’t. Try to find a full service gas station but keep in mind you are paying two to three cents more a litre, not a lot but it starts to add up. A new set of tires for my wheelchair (every three months) another $60 bucks. Two weeks ago I found myself in a position where I needed a home visit for wheelchair repair. $11 for the bolt and $80 for the home visit. If you need foot care because you can’t reach them yourself, $60/month with a podiatrist referral.
I don’t mean to sound like I’m whining here however independence is, in many ways, like democracy…expensive. If anyone paid any attention to the new “balanced budget” you will have noticed nothing for a coordinated seniors program or a social housing strategy.
So the Canadian Medical Association has introduced an initiative to push for a national seniors strategy. The doctors of Canada recognize the links between homelessness and health. They have taken a stand against this government to demand a national seniors strategy and that includes housing. If you want to be part of the solution visit the Demand a Plan website and make your voice heard. If you want to be an “active” part of a solution take three minutes and send your MP/MLA an e-mail asking them why 70% of rental units are not accessible.
And if you have an affordable and accessible for rent between Nanaimo and Victoria (or any parts in between) please drop me a note. Or option two, which I am not adverse to at all, if you have any type of contract work you need done contact me. After 41 resumes to job postings and no responses I believe my chances of finding part-time work is back there in the Harper world of Denial, just ain’t going to happen!
Just one man’s opinion!