Public Safety over Fiscal Responsibility isn’t Really Responsible

Home is where the heart is, home is where believe we are safe” – Terry Wiens (2019)

I love Calgary. Calgary is my home. I’ve left it many times, sometimes for career purposes and a few times just to go on a crazy adventure. However every time I leave I eventually find myself returning. And each time I return I see new cracks and fissure taking place in the fabric of what Calgary was. I am slowly coming to the realization that the Calgary I loved may not exist anymore. The question I keep asking myself is “Can it be turned around?”. Can it continue to grow while maintaining that vibrant sense of community which is what I have always loved about Calgary, that sense of community.

Turning on the lights 1953

I still have childhood memories of family picnics and romping through the wading pool at Riley park. Or the annual employees picnic and BBQ held yearly at Bowness Park. All of the adults gathered around the picnic shelters, men playing games like horseshoe while mothers kept the younger kids entertained (no electronics back then) and the older kids swam or canoed around the lagoon. No fecal issues then.

It was a very different City then and civic pride was strong. The City was more united while being determined to grew and prosper. The urban sprawl began and Calgary has been prospering for the past sixty years. Sure there have been a few up’s and down’s, every City has those periods but Calgary, overall, has done very well for itself. That’s what keeps me coming back.

What does concern me is that every time I return there appears to be a new fracture. I think you have to have been gone every now and then to notice, you see things differently when you are looking through refreshed eyes. A lot of that change occurs, in part, due to regulatory change. To really understand that one has to know the history of regulatory change, like the downloading of jurisdictional responsibilities.

A lot of this began in the late 80’s (a period I refer to as the dawning of the age of regulations ending the “Age of Aquarius“) and into the 90’s. The various levels of government used “fiscal management” as a way to dump the responsibility that goes with regulations. As an example the federal government couldn’t keep up with the cost of rising health care. In an attempt to maintain the “universality” guaranteed in the Charter they adjusted the federal transfer payments system. This meant giving provincial jurisdictions the authority to decide how healthcare could be administered and what would be covered. From that simple adjustment the concept of treatment by postal code was born. Many disabilities were treated differently based on what province you were in.

The ripple effect of this resulted in the provinces, as their own way to avoid costs, to begin downloading to the municipal level. It was only in the mid 90’s that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs got out of the inspection business. The inspections that use to be provided by the province were either transferred to local government or, in some cases, created “inspection authorities”, a form of privatization. What local government didn’t factor in was the cost of that “responsibility” which is why, in part, we are seeing such an erosion to our infrastructure. A number of those programs are now being reversed, an example of that is returning driver licence testing back to government from the private sector.

Now, in any attempt to cut cost, municipal governments are abandoning the responsibility of inspection services. I live in the Beltline and all you have to do is walk around the pathways to see how much deterioration has gone on. Without regular inspection erosion just gets worse. Being wheelchair dependent a well maintain walkway is important to me. All it takes is a small crack to come to an unexpected screeching halt and do an airborne out of a wheelchair if you are not paying attention.

I spend a week in the Rockyview Hospital this past February as a result of one of those wheelchair flying patterns due to a poorly maintained curb-cut. The City’s response (cut and pasted from the e-mail) “We were able to mill the road on the NE corner of 14th Ave and 7th St SW on Tuesday. However, after reviewing the location and the wheel chair ramp it needs more attention than what I was able to provide. I have forwarded this location to our Construction department and they have said they will look at it and will do their best to have the grade redone in the 2019 construction season so that the wheel chair ramp is not so steep.” Even the City’s Central District Manager, Roads Maintenance has no idea how bad the walkways are in the Beltline.

I have over 70 e-mails that I have send to the City describing or supplying pictures/videos of unmaintained sidewalks. We are paying the price for the City’s inability to inspect or maintain road safety in a very high density community. Meanwhile I pay the price with my body but most recently a major setback for my wheelchair.

Lightweight Titanium wheelchair

Now I’m facing a $6000 cost to replace a bend frame due to a pothole the size of a small volcano. This was during Stampede week and I was left on my ass with a bag of groceries strewn around me. Thanks to the kindness of strangers who helped me back into my chair and helped me rearrange my groceries things got resolved. I took the video, send it to the City and, on the trip home, realized my frame was bend. When all four wheels are no longer touching the ground you know something has happened to your chair (and my chair is Titanium so it doesn’t bend easily),

Calgary is subject to some pretty intense rain falls and small lakes are not uncommon around curbs. Had of that been the case here it wouldn’t have mattered if you were in a wheelchair or walking, you would have toppled.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I love Calgary so I can live with this. I contact the City regularly reporting bad walkway situations. I do that believing I am being a responsible citizen and trying to do my part to make Calgary the best City it can be. It would be nice if my elected Ward rep would return one of my notes but that never happens. Doesn’t matter, let’s just get the repairs done.

But this latest has pushed me beyond my limits. It is very personal to me and the City’s lack of regular inspections has the potential to create issues for many of our kids. When the City allows the public splash pool on Olympic Square to get to the point where the health authority makes them shut if down due to dangerous levels of fecal matter, that’s my limit.

As a polio survivor it’s personal to me because the polio virus lives in fecal matter. We are living in a time when people are avoiding vaccines, where international visitors are coming from countries that have NOT totally eliminated polio and the virus can live for a long time in a persons gut. How long do you have to go to get to a point where the coliform count can get that high. Calgary, I love you but you still have a level of responsibility to maintain. If the level of fecal matter can get to 7 times the acceptable level you have failed. There are budget cuts but that doesn’t justify increasing the level of danger that threatens our kids.

Colour me pissed off…

Governance or Marketing?

A little late but Happy New Year everyone.  My holiday season was relatively quiet but a very pleasurable event.  The presence of my son, grandson and ex at my place for Christmas not only made my Christmas but had my mother beside herself with pleasure.  With my son and ex coming from greater distances the visit was short but well worth it.  I didn’t receive my grandson’s (age 31/2) last Christmas present until a couple of days after he left, a cold which I am just now getting over.  Regardless it was well worth the visit.

I had ended the year deciding I would do my best not to be as politically outspoken.  My political outrage has cost me a number of friendships over the year but after watching my grandson run around enjoying his Christmas I realized I need to be outspoken to protect his future.  I can rest easier knowing some of us are still fighting for concepts that are not ideologically based but come from a position of good governance with a sprinkle of compassion.

As my grandson acted as Santa’s helper, passing out Christmas gifts while opening his own the fact that 1 in 5 children live in poverty here in BC was not lost on me.  As we sat down for our Christmas turkey with all of the trimmings it was comments of politicians past that were dancing in my head.  After all only two weeks before Christmas, Industry Minister James Moore, expressed his position on child poverty and I quote ““Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so,” he chuckled to a Vancouver News1130 radio reporter,“.  The comment made me sick but the chuckle was disgusting.  Hardly the attitude one would expect from a politician supposedly there to represent the people.

I must admit I was also a little concerned with Sean and Taylor’s travel arrangements.  They came up from Vancouver Island on the bus and the weather was pretty crazy.  Coming over the Rockies in blizzard conditions is never a guarantee for a safe or timely arrival and there was a good storm dumping lots of snow on the passes.  And with the ongoing cuts to our safety inspection infrastructure their safe arrival was in the back of my mind.

And those cuts are getting increasingly larger.  Following yesterdays CN derailment by Plaster Rock, New Brunswick I did some quick research and it didn’t take long.  Transport Canada is facing several cuts related to safety programs. A comparison of the 2013-14 and 2012-13 main estimates shows: aviation safety spending will drop from $231.7-million to $214.7-million (7.3 per cent); marine safety drops from $61.8-million to $57.8-million (6.5 per cent); aviation security drops from $46.6-million to $33.8-million (27.5 per cent) and marine security drops from $20.7-million to $14.9-million (28 per cent).

Because my son and grandson live on Vancouver Island everyone of those transportation systems is needed.  If the safety of those travel modes is eroding now, where will it be by the time my grandson gets to an age where he is looking at beginning a family?  The cuts that are going on today will be felt much more ten years from now when our grandchildren become the next generation of spending consumers.  Many of them won’t even realize what they will be missing.

And I haven’t even started on food safety yet.  Meanwhile while all of this is happening the government has spend over $55 million in public relations advertising in 2013.  So we have a government with Cabinet Minister’s who don’t believe in helping children in poverty, are currently dismantling the safety net that many Canadians help develop over the past forty years in favour of public relations and an electorate that prefer 30 second sound bytes to facts.  Put these few facts together and you have the ideal conditions to dismantle democracy as we know it!

What will our grand children have to look forward to as far as a compassionate, caring country Canada use to be world famous for?  Oh, did I mention the $40 million ad campaign the federal government is funding to promote the pipelines.

Canadian businesses no longer have to worry about the free market as long as they have a government that is fully prepared to use tax payer dollars to act as a marketing board for the oil industry.  Wheat Board bad, government sponsored oil marketing board good!  Do we have a government that is there to provide good governance or is this the new face of a marketing board for businesses that fit the ideology of the powers in Ottawa?

Just one man’s opinion.