Sometimes, smaller is better.

I live in the community of Priddis Alberta. It is a small bedroom community about 10 km West of the Calgary city limits just south of the Tsuu T’ina native reserve.

We are a region more than a town. Over about 20 square kilometers there are about 2000 people in various small subdivisions, acreages and farms. There is a hamlet in the middle of it all where we have a community center, a small mall with a gas station, and a number of small businesses such as the pub and business center.

Pictured below is the Priddis curling team playing a game on Fish Creek in 1895. The rink was soon built nearby along with the community center. Winter activity has long been important here.

Aside from the community center, the true hub of the community is the modest but popular outdoor skating rink. It has been there in one form or another for well over one hundred years now.

Multiple generations have learned to skate here as it is very popular with families during the day and hockey players at night. It is a gathering place where community members can meet and establish a relationship as a true community rather than simply being a loose collection of residences.

At night after closing the pub, I often walk past the rink on the way home and see a number of young folks from the Tsuu T’ina reserve out playing informal shinny with other locals. Our communities unfortunately rarely interact directly but the rink does provide a place (aside from my pub) where people from both communities can interact and have a good time.

As a growing community we have many young families here. Our local “Priddis Panthers” hockey needed to be divided into nine teams.

The rink is funded by donors and maintained by volunteers. Whenever weather permits, volunteers are out in the wee hours flooding the ice and in summer they are repairing and painting the boards. It is a fun community activity just keeping the rink up to shape.

All that said, resources are always tight and the weather is our biggest enemy. Below I have taken a picture of the rink just today. Two weeks of warm weather have melted the ice down to the pavement and until we get some cold nights to re-flood, we will go without a functional rink.

A small Zamboni would add many many precious weeks of rink time to our community as a much thicker layer of ice can be built and maintained in much less time. Refrigeration systems can aid as well. A small used Zamboni can be found for anywhere from $20,000-$40,000. I don’t know what refrigeration costs but I suspect it is dear. We are always fundraising and may get these things eventually.

OK. I know you are thinking: “So what? Canada has hundreds of communities in the same boat.”

Well, that is my point. Outdoor rinks are a true Canadian tradition from coast to coast and there are hundreds of them. Most if all of them are always in need of more funding to keep as functional as possible. They provide healthy activity that bonds communities. What better place could there be for funding from our Canada 150 celebrations?

The Trudeau Liberals decided to spend $5.6 million dollars for a temporary rink on Parliament Hill that will last perhaps 8 weeks at tops. The public will have to book in advance to use the rink and will be barraged with a pile of rules for time and allowed activity. It should be noted that the Rideau Canal is right there and has provided public skating for over a century as well.

The reason to ignore Canadian communities while spending millions on this temporary rink is obvious. It is pure political vanity.

Justin Trudeau can never get enough opportunities to take selfies, show off his socks and do publicity stunts (as opposed to trying to run our nation).

We can rest assured that Pierre Jr. will do a grand ribbon cutting with his hair styled perfectly along with an entourage of photographers to ensure that every angle is covered. They can’t have the grimy backdrop of some small town! They must have the Parliament buildings in the background as they worship Canada’s child-king.

Ohh the “impulsive” follies will be beautiful to behold as Canada’s tax funded personal paparazzi catch Justin helping children learn to skate just after kissing their mom’s cheeks with just the right angle from the sun. Justin will surely take a gleeful tumble or two on the ice which will just happen to be perfectly photographed just as his little faux-kayak turnover was.

The cameras will make love to Justin and he will surely climax for them in return. Let’s hope it is discrete but who knows what lengths Trudeau will go to to try and distract from Morneau’s mess?

A rink that will only last a few weeks is well worth $5.6 million for such a public relations bliss as our Prime Minister is determined to be our most vain leader in history (following daddy’s footsteps closely).

If the Liberals really wanted to leave a Canada 150 legacy that was appreciated, they could have given grants of $50,000 to 112 small town rinks in Canada. They could have randomly drawn from applicants. Hell, I am sure that the rinks would all be happy to put up a plaque with a picture of and thanking Trudeau for the grant. A small price to pay and we know damn well that volunteers would make that $50,000 stretch infinitely farther than the fools in Ottawa did. The benefits would be felt for generations.

Alas, Trudeau will always think bigger is better.

If that was not the case, then why not stop giving Bombardier billions and instead give out thousands of $100,000 business startup grants? Hell, if only 10% of the startups survived we would still see more benefit and employment than we get in pissing it into Bombardier only to have them come back begging for more every year.

Yes, smaller is better indeed. Unless you are of old stock money and vanity such as those members of Canadian aristocracy such as Morneau and Trudeau. In that case, the spending can never be big enough.

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Alberta tragedy; Redford’s Michener Centre closure.

If I am to be measured on the political scale, I land pretty strongly on the libertarian side of things. I want to see a minimal amount of government in our lives along with a maximum amount of personal freedoms. People often confuse this sort of outlook with anarchism though which would mean having a truly survival of the fittest sort of world with no boundaries or general social obligations. Anarchism is not reasonable in a modern world.

The scope of ethical obligations that we have as human beings to take care of our neighbors is large and usually very debatable. In the minds of all but the most extreme, we as a society have an obligation to take care of those who CAN’T take care of themselves. The problem that we always have is in defining who actually can’t take care of themselves as opposed to those who won’t take care of themselves.

There is very little to debate in the above regard when it comes to the status of the remaining 125 or so residents of the Michener Centre in Red Deer. These Albertans are afflicted with serious developmental disabilities and they will always be in need of the kind of specialized care that they are getting in the Michener Centre. Despite what appears to pretty much anybody as as self-evident need in societal care that had been provided by the facility, the Redford government has unexpectedly decided to close Michener Centre and displace every one of it’s residents.

In a zeal and rush to close the facility, the government has issued some pretty weak statements essentially trying to paint Michener Centre as being some nasty sort of institution where residents are languishing in misery while separated from society. The sterilizations that ended over 40 years ago are mentioned and it is implied that the place is right from a scene in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It is blathered over and over again that residents will simply be placed in the “community” though it is not really specified just what that will mean.

Last week I attended a meeting held by “Friends of Michener Centre” in Calgary. This group was formed by concerned family members who have loved-ones living at the facility. It was both informative and heartbreaking to hear from those who have had to deal the most directly in caring for people with serious developmental disabilities. The challenges faced by and the strength demonstrated by the families of Michener Centre residents came through clearly in that couple hours. It is sad that not a single one of Redford’s MLAs could come to that meeting as they would have been able to get a better image of what damage is being wrought by their thoughtless decision to close Michener Centre.

One theme that was constant as people shared their stories is how each Michener Centre resident’s needs and circumstances were quite unique and how critical consistency of care is for each of them. One lady spoke of how her brother been bumped from group home to group home until after putting a chair through a window he was finally admitted into Michener Centre for the last 17 years of his life. While in Michener Centre this man got to settle in and a caring staff learned to deal with his unique and special needs. The stability he needed only came upon getting into a facility such as Michener Centre.

The gentleman hosting the meeting told an interesting story of his brother who had been a Michener Centre resident. His brother had been admitted to hospital with a respiratory infection and while in there staff was mystified with why he would not open his mouth to eat. This was during the H1N1 outbreak so staff were outfitted with full infection control outfits. While those outfits could discomfort pretty much anybody if unfamiliar with them, they were outright terrifying to the poor fellow with a serious developmental disability. Of course he would not let these alien people feed him. The staff were not in the wrong of course, they simply did not understand that unique circumstances of the gentleman they had in their care. The story again drives home why consistency and specialized facilities and staff are so essential for people with serious PDDs.

After the meeting, I decided to look further into things. I tracked down and spoke with a couple people who had each worked at and around Michener Center for over 30 years each. The stories were not of a place with terrible institutional abuses and misery. The picture painted is one of a facility that was a community in itself that went to great pains to create the best conditions possible for their clients. One of the best was in hearing how one of the clients was of Asian decent so staff sought out Asian themed decorations for his room (and they sought to decorate to please all of their residents of course). This reminds one that Michener Centre is not an acute care facility, it is a home to the residents and should remain so. On the sadder side, I was told of funerals for some residents that passed away which were only attended by staff as these people had no remaining family outside of the facility. Think of what moving these people will do to them.

Having a centralized facility such as Michener Centre allows for more specialized services to be maintained and developed as well. Having doctors and pharmacists on site allows for much better diagnosis, prescribing and monitoring of medications as many clients needed medications. Dental and other care is provided on site as well in ways that never could be done for persons with serious developmental disabilities in a smaller group-home setting. I was told that people from outside group homes are brought to Michener Centre for their dental care as most dentists will not treat them or don’t have the skills required to do so. Where will they go now?

As was driven home at the meeting, Michener Centre is a community and a family. Driving the residents out of there is a needless and possibly catastrophic disruption to these people. It has been said that many of the residents will be sent to seniors care facilities. Really? Are seniors centers really able to care for these people with such special needs? Do they have the space or the resources? What will this do to seniors already residing in those facilities? This just sounds utterly senseless.

In driving around the Michener Centre grounds last weekend, it could be seen that some facilities are getting a bit dated (though hardly dysfunctional). The campus is very large though and if anything we should be investing to expand and improve the facilities for people with PDDs rather than driving them out and scattering them.

Michener Centre is on 300 acres of pretty prime land in Red Deer. While nothing has been confirmed, there are many rumors about plans for that land once it is vacated. Sadly in that context, one can see the underlying motivation in the Redford government’s zeal to displace these most vulnerable of Alberta’s citizens. If the efforts to save the Michener Centre fail, we must watch very carefully to see just what Redford (along with friends and family) does with the land. Why else would her government rip into this facility having so recently promised never to do so (though broken promises from Redford are hardly few or unexpected).

The closure of Michener Centre is not a done deal yet. If enough people stand up and demonstrate a backlash, I do think Redford will back down on this closure. Redford never apologizes or admits wrong, but she will quietly kill initiatives that prove to harm her political well-being and that is all that matters. Alison Redford will be lucky to survive the wrath of her own party at this fall’s leadership review. She is very sensitive to public pressure right now so let’s exert it.

There is a facebook page for Friends of Michener Centre here. Give the page a like and look around for more information on upcoming actions and events.

Call or write your MLA to express how this closure is a mistake. It may not feel like it but they really do notice when public ire is rising on something. That will only happen if we speak up of course. Be sure to encourage others to speak up on this as well.

Finally, one can attend a rally on April 10, in support of Michener Centre. This is being organized by the AUPE with details in the picture below. When you see me promoting something being organized by a union, you know something serious is happening.

michener

Let’s let Redford know that she is really crossing the line on this one.

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