Mayor deserves a break on seniors comments
| Posted: Saturday, Jun 09, 2012 06:00 am
Being a politician, particularly at the municipal level, is sometimes not an easy job. Unlike provincial MLAs or federal MPs, local politicians have nowhere to hide when they upset constituents.
If Mayor Nolan Crouse wants to go for a morning cup of coffee, or an afternoon walk, or an evening glass of wine, odds are he’s going to run into someone who recognizes him … and maybe feels the urge to burn his ears.
So while we are often critical of Crouse and St. Albert city council (always for good reason, we must point out), this week we extend some sympathy to the mayor.
He’s been getting a feel for what grey power could really mean in the city and how, if those nearly 8,000 senior citizens living in St. Albert united for the next election, he might have difficulty retaining that chair he’s been sitting in since 2007.
And all because of an off-the-cuff comment that got under the skin of a lot of seniors and resulted in a rash of letters to the editor and, we suspect, probably a flood of phone calls and emails to the mayor’s office.
Yet, in this case, the mayor was likely just misunderstood. While seniors are angry at him for saying he doesn’t want St. Albert to become a retirement community, they’re missing the real point he was trying to make. Which is that St. Albert has to find a way to stem the constant loss of our younger population once they’re out of school and have become full-time wage earners.
We’re not saying seniors over-reacted to one part of the mayor’s comment, because they have every right to be concerned – and to voice that concern – about any comment suggesting they’re not welcome in St. Albert. This is their home – many of them were born and raised here, and they should stand united against any comment against them.
But given that the mayor and the majority of councillors, while not senior citizens yet, aren’t exactly spring chickens themselves, it would be downright foolish on their part to do something that would come back to hurt them in the future when they’re in their senior years and maybe living on fixed incomes themselves.
And it’s unfortunate for the mayor he made these comments the same week that tax notices were received with the latest increase that will likely hurt many seniors more than any other group.
So while he probably wishes that he had left the seniors out of his comment, the mayor is right when he says more has to be done to try to either keep our young population here, or find ways to bring them home later.
The reality is that St. Albert will never have a Whyte Avenue or a West Edmonton Mall, so there may not be a way to keep the young, upwardly mobile in St. Albert. They are after all, young, with cash in their pockets and eager to conquer the world. It is their time to enjoy life.
What there are, however, are ways to bring them home again.
Make the community so attractive as they are growing up that when they have finished sowing those wild oats, or whatever it is the younger generation does these days, and they’re ready to settle down to raise a family, they’ll remember all the good things about St. Albert and want to come home.
That means it has to be a vibrant community with lots of activities for children from infants right through their high school years, plus plenty of stuff for parents and grandparents.
Like it or not, that means we need light industrial development to pay for, and maintain, those amenities that make the city a home, without putting our seniors on the welfare rolls. Sons and daughters will be more inclined to come home so their children can enjoy the pleasure of being spoiled by grandparents – and vice versa – but those grandparents have to be able to afford to live here.
And they have to be made to feel welcome.