Province bungling women's shelters
By: Brian McLeod
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 12, 2013 06:00 am
Despite my advancing years, I continue to be infuriated when politicians and associated bureaucrats attempt to mislead the public in order to make their governments appear in a better light. The George W. Bush administration was a master of these stunts. For example, when they decided to open up federal parks and other federal lands for commercial logging, they knew the public reaction was going to be extremely negative. To help reduce this anger, the chose to name the legislation they were introducing as “The National Wilderness Protection Act.” This was a stunt designed to deliberately mislead the public, and unfortunately, it worked brilliantly. After all, what environmentalist is going to start fighting legislation to “protect wilderness”? Of course, the only thing being protected was the wallets of the administration’s friends in the timber industry.
Closer to home, we have the same problem with our provincial government. In fact, because of the virtually infinite number of screw-ups from the provincial authorities, the governing Conservatives have to rely on this tactic on a virtual daily basis. The level of cynicism associated with these stunts is nothing short of unforgiveable and often tragic. Let me give you an example. The Edmonton Journal recently published an article about provincial shelters for women and children fleeing abusive conditions. A provincial government spokesperson commented that the province funds all shelters in the province, with the exception of shelters on First Nations land, which are funded by the federal government. This statement is both 100 per cent true, and 100 per cent misleading. What the bureaucrat failed to mention is that there are two types of shelters in the province. First stage shelters provide protection and support for women and children, to quickly get them out of dangerous conditions. With their lives in jeopardy, quick action is mandatory. So far, so good. However, these shelters are only designed for short-term support, and can only provide support for 21 days. Naturally, women and children fleeing a dangerous environment simply cannot possibly rebuild their entire lives in twenty-one days. Where will they live, how will they pay the bills, what about day care support, where will they go to school? The number of issues to be solved is enormous. Thus, we also have second stage shelters, and these shelters provide support after the 21 day interval has expired, and they continue to provide this support for up to a year. The province does provide financial support for first stage shelters; however, its funding for second stage shelters is confused, incomplete, or in most cases, non-existent. In fact, non-existent would be the operative word. Alberta has 10 second stage shelters in the province, however, only two of these receive some partial funding from the province. That’s correct – despite the incredible value and importance of the services provided by second stage shelters, eight out of 10 of these shelters receive absolutely no funding whatsoever. All the expenses to run these facilities, and they are expensive to run, are paid for by private groups and individuals. In Calgary, the situation has turned critical for these second stage shelters, as most donations have been flowing into the flood relief programs, thus many of these second stage shelters have seen donations drop by over 80 per cent. This situation has reached crisis levels, yet the government stumbles along totally unaware of how Albertans are suffering, or are about to suffer much more.
In the effort to improve the optics of their administration, our politicians supply misleading information – information that works directly against the best interests of the staff, volunteers, and supporters of second stage shelters, to say nothing of all the women and children who are abandoned in this process.
So, the old shell game continues – with politicians hiding behind “weasel words” to divide and conquer the public. There’s an old saying that “in war, the first casualty is the truth.” In Alberta, it appears that politics shares an equal fate.
Brian McLeod is a long time resident of St. Albert.