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LETTER: Income testing for seniors bus pass is degrading


This is in response to the article on the front page of the Feb. 22 St. Albert Gazette regarding bus fare for seniors with a low income. I was quite dismayed to read about the one-year pilot project to give the seniors with low income free rides on the transit system.

It is not the free service that troubles me, but how the Council arrived at this decision. They have taken a certain group of seniors who live in poverty or under the poverty line to go the office and register they are poor in order to get free bus passes.

To me I see this as degrading and humiliating to an individual senior. Is it right to expose a person's finances to that employee standing behind the counter?

How do you think that senior will feel knowing someone, (someone in their community who they most likely will see in public when they are out shopping, etc.) other than the Government and the Food Bank knows they are poor?

Isn’t it bad enough seniors have to go to the Food Bank in order to eat? I know seniors who will not go to the Food Bank and struggle each month because they are classified as poor, after working their whole lives and ending up this way due to unforeseen circumstances.

Can you really say that isn’t humiliating ? Whether you like it or not Councillors of St. Albert, poverty does have a label attached to it, and many seniors I have talked to feel a sense of shame, humiliation and degradation when they are exposed.

Seniors have feelings and let them retain their dignity, even if it is in secret.

The senior now has a stigma of poverty attached to them by the public, the employee, the bus driver, other seniors.

When they ride the bus will they be looked at and treated differently because they are poor? Because they are poor, you are setting them apart by forcing them to do this.

It is my firm belief members of St. Albert Council do not know what it is like to exist on a low income. There are many stories why these seniors live on a low income.

You are setting these people apart, you are creating a separate category and I think it is ugly to do this and to treat our seniors this way.

Many seniors have lost the ability to own or drive a car and depend on the bus not only to go shopping and for medical appointments, but it is a lifeline to visit friends or family; or simply go for a ride. A joy they can experience that people with cars take for granted.

Living on a low income and paying for each time they use the bus does inhibit their ridership.

Remember there are also seniors who are borderline low income that some months when unexpected expenses happen they become low income.

Is it up to Council to decide what category of seniors rides for free and who doesn’t?

Shirley Davey, Spruce Grove