Monday, December 12, 2005

Transit System Unfare

Brandon leaders are certainly not in a charitable mood this festive season. The City recently proposed a rate hike for users of the Handi-Transit service, which provides people in wheelchairs with transportation around Brandon. The justification? It boils down to the decision being necessary because of costs and sustainability.

See, the problem is that his hits the transit users very hard. People in wheelchairs rely on this service to move around to jobs, appointments, going out and having fun, bascially the same things many other people take for granted. Not only do the increases mean restrictions as to what these people can do, but some may also be forced to quit their jobs. Others may be unable to work and have to rely on social assistance, which isn't that much. They are in wheelchairs because of circumstances beyond their control, and this is merely kicking someone who is already down. It also runs contrary to the idea of moving towards being a community that is accomodating to and inclusive of people with physical challenges.

The people who proposed this have been very shortsighted. They merely looked at the financial aspect, without trying to consider how it feels to have your movements heavily restricted. They aren't the ones who will have to see their transportation expenses go up. Someone suggested that city officials confine themselves to a wheelchair for a week and move around that way. Good idea, let's hear them justify the rate hike after having done that!

If any readers wish to contact the mayor or other councillors on this issue, such information is provided through the link to the City of Brandon website on the right hand side of this page.

Monday, December 05, 2005

On Your Mark, Get Set, Campaign!

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin lost a confidence vote in Parliament, forcing the country into an election campaign, with a date set for January 23, 2006.

Even though my own mind is made up, I refuse to explicitly state who I intend to vote for, however those familiar with Canadian politics should be able to guess with reasonable confidence based both on my prior comments and the links on the righthand side.

However, I believe I can make a meaningful contribution to the election with this campaign. There is a new section of links dealing with the federal election, which will be removed upon the end of the campaign. Media links from CTV, CanwestGlobal, and LaPresse will provide a wide range of options for campaign information, and is a great addition to election information readers can already get through the CBC and Radio-Canada. I have posted a list of all registered political parties to present readers with all the options. Since I live in Brandon, I have also posted links to local candidates, although this portion will need to be updated throughout the campaign. Elections Canada will also come in handy, and if you're a first-time voter, recently moved, won't be in your riding on election day, don't know where your riding is or which candidates are running, or need general information, this is a good site to sort through. I have also added a permanent link to Fair Vote Canada, where you can receive information detailing how our electoral system distorts the vote and about lobbying to change that.

People tend to cover their ears when they hear about politics these days, and I don't blame them. The reasons are many, whether it's that politicians all the same, or their vote doesn't count. Why will voting change anything? Yet, I believe it's important to be involved in political processes, for the simple reason that not being involved concedes ground to those people abusing the political system for their own gain. And now, more than ever, individual votes matter. Last spring, the smallest party, the NDP, managed to pass a budget through Parliament, a budget that still would not have passed without the support of BC Independant Chuck Cadman. This was during a Parliamentary session where the balance of power was so delicate that a change in one seat changed the dynamics completely, and it's still unclear how the balance of power will work out. When you consider that there are many close races throughout Canada, this leaves open many possibilities, and Canadians have a real role in shaping the next government. I encourage all Canadian readers to play that role.