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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘Age discrimination’ Category

What do we want?

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The Council of Seniors Organizations of BC made a submission to the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging June 5th in Victoria. The following extract is taken from Gudrun Langolf’s speaking notes and deals with bicycles, transit and toilets. The submission did cover other issues childcare, food safety and water quality – among other things…but these had the greatest resonance with me.

Making it easy and habitual to keep fit includes reserving green spaces, allotment gardens, parks, physical games throughout school years, adequate and safe bicycle routes (for physically challenged or seniors, these should accommodate tricycles!), and hygiene stations with drinking water fountains and, very importantly, public toilet facilities both rare commodities in our region. I know of individuals who will not take their diuretic medication (for high blood pressure) on the days they travel or are away from home for fear of not having an accessible toilet even on transit stations. No need to talk about negative health consequences here. When I go for my bike rides, they are almost always designed to include ‘comfort stations’- not much spontaneity allowed… In Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, we can count public facilities on the fingers of one hand! Construction site Johnny-on-the-spots and accommodating restaurants fill the void. This is not acceptable in a civil society. Remove these not so obvious barriers to mobility. Of course, this is of benefit to all generations, not only the elders. For some reason they ran out of money and could not provide up & down escalators in our modern transit stations as well. Those and toilets ought to be standard for every transportation cost-sharing project.

I am 59 and sort of retired. I was being offered senior’s discounts 15 years ago (it’s been a tough life) but I do not think of myself as a “senior”. However, I do have the usual old men’s issues. Working on the census I was very glad of the biffies on construction sites. And on my other blog, the issue of the public convenience has been given quite a bit of space. And the removal of drinking fountains and their replacement by vending selling bottled municipal water at outrageous prices is a disgrace.

The issues I think have a common thread. Government has lost sight of what it is supposed to be for. It now behaves as though facilitating profitable enterprises is their only concern. Providing a decent, civilised public realm comes second to promoting the ability of business to extract yet more surplus from everyday activities. We seem to have forgotten that municipal government started with the very real concerns that the population needs healthy living conditions. I have to refer to England here since I do not know enough about the history of Canadian municipal government, but in the Victorian era it was the city councils that ensured there were clean streets, clean water, functioning sewers and sewage treatment, public baths, recreation of all kinds in parks and other facilities. And lots of public conveniences too. They also administered the Public Health Act, which among other things ensured that houses met certain minimum standards, whoever built them, as well as public housing for those who could not afford market rents. It was also the local councils that first built and operated tram services in most cities.

All we do now is try to find ways to limit spending on programs. But somehow municipal taxes rise much faster than inflation yet the quality of services has not improved very much, despite much of it being run by private sector companies that were supposed to be more efficient. And the projects municipalities do build are always justified by the amount of business they will bring to the town. So there is no money for a senior’s centre, but there is plenty for an Olympic skating facility that will be needed for exactly two weeks – and then has to be “repurposed”.

Anyway, good for you, Gudrun. Maybe the Senate might actually do something useful for a change. After all, it is in their own interest. Most of them are older than either of us.

[By the way, this just happens to be the 1,000th post on this blog]

Written by Stephen Rees

June 8, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Premier’s ally faces questions about lobbying

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CBC Vancouver

Now I have to be very careful here since the temptation to go after Ken Dobell is very strong. But he can afford lawyers and I can’t, so I am going to be circumspect.

The use of the word “ally” is interesting. Maybe the CBC feel the need to be overly cautious too. It is not the word that springs to my mind. The role of Ken has been somewhat more proactive, I think. Formerly the City Manager of Vancouver he was hand picked to be Translink’s first CEO. And then he was summoned to become the Premier’s most senior Civil Servant. The role that Humphrey Appleby filled to Jim’s PM? No, I don’t think so. Eminence gris might be closer to the mark, I think. Besides I think that the conventions that the right wing follow in Canada are now much closer to Washington DC than London.

Policy advice to premiers is naturally one of those areas where the Freedom of Information Act does not reach, so the precise relationship is always going to be a matter of speculation. But Ken has since moved on and has picked up a number of new jobs.

It would seem that the questions now being raised are likely to be dismissed as a “technicality”. A matter of timing, no more. But questions have been asked before. Back in January he was explaining to the Globe and Mail that he was not in a conflict of interest

“There are multiple hats, and it’s quite true I have to take one off and put on other one, but that’s not atypical for people that are in this kind of a role,” he said in an interview yesterday, adding that he still sees himself “in a broad sense” as a public servant and that he does not act for private companies.

… his work for the province on softwood lumber, coastal forest and matters related to the Pacific Gateway initiative “is unlikely to involve any city [of Vancouver] issues. However, there may be a perceived conflict that should be addressed.”

Since the Pacific Gateway is going to dump a heck of a lot more car traffic on east Vancouver streets the use of the word “unlikely” is … erm … surprising.

Of course, for those of us some years younger, who have been the victims of age discrimination for some years, it might be heartening to see the number of appointments someone over compulsory retirement age can collect.

UPDATE More details in the Friday Vancouver Sun 

and on Charlie Smith’s blog 

Written by Stephen Rees

April 19, 2007 at 12:01 pm

Age the biggest hiring barrier, survey finds

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Age the biggest hiring barrier, survey finds
Britain has just introduced stiff legislation dealing with this issue. It is going to be a long haul to get this concern dealt with seriously here. For one thing, it is almost impossible to prove. In the job application scenario, for example, the vast majority of resumes go into the trash, so how do you establish that age discrimination is at play? One job adviser seriously suggested leaving out dates on job applications. That gets you dropped automatically, I would have thought, on the grounds that the applicant must have something to hide. “Over qualified” is the most common excuse, which is code for “we can get someone younger and cheaper”. Even once you become willing to take much less than you are worth, you don’t usually get much further than a polite telephone call – if you are lucky. Even places which bitch and complain amongst themselves about the difficulty of getting good staff have a hard time accepting that someone over 55 can actually be a useful employee. And most job adverts say that only the successful will get a reply and ask for no phone calls. So there is no way that they are going to discuss with the unsuccessful why they were not considered.

The odd thing is that many employers will use fear of being sued as the reason. But the law is only open to those that can afford it. There is no point at all having an open and shut case. The employer has more resources than the plaintiff and can keep a case going with a wide range of tactics to exhaust the resources of their opponents. And legal aid has been effectively shut off for civil suits, the human rights commission being a shadow of its former self.

For many people in this province “full employment” rings hollow. They want a permanent full time position with benefits. They are forced by market conditions to take part time, low paid, no benefit positions and often work at multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Not to mention those who become “contractors” or “consultants” – paid by the task and not well at that in most cases, with absolutely zero job security. And often they are skilled and qualified people, kept in these positions by restrictive practices in the self regulated professions and unionised environments.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 24, 2006 at 9:28 am

Posted in Age discrimination