Recently, Minister of Municipal Affairs Ken Hughes announced that, despite former estimates, only 90% of DRP files would be closed at the end of March, 2014. Then he took another step back and said "no wait, not until the end of June, now", which basically means a full year of homelessness for those affected. Not that I'm surprised, he inherited a mess from his predecessor, Doug Griffiths.
However, in order to meet those targets, people who were already told they are going to be covered through the DRP are now being told "nevermind, no money for you."
The best example of this is the first completed DRP file in High River. That file refers to the basement of Richard Murray. On September 23, 2013 he was given approval to go forward with rebuilding his basement in writing. Throughout the next two months, he rebuilt, had inspected, adjusted, continued rebuilding, inspected, and completed his basement all with great collaboration with the DRP office. On November 23, 2013, all paperwork for his claim was considered complete, and he was given every indication that he would be given his funds. He followed all the rules, and worked very closely and collegially with the decision-makers.
On March 11, 2014, Murray got a brief phone call saying that his DRP claim was denied in full. When he asked why, the response was "we have no details for you."
The result is that he will no longer be an Albertan. He will be moving to British Columbia. What's even more telling about this is that he has dedicated decades of his volunteer service to High River, even running for the public service of Town Councillor in the last election. In the end, the Disaster Recovery Program has run this incredibly dedicated community advocate out of town.
Why on Earth, or in Alberta, would the DRP process choose to rip this man's spleen out through his throat like that?
DRP has been changed multiple times since the first files were created. Any file completed before the latest iteration of the DRP process will be referred to a "special review" process. To me, this smacks of duplication; files that were already well-handled are being held back to be looked over one more, two more, seven more times.
If DRP was broken the first time, all those first files will be wrong too, right?
That's not what was broken. The first files completed were the ones done well. Reviewing them added a significantly unnecessary bureaucratic layer. What was broken was the multitude of files that did not get addressed, did not have deadlines met from the government side, and did not get money in a timely fashion to the residents who desperately needed.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it is broke, don't fix the pieces that work.
Hughes stepped back from his commitment to complete the DRP process to only complete 90%. Apparently, even that target is so hard to hit, that files that were stuck in the "special review" process were simply too much to handle.
So they called Richard Murray to say "no money for you", with no further details. The only logical conclusion is that they've done so because those details are "we just don't want to handle your file anymore." It's the only way they'll hit that target.
And considering the political turbidity surrounding the PC Party of Alberta right now, they can't afford to miss another target.
How many other High Riverites are going to get the exact same phone call? All the ones who did get their files started early theoretically have been living in relief. Those who did not are the ones who are most in needed of mental health support. Now that the ones who got their files started early are being told they are under "special review", the DRP program is now forcing even those early-starters into mental health disarray.
Just to meet a target, to save a party, to retain power.
If people can't rebuild their basements, homes and businesses, they can't move back. Therefore, they won't shop in High River. They won't open up shop in High River. They won't work in High River. They won't break bread with each other in High River. They won't play in High River. They certainly will have no vested interest in protecting it and rebuilding it for the future.
With this new revelation, I can confidently say High River is dying. And right now, the easiest and most valid scapegoat is the one thing preventing residents, workers, business owners, and community builders from moving back into town.
The Disaster Recovery Program.
So my call to Ken Hughes is to completely shift his position on the completion of the DRP. Not renewing a contract with LandLink is a good decision, but letting them keep the files they've already got is not going to solve the issue of their involvement. The current position is forcing active files to be rammed through, and if necessary cancelled, with little to no consideration for the people and communities they directly affect.
I am asking that Hughes commit to fully fund every Disaster Recovery Program claim as property owners have been promised. I am asking him to completely remove LandLink from the process with no exceptions. I am asking his office take over any remaining outstanding files where no statement of coverage has been offered to the property owner. I am also asking him to add the consideration of these two questions in the completion of those outstanding files;
Lastly, I’m asking that he resist every urge to shift a deadline or target date again. Flood victims need something stable to work with, and the regular shifting of deadlines and target dates leaves them with complete instability.
Or else I fear for the future of my town.
Good news does abound, and while it took a long time, Richard Murray now has received his DRP payments. However, he has some sage advice for all those who have dealt with DRP, and the advice does not end once you've received your cheque. I recommend reading the article here, as it can not be said better than by the man himself.
Maybe I live a sheltered life. When asked about guns, we simply don't have them, allow them, nor want them in or around our house. There is no need.
So when my 8-year-old nephew got a shiny new .22 calibre rifle for Christmas, my shock should come as no surprise. Two hours earlier, I would never have thought my sister-in-law would have allowed her son to have a gun, after I got in trouble for playing a World War II game on the Nintendo Wii (it wasn't really even a good game).
I was unfortunately too sick at the time to respond the way I should have, and so I could very easily have given the impression of a person who was indifferent or even accepting of this "gift".
Let me be clear. I am not.
You see, not an hour before the giving of this gun, I was having a conversation with the family of my sister-in-law's boyfriend about Gun Culture following the Sandy Hook tragedy. Their opinion was that more guns will solve the problem. That having an armed officer in every school was an appropriate measure. That tagging the mentally ill was the best way to keep this from happening again. (I found that last one insensitive as my in-laws have a family history of mental illness) I seemed to be the only one in the room who disagreed.
So many things said by these people alarmed me and deeply saddened me:
"Anybody who has something out of balance in their brain is mentally ill." Does this include the seasonally depressed? People with ADD? People with dyslexia?
"The only people who would do such a thing would be mentally ill." So I should be afraid that the 75 students who are coded in my school of 300 might pull a gun? The vast majority of those who are "mentally ill" are non-violent.
"No rational person would ever kill 20 people." Ask Sheldon Cooper that one. Or Adolph Hitler. Or a soldier fighting for peace.
"A cop at every school with a gun would have prevented this." No, not having access to guns AT ALL would have prevented this. After hearing about the Nose Hill Gentlemen, I will never be convinced that more US cops with guns is a good idea.
Then my brother-in-law gives our nephew a gun, and started talking about all the "wonderful" things they can do with it, including going behind a blind and "picking off targets". This, after a discussion amongst grown men about how they are planning to create their own cannons.
Now to be fair, I was impressed with the respect my nephew immediately affording this device, and I know that he was being coached to respect it. However, sick as I was, I did not have the energy to get up and leave as I should have.
However, saying only that guns can be fun is irresponsible. They are tools of death. That's how they were designed. The more available they are, the more you open up the opportunities for them to be managed irresponsibly.
Evidence of irresponsible gun management exists everywhere. When it involves an 8-year-old who doesn't know how to use guns, such as one in Philadelphia who shot herself just weeks before Sandy Hook, it doesn't just scare me. It infuriates me.
The responsibility starts with the parents. I have to wonder if my nephew's father (his parents are divorced and fighting over custody) is aware he just got a gun for Christmas in his mother's house. I can assure you that my boys will not be getting guns in our house. Ever.
So if I get blacklisted amongst my family for saying all this, so be it. I just hope they realize I feel this way because I actually care about my nephew.
Don't give more guns out to 8-year-olds. Get rid of them.