Recently, I’ve been struck by how often our leaders and bureaucrats are turning a blind eye to problems that they have the power to solve. Take, for instance, their attitude toward parents of autistic children, whose plight I have written about several times.
In opposition, the provincial Liberals promised to fight for funding for direct-intervention programs that have proven to be effective for children afflicted with this disorder. In office, however, the Liberals have fallen very short on their promises. They even intervened at the Supreme Court level to avoid having to provide funding as a matter of course as part of our much-touted Canada Health Act. The federal government, in turn, has tried to slough off any responsibility, referring to it as a provincial responsibility. I think that’s shameful, but what really got my blood boiling was hearing Tony Clement, the federal health minister, refer to members of FEAT (Families for Early Autism Treatment) as extremists. I know many of those parents. None is an extremist and every one has faced the incredible challenges that come with having a child diagnosed with the neurological disorder of autism. Many parents have struggled for years to try to get the very intense and very expensive help their children desperately need. I can only imagine that the health minister’s negative attitude has driven the organization to take its fight to parliament and that FEAT has decided to target vulnerable MPs who won’t support their kids. Guess what? Clement won his Ontario riding by fewer than 30 votes in the last election. I’d say FEAT has his attention, but I don’t think he has any idea how determined this group of families is and how let down they feel by everyone from the various governments and bureaucracies that have ignored their plight, including the Supreme Court. Closer to home, it seems our civic politicians refuse to see the growing chaos in downtown Vancouver, where drunken louts gather on weekend nights and early mornings to pick fights and challenge the police. There don’t appear to be any real consequences for this outrageous behaviour. Why is this tolerated? Why do drunks who fight in public get a slap on the wrist? The current fine is $58, and it is rarely collected. In fact, combatants have been known to rip tickets up in front of police. Why aren’t they given a $500 fine? Why aren’t they forced to spend a few days in jail? We pay millions of dollars a year to police our city, and the people who cost us all that money just carry on being irresponsible. I’ve tried to pinpoint when it was that a total lack of respect for police and authority became so common. I stood next to Chief Constable Jamie Graham one day on Hastings Street and watched as people passing by routinely flipped him the single-digit salute or yelled profanities. CTV reporter Janet Dirks spent two nights on the streets in our so-called entertainment district. She was appalled by the degree to which people felt they had licence to hurl abuse at the cops. Why do we put up with this? Soon, though, it won’t just be the cops who are feeling the wrath of the public; it will be staff at your local passport office, where citizens are waiting ridiculous amounts of time to get their passports processed. Even the phone lines can’t keep up with the demand. And with only four passport offices in the entire province, most of them located in the south, it shouldn’t have taken five months for someone responsible to come up with a system any butcher shop knows: take a number! Even if you’re not the parent of an autistic child, a downtown cop or someone in need of a new passport, you can still experience the short-sightedness of our politicians and bureaucrats: just hop in a car or a bus and try to make your way across the city of Vancouver. What genius at city hall decided that right in the middle of Canada Line construction, which has created gridlock along Cambie Street, would be a good time to rip up parts of Granville and Oak Streets – the very routes that people had been using to avoid being stuck in traffic? Should it surprise us that police are reporting a dramatic increase in the number of accidents on Oak Street? I don’t think the various levels of government could do a better job of driving us crazy if they tried. I, for one, have had enough. It’s time for our politicians to take their blinders off and start acting with a little more foresight.