It’s winter. It’s New Brunswick, Canada. And, it’s cold. Very, very cold. Definitely not an unexpected occurrence but nonetheless, it is uncomfortable. However, there is nothing we can do about the weather other than bundle up to the best of our ability, and venture out.
It’s a beautiful world out there right now – fresh, clean snow. Bright sunshine. Warm sweaters, toques and well insulated boots to keep you warm.
Despite the weather, and our image as the oh-so-polite nation of quietly accepting citizens, people from across this province are bravely standing up for what they believe in – whether it is access to appropriate health care or the ability to enjoy our woodlands during the most magnificent time of year, autumn.
Autumn access to the forests in jeopardy
Yesterday a photojournalist from CTV Atlantic braved the frigid temperatures with me while we discussed the latter point. Our probably-soon-to-be-defeated provincial Conservative government is considering an amendment to the wildlife act that would extend Sunday hunting from 3 weeks in late Oct./early Nov. , to cover the entire deer hunting season from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve.
The Bill to make this amendment passed two readings before a group of concerned citizens learned of its existence. They formed a group called “Quiet Forests in NB Coalition” representing people who do not feel this amendment should pass. Full disclosure: I am a member. Our reasons are myriad, as diverse as the members themselves who include hikers, bikers, families who want to safely go for outings, dog walkers, skiers, photographers, horseback riders, writers and even hunters. The members are not anti-hunting but are in favour of keeping at least one day per week during our magnificent autumns free from the cacophony of gun shots when people can safely enter the forests and enjoy rejuvenating peace and quiet.
Access to health care on the block for rural residents
The other issue that has the citizenry fired up is the government’s decision to tamper with rural residents’ timely access to health care, particularly during crisis situations. In their ‘wisdom’, the powers that be decided to close emergency services during the overnight hours at six health care centres in non-urban areas of the province. In addition, those centres that had acute care medical facilities are having those phased out in favour of providing holding areas for senior citizens awaiting admission to nursing home beds.
No one disputes that our health care system is both expensive and somewhat inefficient. However, many of us fail to see the rationale behind this move or any semblance of a plan to deal with related issues. The Premier, Health Minister and Head of Horizon Health (the Board that governs medical service in the province) have remained implacable, but have failed to put forth a program to show what measures are, or will be, in place to handle residents’ medical needs. The head of Horizon Health said it wasn’t her problem if Ambulance NB was under-staffed and not prepared to handle additional workload. Nor did anyone address the fact that if these centres’ emergency facilities are closed, how will the emergency facilities in the urban hospitals (already overloaded, overworked and with unacceptable wait times for patients) handle the additional influx of patients – assuming they live long enough to make the 60-90 minute or longer trek to the city by some means or other.
Sadly, nurses, LPNs, PSWs, EVS workers and more will lose their jobs – jobs that help sustain the economies in these small towns where the health centres are located. They’ll have to either commute to, or move to, the larger centres to find work – taking families out of the rural areas and moving them to the (more expensive) cities to live, shop, go to school and work. I foresee declining real estate values in these areas as more people abandon the location in favour of living where there is access to emergency and other health care 24/7.
What perplexes me?
We are a small province with a small population – less than any large city elsewhere. Even our large (and magnificent) country has a relatively small population. Nevertheless, when people see what they perceive to be an injustice, they stand up. They picket. They protest. They contact the media. They pester politicians for answers and action. And sometimes, it even works.
And yet, with all of the atrocities that are happening south of the border, it both perplexes and astounds me that the populace is not in the streets screaming for reform. Hopefully people will register and get out and vote next November.
When we were young I remember chanting “Power to the people” on some march or other. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to do that again and remind politicians of all stripes that THEY work for US!