NOTES/QUOTES #6: Suffering seniors; heat-wave hysteria; and the clock conundrum
“Seniors face high prices in North”
— NNSL Yellowknifer
“Seniors who live alone and rent are NWT’s worst-off – report.”
— Cabin Radio
“Many N.W.T. seniors aren’t earning a living income: report”
— CBC North
Reading the above headlines would lead one to think seniors in the NWT are, as a community, struggling to pay their bills.
And I’m sure that is the case for those older folks who rely solely on public money to live, such as from Old Age Security, the NWT Senior Citizen Supplementary Benefit and
However, stories I saw on a study commissioned by the NWT Seniors’ Society all left out one pretty significant detail — the report assumed the only source of income is government programs.
“For the purposes of this report, it is assumed that the reference households’ only source of income is government programs,” the study states on page 8.
So the study is only about low-income seniors. Those who either don’t have a private pension or any other savings.
I would have preferred if the reporters had made that clear high up in their stories, otherwise it leaves the wrong impression that all the territory’s grey-haired folks are shivering in the dark and starving in squalor.
As I just marked my 59th birthday and am comfortably semi-retired — making me an “older adult,” not a senior in this study — this issue is of interest to me.
Stories on the society’s A Living Income for Seniors in the Northwest Territories study failed to realize how important it was to place the study in context: it was just about poor senior citizens.
You see, for a place that has thousands of well-paid government employees — not to mention the many people enjoying high incomes in the resource extraction sector — not everyone retires without means to live well.
Since I’ve lived up here, I have learned the dream of many people is to move to southern Canada when they retire. It’s no surprise the allure of our dark, cold and lengthy winters in the north fades as one ages.
Without the safety net of private savings — or a stable pension income — an increasing numbers of older folks will struggle to meet basic living needs when they hit 65. And the study didn’t include some of the ‘luxuries’ in life, such as: hobbies, pet ownership or alcohol/tobacco costs
And that’s plain sad — it’s a crappy life to live for anyone, let alone an elder or senior — and a problem society will have to fix.
“Many low-income Seniors that rely on government pension and benefit
programs will face affordability challenges in the NWT’s regional centres, particularly those that live in rental accommodations and those living further north in Inuvik,” states the report.
Clearly, governments will have to take action, as there is a glut of baby boomers turning grey and it would be just cruel not to help them out. The number of Canadians over 65 could double by 2036 according to Statistics Canada.
What we don’t need is to scare them.
I spent some time trying to determine the percentage of seniors in the NWT the report is referencing. That information wasn’t easy to find.
What I could determine is nationally the proportion of older adults (65-plus) below the poverty line across Canada is roughly 14 per cent.
So, even if you bump that up to 20 or 25 per cent given the hardship factors facing the NWT, it’s still perhaps one-quarter of all seniors. And I’m sure that number runs much, much higher in the smaller communities, where career opportunities are few and overcrowded living situations and outright poverty are troubling.
But I wish some better perspective would have been in the coverage of the society’s report.
It even stated on the first page: “Affordability is a recognized challenge in Northwest Territories’ (NWT) communities. High living costs hamper the resilience of residents who find themselves unemployed or underemployed. However, even for NWT residents working full time making ends meet can be a struggle as demonstrated by recent Living Wage research. For wage earners, Living Wage provides a useful indicator of affordability that accounts for the cost of living within a specific community.”
So the report was pretty clear. The reporting on it, overall, was a bit slight.
While doing research for this piece, I found this handy booklet that contains contact information for older people: https://www.hss.gov.nt.ca/sites/hss/files/seniors_information_handbook.pdf
I also found this page of resources from the Yellowknife Seniors’ Society: http://yksenior.ca/resources
“I have nights that I don’t sleep because I think about climate change.”
— Ecology North’s Will Gagnon tells CBC North
People love talking about the weather.
And a record-breaking heat wave — well, warm wave — across the NWT sure left some tongues wagging.
Undoubtedly it will feed the fire being stoked by climate-change activists such as Ecology North’s Will Gagnon, whose recent launch of a Twitter weather monitoring bot came at an appropriate time.
That being smack in the middle of some truly abnormal temperatures for a place not known for literally being a winter hotspot.
I can’t fault people such as Gagnon for their heartfelt beliefs. That’s why he’s with conservationist group Ecology North, an organization that does some good work overall.
But Gagnon even shared with CBC that he received counselling on climate change anxiety. Really? I’d be more concerned over the impact of the incoming carbon tax.
But I digress.
It’s pretty clear that weather patterns are changing across the globe, with some pretty dramatic climactic events being seen.
And that includes the last couple of weeks of well above normal temps in the NWT.
But when I see records being broken from years and decades past, it tells me that it was once this warm at this time of year. I wonder what the reaction was back then from people?
Ollie Williams at Cabin Radio reported on data showing Yellowknife’s annual mean temperature has warmed in the past 60 years.
“In the 1950s and 1960s, the city’s annual mean rarely crept above -5C. By contrast, only one of the past 29 years has posted an annual mean below -5C,” Williams wrote in a website post.
“But a March spell this warm remains an outlier.”
As opposed to fretting about the changing climate — which is here to stay, despite the best efforts of anyone right now — I say let’s learn how adapt.
It was very sad to see Snowking’s Winter Festival close for the season after Saturday night’s show, a full week ahead of schedule.
And I certainly hope The Long John Jamboree sees better — that means colder — weather for its weekend run March 29 to 31, 2019. As I finished writing this, Cabin Radio reported the jamboree has decided to move from its traditional location on Yellowknife Bay, to the parking lot of the city’s Fieldhouse. Smart move by organizers, who need a successful year to maintain the integrity of the event.
Colder temps of between -4 C and -11 C are currently forecast, which will surely help out with the accompanying De Beers Ice Carving Competition still on schedule for the jamboree weekend.
But if organizers of both events are seeing temps slowly rising each year, their festival dates aren’t etched in stone — er … ice? — and they can move things up a week or two next year.
What we don’t need is for people to use a changing climate to push their own political agendas. Climate change is an issue embraced by the left and has been overly politicized.
“Closing the Snowcastle for the first time really drives home the impact of climate change,” festival spokesperson Laura Busch told Moose FM. “We are a winter festival held in a winter climate and up until now have been inviting the public to come play in the snow with us for the whole month of March. It’s true there is a difference between one weather pattern and global climate, but this really shows the impact a couple degrees can have.”
Now I’m not here to challenge Busch’s position. She’s entitled to her view and has the right to express it.
But I will mention that Busch’s day job is with Ecology North.
“Daylight savings time could be on the way out for Western and Northern Canada!”
— Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart in a March 10 tweet.
You have to admire Kieron Testart for championing causes that really matter to his constituents — no matter how seemingly trivial.
The Kam Lake rep in the NWT Legislative Assembly isn’t a fan of Daylight Saving Time (not “savings” time, by the way). Neither am I.
It just makes no sense for us to follow that old time-shifting trick, thought to have been cooked up in Europe during the First World War. In recent decades, it has been defended by people who think it makes things safer for kiddies getting to/from school.
But then you have the nutty studies that suggest there are more suicides around the time change, or that there are more heart attacks or car crashes.
The only thing I notice is I need to manually change a couple of clocks in my apartment. And I have a few watches that will be an hour off until I choose to strap them on. Sometimes weeks or months after the change.
But there seems to be some light at the end of the sunshine saving tunnel. B.C. is apparently considering following Washington, Oregon and California to adopt daylight time year round. That could have a domino effect, with Alberta then following suit.
“If you hate changing the clocks as much as I do, this is very good news,” stated Testart. Sure it’s a first-world problem, but let’s just make a decision and get past this silly anachronistic ritual.
Updated: News of the Long John Jamboree’s move to the Fieldhouse parking lot Monday, March 25, 10 a.m.