Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 28, 1999
Province squeezes disabled majority
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
There is a delightful story about the management consultant's analysis of the operations of a symphony orchestra for technical efficiency. The consultant's report read as follows:
"All 12 violins were playing identical notes; this is unnecessary and wasteful duplication. The violin section could be cut drastically, saving considerable labour costs.
"The oboe players had absolutely nothing to do for long periods of time. They just sat in their chairs. Their numbers should be reduced. Compositions involving the oboe can be rewritten so the work is spread out more evenly, thus eliminating costly 'peaks' and 'valleys' of oboe productivity.
"I noted a recurring repetition of certain musical passages. What useful purpose is served by repeating on the horns what has already been produced by the strings?
"Were all such redundant passages eliminated, the concert time of two hours could easily be reduced to 40 minutes. This would also eliminate the need for a time-wasting intermission.
"Something should be done about the shocking obsolescence of equipment. The program notes informed me that the first violinist's instrument was several hundred years old. If normal depreciation schedules had been applied, the value of this instrument would have been reduced to zero, and a more modern and efficient violin could easily have been purchased."
The consultant's report cautions us to be wary of technical efficiency, arithmetic and over-managing because you can't always make music with them.
The provincial government has established community-based boards to govern services for persons with developmental disabilities. The Calgary Region, Persons with Developmental Disabilities Board, guides the many services intended to ensure quality of life and meet the care needs of the disabled in our region.
The current members are strong advocates and give every indication of having the best interests of their clients at heart. Nevertheless, mandated cutbacks have foisted a financial crisis upon them.
Several years ago the province did a "consultation" to consider whether services for persons with disabilities should be held by the Ministry of Health rather than Social Services. The clear directive of the people was "no."
At the time, the government appeared to listen and did not proceed with this change. However, several weeks ago there was a cabinet shuffle and it appears that services for people with disabilities were moved, without further consultation, to the responsibility of the Minister of "Health and Wellness."
The Minister of Health and Wellness has told the Calgary Region Board to produce a balanced budget this fiscal year and at the same time not refuse service to people who ask for it.
To balance its budget the board estimates it will need to cut $7,662,000 or 12 per cent of the overall annual budget even though there is an increased need for services because of the growth of Calgary.
Fifteen new people per month require service and the province allocates insufficient funds to accommodate this growth.
To further complicate this bizarre state of affairs, the former minister of family and social services announced a 4.5-per-cent increase to salaries for staff serving people with disabilities. While this was announced, the province decided to base the allocation for this increase on 80 per cent of the funding. In fact, 93 per cent of the funding is salaries.
You can't make music with this kind of over-management and these numbers, nor can you provide quality care services to the disabled.
Even more disturbing is the mindset behind this exercise. It's difficult not to construe this as part of a larger agenda.
Remember the plan to invoke the notwithstanding clause to prevent people with disabilities from pursuing legal action against the province for wrongful confinement and medical mistreatment in Michener Centre.
Remember that ill-conceived attempt to change AISH in amount and procedure/qualification that had the potential to severely harm thousands of people with disabilities.
Ultimately, we must ask what value is being placed on people who are weak by economic standards in this province. It seems impossible to justify the current financial crisis in our up-beat environment of fiscal prosperity. Comparing the investment in other aspects of life in Alberta (i.e. business), how can we justify cutting back funding for the disabled?
A keynote speaker at a conference on accessible housing began her presentation in novel fashion. Having already identified those in wheelchairs, she asked anybody to stand who had at any time used crutches or canes, or had the experience of having a limb placed in a sling or a plaster cast.
She continued to ask those with glasses, those blind or partially sighted, or who wore a hearing aid; anybody who had heart problems, asthma, other breathing problems or was epileptic; anybody who had ever been pregnant or wheeled a child around in a baby carriage or stroller, to stand.
By this time, most of the room was standing, except for a row of men in smart suits in their twenties, thirties or forties, who remained smugly seated.
Until, that is, she wiped the smile from their faces by noting that they almost exactly fitted the figure of 18 per cent of the population that did not fall into any of her previous categories.
Yet, she continued, by age-old custom, houses, shops, kitchens, bathrooms, and cars are designed for and by that 18 per cent. In other words, for generations we have gone about thinking in the wrong way. Those with disabilities are the majority: yet it is not they who set the rules.
Something similar is happening today in Alberta.
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