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Jim Rondeau, best you read this

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Jim Rondeau, I’m watching you.

Sure, Big Editor (not his real name) expects me to be watching Education Minister Nancy Allan and Advanced Education Minister Erin Selby constantly, as well as keeping an eye on Child and Youth Opportunities Minister Kevin Chief lest he try anything when he thinks Brian Pallister isn’t looking.

But all that stuff is just my day job — I’m looking out for Number 1.

Rondeau is Minister of Healthy Living, Seniors, and Consumer Affairs, and Minister charged with the administration of the Liquor Control Act.


There’s only one word that matters in all of Rondeau’s ostentatious titles: seniors.

Minister Rondeau, you’d be well-advised to start focusing 24/7 on serving your constituency of us Manitobans of the glorious age of 65 and up. Remember that we vote in enormous proportions, vote every election in our great grey masses, and the next provincial election will be decided in Winnipeg. What’s in it for us?

I want you camped in Greg Selinger’s office bugging him for full implementation of his last-election promise to remove education property taxes from seniors. And don’t even dream of any weaseling about adjusting individual education property tax bills for spousal co-owners still under 65, or phasing it in — today would be a good time to change the regulations, and I don’t mean after lunch.

To readers who get all miffed if they come to this blog to read about education and instead find me doing a rant about soccer, or getting all giddily idyllic about kayaking, best brace yourself, because I’m on full alert for the slightest hint of ageism anywhere, anytime.

You really think I’ll be one of those seniors that you think you can push around, dismiss as a doddering old fool, or exploit as ripe for your con games and scams?

Dylan Thomas wrote the most beautiful poem I’ve ever read, Fern Hill, but he also wrote:
"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

I’m sure hoping that the light isn’t dying, but I’m not going into that good night or anywhere else gently. And yes, English teachers will back me up that this blog post is now tied directly into education.

I’ve been dealing professionally now for almost 42 years with daily conflict, confrontation, and criticism — and don’t even get me started on what it’s like when I go outside the office.

I’ve been in training for years to be a grumpy old man, and I’m quite experienced with being treated as an inconsequential old person by retail staff less than one-third my age.

I don’t mean the retail staff who ask if I can carry everything myself or need help carrying stuff to my car, and you can hear the word ‘dear’ implied at the end of the sentence even if they don’t say it aloud — they’re just trying to be nice, or maybe they’ve just been told to say that. Anyway, I can live with that.

But here’s an increasingly-typical incident a few months back.

I’m getting my groceries, standing at the checkout holding my coupon for 100 Air Miles in plain sight. Cashier #1 is taking like totally forever to ring up the stuff, gets me to check a couple of prices, and along the way says, "You want Air Miles or 10 per cent off?" without even looking at me.

Finally, time to pay, and I give her my Air Miles coupon. You can’t use that, she says, and I ask why not, and she says because I’ve already given you Air Miles, and I tell her that I have no idea what that earlier question had been about, but here I stand with my Air Miles coupon and I want my 100 Air Miles.

Over comes youthful Cashier #2, who asks Cashier #1 what my problem is, talking about me as though I’m not there. Cashier #1 tells Cashier #2 that she already gave me my senior’s discount and now I’m trying to use the coupon and won’t listen to her. I was totally truthful as I always have been right up to midnight this past Saturday, and I told them that I wasn’t yet eligible for any senior’s stuff and she hadn’t told me she was offering me a senior’s discount.

Cashier #2 turns to me, and in that delightful way that some young retailers have of talking to old people, tells me, loudly enunciating every slooow syllable: "You-have-to-be-patient. Do-you-understand?"

Then she points to the small print on my 100 Air Miles coupon, which says that it can’t be used with any other promotion, and she holds it about two inches away from my obviously-failing eyes, and says: "It-says-right-there-that-you-can’t-use-this-because-you-already-got-your-senior’s-discount. Can-you-read-that?

They were somewhat taken aback when I replied in a rather assertive tone to take whatever Cashier #1 had done off my bill and give me my 100 Air Miles.


Anyway, back to Rondeau.

Jim, that thing people do of pointing their two fingers at their own eyes and then at you, I’m doing that to you right now. Our website people probably have an app around here somewhere that lets you see me doing that.

What’s that, Jim? Your ministry can get me into an enjoyable but not too strenuous or overly-exciting bridge game this evening that will be over in lots of time for an early bedtime?

Thanks, I appreciate the offer, and I’m sure you have lots of programming more appropriate for contemporary seniors, but I’m afraid I’ll be busy running 90 minutes tonight refereeing an adult soccer match.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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