When people age well, the accumulating decades bring wisdom. That certainly seems to be the case with a group of senior citizens who are dismayed the Manitoba government has cut funding to environmental groups at the same time as it’s sending $200 non-taxable benefits to all seniors, including the many who neither sought nor need the money.
They have formed a group called Manitoba Seniors for Sustainability, and are kicking off their initiative by forwarding their personal $200 and other donations to environmental non-profits that saw their funding suspended by the province. These groups include Climate Change Connection, the Manitoba Eco-Network and the Green Action Centre, which promotes recycling and composting.
The new group says the government funding that supported the environment groups is minuscule when compared to the cost of the government’s $200 handout to every senior, and it’s hard to argue with the math. The break for seniors will cost taxpayers $45 million, while mothballing the environmental groups will save taxpayers only $360,000.
Members of the group are among many Manitobans who believe the largesse for seniors is a transparent gimmick to boost the profile of Premier Brian Pallister, who has said a letter signed by him will accompany the $200 gift to every Manitoba older than 65. Of course, Mr. Pallister is well aware this age group traditionally turns out to vote.
“It’s not as though you can put one crisis on hold when another one arises.” – Peter Miller
Seniors are often the first to point out their age demographic has been relatively unhurt economically by the pandemic. They typically are finished their careers, have relatively few expenses compared to families raising children, and 86 per cent of them live above the poverty line with reliable income from savings and different forms of private and government pensions.
Unlike the many people who holler for as much as they can get out of the government, many seniors say Mr. Pallister’s pandemic generosity would be better directed at the owners of businesses forced to close and helping the families of the 64,000 Manitobans who lost their jobs in April alone.
Such regard for others and appreciation of the bigger picture are commendable results of well-lived lives that develop compassionate discrimination to sift out which matters are important. When people put the interests of others ahead of their own, we should pay attention to their perspectives.
The view of members of the fledgling Manitoba Seniors for Sustainability is that we can’t let alarm over COVID-19 eclipse the climate crisis. Their reminder is unsurprising, given that the founding members of the group are environmental advocates, but those qualifications mean they’ve done their homework and understand the importance of the non-profits that have had their funding suspended by Mr. Pallister.
As Peter Miller, 83, put it, "It’s not as though you can put one crisis on hold when another one arises."
Muriel Smith, 90, whom many Manitobans might recognize as the first woman in Canada to serve as a deputy premier, said supporting environmental groups is about supporting younger generations: "It underpins everything that we do in the future for our kids and grandkids, and for me, great-grandkids."
There is no indication the premier consulted with seniors’ groups before making the $200-payout decision, which is unfortunate. Many members of Manitoba’s older generations have wise words to impart, for those who have ears to hear. Our elders don’t need to be paid off, but, as the old folk wisdom implores, we should listen to them.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.
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