I attended the All-Candidates Meeting for Mayor and Councillors last nights at the Cultural Centre. Out of 14 candidates running for City Council, NOT ONE of them even mentioned or whispered the word “Seniors”. Yet according to the latest Stats. Canada, seniors aged 55+ represent 34% of Chilliwack’s population with $25,000+ people. The next largest group are people from 0 to 19 years, and they represent only 17,300.
Yet, I have been told by a representative at City Hall that emphasis on recreation facilities in Chilliwack is for youth. Also, if you listen to some Council candidates, they want even more facilities for youth – again completely ignoring the fact that senior represent the largest segment of our population.
As for mayoral candidates, only one, Brigida Crosby, mentioned seniors in their opening address. When I asked the question whether Chilliwack ever planned a dedicated seniors recreation facility, the answers were quite an eye-opener. Counc. Popove said that Chilliwack had contributed $3 million to the new YMCA being rebuilt, and he thinks of that facility as a centre where seniors could congregate. Interesting. I am sure that the Y thinks of it as a family facility! Counc. Waddington said that we own both Leisure Centres in town. In other words, they were paid for by you and me out of our local taxes, but they are run by For-Profit groups. He suggested that the City could take them back, and then possibly have a section of dedicated senior space. Mayor Gaetz said it was an interesting question, and she is always open to ideas. In my opinion, these words from Mayoral candidates were placating words, without any definite action plans even being considered.
Many seniors in Chilliwack are struggling for survival, and stay home because the cost of recreational facilities are too high. Plus not every senior wants to take Keep Fit or Aquasize. Many would like more gentler activities such as pottery, billiards, or just a modern drop-in centre where they can socialize. If only Chilliwack City Hall would study other seniors centres nearby in Coquitlam, New Westminster, Surrey, Langley etc., they would see how they are operating at capacity, and obviously there is a great need.
I am glad that Council and Mayoral candidates are talking about homelessness, addiction and treatment centres and on-site injection centres. However, it both saddens and infuriates me, that the majority of Chilliwack’s population doesn’t warrant a place in their thoughts or action plans. Maybe it’s because we keep too quiet and don’t cause trouble for our police force or By-Law enforcement Officers.