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OPINION: Bill Walton, Younger Voices

From 1849: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
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There must be some truth about being older and wiser. We expect wisdom to come with aging and experience, although there are some obvious exceptions. Too often we pooh-pooh the ideas of young people, having remembered some almost similar event or occasion in our long-past younger days. Or believing some anecdote of how things work in the real world. But some recent decisions by (mostly) the Old Boys Club cause one to wonder about that perceived wisdom of the Elders. 

Not all Elders are old; some just think like older persons, believing they are all the wiser for that stance. Take for instance the decision to put the rumoured new Splash Pad downtown and not on the waterfront beach. The decision, it seems, was a ‘business’ decision, not a public service one: place the children’s splash pad near the Downtown businesses (including the museum) to improve the bottom line by attracting tourists.

Now if you were a young parent with splash pad aged children, where would you have put the summertime entertainment and cooling station? Maybe near, or within stroller distance, near some free parking? Maybe a place with washroom facilities for wet kids? Maybe a place where you could enjoy the scenery, the squawking or gulls instead of the pooping of pigeons? Did anyone (including the older and wiser bureaucrats at City Hall) ask or interview young parents and even children where they would like the splash pad? The Old Boys, who I dare say will never use the splash pad for fear of getting wet or a jet of water up their drawers, voted for downtown. Those tourists with money falling out of their pockets would probably enjoy the waterfront scene more than another downtown - from which they just escaped.

Then there is the new arena that again the Old Boys on Council and in City Hall believe we really, really need despite the demographics, school closings and a declining interest in hockey. Is there any chance that younger parents, even school children, were interviewed to obtain some opinions on the need and the inevitable taxes they will be paying long after the Old Boys will be retired to some southern city? Ah, it was again a business decision based on Sports Tourism. A novel idea. I’m guessing that the dollars brought in by a new twin ice pad from Tourism won’t even pay the interest on the debt, but that might be my old thinking. An accommodation tax won’t make much of a dent either.

If you have paid any attention to the events unfolding in Florida following the school shooting you will know that the young people, students, and young parents, travelled to the State capital to protest the current rules and regulations around gun laws. They went with great hope to change things and at first, the platitudes mouthed by the politicians was encouraging. However, in a few days, it all melted away and the Old Boys carried on as before. The students were discouraged to discover that they had no voice.

Is it any wonder that young people, eligible to vote, stay away from the polls? Their voices are not heard or if heard, too often ignored in the face of the status quo. The same malaise may be a reason why so many women despair of having a voice in government or even want to discuss politics at home or at gatherings.

Perhaps there is an awakening with the MeToo# movement and the slow appointing of females to more senior positions in both companies and governments.  Perhaps students will be heard more and more as they realize they have some economic sway, some say in their future.

With all due respect to the Old Guard, let’s look to the future through the eyes of our young people, parents or students, who will one day have to pick up the reins. It is a year of elections, a time to choose.