Where is the Help Now?
On April 27, 2021 at the Strathona County Council meeting, a report was presented from the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force. This Task Force formed a year ago.
The main recovery task force was comprised of three smaller task forces:
- Economic Recovery – Economic Resilience and Vision Task Force
- Recovery Governance Task Force
- Social and Mental Health Issues
I feel that the recommendations for going forward that were outlined in the report will not have an impact on residents or help them where they need it most.
There were many suggestions that certainly make sense as an ongoing activity, but nothing that will actually meet residents where they are now and help alleviate some of the impacts of this global pandemic.
Most of the items discussed were things that have already started, such as partnering with the Heartland Housing Foundation, establishing the Industrial Heartland Incentive Tax Exemption Bylaw, and implementing the tourism strategy.
However, listed under “Next Steps” are items that are longer-term and higher level. An example is finalizing and reviewing the Contributions in Aid of Construction policy to support developer investment in the County or the implementation of the Community Broadband Project.
Another thing listed under the “next steps” include developing a community-led approach to affordable housing. This is repetitive and unnecessary. In 2015, the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing was created with the help of community members. Seventeen recommendations were made by this group and to date, there is only one recommendation that was implemented that has any concrete affect. This is the Bridging the Gap project which is a collaboration between some of the faith community in the County, Heartland Housing Foundation and Strathcona County.
Important projects, such as creating an online database and matching system that helps to pair seniors who need help staying in their house with those youth who need an affordable place to stay. It was also supposed to match potential roommates. This doesn’t require more reports or input, it requires long-delayed implementation.
The hard work done by members of our community has been largely ignored and put on the shelf. The last report to council that is documented on the County website was from July 12, 2016.
Under the mental health category, there is talk about developing a community-led youth strategy for the County. Again. Still. In 2018, this council passed a bylaw establishing the Youth Advisory Committee. And what about the Next Gen Action Groups? According to the County, they will lead the development of a youth strategy. This was as of Feb of this year.
Again, the project is worthwhile, but so many of the recommendations listed are things that are either repetitive, already ongoing or long-term, so it begs the question…
Where is the help for citizens?
Creating videos to increase mental health literacy and decrease the stigma of mental illness is great, but what about our citizens who are hurting now? Are we looking for innovative ways to provide extra, affordable mental health supports?
Creating tax exemptions for the big industries may help in the long run, but what about citizens who don’t know how they will feed their families next month? Have we explored creative ways to support them? Have we increased our financial support to the Food Bank and other non-profits in a substantial way? What about tax help for those who have lost their job due to COVID and are on government assistance such as the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)?
Many of our citizens are hurting now and many more will be hurting in the future. We need to use our position as an affluent community to provide the support they need NOW.