Friday, March 25, 2011

How can a village raise a child without caring for its elders?

We have been having duck socialization lessons this week. Why? Because an optimistic pair are toying with the idea of settling into the upper pond, which is of course in clear view of the play yard.  

I rather suspect that they will opt for the quieter seclusion of the lower pond ... but still I'll give it our best shot.  Why are we going to do this?  Besides of course the obvious bit that dog training is ever a journey and never a destination?
It is really very simple.  Loving wildlife and loving domestic pets is not an either/ or scenario.   When I moved out here, I made the deliberate decision to make my little acre and a bit as user friendly for wildlife as possible.   In a world where so many seem so determined to impose that retro fifties style suburban landscaping, wildlife everywhere are finding fewer safe havens.
As a matter of fact, my yard is a Certified Backyard Habitat .  For me it is a real win win scenario.  I have the delight of seeing wildlife everyday and the satisfaction of knowing that in my own small way I am helping the environment.  Its just frosting on the cake that ... midnight forays into my herb garden notwithstanding ... that its good for the garden too!
To be perfectly honest, I consider the chicken hawks to be far more harmful to the little songbirds than any visiting kitties ever have been.  But I am wandering a bit afield and the subject of how skewed perceptions can get on such an emotional debate is a separate subject for another day.
The other day, I saw this article in the Herald about a subject that is going to have a huge impact on the animals.  I needed a couple of days to really think the whole idea through to make sure that I wasn't off and running on the wrong track:
From Tuesday's Herald
N.S. to download more costs to municipalities
By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter

UPDATED 3:45 p.m.  Tue, Mar 22 - 9:40 PM Municipal Relations Minister John MacDonell says Nova Scotia isn't downloading provincial problems to municipalities. It's cutting the province's costs. (ERIC WYNNE / Staff / File)
The Dexter government is looking to municipalities to help balance the provincial budget, announcing today that they’ll have to cover an estimated $50 million the province had agreed in 2007 to pick up.

The municipalities won’t see any changes in 2011-12 to the memorandum of understanding signed in 2007. The changes to the seven-year agreement start in 2012-13, with municipalities to pick up housing and corrections costs the province was scheduled to pay.
Another change is in how the province charges municipalities for education. The agreement had limited increases at the rate of the consumer price index, but the amount instead will be set at the 2010-11 rate. Costs could go up, depending on the municipalities’ growth in assessment.
Municipal Relations Minister John MacDonell said the changes aren’t downloading provincial problems to municipalities, but a prevention of uploading costs to the province.
“We’re not ripping up the MOU, per se,” MacDonell said at a news conference. “We’re adjusting it.”
In the original agreement, the province agreed to phase out the $7 million in municipal contributions to public housing over two years, the 17.4-million for corrections over seven years, and limit growth in education funding, which amounted to $187 million in the current fiscal year.
But the province is invoking a clause in the agreement that allowed changes due to “unforeseen costs or revenue losses that may impair the Province’s ability to achieve its commitments.” It also said the commitments were subject to the money being in the provincial budget.
MacDonell gave the required 12 months notice today for changes coming in 2012-13.
Housing contributions will be back up to $7 million, after the scheduled decline to $3.5 million in 2011-12. Corrections costs will go to $14 million and be frozen there after two years of decline.Education contributions will increase by the consumer price index in 2011-12, and after that, revert to the 2010-11 rate.
Port Hawkesbury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean, president of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, said the news blindsided him. He said the agreement had shown the province’s recognition that it was responsible for housing and corrections.
“We’re shocked today because many people worked on this agreement for many years,” he said in Halifax, after MacDonell’s announcement.
“For small towns, this is devastating news for all of us. There’s legislation that went through the House. We thought that was over and gone.”
MacLean said he doesn’t know yet what the impact will be on the average taxpayer. Municipalities will have to review tax rates and services, he said.
MacDonell said the agreement has so far cost the province about $21.5 million. It potentially could have cost more than $100 million by 2014-15.
“We simply can no longer afford those additional costs,” he said. “Nova Scotia is facing a different financial reality than it was in 2007, and the contribution rates set in the MOU are no longer realistic.”
The minister said the government is targeting 2013-14 to balance the books.
Opposition critics blasted the government for changing the agreement.
Liberal MLA Andrew Younger said the government should be getting its own fiscal house in order, and he expects property tax bills will rise.
“The NDP is reneging on this deal,” he said.
“It’s saying, well we can charge municipalities more and then they have to deal with the wrath of taxpayers, because taxpayers are going to be mad, no question.”
Progressive Conservative municipal relations critic Allan MacMaster said the government is leaning on municipalities, rather than looking in-house.
“The end result will mean that Nova Scotians are paying more tax because to cover the cost of this downloading of service, taxes are going to have to be increased at the municipal level,” he said.
Kevin Malloy, the deputy minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, said the municipalities already have the costs of housing, corrections and education in their tax bases and are part of their budgets.
MacLean said municipalities had expected to be relieved of some of those costs in future budgets.
The 2007 agreement said municipalities would work on establishing a municipal auditor general. Halifax Regional Municipality has already hired one, while talks are still underway about an auditor general for other municipalities.
So ... why do I think this is such terrible news?  Hey have you been to the grocery store or gassed up your car lately?  All those bits about spiralling prices in the media are not sensationalism ... they are actual facts.  We are already starting to see the impact and all the experts are saying that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
I find this article very disturbing because it represents one more burden on the very people that the NDP bobsled team promised to help.   During the last election, the NDP swept to power on the strength of such promises.  
Why didn't the other parties make all those pledges?  Isn't all fair in love and war and elections?   Why because they have actually been in power and they know that voters gets quite miffed when parties break more promises than a horny guy at the bar on Saturday night.
But I am wandering afield again in my meandering way as I often do.  The point I am trying to make today is that our Nova Scotia seniors are going to be facing more hardships that ever before.   Many of them won't want to give up their pets but may indeed be faced with no other options.
Even worse ... donation dollars always fall when prices and property taxes rise ... and that has a direct and negative impact on the ability of animal rescue to bear an increased load.
At this writing, outside of the community outreach work being done by PET Projects, there really are no proactive pet retention programs in place in this province.  How do they do it?  PET Projects has engaged the community .. there are donor cans in taxis and little shops around.  Classes fundraise as community projects.  In other words .. they are able to help because they think outside of the box.
Something tells me in days to come, Shelbourne just might be the safest place to be a senior citizen's pet in this province.
What time is it?  It is time to recognize that our seniors are already out of options and that the really rough sledding is only just beginning for them ... and their pets.

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