Who You Are, Where You Live

By now many people in the Edmonton area have read the letter to the editor in St. Albert's local newspaper entitled Higher-earning families part of St. Albert's appeal, and the shit storm that developed on social media and beyond. I think enough has been said about the various logical fallacies (no or less drugs in rich schools? please...), and the sheer audacity of the value system the letter brings out.

The letter writers have also done an incredible disservice to the vast majority of people in St. Albert who have more respect for others, and done more to reinforce a negative stereotype about the community than would be countered by the hundreds and thousands of acts of daily good will that occur there.

It sounds like the letter writers more or less stand behind what they say, and I wouldn't be surprised if they believe the backlash is from a bunch of young socialists, live off government welfare type of people who don't properly contribute to society. The type who really are jealous of the position the letter writers have achieved in life, and will realize it if they grow up and find their way into the real world.

How did we get here?

Certainly a trend in society has been to increasingly measure people's value in terms of their economic power, how much they own, how much they consume. We see far too many articles, letters to the editor, etc. where people begin with "As a taxpayer...", and carry on by arguing the greater their share of the tax burden, the greater their voice should be, and the more their tax dollars should be about serving solely their priorities. People who pay less taxes (because they have less income) should have less of a say, and their priorities are trumped by those who contribute more.

We see this everywhere in civic and political discourse, and the Gazette letter carries forward that attitude to a horrid extreme.

People are part of communities, and societies. We recognize that diversity is a strength, not a weakness of those societies, and that contributions and value come in many different forms. When we forget that we are citizens and members of a community, and become only economic actors and taxpayers, we are not helping either ourselves or anyone else. We all lose.

And folks like the Perry's may not realize, but its not just the poor people you're scaring off. And I don't need to go all Richard Florida to reinforce that. Here's one small personal example.

Pauline and I are I would say pretty well off (she's a psychiatrist, I run a small business). We moved back to Alberta after ten years in Ontario. She took a job at the Sturgeon Hospital in St. Albert (amid several choices in the Edmonton area); and yes, people in St. Albert do need mental health care too. We also recently bought a house here, albeit in an older area, but worth as much or more as many in Kingswood or other new areas. Not having 2.2 children, the newer suburbs wouldn't be a great fit for our lifestyle, and I personally hate having to get in a car to go to a grocery store, bank, etc. We're walking distance to most things where we are now.

Even though we'd lived in Edmonton before, we didn't know too much about St. Albert, but had heard the snobby reputation. We've found it to be a nice city for essentially a bedroom community, with mostly friendly people, though yes, it could use a bit more vibrant of a downtown, a few more interesting restaurants, a bit more diversity, and a few more things to do.

When we first came out here we rented a place in Oliver in Edmonton, as our house in Ontario took a while to sell. When it did, we spent a long time discussing the pros and cons of where to buy a place, in Edmonton or St. Albert. Having just moved from a vibrant and diverse (economically, culturally, politically, etc.) small city out east, it wasn't an easy choice. Ultimately, doing a reverse commute from Edmonton to St. Albert every day (and with me working at home) just didn't make sense, and we bought in St. Albert.

I wonder though, if we'd read that letter to the editor in the Gazette around the time that we were selecting between jobs, or selecting where to live, if things might have been quite different.