The ugly truth from the in-between.
(142 days into the Cornwall bypass — a property owner’s perspective)
I haven’t written anything of late regarding the Road which will change my life, mostly because there isn’t a whole hell of a lot to write.
How do you write something engaging about inaction?
We started this whole process attempting to engage the PEI government in a conversation — but in order for a conversation or real communication to work, both parties have to bring something of value to the table.
I’m sitting at the damn table alone.
Our premier Wade MacLauchlan seems to think he’s smarter than all of us — and he’ll let us know when our plight begins to matter.
My MLA (Heath MacDonald) in his usual fashion, is not responding to emails, has his fax number turned off, and is not standing up for us or asking questions on our behalf in the Legislature. All of which are his job as an MLA (good luck getting re-elected!).
The minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy (Paula Biggar) seems incapable of answering a direct question in the Legislature regarding the bypass or from us as we have heard varying responses in the media regarding the bypass from the beginning of the process. The real irony with Minister Biggar is that she is also the Minister responsible for the status of women and HJC exists to empower women. Women of all ages represent 95% of our clientele. And yet in her office we do not rank as important enough to return a damn email.
So how do you make these people care?
I’m going to refer to one of our amazing women for that answer:
“To whom it may concern;
A few years ago I came to the Hughes-Jones Centre for what I thought would be instruction in horse back riding. Perhaps a little exercise. An activity to give structure to my day week, to give me something to look forward to.
What I received in return was so much more. It was the dead of winter when I first showed up, my hands were freezing. I’d do jumping jacks to warm up enough to open gate and undo the buckles. To say I was in a low spot would be an understatement. Ellen had no idea how special every minute at HJC was to me. On the outside I was a 30-something freelance graphic designer, with an interest in rekindling a love of horses and to learn to ride.
On the inside I was desperately lonely and depressed and trusted almost no one. I was slowly loosing my will to live. There were plenty of weeks where coming in to ride was the only thing that got me out of the house, even off the couch. My horse Badge was my constant companion. Ellen Jones was my light at the end of a dark tunnel.
She pushed me harder than I had anticipated. She expected more from me than I thought I had to give. Her persistence and belief in me helped me to pick my head up again. Someone was paying attention. Another human saw me for me. I had value in her eyes. Slowly, I began to believe in myself.
In the beginning I wasn’t sure I’d remember how to do this, how to talk to a stranger, how to connect with another human. I spent time in the mirror practicing smiling before heading to lessons. Those muscles had retired. They were sore. They were reluctant. I was fragile. And broken. And yet somehow Ellen saw none of that. She was so patient. And so kind. And such a hard ass. Everything you’d hope a coach to be.
What began to grow inside me was something I thought long ago had left. I found my footing. I returned slowly to my body. I began to feel confidence in my stride. My chin picked up bit by bit. Soon I was smiling and laughing and talking… A LOT. There were times that I spent hours talking to Ellen well outside the bounds of a lesson. But she was always there. So patient. So engaged. So feisty. So kind.
As spring came I remember driving to lessons with the windows down on a sunny day, surveying the land, enjoying the quiet of the drive. I looked forward to all of it. To feel the breeze, to smell all the farm smells, to interact with the herd. To walk out into the pasture and talk to Badge, to coax him to come in for a ride.
I could have stood there out there for hours. Every minute there was full of peace. (Well, that and a lot of sweat and hard work.) At HJC, the heaviness of the day drifted away. Hope began to build a calm and firm foundation for something new, for something better.
HJC isn’t the kind of place that you can place a dollar value on. The repercussions have a ripple effect that extends far beyond its walls, beyond Cornwall, far beyond PEI. HJC fosters community, confidence, independence and, dare I say, happiness. I am forever grateful to Ellen and the HJC family for inviting me in with open arms and never giving up on me. My time at HJC was not only life altering, but life saving. That I know for sure.”
The PEI government needs to care because this is the kind of change we believe in making. Changes in the lives of the people we serve.
HJC, we, me, I — want to continue to serve our community.
This is challenging to do when you are unsure of where you will be this time next year. It’s been five months since I’ve learned my life was going to be impacted by this road and I still have nothing substantial to tell my clients (like the lady above) regarding HJC’s fate… Where or even if we’ll be in a position to continue our services next year.
We are ready to begin the negotiations with the government because where we are doesn’t matter nearly as much as that we continue to be.
We deserve to be in a position to tell our clients who rely on us that we will be able to continue, or should negotiations go poorly, that we must look for another new beginning. We want to be able to guide and help our clients through that transition and if at all possible continue on as best we can for the people who have come to rely on us.
We do not deserve the dismissive nature we have received from Wade MacLauchlan’s government. We are losing our home, our business, the dream we’ve spent 8 years building. We deserve to know our fate.