THE BLOG

What's A Vulnerable Albertan Worth? - The Tragic Closure of the Michener Centre

04/12/2013 12:02 EDT | Updated 06/10/2013 05:12 EDT

The planned closure of the Michener Centre in Red Deer has led to the most rare of sights; all three Provincial opposition parties, Wildrose, Liberal and NDP, agreeing that closing Michener is wrong. As a representative of the Alberta Party I'll add our name to that list.

The Michener Centre has had a long and sometimes dark history as an institution housing people with differing mental and physical disabilities (and many with no disability at all when Michener played a central role in Alberta's shameful eugenics movement).

Today however the 125 residents of the Michener Centre live there voluntarily and many have been there for most of their lives. The idea that the Alberta government is doing them a favour by moving them into the community would be laughable if it wasn't so sad.

The families of Michener residents have been clear about their desires, 90% of them do not want their loved ones moved into the community, so one is left to wonder why the government is hell-bent on closing the facility.

But it's no mystery at all; this it seems, like everything else in Alison Redford's world, is about money. The $1.4 million annually saved by closing the Michener Centre, added to the $40 million cut to assisted living programs that support disabled Albertans, shows that the Redford government has lost their moral compass; they care more about cost savings than the wellbeing of vulnerable Albertans.

This story hits close to home for me. My late brother Russell was born with cerebral palsy. Severely physically and developmentally disabled, he lived most of his life in the Baker Centre here in Calgary. I know that his life was much richer at Baker owing to the dedicated staff who took good care of him, sent him to school, took him on field trips and loved him for the 27 years he was on this earth. The situation was difficult for my entire family but for my mother most of all; we visited Russell regularly and mom was comforted knowing that he was well cared for 24 hours a day.

Russell, like the residents of the Michener Centre, needed to be in a facility that was able to care for him. Placing him in the community would have caused enormous stress for both Russell and my mother and I'm certain would have led to a lower standard of care. It would have been as unthinkable as uprooting the elderly disabled residents of the Michener Centre.

They say a society is judged by how we treat our most vulnerable citizens. Alison Redford, ask yourself; how do we measure up?