12/19/2011 08:54 EST | Updated 02/18/2012 05:12 EST

Alberta government ponies up for 500 new spaces for seniors, those in need

EDMONTON - The Alberta government is putting up the cash for more than 500 new living spaces for seniors and those with disabilities.

Eight organizations will share $48 million in funding for nine projects under the province’s Affordable Supportive Living Initiative.

Seniors Minister George VanderBurg said the goal is to allow seniors and those with special needs the chance to live in their communities for as long as possible.

The spaces will be built in Calgary, Okotoks, Strathmore, Edmonton, Villeneuve and Olds.

These are the communities cited as having the greatest immediate need.

The successful applicants must begin construction within a year.

Opposition Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said only 30 of the 500 spaces announced are actually for long-term care, with the rest being so-called “supportive living” spaces that do not provide health services.

“This government has abandoned its duty to senior citizens,” Sherman said. “Thirty new spaces won’t make a dent in a lineup that’s already hundreds of seniors deep.

"Today we have hundreds of seniors awaiting placement in our hospitals, and well over a thousand seniors awaiting placement in the community. Until we get our seniors out of hospitals and into long term care, we will continue to have long waits in our emergency rooms.”

Sherman said the Redford government is nickel and diming seniors at their most vulnerable.

“They’re investing tens of millions of dollars in capital funding to for-profit providers, and there will have to be operational grants down the road as well,” Sherman said.

(The Canadian Press)