By MLA Kerry Towle
June 2 marks the beginning of Alberta Seniors Week. This is a week to take time to reflect on the contributions of seniors to their families and to Alberta. Our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, and for some lucky ones, great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers, helped build this great province, and Albertans appreciate all you have done to get us where we are today.
I have been honoured to have been able to meet so many outspoken and proud seniors these past years in my work as the Wildrose Seniors Critic. I’ve heard so many great stories from seniors and have learned so much in a short period of time. It has truly been a great privilege.
The seniors I have met helped flag many key issues that I have been able to raise in the Legislature. Due to the strong advocacy of so many thoughtful and diligent seniors, the government was forced to address issues like the 100 km divorce by nursing home policy, poor quality food in hospitals and lodges, and seniors abuse in public facilities, among other issues.
An ongoing problem for many active seniors continues to be unfair, targeted driver testing called DriveABLE, a program I have spoken out against in the Legislature and will continue to bring up with the government.
But there’s still more work to do.
In order to prepare for the future, and provide seniors with the living options they need and deserve, our government needs to address a major shortage of long term care spaces across the province. During the election, this government promised Albertans they would provide 1000 new long term care spaces ever year for the next five years. Sadly, the government has broken that promise, instead only offering supportive living beds which provide a much lower level of care for seniors.
Documents we have obtained from Alberta Health Services show that across the province, there are 1200 people waiting to access seniors care beds, 500 of which require one of the long term care beds that government had promised to build.
However, other documents show that the government plans to cut almost 1700 long term care beds, province-wide, by 2018.
This betrayal of Alberta seniors is absolutely unacceptable to me, my Wildrose colleagues, and Albertans who were promised so much more.
In partnership with seniors’ organizations, I am committed to holding the government to account on these issues. In the years to come, I hope to be able to continue learning from seniors as I travel the province and represent their interests in the Legislature.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that if they are aware of any seniors abuse to please report it to the Safeguards for Vulnerable Adults Information and Reporting Line 1-888-357-9339.
I would also like to commend the hard work and dedication of seniors to building this great province. The sacrifices you made help get us to where we are, and Albertans continue to benefit from your brave decisions and wise advice. I wish all seniors a happy and fun-filled Seniors Week.
Kerry Towle is the Wildrose Seniors Critic and MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.