Alberta tragedy; Redford’s Michener Centre closure.

If I am to be measured on the political scale, I land pretty strongly on the libertarian side of things. I want to see a minimal amount of government in our lives along with a maximum amount of personal freedoms. People often confuse this sort of outlook with anarchism though which would mean having a truly survival of the fittest sort of world with no boundaries or general social obligations. Anarchism is not reasonable in a modern world.

The scope of ethical obligations that we have as human beings to take care of our neighbors is large and usually very debatable. In the minds of all but the most extreme, we as a society have an obligation to take care of those who CAN’T take care of themselves. The problem that we always have is in defining who actually can’t take care of themselves as opposed to those who won’t take care of themselves.

There is very little to debate in the above regard when it comes to the status of the remaining 125 or so residents of the Michener Centre in Red Deer. These Albertans are afflicted with serious developmental disabilities and they will always be in need of the kind of specialized care that they are getting in the Michener Centre. Despite what appears to pretty much anybody as as self-evident need in societal care that had been provided by the facility, the Redford government has unexpectedly decided to close Michener Centre and displace every one of it’s residents.

In a zeal and rush to close the facility, the government has issued some pretty weak statements essentially trying to paint Michener Centre as being some nasty sort of institution where residents are languishing in misery while separated from society. The sterilizations that ended over 40 years ago are mentioned and it is implied that the place is right from a scene in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It is blathered over and over again that residents will simply be placed in the “community” though it is not really specified just what that will mean.

Last week I attended a meeting held by “Friends of Michener Centre” in Calgary. This group was formed by concerned family members who have loved-ones living at the facility. It was both informative and heartbreaking to hear from those who have had to deal the most directly in caring for people with serious developmental disabilities. The challenges faced by and the strength demonstrated by the families of Michener Centre residents came through clearly in that couple hours. It is sad that not a single one of Redford’s MLAs could come to that meeting as they would have been able to get a better image of what damage is being wrought by their thoughtless decision to close Michener Centre.

One theme that was constant as people shared their stories is how each Michener Centre resident’s needs and circumstances were quite unique and how critical consistency of care is for each of them. One lady spoke of how her brother been bumped from group home to group home until after putting a chair through a window he was finally admitted into Michener Centre for the last 17 years of his life. While in Michener Centre this man got to settle in and a caring staff learned to deal with his unique and special needs. The stability he needed only came upon getting into a facility such as Michener Centre.

The gentleman hosting the meeting told an interesting story of his brother who had been a Michener Centre resident. His brother had been admitted to hospital with a respiratory infection and while in there staff was mystified with why he would not open his mouth to eat. This was during the H1N1 outbreak so staff were outfitted with full infection control outfits. While those outfits could discomfort pretty much anybody if unfamiliar with them, they were outright terrifying to the poor fellow with a serious developmental disability. Of course he would not let these alien people feed him. The staff were not in the wrong of course, they simply did not understand that unique circumstances of the gentleman they had in their care. The story again drives home why consistency and specialized facilities and staff are so essential for people with serious PDDs.

After the meeting, I decided to look further into things. I tracked down and spoke with a couple people who had each worked at and around Michener Center for over 30 years each. The stories were not of a place with terrible institutional abuses and misery. The picture painted is one of a facility that was a community in itself that went to great pains to create the best conditions possible for their clients. One of the best was in hearing how one of the clients was of Asian decent so staff sought out Asian themed decorations for his room (and they sought to decorate to please all of their residents of course). This reminds one that Michener Centre is not an acute care facility, it is a home to the residents and should remain so. On the sadder side, I was told of funerals for some residents that passed away which were only attended by staff as these people had no remaining family outside of the facility. Think of what moving these people will do to them.

Having a centralized facility such as Michener Centre allows for more specialized services to be maintained and developed as well. Having doctors and pharmacists on site allows for much better diagnosis, prescribing and monitoring of medications as many clients needed medications. Dental and other care is provided on site as well in ways that never could be done for persons with serious developmental disabilities in a smaller group-home setting. I was told that people from outside group homes are brought to Michener Centre for their dental care as most dentists will not treat them or don’t have the skills required to do so. Where will they go now?

As was driven home at the meeting, Michener Centre is a community and a family. Driving the residents out of there is a needless and possibly catastrophic disruption to these people. It has been said that many of the residents will be sent to seniors care facilities. Really? Are seniors centers really able to care for these people with such special needs? Do they have the space or the resources? What will this do to seniors already residing in those facilities? This just sounds utterly senseless.

In driving around the Michener Centre grounds last weekend, it could be seen that some facilities are getting a bit dated (though hardly dysfunctional). The campus is very large though and if anything we should be investing to expand and improve the facilities for people with PDDs rather than driving them out and scattering them.

Michener Centre is on 300 acres of pretty prime land in Red Deer. While nothing has been confirmed, there are many rumors about plans for that land once it is vacated. Sadly in that context, one can see the underlying motivation in the Redford government’s zeal to displace these most vulnerable of Alberta’s citizens. If the efforts to save the Michener Centre fail, we must watch very carefully to see just what Redford (along with friends and family) does with the land. Why else would her government rip into this facility having so recently promised never to do so (though broken promises from Redford are hardly few or unexpected).

The closure of Michener Centre is not a done deal yet. If enough people stand up and demonstrate a backlash, I do think Redford will back down on this closure. Redford never apologizes or admits wrong, but she will quietly kill initiatives that prove to harm her political well-being and that is all that matters. Alison Redford will be lucky to survive the wrath of her own party at this fall’s leadership review. She is very sensitive to public pressure right now so let’s exert it.

There is a facebook page for Friends of Michener Centre here. Give the page a like and look around for more information on upcoming actions and events.

Call or write your MLA to express how this closure is a mistake. It may not feel like it but they really do notice when public ire is rising on something. That will only happen if we speak up of course. Be sure to encourage others to speak up on this as well.

Finally, one can attend a rally on April 10, in support of Michener Centre. This is being organized by the AUPE with details in the picture below. When you see me promoting something being organized by a union, you know something serious is happening.

michener

Let’s let Redford know that she is really crossing the line on this one.

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License to lie.

While I am not terribly surprised that Speaker Zwozdesky gave up all pretense of impartiality when he ruled that Premier Alison Redford was not lying despite it being completely clear cut that she did, I still am aghast and disappointed with his behaviour today.

The abuse of the legislature by Zwozdesky was compounded by his holding on to his loathsome conclusion until after question period and then using that as an excuse to quell all opposition questioning on what is a current and pressing issue of importance to Albertans. According to standing order 13(2) Zwozdesky was obligated to at the least explain himself but he has tossed the rules into the dustbin as he clearly acts only to do the bidding of the Premier. The legislature has truly become a lawless place as far as the governing party is concerned.

I know that bias shown by a speaker is hardly unique here. It is rare when the facade of impartiality is stripped to bare as has been done now by Zwozdesky. We saw hints of this as he constantly chided opposition members while turning a blind eye on government members being abusive of the rules of order in the legislature. That is typical unfortunately but is still tolerable. Now though Zwozdesky has demonstrated himself as being nothing more than a tool for Premier Redford to use to bypass democratic checks and balances and to hide the gross corruption of her administration.

The role of speaker in a legislature is steeped in tradition and honor. The symbolic act of the Speaker being dragged to the chair by the party leaders reflects on how it is indeed a tough and thankless task for any speaker who means to be true to the posting. A principled speaker will make democratic order within the legislature a paramount priority to themselves even if that comes in conflict with their own party. Zwozdesky has proven himself to be utterly unprincipled and he should be ashamed of himself.

The government is now scrambling with their Pet Speaker and using closure to ram their flawed bills through so that they may be closed early. Public scrutiny has exposed the government as being corrupt so the government is now using their corruption of principles to hide from public scrutiny. It is truly revolting to watch.

The precedent set here is even more disconcerting. Redford’s denial of her lie was akin to her attesting that up is indeed down while having the speaker rule that she is correct and that nobody may question her on that assertion. Redford is now free to continue to fabricate whatever she likes with utter impunity given to her by Eunuch Zwozdesky. An already dishonest and corrupt government now can’t even be effectively questioned.

Lying as Redford did is called being in contempt of parliament and it is a huge offense just as perjury is in a courtroom and for the same reason. People speaking in legislatures need some degree of control to ensure honesty in their statements to the house. With Speaker Zwozdesky allowing blatant lying on the part of the Premier we no longer will have any assurances that Redford or any member of her government are being honest when they speak to citizens through the legislature. I fear for how the next three years will be with Redford totally out of control.

It truly has been a sad day for democracy in Alberta.

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Druh Farrell’s latest idiotic notion is backfiring.

 Considering the generally sleepy nature of Calgary’s electorate when it comes to the near endless stream of stupid and expensive ideas coming from city council, the response we are seeing to Druh Farrell’s notion to close a portion of a major artery for traffic is a virtual groundswell of opposition. Farrell has hit such a new height in stupidity that even the left-leaning crowd are scratching their collective heads over this one.

 Druh did the usual political work of finding some figures to applaud this initiative. The executive director of the Kensington Business Revitalization Zone thinks this is a good idea. The head of the Sunnyside community association has endorsed Druh’s foolish plan as well. What people need to keep in mind is that both of those individuals are compelled to keep their noses buried deep within the recesses of the collective butts of city council in order to get funding for local projects. Should they be critical of crazy Druh’s ideas, they can kiss applications for new public swimming pools or sidewalk resurfacing goodbye.

 What we are seeing now is the response from the real community. Instead of speaking to some “revitalization” person, the Herald actually spoke to some businesspeople in the area in question. The people in this area who actually have to eke out a living are condemning this idiocy. These people have that quality that seems to be totally absent in city hall; common sense. Local businesses have no idea how snarling local traffic will help them in what are already hard times. They realize that all Druh’s initiative will accomplish will be to keep people away from that district in droves in order to avoid the traffic.

 As for the head of the community association, I shudder to think of the questions that will be asked when it is discovered that the already congested residential parking is completely jammed with cars? There is little to no parking down there already. Assuming that some individuals come down there to walk on hot pavement on a summer weekend, they will indeed need somewhere to put their vehicles. How will the residents of Sunnyside like it when they find frustrated drivers speeding down their residential streets in hopes of avoiding the traffic jam on Memorial?

 Druh has pointed out that there will be some entertainment to draw visitors to the area. Translation: Buskers.

busk

 Now, how many people are going to cross the city and fight for parking in order to watch an unemployed bongo-player who does not have an anti-capitalism protest to attend?

 The few hairy legged sandal wearing types who may actually go out of their way to watch this fine artistic display are not exactly what we call a high-spending demographic. Unless a person is running a discount organic granola stand, their business will not exactly see a spike.

 On both the CBC site that I linked to in my prior posting and the Herald site in the current posting, there is a comment section. This is the most telling aspect of how truly obtuse this idea is. These are everyday news readers speaking their minds. On the CBC, they are mostly left leaning. The condemnation of Druh’s stupidity is nearly universal.

 It is unlikely that this clear lack of public support will have any impact on Druh’s plans to make us all a little more cosmopolitan. City hall is notorious for ignoring the wishes of those unwashed constituents. Part of that is our own fault. We barely get above 20% turnout in municipal electios. Should we really be surprised that we have found ourselves with a collection of idiots in city hall?

 In the next election it is up to us. Get out the vote and vote out the fools.

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