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Redford government runs out clock on Wildrose proposal

Time has officially run out for a private member’s bill to create an independent seniors’ advocate.

Bill 208, put forward by the Wildrose Party, will disappear from the legislative agenda when the session wraps up this week.

The Redford government ran out the clock on the bill’s debate on Monday, said Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle.

Instead of supporting Towle’s bill, the province recently proclaimed the Alberta Health Act and announced the province will get a seniors’ advocate — but that advocate will report to the Health minister instead of the legislature.

Towle said it was no coincidence that the governing Conservatives blocked her bill.

“The reality is that (Alberta Health Act) legislation was passed in 2010. They had every opportunity since 2010 to implement the advocacy office and chose not to, and basically decided the timing was appropriate as a method of blocking my bill from going forward,” the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA said on Tuesday.

Bill 208 was first introduced in December 2012.

“We understand that the government is afraid of an independent seniors’ advocate. They have a lot of skeletons in the closet and like we saw with children in care this past week, they don’t want the public to know what is going on in seniors care.”

Last week, an investigation by the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald revealed that 145 children have died in government care since 1999 — but only 56 deaths were included in government reports.

Towle proposed an independent seniors; advocate who could represent seniors from around the province in the legislature by highlighting policy problems, demanding timely solutions, assisting in appeals or reviewing decisions relating to long-term care or residential care, representing seniors under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act, and advocating on other regulated matters.

The advocate could have had the ability to audit, investigate, provide recommendations to the legislature, and make reports public.

Towle said the advocate could have also protected residents the province is evicting from Michener Centre. The Red Deer facility for disabled adults is scheduled to close next year.

“They will get lost in the system and their needs will be ignored and we’ll hear of some tragic case of someone getting hurt or neglected,” Towle said.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said while the majority of Alberta seniors receive good care, some do not, like 73-year-old Violet MacDonald, who was left in a soiled diaper for two days while suffering from bed sores and went on to develop severe blood poisoning in a Calgary nursing home.

MacDonald has since died and on Monday her family went public.

“All the problems the government claims have been solved with the child and youth advocate being independent, we believe could be resolved with a seniors’ advocate operating independently as well. We don’t know the deaths in care that are from non-natural causes. We don’t know the number of hospitalizations that are occurring because of neglect. We don’t know how many are being investigated, whether informally or not. We don’t know what the recommendations are and we don’t know if they are implemented,” Smith said.

An investigation into MacDonald’s care only happened due to the pleading of the family, but recommendations to improve care at Calgary’s McKenzie Towne Care Centre were at best superficial, she said.

“We need a much more thorough process for investigation. I think the only way you get that is by having an independent advocate who can really be that watchdog on what is happening in the ministry and also at our various facilities.”

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