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Seniors stage sit-in at minister’s office

EDMONTON — A group of seniors has camped out at Health Minister Fred Horne’s constituency office, demanding a meeting with the minister and Premier Alison Redford about the seniors’ drug program.

The protesters say the Alberta government is planning to eliminate the seniors’ drug program and replace it with a means-tested system.

The group says the premier promised, in writing, that she would not eliminate the seniors drug plan just one month before she won the Conservative party leadership.

The protesters say that promise was reiterated in another letter signed by Horne one month before the last provincial election.

Noel Somerville of Public Interest Alberta Seniors Task Force says if instituted, the new plan will place a surtax on people simply because they are sick.

He says they don’t believe that’s acceptable public policy.

The protesters say they have been requesting a meeting with the health minister since last September.

“I have been in touch with his office in numerous occasions by telephone, seeking a date for a meeting,” says Somerville. “I have got absolutely nowhere — I have not even got an acknowledgment of the letter.

“They’ve provided absolutely no details about how this would be done. They said it would come into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. The only thing we’ve heard from them is that its implementation has been delayed.”

A ministry spokesperson says the date was pushed back so that more input could be gathered.

“As you may recall, pharmacare was originally scheduled to begin on Jan. 1. During the last sitting, the minister did make public that the implementation date had been delayed pending further consultation with stakeholders,” says Matthew Grant, press secretary for the minister of health.

“That’s what happening. We’re actually consulting with stakeholders now and we have received input. And, I hear today, the minister has offered two meetings, both in February, and we look forward to a response.”

 
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