In March 2013, the then formidable Alison Redford, along with Dave Hancock, called for the closure of the Michener Centre in Red Deer, the longtime home of 125 severely disabled persons, one of which is my sister Jody Kvern.
This closure meant forced eviction for my sister and her 125 peers, many whom have lived at Michener for 20, 30, 40 years with caregivers who have also been at Michener for multiple decades. The rationale of the closure came down to one word: institution.
Although it’s interesting to note Melcor Development’s online document citing the 300 acres of prime real estate that sits above the beating heart of downtown Red Deer. Melcor is clearly intent on the Michener land for its Clearview Phase III. Also of note: the number of government contracts and campaign donations to the Progressive Conservative party by Melcor Developers over decades.
The irrational closure of the Michener Centre, despite the eight Premiers Award of Excellence in the past 13 years that Michener has garnered, and the highest accreditation in mental health care that no other facility, community group home and/or hospital in the province can boast. From the very start, this closure made no sense.
From the very start, Danielle Smith and Kerry Towle, then of the Wildrose Party, were there to strongly advocate for my disabled sister and her voiceless peers. They were the first of the opposition parties to visit Michener and see firsthand why Michener is a crucial piece of the mental health puzzle that Alberta has not yet fully mastered. Over the course of this difficult, frustrating fight, which lasted a full 555 days, we were met with nothing but a stonewall wall of silence by the PC party. Friends of Michener, along with Danielle Smith and Kerry Towle, David Eggen and Rachel Notley, NDP, Mary Anne Jablonski, PC, and the AUPE fought hard to keep Michener open for our fragile individuals, who were dropping like flies after being forced out into the community. For the latter, this issue superseded party, politics and unions. This was about protecting Alberta’s most vulnerable from their own blind government.
The low light of the Michener campaign came when six of our Michener residents died out in the community over the course of four months in the summer of 2014. The same summer that interim Premier Dave Hancock (fully aware of the deaths) cited as ‘his best summer job yet.’ Clearly the government of Alberta did not have the best interests of Albertans at heart, certainly not those who were vulnerable, voiceless and utterly helpless.
Mercifully, in September 2014, Premier Jim Prentice reversed this inhumane decision and called for the continuation of the Michener Centre, where my sister and her peers can live out their remaining years in the only place they call home, community and sanctuary.
And yet despite my eyes-wide-open introduction to the sometimes snake pit of provincial politics, I am encouraged by the likes of Smith and Towle, Eggen and Notley, Jablonski, Prentice and the AUPE.
I no longer care who belongs to what party, who is union, who is not. I only care that our politicians and leaders work together to care for people — especially our most vulnerable. We will at some point in our lives be disabled, disenfranchised, elderly, and/or dying and we will need good people who will advocate for us. I am party blind and grateful to those good people.
Lee Kvern, Okotoks