Just in case you forgot about the fight to keep Michener Centre going, there were a few dozen Michener marchers parading the streets of Red Deer on Wednesday.
About 25 family members of residents, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees officials, and Michener staffers donned the blue shirts and carried the ‘Keep Michener Open’ signs that have become familiar in Red Deer over the last year as they participated in the Westerner Days parade.
It was far from the largest crowd those fighting for Michener have mustered in the last year, but Bill Lough, president of the Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Centre, said the fight remains in the group and recent pledges from government and opposition politicians have inspired optimism.
A large group of legal guardians, Lough said, will continue to resist efforts to transition their loved ones in anticipation of a new premier being chosen in September and a judicial review of the closure set for late November. Each of the three candidates in the Progressive Conservative leadership race have committed to meeting with the families and reviewing the closure decision.
Last month, the province responded to backlash around its decision to cut nursing care from Michener by reinstating the service. Other cuts to pharmacy services, a second-hand store operated by residents, and recreation programs have angered Michener families.
According to Alberta Human Services, 31 individuals have been moved out of Michener since last September. There has been no change to that number in the last month, though a spokesperson said more moves will occur soon.
Most of those ex-residents have been moved into group homes across the province. Some new homes have opened in the Red Deer area in 2014, and Human Services says construction is underway for 15 more accessible homes in the region.
The ministry also reports that, by the end of June, 162 Michener staff had requested a voluntary severance package, with 71 completed. The average severance package runs around $36,000, and staff can also apply for $2,000 in funding to support training opportunities after leaving.
Over 80 residents remain in the centre’s older institutional buildings that are to be shuttered.
The AUPE also is using the occasion of Westerner Days to show off its Alberta Way campaign, which it says is about getting Albertans to ask questions that the organization will then pose to provincial politicians. One of the union’s main issues is the Michener closure.