Opposition party leaders do not tend to extend too many friendly invitations to their counterparts on the government side, but Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith is encouraging Premier Alison Redford to take a free tour during her next stop in Red Deer.
After touring Michener Centre Friday, Smith said she thought the premier should take advantage of the opportunity as well.
“Two weeks from now she’s going to be in Red Deer for her party’s annual general meeting. I think she should come a little bit early and take a tour of the facility,” said Smith, who toured with Sylvan Lake-Innisfail MLA Kerry Towle.
“You can meet a lot of the residents in an hour or an hour and a half, and I think it would change the perspective.”
Since the government announced in March that it would relocate 123 of the centre’s current residents into community group and seniors homes, the group fighting that edict has regularly invited the premier to tour Michener Centre, noting that her predecessors all visited the facility at one point.
Last month, Lee Kvern, whose sister lives at Michener, invited each of the opposition party leaders to visit the long-running residence as well. She said the goal of the tours is to show the leaders that Michener, despite its notorious past, is “not an institution anymore” but rather a home for residents that has won eight Premier’s Awards of Excellence since 1999.
Smith seemed convinced after the tour, marvelling at the level of care residents receive and struggling to think of where those older residents with very low mental capacities can be properly cared for when the centre closes.
“I’ve been to a lot of long-term care facilities and quite frankly I cannot think of any of the facilities that I’ve visited that would be able to manage the care for these high needs residents that I saw at Michener. I can see why the families feel so passionately,” said Smith.
Smith met a couple of residents on the tour and noted that many of those at Michener have lived there for decades, supported by a staff that has a low turnover rate. She said the centre’s history, which includes forced sterilizations, may cause some to have a misunderstanding about the service the centre provides today.
Kvern toured provincial NDP leader Brian Mason through the facility last month. She invited Liberal leader Raj Sherman for a tour as well, but found out that he has already been through the facility.
Friends of Michener Centre will hold its fourth rally in Red Deer protesting the closure at 4 p.m. on Nov. 22 in front of the Sheraton Hotel to coincide with the Progressive Conservative party’s annual general meeting.