November 21, 2013 9:27 pm

Documents question government’s decision to close Michener Centre: Alberta NDP

EDMONTON – The Alberta NDP says it has documents that question the government’s decision to close a facility for severely disabled adults in Red Deer.

The government announced in March that it was shutting down the Michener Centre and moving most of its residents into the community.

Now, the NDP says it has documents that outline suggestions from a public relations firm on how to make transition decisions, and all of this happened months after the government said the Michener Centre would be closed.

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“Long after the decision to close Michener was made, they then went out to a PR firm and asked that firm to develop the rationale for closing Michener,” NDP MLA Rachel Notley explained.

The documents – obtained under Freedom of Information legislation – show conversations between government officials and a public relations firm, asking the firm to develop principles to transition residents from the Michener Centre to long-term care.

One document summarizes seven steps that should “be applied to all Michener transition decisions and would ideally form a “checklist” to determine if a decision has been made comprehensively using adequate quality control measures.”

The NDP calls this a callous move.

“If this government actually believed the transition from the Michener to the community was in the best interest of these residents, they presumably would know what those principles are already,” Notley said.

The province says the plan to close the centre has always has been in place. Human Services Minister Dave Hancock says though, it hasn’t always been understood.

“Obviously we know and understand what it is we are doing. The question was whether we were communicating it clearly, in a way that people understood it,” Hancock explained. “What we discovered is that the communication wasn’t as good as we thought it was. And so we needed to improve that, so we engaged in the services we needed to do that.”

The discussion comes as a petition to keep the centre open continues to grow. Friday, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) is set to hold another rally to save the Michener Centre in Red Deer, outside the Progressive Conservative convention.

AUPE President Guy Smith says these documents prove the government must reverse its decision.

“It’s still about putting the pressure on. I think any elected government needs to hear the people and the people have spoken loudly. We live in a democracy, and quite honestly, I think Redford and the government need to change their mind on closing Michener Centre,” Smith said Thursday.

The Michener Centre is home to 125 residents. When the centre closes they will be moved to long-term care or supportive living facilities.

The documents obtained by the Alberta NDP have been posted below:

Michener Centre

With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News.

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