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July 1st deadline not firm for cuts to PDD program

Marie Renaude, executive director of the Lo-Se-Ca Foundation, gets T-shirts ready for an upcoming rally.
Marie Renaude, executive director of the Lo-Se-Ca Foundation, gets T-shirts ready for an upcoming rally. Global News

EDMONTON- The province says it will be taking its time implementing changes to the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program.

The changes were originally set to come into effect July 1st. However, in a letter to families who use the program, Human Services Minister Dave Hancock and Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities Frank Oberle said “while concerns have been raised about the July 1st implementation date, we want to ensure you that this is only the beginning of the process.”

Alberta Human Services says the transformation of the system will take time and the department will work with individuals and service providers to determine their needs, before signing new contracts.

“Those who need a little bit more time, and where we do need more time, we’ll continue to work on those contracts until we get everything all signed.  But there’s no magic date,” said Kathy Telfer, communications representative with Alberta Human Services. “We’re going to take the time needed to work with the families, the clients and the service providers out there.”

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In the provincial government’s 2013 budget, the community access category of the PDD program was reduced by $42 million. Over the past several weeks, numerous rallies have been held across Alberta, in protest of the cuts. Those taking part in the rallies fear Alberta’s most vulnerable population will be left without much needed services. Many have voiced their concerns over how quickly the changes were being implemented, as well.

“It’s not really about us resisting change or a funding cut. What it is, is they’re overhauling a system and I think that they’re not being really straight forward and open about how they’re going about doing it, not even really why,” explained Marie Renaude, the executive director of the Lo-Se-Ca Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides supports to adults with developmental disabilities.

“They’re deciding what’s best for people without really asking and without listening. And I don’t know, that’s just not okay,” Renaude added.

NDP MLA Rachel Notley calls the move by the government to delay the cuts a “predictable attempt to engage in damage control.”

“There was no way they could have made these changes by July 1st,” she said Thursday evening. “It’s ever so slightly a victory. But really, I think that the government is, in part, reacting to their own incompetence, as much as they are reacting to pressure from the public.”

Notley says there is a way to move forward with this process, but the strategy the government has taken isn’t it.

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“What would be a victory would be if they put the whole thing off for not just two months, but perhaps eight or 10 months and then actually- transparently and openly and competently- engaged with the community so that people could adjust to whatever changes were coming.”

Renaude agrees. She says it’s time for the government to be transparent about the reasons behind the cuts.

“I’m not going to stop until I feel like I’ve done everything I can do to try to explain what we think the problem is and I don’t think waiting until September, that’s the answer either.”

The province says while changes are on the way, they’re not about budget and those who need services will still get them.

“It’s not about getting a contract in place, it’s about making sure that person is being served to meet their needs,” Telfer said.

Telfer says some service providers are ready to go ahead with a new contract, so contracts will be signed in those cases.

Minister Hancock will appear on the Global Edmonton Morning News Friday at 6:45 a.m.

With files from Ross Neitz, Global News. 

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