News | May 27, 2013

By Sarah O'Donnell, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON - As Progressive Conservatives from across Alberta talked policy inside a south Edmonton hotel Saturday, Tim Kabarchuk willingly faced off outside against a large, inflatable mallet.As one of about 500 protesters who came to the “Block the Party” event organized by Public Interest Alberta, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employee and other groups, Kabarchuk volunteered for a human version of Whack-A-Mole under a painted Whack-A-Broken Promise banner.“It’s just a fun way to repeat and to emphasize the difference between what was promised to everyone and what’s being delivered now,” said Kabarchuk, pausing briefly from popping his head up and down through a plywood cut-out shouting PC promises from the 2012 election related to post-secondary education, public education and plans to help Alberta’s most vulnerable.“Getting hit with a soft plastic mallet is a small price to pay,” he said. “Just look at how much fun everyone is having.”The protest was the latest display of frustration against Premier Alison Redford’s government in the wake of the 2013-14 budget delivered in March. It included cuts to post-secondary education, some programs for disabled Albertans, and smaller increases than promised in areas like health and education.Though PC party members inside the conference seemed content with the budget, the people outside, who came by bus from as far away as Lethbridge and Grande Prairie, talked about the damage it will cause.Debbie Fremmerlid and her daughter Darla joined the event to bring attention to their concerns about the changes underway to programs and funding for Persons with Developmental Disabilities.Fremmerlid’s 24-year-old autistic son Brad Lee is supported through PDD programs and has received excellent support in the last few years. But Fremmerlid said the family is concerned about what the government’s cuts to the PDD community access support budget will mean for his life. Though the Redford government says it is putting a new emphasis on creating employment opportunities for disabled Albertans, Brad Lee is unable to work, Fremmerlid said.“We’ve had to fight every step of the way because they first said he’s in 24-hour care, he doesn’t need a day program,” she said, as she stood outside the “Squeeze into an Alberta Classroom” booth.“Any person needs to go out and have a meaningful life, no matter what their disabilities are. Therefore they need to get out of their place of residence.”She also expressed major concerns about the government’s new assessment scale that will have a major role determining the needs of disabled adults and the funding they should receive.“My son is not a number, nor are other people who have special needs,” she said. “A scale answering specific questions, it does not measure who the person is because everybody is unique.”Public Interest Alberta’s executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon said it was good to see the crowd challenging government cuts.“We know the cuts are unnecessary and we want the government to change the direction they’re going. They’re going the wrong way,” Moore-Kilgannon said.“While we’re using comedy here, this is not funny for people whose lives are actually really seriously affected, whether it be from Michener Centre people to students to seniors.”Inside the policy conference, Redford said her government knew since January it would have to deliver a budget with difficult choices that affect some Albertans.“What we have said is we are firmly behind the budget that we passed and we’re firmly behind the decisions that we made,” Redford said. “These are decisions that allow us to put Alberta on the right fiscal framework and the right fiscal footprint going forward to allow for further success and we’re going to continue with the decisions that we’ve made.”sodonnell@edmontonjournal.comTwitter.com/scodonnellRead the article at The Edmonton Journal © Copyright (c)

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