Blog | May 16, 2013

By Darcy Henton, Calgary HeraldHundreds of people with disabilities, their caregivers and their families protested outside the legislature Wednesday against program and service cuts the government denies are coming.Waving “stop the cuts” signs and chanting “Shame on you,” many of the protesters bused from Calgary to show the faces of the Albertans whose lives will be affected by cuts to the province’s Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) funding, expected later this summer.Speaker after speaker expressed fears that an anticipated $60 million cut to PDD will eliminate programs that bring developmentally disabled Albertans out of their homes and into the community to participate in a wide range of programs and activities.“In our community it will mean people being alone and being scared,” warned Nicole Fairbrother, a caregiver who said she is taking a pay cut to offset the impact of the cuts to programs for the 17 “high needs” Albertans in her organization’s care. “They are all incredibly at risk from these cuts.”Some said they felt betrayed by Premier Alison Redford.“One of the reasons I voted for Premier Redford is she said she would take care of the most vulnerable citizens in Alberta,” said Myrna Miller, of Calgary, who attended the demonstration with her 28-year-old son Fredrick Denicola, who suffers from a rare disorder called Costello syndrome.“We just have to have a voice to let the government know that we have important people in the community and they need to be part of the community.”She said PDD funding allows her son to have an active lifestyle and the anticipated program cuts could have a negative domino effect on his ability to participate in many of the activities he enjoys.Calgarian Colleen Houston of Disability Action Hall said the cuts threaten the quality of life for developmentally disabled Albertans.“If these cuts do occur, people will be socially isolated in their homes,” she said. “They will go to more expensive systems like hospitals and jails. These are short-sighted cuts that will cost more in the long run.”The affected groups are launching a ‘Don’t Erase My Face’ postcard campaign that encourages disabled Albertans to send the premier their photographs. It supports the contention their faces will disappear from their communities if funds that support their visibility are decreased.After the protest on the steps of the legislature, Associate Disabilities Minister Frank Oberle denied there have been cuts to PDD and contended repeatedly that anyone who requires PDD services will receive services.Under attack in question period from all opposition parties, Oberle said there has actually been a $3.5 million increase in funding for the “disabilities service envelope” and while the department is changing the manner in which funding is allocated, there won’t be cuts.Additional funding will be forthcoming from the Human Services ministry, he promised.“If there’s additional support needed, I will seek that support,” he said. “I am not going to cut services to individuals who need them. End of story.”But three organizations that represent care givers and their clients called the impending cuts “excessive and threatening.”The Alberta Association for Community Living, Alberta Council of Disability Services and Alberta Disability Workers Association called the pending $60 million cut to 140 PDD organizations the largest cut ever imposed on individuals with developmental disabilities in Alberta’s history.“The depth of the reduction in funding is one we believe is not manageable and will result in the safety, well-being and security of individuals with developmental disabilities being compromised,” they said in a statement.They said the cuts will push the PDD community into “crisis mode.”Tim Bear, president of the Alberta Disability Workers Association, questioned the minister’s claim there will be no cuts when he has a letter from the government advising him that his $3.7 million budget is being cut by more than $1 million — a 27 per cent reduction.Bear said that may force the St. Paul Abilities Network he operates to shut down three of its 12 facilities.“You tell me — is that fearmongering or are we going to lose a whole pile of support?”Bill Moore-Kilgannon of Public Interest Alberta said Albertans with developmental disabilities and their supporters are not going to take the cuts lying down. He urged them to take their concerns to the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party policy convention May 25 at Edmonton’s Radisson Hotel.“We’re going to have a block party,” he said. “We know the PDD sector will come out and be loud and proud.”[email protected]© Copyright (c) The Calgary HeraldRead the article at The Calgary Heald website.Related: Disabled Albertans urge government to rethink program funding changes, BY Sarah O'Donnell, Edmonton Journal MAY 15, 2013