Martin Wissmath, September 20, 2013 Hinton ParklanderThe province is financing its deficit at the expense of seniors, says an advocacy group that begins its provincial speaking tour in Hinton this month.The Seniors Care Provincial Speaking Tour public forum will be at the Royal Canadian Legion on Sept. 28 from 1–4 p.m. Guest speakers from the Friends of Medicare and Public Interest Alberta Seniors Task Force will give talks on a number of seniors' healthcare topics.The Friends of Medicare is a non-profit society dedicated to public awareness of medicare issues in Alberta and Canada.Public Interest Alberta is a non-profit, non-partisan provincial organization focused on education and advocacy of public interest issues, including seniors' care with the Seniors Task Force."We're starting off in Hinton because Hinton is well known for the problems of losing its long-term care, going to assisted living," said Noel Somerville, chair of the PIA Seniors Task Force, and one of the speakers at the event. "That's forced many seniors out of the community."Hinton currently does not have a long-term care facility, which is the highest designation of medical attention for patients in residential care by Alberta Health Services. The Good Samaritan Mountain View Centre was designated as long-term care until 2005, when it changed to assisted living. The change allowed more residents to be housed at the facility but not with the same level of service.Other issues on the agenda include the provincial seniors drug plan, the discontinuation of the seniors' education property tax assistance program and the privatization of home care. The seniors' education property tax assistance program is the rebate that Albertans over 65 receive on the portion of their property tax used to pay for the provincial education budget; the government is discontinuing the program after Dec. 31.Everyone is invited to attend the forum, Somerville said, young people and elders."You know it's of particular interest to the Baby Boom generation and Gen X because the government's cuts aren't just hitting seniors, they're creating gaps that they're expecting the families of seniors to fill in," Somerville said. "We've got a lot of people now called the Sandwich Generation because they're looking after kids on the one hand and seniors on the other."Lynda Jonson is a local member of the PIA Senior Task Force. She's also the founder of the Resident Care Foundation, which is focusing its fundraising efforts to bring a long-term care facility to Hinton.She said the purpose of the forum is to inform residents about the challenges facing seniors' healthcare."They want people to ask questions," Jonson said. "People will be able to understand what is happening and what the government is doing."The PIA Seniors Task Force is critical of the 2013 provincial budget and perceived cuts to seniors' care as a means of dealing with the deficit. They advocate for a progressive income tax system, with higher income earners paying a higher percentage of their income to the provincial government. The system currently in place has a flat tax of 10 per cent of Albertans' income going to the province; it's the only province in Canada with a flat income tax."Our nursing homes should be public," said Jonson. "Our tax dollars here in Hinton should be going to look after our elderly."For more information contact Lynda Jonson at 780-817-0043Read the article online at the Hinton Parklander.