SHARING THE VISION- Premier Ed Stelmach addresses a packed house at the Capri Hotel during the Central Alberta Premier's Dinner Oct. 14.

SHARING THE VISION- Premier Ed Stelmach addresses a packed house at the Capri Hotel during the Central Alberta Premier's Dinner Oct. 14.

Stelmach pledges more living spaces for seniors

Alberta premier tells Red Deer audience government is taking a ‘pause’ at the local nursing homes transition

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said the province has learned a lesson in dealing with the transition of clients from two closed City nursing homes to the new Extendicare Michener Hill.

“We’ve taken a pause to make sure we have the required number of staff to meet the standard required in providing care for our seniors,” he told a sold-out crowd audience at the Capri Hotel on Oct. 14 during the Central Alberta Premiers’ Dinner.

The province recently rescinded lay-off notices to more than 100 nursing staff after the closure of Valley Park Manor and Red Deer Nursing Home.

It had been discovered there weren’t enough staff to care for the remaining 47 residents at Valley Park Manor awaiting transfer to Extendicare Michener Hill – the newly-opened complex in east Red Deer which has 280 beds.

His comments were also in response to a question from the audience as to how his government would deal with the province’s increasing health care demands, particularly in terms of continuing care.

He pointed to the newly opened CollegeSide Gardens in Red Deer as well which offers both supportive and ‘all-inclusive’ living styles of support. The province partnered with Bethany Care Society on the project, which is near Red Deer College.

“You’ve set the standard for the rest of Canada.”

Stelmach said the province would also be adding 1,000 new spaces per year while increasing access and options for seniors.

That despite the reality that Albertans do not receive the same per capita funding from Ottawa other Canadians receive, he said.

The financial hit came largely last year when Ontario was deemed a ‘have not’ province which shifted equalization payments.

He also took on critics of his government’s environmental record, defending oil sands development and pointing out that more than 220 hectares in the extraction region has been reclaimed and reforested.

“Admittedly it is just the start and much work remains,” he said.

But he slammed critics for mounting a dirty PR campaign that has garnered attention from international media.

“We will continue to be criticized by those who would leave the resource in the ground” he said. “Their PR stunts make good TV, but don’t add to the policy debate or contribute to good science,” he said.

“The debate about climate change and the benefits of the oil sands is a marathon – where facts and truth not stunts and fear – will guide Canada to a balanced policy,” he said.

Finally, Stelmach said the while the province has clearly been impacted by the global recession, Alberta is one of the few jurisdictions in North America to emerge from the crisis with money in the bank.

He pointed to $18 billion in the Sustainability Fund that was set aside during boom times a few years back. That money is on top of $14 billion in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund as well, he added.

He said the province has trimmed costs as well, noting that the public service is down more than 2,500 positions – back to where it was in 1998.