On Tuesday night Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Trevor Horne collected feedback for the March 2017 provincial budget from a small group of constituents.
Horne presented Alberta financial and demographic information to a crowd of 16 at the Spruce Grove Public Library and then led an hour-long discussion to collect ideas to bring back to the government.
“I thought it was good,” the NDP MLA said. “I think the feedback was very helpful.”
Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), healthcare and education were the main priorities brought forward from the 16 people in attendance.
A small group of attendees who work in the community service sector with persons with disabilities wanted to see provincial incentives in place to hire disabled workers.
The group also hoped there would be more flexibility with the hours people on AISH would be able to work.
“There is a constant disincentive in the AISH system to not put the benefits at risk,” one man said.
He said many AISH recipients are afraid to take on extra hours at their workplace at the risk losing their benefits. Horne said that would be something he took forward to his government.
Attendees brought forward many concerns with the healthcare system and wanted to see more of a focus on mental health.
“There are thousands of people in this province who have nowhere to go but the streets for help and that’s just not right,” one woman said.
The crowd also wanted to see upgrades to existing facilities, long wait times reduced and a lack of long-term care beds addressed.
Horne said that many of the concerns echo what he hears in his office and in the community in a regular basis. He said he was not particularly surprised by any of the issues brought up during the event.
The crowd became very passionate when the topic of the assault on the worker at the Elk Island Youth Ranch was brought up. Many in the crowd were urging Horne to reach out to the woman to offer support and wanted to see the government pay for her expenses during her recovery.
Heather Vanderzee, 63, was assaulted by two teenage boys while working the overnight shift at the youth centre. She suffered slashes to her neck and cheek, a broken nose, a shattered right eye socket, broken lower teeth and a jaw broken in two places.
Horne said he is not surprised that the crowd was passionate about the issue but was surprised with the direction of the discussion.
“It’s not every day I hear somebody asking the government to pay for all of one person’s expenses,” Horne said.
The budget is expected to be released in March. Horne said there is still time for ideas presented during the discussion to be brought forward and included in the budget.