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April 3, 2014 - No. 36

Abolish the Temporary Foreign Worker Program!

Edmonton Rally Says No! to Harper's Temporary Foreign Worker Program


Abolish the Temporary Foreign Worker Program!
Edmonton Rally Says No! to Harper's Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Stop Worker Trafficking by the Harper Dictatorship! - Peggy Askin
Example of Kearl Oil Sands Project - Peggy Morton
Parliamentary Budget Officer's Report Confirms Labour Shortage a Myth

Keep Michener Centre Open!
Friends of Michener Centre Say "The Opportunity to Keep Michener Open Is in Our Hands!"
One Year Later -- The Fight to Keep Michener Open Continues! - Interview, Bill Lough, Friends of Michener
Michener Centre Still Home to Many -- Stop the Closure! - Alberta Union of Provincial Employees


Abolish the Temporary Foreign Worker Program!

Edmonton Rally Says No! to Harper's
Temporary Foreign Worker Program


President of the Alberta Federation of Labour Gil McGowan addresses Edmonton rally, March 29, 2014.

Canadians Against the Temporary Foreign Worker Program organized a militant rally on March 29 outside Canada Place in Edmonton. More than 200 workers and their families and supporters took part in the event, the second rally held during March in Edmonton.

The rally was a powerful expression of the workers' conviction that they have a right to participate in the economic and political decisions affecting them. It raised a resounding No! to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which benefits no one but the worker traffickers and greedy construction and energy monopolies. Without doubt the echoes of this No! are travelling far and wide as worker-to-worker organizing is bringing more and more people into action.

Speakers at the rally included workers from several trades, including organizers Brian O'Donnell and Reid Paquette from Canadians Against the TWFP and a member of Ironworkers Local 720. The union local spoke out when ironworkers were replaced with temporary foreign workers at the Imperial Oil Kearl oil sands site. Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL); Linda Duncan, NDP MP for Edmonton Strathcona; Rachel Notley, NDP MLA for Edmonton Strathcona; and David Eggen, NDP MLA for Edmonton Calder also spoke at the rally.

It is "silent no more" when it comes to the Harper government's low wage agenda, attacks on workers' rights and refusal to provide training for the next generation. The lie that the TFWP exists because of "labour shortages" has been thoroughly exposed. Its real purpose is to drive down wages and create a vulnerable section of foreign workers without even the legal rights of landed immigrants.

Many workers were joined at the rally by their families and young children, showing how the families are standing together and fighting to ensure a future for the next generation. The workers are not going to permit the Harper government to leave the next generation without skills training, without Canadian-standard wages and benefits, and without organization and independent thinking and politics. Workers refuse to be dragged down into a low wage economy and neo-liberal race to the bottom.

All the speakers made it clear that they refuse to allow the government to pit worker against worker, and that it is the TFWP that they oppose, not the temporary foreign workers who similar to Canadian workers are trying to provide for themselves and their families. Where workers are needed, they should be able to come and settle in Canada as immigrants, not face a precarious future providing cheap labour in Harper's distorted vision of Canada.

The rally raised the demand that the exploitation of Alberta's natural resources must benefit the workers whose hard work under difficult conditions produces the wealth on which society depends and that keeps the economy and society flourishing. As well, it must benefit the First Nations who are fighting to affirm their right to be.

The biggest cheers came when speakers called for an end to the TWFP and to go all out to defeat Harper in the next election. Organizers of Canadians Against the TWFP report that they have been gaining tremendous support in Alberta and across Canada. Their Facebook page already has 23,000 supporters and continues to grow. The page provides a rallying point for discussion, sharing of information and organizing and mobilization. Volunteers have been selling sweatshirts with the logo "Canadians Against the Temporary Foreign Worker Program" at camp and project gates. Organizers informed everyone to stay tuned for information about the next rally, which will be held in Ft. McMurray. The workers also acknowledged the AFL for its support and work to popularize and organize the rally.

Organizers emphasized that the campaign will grow with the efforts of each and every worker to expose the TFWP and its negative impact on their families, friends and neighbours, and on the foreign workers themselves.

Congratulations to the organizers and all who worked to make the rally a success and for building momentum to put an end to the Harper government's worker trafficking and the Harper government itself!





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Stop Worker Trafficking by the Harper Dictatorship!

The Harper government announced that its latest omnibus bill, the 380-page budget implementation Bill C-31 tabled March 28, would authorize the Employment Minister to penalize employers who issue false declarations about their use of foreign workers or use foreign workers to replace Canadians. The government claims this measure will halt abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

Is the TFWP legitimate, and occasional abuse the problem? If the program exists to benefit workers, their communities and the public interest, then such declarations would make sense. But all the facts have led to a different conclusion: the program is operating as intended, as an integral part of Harper's low wage neo-liberal agenda to attack the rights of workers.

The government has announced many times that now it will be tough on employers who abuse the program. When workers bring to light a reality of constant problems, and the program falls under critical public scrutiny, the Harper dictatorship expresses its indignation and blusters about how it will set things right.

In April 2011, the Harper government announced new regulations. The TFWP will bar employers from accessing the program for two years if they breach their temporary foreign worker employment contract. Such employers would be exposed on a public blacklist, the government proclaimed.

A 2011 report by the Alberta government revealed that according to the government's own records, close to 75 per cent of all employers hiring temporary foreign workers coming to Alberta were found to be violating labour laws. The most common illegal practice was failure to pay premiums for working on statutory holidays and overtime. Three years have passed, but the Harper government has not barred a single employer who broke the rules. Not one employer has been exposed on its blacklist.

In December 2013, the federal government again announced "new" regulations to allow government officials to conduct workplace inspections without warrants and bar employers who break the rules. No explanation was provided as to why the government failed to act on its previous regulations and why it was necessary to re-announce similar regulations now.

When ironworkers spoke out after being laid off at the Kearl oil sands mine construction site and replaced with temporary foreign workers at half wages, Jason Kenney said the matter would be investigated. Where is the investigation? What did the government find? Who has been punished? As usual, the government prefers silence rather than enforcement of its own regulations and a clear exposure of the facts. How will new omnibus regulations governing the conduct of the TFWP matter, if no public authority is willing or capable of enforcing them?

Harper's announcements cannot be considered serious when absolutely nothing ever comes of them. The government and its minister for worker trafficking Jason Kenney are simply trying to muddy the waters with their declarations of omnibus legislation and regulations to make sure the TFWP is used "as intended."

Behind the smoke and mirrors of those announcements about getting tough on employers, the TFWP is operating as intended, as a form of international human trafficking of workers to expand the labour market putting downward pressure on wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions, and weakening the organizations of the Canadian and international working class. The TFWP is doing exactly what it is designed to do. That is the problem and the reason it should be abolished. No regulation can rescue it from its anti-worker anti-social essence.

Canadians and workers throughout the world stand as one in defence of the rights of all, and against human trafficking and the exploitation of desperate workers. The Harper government's worker trafficking program proves it is unfit to govern and must be removed from power. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program must be abolished in its entirety.

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Example of Kearl Oil Sands Project

Sixty-five ironworkers employed by Pacer Promec Joint Venture (PPJV) were laid off from their jobs at Imperial Oil's Kearl oil sands mine on February 4. The workers were replaced with workers from Croatia working under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) at about half the prevailing Alberta wage for such work.

The temporary foreign workers hired at Imperial Oil's Kearl oil sands site were brought to Canada by a Regina-based company, Actyl Group, one of a growing number of worker-traffickers operating in Canada and internationally. Actyl's President, Linda West, has close connections with the Conservative Party and has been a candidate for the Tories in both federal and provincial elections. She actively promotes privatization of health care.

Actyl calls itself "a leader in international workforce solutions for Canadian businesses and organizations" and states that it has currently trafficked more than 1,000 skilled foreign workers from visa-free countries throughout Europe and the Caribbean. Occupations include warehouse workers, long-haul drivers, hotel front desk staff, heavy-duty mechanics, carpenters, drywallers, pipefitters, car mechanics and craft labourers. Actyl has offices in Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Calgary as well as in Belize. Actyl advertises that it traffics workers from Croatia, Philippines, Ireland, Belize, Jamaica, Mexico and the UK.[1]

The workers Actyl trafficked for Kearl were from Croatia, a part of the former Yugoslavia. Youth unemployment in Croatia is now 49.2 per cent according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. This is the legacy of the U.S.-led NATO bombing and dismemberment of Yugoslavia. Not only did it open the former Yugoslavia to the global monopolies but also impoverished an educated and skilled population. To the owners of capital in Western Europe and now in Canada, this misery has become their advantage, providing a cheap and desperate labour pool to exploit.

The political and economic devastation U.S.-led NATO caused to the people of the former Yugoslavia has created the conditions for worker traffickers to operate, exploiting the people as trafficked workers and robbing their homelands of their skills and work. The imperialist big powers have secured themselves a captive pool of desperate workers and do not intend to assist the oppressed countries in asserting their independence and building self-reliant vibrant economies free of foreign control.

The misery and hardship caused to the working class in the oppressed countries are seen by worker traffickers and a host of subcontractors as opportunities to enrich themselves. By driving down wages and working conditions, these parasites join the huge global construction, engineering and energy monopolies in claiming more and more of the wealth produced by the workers who build, operate and maintain the huge oil sands and other projects in the economy.

Actyl promises to fill employers' "open positions." It promises workers that they are on the road to citizenship stating: "This is your chance to work, live and immigrate to the land of the true north strong and free! Some of these prospective opportunities could lead to the possibility of immigration. As the economy continues to thrive, now is your chance to learn how you can work, live and immigrate to Canada."

Actyl hides the reality that temporary foreign workers are denied their rights while working in Canada and that only a tiny percentage ever become eligible for permanent status, while the vast majority have to return home after four years.

The example of Kearl shows that the TFWP is an aspect of modern-day state-organized exploitation within the imperialist system of states. Creating a subclass of temporary workers without even the rights of landed immigrants is one measure used to hit at the struggle for the rights of all. With the TFWP, the government has created an incentive for owners of capital to block Canadian workers from acquiring the education and skills required in a modern socialized economy. Less money is invested in Canadian public education as it has become easy to rob other countries of their skilled workers who are denied their rights and paid less than the Canadian standard and acquire no benefits while working here.

The response of the organized workers' movement is that the working class worldwide is one and that all people have rights by virtue of being human, and all workers have rights as producers of the wealth that society depends upon. This includes the right to an organized collective say over the wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions at every place of work, and the right to full and permanent membership in the polity wherever workers live and work.

Defence of the rights of all demands abolition of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Any program that lines the pockets of parasites who engage in worker trafficking and denies people their rights should be held in the same contempt as slave trading. An immigration policy serving the public interest and upholding the rights of immigrants has nothing in common with worker trafficking.

Note

1. Actyl charges companies a sliding scale for recruitment, from $1,600-$2,800 per worker depending on the skill level and the number of workers recruited. In addition, the company charges $1,500 per worker to prepare an application for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) and $1,000 to help obtain an exit visa from the Philippines.

Current positions advertised on its website range from $11-$15 an hour for jobs in the fast food and hospitality sector. Many jobs are advertised as managerial at wages of $15 an hour at most. Jobs for skilled tradespersons are advertised from $24-$28 an hour. For example, bricklayers' jobs in Saskatchewan are advertised at $28.00 an hour. The union rate for a journeyman bricklayer is $34.88 for commercial, institutional and residential construction and $38.49 for industrial, plus vacation pay, statutory holiday pay, pension contribution, health and welfare, employment insurance and other payroll fees, which together represent $10-$20 or more an hour depending on the standard benefits. No wage rate is provided for jobs advertised for welders in Leduc, Alberta.

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Parliamentary Budget Officer's Report Confirms
Labour Shortage a Myth

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has pointed out that a new report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) confirms that there is no significant shortage of workers or skills in Canada.

In a report released on March 25, the AFL explains the independent officer of parliament (PBO) showed that employment rates and job vacancy rates were still lower than they had been before the recession of 2008-09. "There is little evidence to suggest a national labour shortage exists in Canada," the report concludes.

"Lies and exaggerations about the existence of a labour shortage have been used to justify the massive expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker program (TFWP)," Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan said. "Public policy should be based on facts. If you ignore the facts, you get bad policy that hurts the public interest. That's what we have with the Harper Government's Temporary Foreign Worker program," McGowan added.

The PBO's report is just the latest one to debunk the notion of a shortage of workers or skills in Canada, the AFL points out. Over the past year, former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the University of Alberta Economics Department and Fraser Institute Fellow Herb Emery have all released reports that debunk the labour shortage myth.

"Every year, Canadian employers bring in hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers to fill a nonexistent labour shortage," McGowan said. "And when these marginalized workers get here, they're paid less than they should be, their rights are ignored, they have little hope of attaining citizenship -- and Canadians are put out of work."

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Keep Michener Centre Open!

Friends of Michener Centre Say "The Opportunity to Keep Michener Open Is in Our Hands!"

Families of residents of Michener Centre, staff, and the people of Red Deer and surrounding communities were shocked one year ago when the Alberta government announced the closure of Michener Centre. Michener Centre is a home and community for developmentally disabled adults, many of whom are seniors. The Alberta government had promised the families repeatedly, and in writing as recently as 2008, that Michener Centre would remain open. The unwelcomed announcement includes plans to move the residents to private group homes in the community or to seniors' facilities. No consultation with residents' families or with staff took place.


Friends of Michener outside Progressive Conservative Party Convention, November 22, 2013. (AUPE)

Since that time, the determined efforts of families, friends and workers at Michener Centre have brought to the fore the need to guarantee the rights of the most vulnerable. The Friends of Michener Centre (FOM), the workers at Michener and many volunteers have gathered over 25,000 signatures on petitions telling the government to "Keep Michener Centre Open!" They have organized several very successful rallies and a media campaign. When FOM participated in the annual Westerner Days Parade in Red Deer, the community gave them a standing ovation. Thousands of Albertans have written letters to the premier demanding that the government honour its promises to keep Michener open.

The union representing the workers at Michener, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, has supported and worked with the Michener families every step of the way. The entire community has come forward to say No! to the arbitrary dictate of the government, and to demonstrate its support for the residents, their families and the workers at Michener.

In opposition to the anti-social actions of the government, the broad mobilization of people to Keep Michener Open has raised the demand that the needs of the residents must take first place, and the government must be held to account for its failure to do so.

People have rights by virtue of being human. People with development disabilities have the right to everything they require to live life to the fullest, and governments are responsible to provide this right with a guarantee.

This ongoing fight to uphold the rights of Michener residents and their families, and for them to have a say in their future is part of the fight Albertans are waging for the people's empowerment, and to say No! to the use of dictate and No! to the fraudulent austerity and privatization agenda of the federal and provincial governments.

Congratulations to the families, Michener staff and their friends and allies! You have shown that by leaving no stone unturned and mobilizing the entire community, it is possible to block the government from imposing its agenda. Michener remains open and the fight is far from over! This is an important lesson. At no time and under no circumstance should the government be permitted to trample rights with impunity. Everyone can lend a hand by joining with the Friends of Michener, writing a letter to their MLA, talking to others or participating in actions in support of the struggle.

The government must abandon its anti-people agenda and take up its social responsibility not only towards the residents of Michener Centre but to all those in Alberta who require special care to affirm their being. No place in our society exists for arrangements designed for private profit instead of the benefit of those who require such care. All people with development disabilities have a right to the exemplary care that the residents of Michener receive and should continue to receive. All should be able to live in a humane atmosphere such as Michener where the staff and surroundings convey profound social love and care of the residents.

Keep Michener Centre Open!
Our Future and Security Lie in the Fight For the Rights of All!

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One Year Later --
The Fight to Keep Michener Open Continues!

TML recently interviewed Bill Lough who is active with the Friends of Michener.

TML: It is now one year since the PC government announced that it was breaking its promise to residents of Michener Centre and their families, and would shut down Michener Centre by the spring of 2014. During this time, there has been tremendous support to keep Michener open. Despite this, the government is still saying it will close Michener. What is the present situation?


Friends of Michener join Block "the" Party rally. 
(Friends of Michener)

Bill Lough: The government had originally said that Michener would be mothballed as of spring 2014. Now they are saying it will be by the end of 2014. This delay shows the reality of trying to deal with a very difficult situation and the human factor, that is human beings. The government did not have all the answers in place before they made this announcement. They still had to put the group homes in place and they are still trying to find staffing and all these other components, none of which has come to completion at this point. All these things are problems in the government's agenda to close Michener.

At the same time, there has been a very strong resistance to closing Michener and strong public support for our cause. Families are very reluctant to sign off, although some families have dialogued with the transition team to look at different options.

More information is being brought forward regarding the actual situation at Michener and stepping away from the fear mongering that the government had initially promoted, for example describing Michener as some draconian institution, with dark halls and a Dickensian mentality. People realized through our reports in the media and editorials, and through visits to Michener, that Michener is not like this at all. Michener is an excellent example of care for persons with developmental disabilities. Families have said no, Michener remains the best place for our family members, and that is why they are reluctant to leave. The government may want us to leave but that does not give them the right to kick us out.

In the early 2000s, the government reviewed all services for those with developmental disabilities in the province, concluding that there was still a place for Michener. A review conducted subsequently provided as one of its options leaving those at Michener in place, allowing the number of residents in the Centre to decline over time and respecting those who lived at Michener.

This led to what we refer to as the Moving Ahead Report. As a result of this report, the government initiated interviews with every family with a family member living at Michener, presenting the option to stay or leave the centre. Ninety-five per cent of families said they were perfectly happy to remain at Michener. At that time, the government recognized that most of the people living there had been there for at least 20 years, that the average age was 55, and they deserved to live the rest of their lives in the place that they knew. This led to the promise in 2008 that no one would be forced to leave Michener.

Then in 2010, the government, under Minister of Seniors and Community Supports Mary Anne Jablonski, hired KPMG to review the services provided for Michener, and persons with developmental disabilities (PDD) throughout the province. In their final report, they said that the cost ratio of individuals to dollars was high and therefore the government should step away from direct care management. At the same time this was happening, there was a change of leadership within those responsible for PDD. As a result, the KPMG report as it was presented was accepted and probably the decisions around Michener were made in 2010. Behind the scenes, all these discussions were being held without us being aware.

The KPMG report is really a quantitative means of measurement. It is not a qualitative means of measurement. It is simply how to get the most dollars out of something. This of course always fits well with the government agenda when they are trying to save money or leading towards privatization.

The government has thrown out all these red herrings, to try to justify the reasons for closure, when in fact as we peel this onion back, so to speak, we see that this has nothing to do with the inadequacies of Michener and has everything to do with an ideology driven by certain individuals who have caught the government's ear and want to see it closed. Then of course, this pegs in extremely well with a government that wants to remove itself from direct care and hand it over to the private sector.

This issue is not about the quality of care, the issue is not even about the buildings. They argue that the buildings are old. At the same time, the group homes that government allows to exist are old. The Alberta legislative building is old! The government cannot ignore that Michener was awarded the Premier's Award of Excellence, for the quality of care it has provided. Michener just received its level two accreditation, showing the level of care that is provided at Michener.

We have asked each MLA to go to Michener and see it. In the towns close to Red Deer, many people, even MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, have understanding and sympathy for what Michener is about. It is because of this understanding that people in our region have supported Michener. They know what it provides.

I have a deep respect for the tenacity of the parents. They are very determined. A lot of them have talked to the transition team and a lot of them have come back and said, "No, we are not satisfied with what you are presenting to us." One of my contacts said "beware of bricks and mortar" because they will show you the freshly painted walls and the curtains and all that but at the end of the day make sure you know what the services are going to be and the level of care.

The government has never been able to address the 30 to 40 per cent turn around factor of care givers in private group homes. When you have someone with a developmental disability, the most significant thing that you need is someone who will be there continually. My brother had key workers that were with him for long periods of time. They understood him. That is why he did not need any drugs. Just by knowing him as an individual, they were able to work with him through behaviour management, which made a huge difference in how he lived. When you know someone for a long time, you can see the warning signs if there is a problem.

My experience with my brother when he was hospitalized was that care was difficult. He was in the Intensive Care Unit and in the hospital for over 120 days before he passed away. Because of shift work and rotating staff, I had to explain to each new nurse who my brother was. The key thing that Michener has always been able to do is find the right key worker to work with the right person. That is the huge difference in quality of life that you can offer the person. The parents recognize this and that the key workers at Michener are basically extended family. They have so much respect and trust as to how their loved ones are cared for at Michener. It would be very difficult to replace them. There is no need to replace them.

I do not understand the basic concept, that here you have a high level of care for individuals who are the most vulnerable in our society and yet you want to close it down. What seems to go hand in hand is those who have always had an agenda to close Michener, and cannot be reasoned with, and a government recognizing an excellent opportunity to step away from what I feel is a responsibility of society. It is our responsibility because we are human. We care for those who have less and we have a collective responsibility to help those in need. Until you have lived in those trenches, you do not know what that is like on a daily basis. To read about it is one thing but to experience it is another thing.

TML: The judicial review of the decision to close Michener Centre, which your organization has been granted, will not be heard until late November. It appears that the government is pushing ahead despite the fact that the judicial review has not taken place and no decision has been issued.


Westerner Days Red Deer, July 2013, Keep Michener Open Float. (Friends of Michener)

BL: The judicial review is one tool that we are using to fight the government. There is a November court date, but prior to that, affidavits and so on will have to be presented by the government to explain their position. Between now and then more information is going to come forward. We will bring forward the truth. Right now I don't think the government needs anything else coming down on its head. The way this government has treated Michener is the way this government treats the people of Alberta. Instead of dialoguing with the people, they have put their own agenda in place.

TML: You have received tremendous support. What is the ongoing work of Friends of Michener?

BL: We have to become more visible and more vocal. As you know, the 25,000 signatures we gathered on our petitions are unprecedented. We are working with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and they say they are receiving unprecedented support. The Red Deer Advocate, the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal have written editorials supporting us. We will go back to the media and say here we are one year later, and we are still fighting. We will keep in the public face. There are MLAs that have expressed support for and understanding of Michener, and yet they have remained silent, with the exception of Jablonski. So it is time to go and visit them again.

We went door to door with the petitions in Red Deer and we had a lot of volunteers who were familiar with Michener. We did not have that same connection in Edmonton and Calgary so it was difficult to get the same level of support. Yet someone from one of our families visiting his family member at a hospital in Edmonton took his petition around in the hospital cafeteria and he said he could not keep enough copies on hand.

For the city of Red Deer and surrounding towns to take a stand for Michener is a bold and courageous step, especially when you know that it is the government that hands out the dollars. That is how deep their understanding is about Michener and what it has done. They are simply not going to accept spin from the government. This is about more than jobs, it is about care and how we should be treating people.

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Michener Centre Still Home to Many --
Stop the Closure!


Rally at the Alberta Legislature, October 18, 2013 to defend against government's attack on pensions, post-secondary education, and public services like Michener Centre. (AUPE)

One year ago today an entire community was blindsided by the Redford government's unexpected announcement to close the Michener Centre in Red Deer, breaking a promise made years ago by the PC government that the home would be there for those who wanted to stay.

"Residents, families, staff and the community felt deceived and betrayed by the announcement," said AUPE Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Jason Heistad. "They still do. No one was consulted and no one had notice the closure was coming. It came as a complete shock."

Former Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities, Frank Oberle, made the announcement March 11, 2013 and said full closure of the home was expected by January 2014. To date, just eight of 125 residents have been moved.

A letter from Redford to the sister of a long-time Michener Centre resident says the premier now expects Michener residents to be moved out by the end of 2014.

"The deadline change is an indication the Redford government planned the closure poorly and has no place to put these individuals if they remove them from their homes," said Heistad. "The closure should not be delayed, it should be stopped."

A judicial review of the decision to close Michener Centre has been granted and will be heard at Court of Queen's Bench in Edmonton on Nov. 27 and 28. In the meantime, AUPE has secured legal services for residents and family members to help them apply for a legal injunction if they're being pushed to move against their wishes.

Over the past year, community support to keep Michener Centre open has been tremendous.

In November 2013, Red Deer North PC MLA, Mary Anne Jablonski, who represents Michener residents, tabled 15,744 Keep Michener Open petition signatures in the Alberta legislature.

The total number of Keep Michener Open petition signatures tabled stands at an incredible 24,244. Hundreds more signatures have yet to be presented in the legislature.

Scores of community members have attended rallies in support of Michener Centre and many Keep Michener Open volunteers marched in Red Deer's Westerner Days parade in July 2013.

More than 4,000 letters have been sent to Premier Redford, Frank Oberle, Mary Anne Jablonski, Cal Dallas, Danielle Smith, Dr. Raj Sherman and Brian Mason urging the government to keep Michener open.

A total of 2,000 Keep Michener Open signs graced the lawns and windows of neighborhoods in Red Deer and area last summer.

Michener Centre has also won eight Premier's awards of excellence for the services it provides.

Red Deer City Council, the Red Deer Public School Division, the town of Innisfail, the town of Springbrook, the town of Penhold, the town of Bowden, the town of Blackfalds, local 054 (Edmonton Catholic Teachers) and local 80 (Red Deer Catholic Teachers) of the Alberta Teachers Association, the Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Centre, all Alberta opposition parties and many more organizations have come out against the closure of Michener.

"It's time for Redford to do the right thing and to listen to the residents of Michener Centre, their guardians, families, the community and Michener staff. Keep Michener open," said AUPE Vice-President Carrie-Lynn Rusznak.

(This statement was released prior to the resignation of Alison Redford on March 19.)

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