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Grassroots Calgary campaign urging restraint on Alberta budget cuts affecting vulnerable populations

Lee Stevens has seen firsthand the impact even the tiniest budget cuts have on the less fortunate in Calgary and across Alberta.

Stevens, a frontline Calgary social worker for nearly 15 years, said areas like affordable housing and social assistance can’t take a cut in Alberta’s upcoming budget. Prevention has a longer-term net benefit on budgets, she said.

“We regularly saw people who are homeless, in and out of the emergency room, quite often the same people, because they were on a waitlist for housing for six months, and they couldn’t recover from their illness in the shelter,” Stevens said.  

“And it’s just it’s very frustrating as a social worker, because you know there’s nothing you can do because there just isn’t enough affordable housing. So, you just have to watch these people cycle in and out of the hospitals, and you just have to watch their health deteriorate, because they don’t have a safe place.

“If you invest in prevention, you prevent overspill in other system areas. For instance, everyone’s always talking about the high cost of health, let’s invest in prevention.”

Stevens is a spokesperson for a grassroots group spearheaded out of Calgary called Keep Alberta Strong. It’s a coalition of 34 provincial organizations that connect with more than 100,000 Albertans, many of whom are vulnerable or the working poor.

They’re following up a letter sent in mid-August to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and five provincial ministers that outlined why investments in six critical areas should be maintained, with a social media campaign and petition launched Thursday.

The areas they want protected include: Alberta’s Child Benefit, affordable transportation, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), affordable, quality daycare social assistance rates and affordable housing.

MacKinnon report doesn’t mention vulnerable Alberta sectors

The recent release of the province’s MacKinnon report laid out recommendations that could form a blueprint for the upcoming Alberta budget adjustments. That report focused on specific areas of health management and cost, education and public service, among others.

There was no specific mention of areas that serve vulnerable Albertans.

No specific date has been set, but Alberta’s budget is expected this fall.

Stevens is aware of the MacKinnon report and said there’s been no indication these areas may be at risk. Still, their advocacy is clear.

“It doesn’t change our message that we still want them to maintain investments in these areas,” Stevens said.

“It’s really about we want to prevent Albertans from falling into crisis. So, if there are no cuts made to these six areas, that’s kind of what we’re trying to do.”

For more information, visit www.keepalbertastrong.ca.