Conservatives, where are our morals?

Written By Karunesh Saroya, Posted on July 6, 2020

As conservatives, the family unit is where we derive our morals.

Across the political spectrum, we have reached a consensus on essential issues, such as the role of government and in Canada, separating the church from the state. But, above all, we care for the vulnerable and protect those we love. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to examine the effects of the provincial cuts on our most vulnerable demographics. The mentally and physically disabled, especially children, have the most to lose, with the damage incurred having lifelong impacts.

I’m talking specifically to the cuts to Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapy, Support Services and another program called Program Unit Funding, also known as PUF.  All of these programs help those who experience and have identified severe disabilities and developmental delays. 

“Funding is expected to come out of the school board budgets, money that school boards are struggling to come up with from their limited budgets.”

These programs were designed to assist children who have severe disabilities or delays to help them operate in a more open environment. These early intervention methods bear lifelong benefits that cannot be taught at a later age.

They help those above become productive members of society.

The funding cuts are expected to come from school board budgets that they are already struggling to get.

Meet Candice, an Alberta mother devastated by the cuts

Meet Candice (real name withheld), a mother to two children, both of whom suffer from disabilities/developmental delays, which refers to her children as “complex care patients.”

Despite their young age, they have already been rushed to the Emergency Room several times.

Because of their children’s conditions, Candice and her husband bought a place in Beaumont, Alberta, without first viewing the property. 

They chose this particular location for two reasons.


  • One, there is a STARS air ambulance field right behind their home in the case of an emergency. Given their children’s condition, they want to know that they can receive immediate support in the event they are required.

  • Two, the school that their children would have otherwise attended before the cuts would provide them with the additional supports that their children require. 

The significant advantage of living in the Edmonton area; they could be close to hospitals in the event of a medical emergency. The reviews for the school they would attend, Ecole Champs Vallee School, were excellent, especially for children with developmental delays.

Because of PUF and the other programs through AHS, doctors assured Candice and her husband they wouldn’t have to worry about the future of their children. These programs help children to handle better complex social situations faced within society. 

These programs teach children how to interact with others and expose them to situations that we take for granted in a safe and supportive environment. They will get that interaction with other children, which is vital for their growth and development. 

Now, imagine being in Candice’s position when she found that her school area in Beaumont could not provide her child with one-on-one support.

At this point, Candice was stuck. Either she could move back to Fort McMurray, where the children would have sufficient one-on-one care, but that would mean inadequate medical access for her children. 

When she contacted the government department about the programs, she was told that her children would have to be sent to a different school than the one behind her house. 

The nearest school that met her family’s needs far away from her new home. A regular commute for an Edmontonian can be an eternity to someone in her children’s situation. 

When Candice looked into the school ratings for the recommended school, she wasn’t surprised to find that it had an abysmal rating.

The reading rate for this particular school, which is scored by green, yellow and red, with red denoting a fail. When Candice asked about the transportation arrangements, she found that she would only be given credit for transportation, but she would have to make the necessary arrangements. 

Given her children’s over-stimulated sensory reactions, she could not rely on a bus service, as that would torture her children.

“He begins to pull his hair out,” Candice explains, then “he becomes uncomfortable and could start yelling, pulls out his hair and even pulls at his skin in an attempt to rip it off. He has injured himself previously doing this.” 

Children with autism have a much lower pain threshold than others, so they inflict considerable harm to themselves, especially in circumstances where they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

This left Candice wondering if her children would likely need homeschooling.

“The deck is already stacked against these children, but now taking away PUF, they don’t stand a chance.”

COVID has exacerbated strained environment for special needs children

The COVID crisis has shown us the effects of physically separating children from one another and how it reinforces the crucial, everyday interactions for children.


Now imagine how a child would grow up if they were already struggling to fit in because of their physical or mental disability/delay. They no longer have the assistance to help them navigate the complex social interactions of life.

“The deck is already stacked against these children, but now taking away PUF, they don’t stand a chance,” Candice told me sadly. 

To add insult to injury, the current government is in full denial mode about this situation. When Candice asked the government about this situation, they claimed PUF and the other support programs are still in full swing. Technically, while accurate, PUF does exist. 

But here’s the catch, there are no Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists or Physical Therapists available; they have all been let go, and their program remains there only in name.

“It’s like an empty box, they have taken everything out and are giving my children an empty box to sit in,” explains Candice. 

Candice, like myself, is a card-carrying Conservative, who is Alberta born, bred and raised. Being politically active, she went to her local MLA, Brad Rutherford, for help. 

His response was, “I understand your concern, write to the Education Minister,” and redirected Candice’s inquiry elsewhere.

One doesn’t have to be a political expert to know that this phrasing means ‘go away.’

Despite the boilerplate answer, she followed his direction but was given the run around as the Minister’s staff said that the PUF program did exist, and that was the end of the conversation. When she contacted her MLA once again, the office staff made it clear that they no longer wished to speak to her.

“What do you want this time?” – MLA Staff

“What do you want this time?” asked one of the staff members when she called. Candice shared this wasn’t the only time she received rude service from the staff. The last time she called their office, she was placed on hold for 15 minutes. After that, she hung up and hasn’t tried again since. 

Candice puts it best when she told me that “This isn’t what we voted for.” You see, like many Albertans, Candice comes from an oil and gas family, and is proud of the prosperity bestowed by the oil and gas industry in Alberta. 

Despite this current government’s rhetoric about how much it loves oil, it has failed oil workers by failing to provide the absolute necessities. It has been unable to protect vulnerable Albertans to date.

This government has stated that its priority is to balance the budget, but in reality, it is passing the buck to future generations. For every dollar in preventative programs like PUF that we spend today, we save $7 in the future. That’s not even taking into account the economic costs for parents that now have to take considerable time off work to deal with a medical situation. 

In some situations, like in Candice’s case, she may have to give up her career as a teacher to take care of her children. For a single parent, this would be even worse.

“They’ve made it clear that children aren’t welcome,” states Candice bitterly as our meeting concludes. 

“This government has made it clear that it does not care about those most vulnerable in our society. It’s time to draw a line in the sand.”

“It’s time to tell this government that we elected a moral and ethical Conservative government, so its time it starts behaving like one. Otherwise, they may find themselves replaced from within by their membership.”

Karunesh Saroya

3 responses to “Conservatives, where are our morals?”

  1. Alyssia says:

    This is awful!! I hope Candice and her family are able to get some sort of assistance and MLAs need to start listening to their constituents otherwise what are they there for!

  2. Sara says:

    When millions of dollars got cut from PUF because of budgetary shortfalls but then three million dollars was found to finance private schools which are allowed to exclude children with disabilities it’s disheartening. Conservatives are passing through budgets to privatization for education, healthcare, and this leads the question—what next? When these policies are primarily affecting vulnerable Albertans, we do have to ask ourselves where has our morality gone as a party? So many fundamentalists are opposed to abortion but then these people are born into our province and abandoned completely. With some disabilities, like autism, they don’t even show up on scans—but the impact on families is huge. The need for support from both medical and education in early years is critical to later success. The government is playing a game of Russian roulette with our youth and subsequently, their families. Today’s youth, tomorrow’s power. The Conservative party needs to revisit their platform. These decisions aren’t fiscally conservative, they’re not morally conscious and the ethics are quite frankly disgusting. We don’t need a penny for our thoughts, we do need change. Leadership, MLA’s who listen and respond, and MP’s who stand up for Alberta in Ottawa. We have lost our way. We may have a blue tide, but we are drowning.

  3. Peter Richard says:

    Sorry, this is inadequate as news. Basic fairness in reporting requires that the writer attempt to contact the MLA in question to get his side of the story. While this story may in fact be accurate, and sounds plausible, the failure to corroborate anything leaves me the reader seeing this as one person’s perspective, only. So this is merely opinion, not news…