“It was a kick in the teeth. I couldn’t believe it,” said Lia Lousier, the mother to nine-year-old Braeden.
At least six United Conservative Party MLAs travelled abroad over the holidays, despite warnings from both the province and federal government not to travel. Three of their staffers also left Canada.
Braeden has Hajdu-Cheney syndrome, an extremely rare condition that affects many of his organs, bones, and cognitive abilities. He was born in November 2011 and has struggled with health issues his entire life.
“He’s been through major heart surgery, he’s been through major abdominal surgery,” Lousier said.
“Basically the easiest way to put it is, he has a quirk with every major organ in his body.”
Braeden has suffered through many setbacks, including multiple hospitalizations, infections, strokes, and seizures. He is not expected to live to be a teenager.
The family was set to visit Hawaii in 2020 thanks to the Make-A-Wish foundation, after Braeden’s hospitalizations stabilized in the year before.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the family from completing their planned wish. Lousier said Braeden’s physicians have said he would likely not survive if he contracted COVID-19.
“The risk is just too much,” Lousier said. “We don’t know when we’ll be able to travel next. So it’s more or less trying to figure out something else to do for his wish.”
While the family was crushed over the cancellation of the dream vacation, Lousier said the recent controversy revealing Alberta government officials travelled over the holidays has turned devastation into anger.
“To know that [politicians are] basically thumbing their noses, maintaining their own family traditions — to go to Hawaii, was just over the top,” Lousier said.
“So many people made so many sacrifices, so why was it okay?”
While the six MLAs — including former minister of municipal affairs Tracy Allard, who went to Hawaii — have now been reprimanded and removed from ministerial or cabinet committee roles, Premier Jason Kenney did not initially call for sanction.
On Friday, Kenney said instead that he was issuing a new, “clear directive” for officials not to travel.
But it didn’t quell the outrage. Over the weekend, there was anger throughout the province, with people across the political spectrum calling for action. The #ResignKenney hashtag trended on Twitter for several days as Albertans demanded there be consequences.
“It just scares me how out of touch with the people that [the UCP] are,” Lousier said. “The fact that it’s believed there is a second set of rules for our government.
“It’s really sad to see — and it’s infuriating to see.”
She added the family is working on another idea for Braeden’s wish, like a swim spa or something similar. But the loss of the memories that could have been can’t be fixed, Lousier said.
“Braeden loves the ocean, has always loved the ocean,” she said. “When we would go out west to visit family, even before he was crawling, he would lay on the sand and just roll, and laugh uproariously.
“I feel very hurt. We can’t afford to go to Hawaii. I probably will never be able to afford to go to Hawaii with three kids.”
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