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Petition to eliminate parking fees at hospitals comes to Calgary

A cancer patient, fighting to eliminate parking fees at hospitals and treatment facilities across the country, has brought his petition to Calgary.

Collin Kennedy started the petition after his mom spent $600 on parking in six weeks

Winnipeg cancer patient Collin Kennedy describes the grounds for ending parking fees for sick people and their loved ones in Canada. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

A cancer patient, fighting to eliminate parking fees at hospitals and treatment facilities across the country, has brought his petition to Calgary.

Collin Kennedy started the petition in July — which is sponsored by Winnipeg-Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette and has garnered more than 4,000 online signatures so far — after his mother was forced to spend nearly $600 in parking fees while visiting him during a six-week hospital stay last year after he suffered a collapsed spine.

Collin Kennedy started the petition in July after his mother was forced to spend nearly $600 in parking fees while visiting him during a six-week hospital stay last year after he suffered a collapsed spine. 3:42

"I didn't find out about that until a couple months later," he said.

"I was floored when I heard how much it cost her and I said, 'there's something wrong with this.'"

In Alberta, no tax dollars are spent on maintaining or building parking infrastructure at hospitals and treatment facilities.

"All our parking facilities are required to be self-sustaining," said Steve Rees, a senior program officer with Alberta Health Services. "Healthcare funding itself is not used to support parking facilities."

As a result AHS must charge for parking in order to maintain the facilities, Rees said. But he says help is available for those who can't afford to pay — on a case-by-case basis. 

Alberta Liberal Party Leader Dr. David Swann said he's "torn" on the issue. 

"I can see both sides of it very well," he said. "One way or the other, the public is going to have to pay for parking, either through our taxes as general revenue for hospitals and hospital parking, or it's going to be shared with those who actually use the parking."

Swann said there's a need for "creative thinking" on the subject.

"There are lots of options, especially for those with low income," he said. "We could be thinking about one-hour free parking, to ensure that people at least can get some visiting and some services completed and then start the toll."

"The other option is to have a tax deduction associated with parking at hospitals," Swann suggested.

Kennedy's petition calls on Ottawa to enforce the Canada Health Act to ensure "adequate cost-free" parking for patients and caregivers at medical facilities and, in cases where metered parking isn't removed, that there's a way to identify those using the spots for medical visits "regardless of the duration."

The petition will be open for signatures until Nov. 24 at 6:29 a.m. (MT).

Collin Kennedy used spray foam to disable a parking meter near the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg where he gets his treatment. He says the fees have increased and are a tax on the sick. 0:36

Kennedy has gone so far as to fill the coin and credit card slots on some parking meters at a Winnipeg hospital with spray foam to render them unusable.

"I'm quite a motivated person," he said.

"I was told when I first got diagnosed, I would live probably no more than seven years. That was 17-and-a-half years ago, this year I will get to see my son graduate grade 12. It's amazing what modern medicine has done."

Kennedy has had multiple myeloma — cancer that affects plasma cells — since 1999.

With files from Dan McGarvey