Alberta’s shattered Tories have a tougher task ahead than the ‘inexperienced’ NDP

Posted on May 30, 2015, 1:25 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: A really smart guy tries to figure out a way back to power for Alberta’s post-Prentice Progressive Conservatives. Actual PC strategists may not appear exactly as illustrated. Doesn’t look like it’s going that well. Below: NDP Health and Seniors Minister Sarah Hoffman; Bill Moore-Kilgannon, her new chief of staff.

A lot of ink has been spilled lately on the lack of experience among Alberta’s New Democratic Party government caucus, but if you think about it, no one in the Legislature has a steeper learning curve ahead of them than the members of the shell-shocked third party, the once mighty Progressive Conservatives.

While supposedly inexperienced NDP ministers turn in some pretty credible first performances – I am thinking, for example, of Health and Seniors Minister Sarah Hoffman’s effective reassurances yesterday the government will end the chaos endemic to Alberta’s health care system – the 10 remaining Tories under interim leader Ric McIver seem to have been shocked into silence by the can of whup-ass they were handed May 5 by Alberta’s fed-up voters.

SARAH2But then, all the New Democrats have to do is learn how to govern – and they have a significant edge when it comes to health care because the policies they’ve been advocating from the get-go and still seem determined to implement stand a good chance of quickly and visibly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.

This is particularly true of the NDP plan to get on with the job of building long-term-care beds in the public sector, which every expert without an axe to grind has been saying for a decade is the key to swiftly easing access to acute-care and emergency room beds, which have become filled by what Tory insiders dismissively called “bed blockers” who needed desperately to be placed in long-term care.

The PC problem with this fairly obvious solution was that they were ideologically opposed to public-sector solutions and early on identified seniors’ care and long-term care as great places for stealthy privatization.

So New Democrats stand a far better chance of fixing the system’s worst problem quickly because they have no ideological blind spot about implementing the most obvious solution.

As for their roles in the Legislature, it’ll be easier for the government to answer questions if there’s no need to camouflage what they’re up to. Moreover, they’ll have less need to dodge and weave if the solutions they’re implementing seem to be working and cost about the same as what the previous government was doing – which is the likely prognosis.

As for the Tories, they’re going to have to learn how to be an opposition party – and not even the opposition party with pride of place in the Legislature – and that is going to be very hard indeed after nearly 44 years as the top legislative dogs of this province.

To do that, they’re going to require a degree of humility – which won’t come easily to a group of people who have been in charge for so long they started to think they were entitled to the perks

Regardless of what they tell themselves, the situation the PCs now face is that they will not automatically become the government again even if the NDP fails for some reason.

No, that will be the Wildrose Party, which the Tories thought they’d destroyed in former premier Jim Prentice’s devastatingly clever/devastatingly stupid takeover of the Wildrose caucus in December 2014.

Oh yeah, the Prentice PCs did make it pretty hard for the Wildrose Party to recover in time for the election, which they called soon after for May 5, but they did so by adopting a manoeuvre that disgusted and offended voters, they thereby opened the door a crack to an NDP victory.

Premier Rachel Notley kicked it the rest of the way open on April 23 with her commanding performance in the televised leaders’ debate.

So even if the NDP eventually fails, the way is not clear for the PCs to return. They can only supplant the Wildrose as Alberta’s “government in waiting” – the traditional theoretical role of the opposition, which the NDP has just proved doesn’t require a huge caucus – if they give voters a reason to vote for them.

That’s going to be tough when their own loyalists are throwing up their hands and wondering, “Why bother?”

Under Mr. Prentice’s deeply flawed leadership, the Tories spent the last months of their long reign giving voters many reasons to doubt their sanity, let alone their competence, and additional reasons to fear what they would do to health care and education if left in power.

So to survive as a political entity, they’re going to have to reinvent themselves as a political movement that gives voters a compelling reason to support them.

That, it’s said here, is going to be a far harder task than the challenge faced by the reputed dilettantes in the NDP caucus.

Bill Moore-Kilgannon named health minister’s chief of staff, likely among first of many

Ms. Hoffman will be ably assisted in her efforts by her new chief of staff, Bill Moore-Kilgannon, who until last week had served for more than a decade as the executive director of Public Interest Alberta, a vocal and effective advocate of public services.

BMKAs PIA head, probably no one in Alberta was better at getting the media out to respectfully cover a news conference than was Mr. Moore-Kilgannon, a talent that may help him in his new position as well. No matter how small the town, he also always seemed to be able to get out a crowd for a town-hall meeting.

Before playing a key role in founding PIA back in 2004, Mr. Moore-Kilgannon was campaigns and communications director of the Council of Canadians in Ottawa and served as a spell as the director of the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta.

The big surprise to me was that Mr. Moore-Kilgannon didn’t run himself in the last election. Regardless, he is one of the first in what is likely to become a serious drain of brains and talent from progressive civil society groups in Alberta to the political level of the NDP government. This, of course, will create many opportunities for bright young progressives.

Brad Lafortune, late of the Alberta Federation of Labour, is now working in the premier’s office, and judging from his Facebook postings, AFL researcher Tony Clark now has a chief-of-staff-type office with a nice view not unadjacent to the offices of Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir.

There are others, and there will doubtless be many more.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

10 Comments to: Alberta’s shattered Tories have a tougher task ahead than the ‘inexperienced’ NDP

  1. Noether Loon

    May 30th, 2015

    My then seven year old daughter was looking very sad one day. When I asked her what was wrong, she burst into tears and stated ‘my whole world’s changed, and it’s never going back!’. I hope that the remnants of the PC’s can come to terms with this truth and develop as well as my daughter did.

    Perhaps they might grow up to become NDP’ers like she did.

    Reply
  2. TC

    May 30th, 2015

    There might be another serious issue that the PCs will face in the next legislature: none of their criticisms of the Government will be taken seriously. In the next Legislature, when the PCs, as an opposition party, make any criticism of the Government, it’ll be quickly brushed off with “if your idea is better, why didn’t you do it when you were in power?”

    There will be great leeway given to the NDP Government, given that the party had 4 MLAs in the previous Legislature, and nobody else had governing experience for the last 44 years. However, I hope that the NDP knows that there’s a difference between being in opposition and governing, and certainly campaigning and governing, as their moral high ground will be disappearing quickly. I hope that Rachel Notley doesn’t turn into people such as Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa: people who achieved heroic status as oppositions, but aren’t remembered for being capable leaders once in power.

    Reply
    • TC

      May 31st, 2015

      Just to add onto the problem facing the PCs…I think this problem won’t go away until a new generation of PC MLAs become the face of the party, ones that have nothing to do with the “dynasty”.

      Reply
  3. Eric Cameron

    May 30th, 2015

    David, you are almost always on the mark, but you knocked this one out of the park.

    Reply
  4. May 30th, 2015

    Bill Moore-Kilgannon is an excellent choice for chief of staff for Sarah Hoffman. Bill is a very nice guy, helpful and encouraging. When my handicapped sister was evicted from the Good Samaritan Extended care at Millwoods because I yapped about her negligent care at the facility (which has been confirmed for two major adverse events by the Protection for People in Care folks)–he helped our family. I went to Mr. Mandel who was the then PC MLA for my area and he was too busy to help me. My other sister, Sue, went to the PC MLA for her area in Riverview and he was not helpful. He yapped about the Trespass Law that is very bogus in my mind in terms of its use in censorship of advocates in continuing care. Steve Young had been involved in the development of the Trespass Law that offers no sort of appeal process for the folks who are given violation tickets; the authority that issues the violation ticket does not have to provide a reason for the ticket; there are no time limits for the banning from the site and it is basically being used by continuing care providers to silence families. The Trespass Law is being used by continuing care providers to harm the ability of families to advocate for their kin. The case of Shauna McHarg is heart-breaking and should not have ever happened. We need to ensure that families are not being harmed in the provision of services to family members.

    This is the sort of junk that families who raise legitimate concerns are faced with in the continuing care system in Alberta. If you yap about problems you can be silenced by banning. If you keep yapping you can be ignored as I was. There was no responses to my complaints, nothing was done and no adverse event protocol was followed. They refused to provide information about my handicapped sister for a part of the period of silence even though my sister had given permission. All sorts of junk will be done by the private continuing care provider to ensure that they protect themselves from exposure for poor practices and failures to comply with the standards of care.

    In addition for the banning of advocates to shut us up plus the arbitrary evictions of residents for no damn reason other than to punish them for their advocate’s yapping, there is the inappropriate use of EMS to transport the evicted to the hospital. Why are ambulances used to transport stable residents for dumping? Good question. I guess this is standard practice at AHS. The resident is dumped at the hospital after a facility decides to dump her. The reason for the dumping was provided by a note in my sister’s medical file. The CEO was annoyed about the yapping I did on my blog. So Julie’s mummy blog was the reason for the dumping. Wow.

    At the hospital, you have the newly formed continuing care team that is supposed to be working for us, accept the continuing care provider’s eviction and banning business. This continuing care team along with Patient Relations at AHS are basically there to ensure that there is no adverse publicity for AHS. The entire health care system is designed to hide problems rather than solve them. The entire AHS group is about publicity management rather than helping citizens. The strategy in the past was to ensure that none of this junk got out to the public.

    The policy of “moving forwards” is begun as soon as the resident and family are in this new situation. I mean I haven’t heard of any ordinary citizen in society being evicted in this way and so I was pretty surprised.

    Bill helped our family to realize that this sort of junk is permitted in continuing care. Apparently there is no sort of landlord tenant legislation protecting residents in long term care other than the Nursing Act and the regulations associated with it that no one follows.

    No one follows the requirements of the Nursing Act for an appeal process for evictions or disputed transfers because apparently no one before the Ali family has asked for an appeal.So odd. Can you believe this? No one has asked for an appeal before. At least this is how I think it is. When I asked Legal Counsel at AHS about the appeal process that is required by law, the answer was that they cannot disclose the information if there is an appeal process. What the heck? The Legal Counsel doesn’t know if they have an appeal process? This seems to indicate that there never was an appeal process and families were never told of this option. If this was the case, this represents a failure of AHS and the previous health regions. I mean how will families know if there is an appeal process unless they are given the information that there is an appeal process option? I had to find out there was this option by writing to Alberta Health. The folks at Alberta Health then told us we have the option of an appeal process.

    So anyway the folks at AHS seemed surprised that we want to go this route but they sent something to the Mandel guy to substitute for an appeal process. The Mandel guy ignored the need for approval of this policy/procedure that would permit my sister to appeal her unjust eviction.

    The election then happened. Mandel got booted. And here we are. There is nothing in place still– to appeal my sister’s unjust eviction. There is nothing in place for me to appeal my unjust banning for blogging about my sister’s incompetent care.

    I am not even sure if I am banned. At the board meeting we went to — the upper manager told me I was banned after my sister was evicted as if this made it all better. What the heck? I”m still banned whether they ban me while my sister is at the Good Samaritan Extended care at Millwoods or after she is evicted from the facility. Banning is banning. Then when we made FOIP requests for the data on the audits by AHS of the facility to the Good Samaritan Society– the letters all seemed to indicate confusion over the banning business. The folks at the Good Samaritan Society ask for written confirmation of my banning. Don’t the folks at the Good Samaritan Society understand that a verbal banning (that we have a voice mail of on the PIA site) is just as good as a letter or violation ticket? So odd. The entire situation is becoming Kafkaesque.

    Where are we now? I guess we are in the bog of AHS. The messes continue at Alberta Health where we are told to listen to AHS which tells us to wait for Alberta Health. The circular maze is amazing. I guess our situation is an object lesson to all blogging mummies. Be careful what you investigate, be careful what you expose, be careful of the complaints you make because you will be banned and your family member punished in this very despicable fashion.

    In my mind, all this junk must end pronto. An appeal process must be in place for evictions, disputed transfers and banning. This sort of illegal junk should end.

    I also believe the privatization of continuing care has failed and should stop ASAP. The continuing care privatization should stop because we have no evidence it is better or any cheaper than public continuing care provision. There is no evidence to me that privatization has been anything other than a disaster for the most vulnerable citizens. I mean if you are able to manage for the most part, you might be fine in such places but if you are very handicapped you are pretty much at the mercy of whoever is in charge of such places.

    At the Good Samaritan Extended Care at Millwoods, I have no evidence that there were appropriate protocols in place for complaint resolution or for dealing with adverse events. I don’t know if there was an adverse event protocol in place or if anything was done after the first adverse event to ensure that the second adverse event would not occur.

    Both adverse events involved suffering for my sister, a hospital stay at the ICU or a visit to emergency. The taxpayers end up paying for the negligence of private continuing care providers. They also end up paying for the housing of residents unjustly evicted from such facilities. My handicapped sister is now on week 15, day 99 of her stay at the Grey Nuns Hospital. She should be at her room at the Good Samaritan extended care at Millwoods. Taxpayers are forced to pay for the evicted resident because AHS tells us they have no power to force the private continuing care provider to have the resident at the facility while the appeal process is initiated (in our case, they have to first develop the appeal process and we have been told that this could take years).

    So taxpayers pay when adverse events occur in private continuing care facilities that are not appropriately managed or even dealt with at all. Why are we then bothering to do the private route? The Master Service Agreements are useless since they can’t prevent hissy fits of the administrators and such punitive acts. The Legal Counsel at Alberta Health has not asked for third party liability reimbursement in any of these cases as far as I can tell. This sort of action should be automatic in my mind. Alberta Health needs to ask private continuing care providers to pay for the costs of negligence, failures to deal with the problems at their facilities that result in continued negligence and provide all this information (audits, costs incurred to the public, money reimbursed to the public) on the Alberta Health website. In addition, families need to be fully informed about resident rights and continuing care policies/ procedures because sure as lawns have dandelions, AHS will not tell you anything. If you ask them questions, minimal answers will be provided. You will find out once you enter this AHS bog. There is chatter until you feel your head will explode but no significant information is provided to you becuase this is how AHS likes the situation to be. An ignorant citizen is a citizen who will be moved along. I hate to think how vulnerable residents without advocates fare in the continuing care system in Alberta.

    We need the policy/procedure manual for continuing care available to us. There is no information about resident rights on the AHS website. When I ask for this information I am told to FOIP it. This information about the Continuing Care policies and procedures is on the Health website for the government of Saskatchewan. When I ask why they can’t do the same thing here, AHS tells me that we are not living in Saskatchewan and this is why they cannot post information on their website. This is ridiculous.

    I hope that Bill will help the folks at Alberta Health understand that citizens are tired of this junk. We are so tired of it we have fired the last group of incompetent hires. We will not be voting for the PCs ever again. The dinosaur party is now just a Badlands memory. These dinosaurs need to have all their failures publicized so that we have a record of their incompetence for future elections. The Hansard record needs to be studied so that we can all publish this record for all of us.

    In the meantime, we need change at Alberta Health so that we have AHS doing the job it is not doing. I don’t know why AHS thinks it can do whatever it wants to do. It cannot. Citizens provide input to government. Government follows our requirements. If the government does not follow our requirements we change government. I hope all the political parties are now clear on who are the employees and who are the employers.

    In the area of continuing care there is a dearth of information that should be put out ASAP. We need all the information on the Alberta Health website, we need an appeal process for evictions, inappropriate transfers of any type and for banning. We need a respectful relationship of private care providers for the most vulnerable handicapped citizens. Why was my handicapped sister treated like garbage and destabilized from her routines by dumping at the hospital? Why did continuing care at AHS allow this dumping (they were told two days in advance of the dumping)? Why did AHS not do its job in ensuring an appeal process was in place? Why do we pay for all these talking heads and yet my sister is still stuck in the Grey Nuns Hospital? This is all such a travesty of good governance by the PCs who tolerated this junk by saying citizens should follow the rules and staff / resident safety was the issue. The PCs were so good at the blaming of advocates so that none of these failures to meet the standards of care got the public scrutiny that was required. Why for example to the newspapers in Alberta not publish this sort of information on my handicapped sister? Will they publish the eviction and banning case only when the Alberta Health Audit, the AHS respiratory Audit and the Protection for Persons in Care report are finalized? Or will her case be put away as if it never happened? The media failures to report on the condition of our most vulnerable citizens is shameful and should end. The media folks need to put as much attention on the seniors as they put on children who are dying in care. If I was reporting on a case in a daycare, there would be plenty of reporting by the media but because I am reporting on a vulnerable handicapped woman in continuing care, there is only silence by the established newspapers. In contrast to local media, CBC has done a decent article on my sister.

    If the NDP are building facilities for long term care residents my advice is to make them all public spaces. I would even end the grants to private developers who are not able to provide these services to citizens appropriately; profits must be made. Even the non-profits are having problems as evidenced by my sister’s case. The CEO told the board that they were losing money with the respiratory program at this facility. Was the loss of cash a good enough reason to dump my sister? If so, what about the other ten respiratory residents at the facility? Was my sister alone responsible for the losses of the Good Samaritan Society? In any case, there was specialized supports provided for her care; AHS provided a respiratory LPN for the facility and yet they still decided to dump her. So why even go the private route?

    I would even say that without the presence of AHS nurse practitioners teaching staff how to do their jobs— at most of these private facilities, you will have failures because there aren’t enough staff or the staff do not have specialized training that might be required. If we have to put AHS folks at these sites on an intermittent basis whenever families rise up in revolt to yap to media about these problems that go on for years–why even bother to go private?

    I am hoping Bill will turn off the tap for private continuing care in Alberta. I am hoping that there will be respect returned to the system where advocates are treated fairly–as the early alarm system we form. I am hoping that resident dumping ends. Contracts should be terminated if continuing care providers in the private sector go this route. It is extremely disrespectful and harmful for vulnerable residents who depend on routine and security for maintenance of their health. I am hoping that the Trespass Law will be speedily amended. I am hoping that we will consider the least among us because we are all going to end up old, sick and handicapped like these folks one day. And then will you all start to yap as I am yapping now? When it is one of your own–will you then –ask for change?

    Reply
    • K. Larsen

      May 31st, 2015

      My mother suffered in one of those ‘not-for-profits’ until we were lucky enough to get her moved to a public facility where she was well cared for in a well staffed, decent, and clean facility. They cannot close down the private and the not-for-profit care homes fast enough for me. Public is the only humane way to go.

      Reply
  5. political ranger

    May 30th, 2015

    “all the New Democrats have to do is learn how to govern”

    Unfortunately, and fatally so, if the point is not acted on, this is just the second order of business for our new NDP government.

    We don’t expect just governance, but ‘good governance’ from this group; we had a team over the last couple generations who were able to govern, incompetently and only in favour of their corporate masters.
    No, we want and need good governance. Of the kind that one typically expects from a left of centre government. But to get to that operation, good governance, the Notley crew is going to have to clear out an awful lot of debris from the previous operation. Incompetent and even criminally negligent employees, archaic, contradictory and confused policies, corporate friendly and civilly toxic practices; a gargantuan list of house-cleaning tasks that need to be successfully completed before actual ‘good’ progressive, sane and rational policies can be set that add up to the governance we expect.

    It’s one thing to decide to spend more money on a bankrupt education system or to spend more money to help more sick and elderly people. It’s another thing entirely to earn more money to fund these projects.
    Alberta has been funding the interests of foreign, and local, shareholders for a long, long time. Money is fungible and limited; there is only one pie, regardless of which slice you take there is less leftover for the others. There exists a huge, well-entrenched and largely opaque system of wealth transfer, from public resources to private hands, that will not easily or quietly retire. If we, the people, want more of that money to fund social goods we will have to stop giving some or all of it away to others.
    As I said, before you start to govern for the good, you have to stop doing the bad practices.

    An NDP victory in the polls does not mean the war is won; it means only that the war has been declared. And war it will be.

    Reply
  6. prairie observer

    May 30th, 2015

    There is a causal chain of events that occurred in the Alberta PC dynasty that began with Premier Redford, who had no idea of how her antics would help to so quickly end her polictical career. Her terrible political instincts would precipitate a search fo a new leader, who would also have a political tin ear.

    The poor political tactics of Premier Prentice appear to have been finally enough to give Alberta voters the conviction to finally banish the PC regime in Alberta. For helping to create this chain of events the new NDP administration should be sending Ms Redford a whole room full of floral displays and gift baskets.

    As for the long term care bed issue for seniors, Ms. Notley’s government should look to Saskatchewan for another example of how not to do things. (Hint: search for facts behind the Oliver Lodge care home in Saskatoon, and the
    Santa Marie home in Regina.)

    Reply
  7. Raj

    May 31st, 2015

    “This is particularly true of the NDP plan to get on with the job of building long-term-care beds in the public sector, which every expert without an axe to grind has been saying for a decade is the key to swiftly easing access to acute-care and emergency room beds, which have become filled by what Tory insiders dismissively called “bed blockers” who needed desperately to be placed in long-term care.”

    It’s not clear to me that “every expert” is advocating this. While most probably believe more care beds is a good idea, many recoil at the way health providers believe that this is panacea of health care reform. The issue is that creating more beds (either acute beds or continuing care beds) is equivalent to trying to fix traffic congestion with more highways. Countries like Denmark have reduced the need for continuing care beds by increasing support for seniors in the community–they are even closing continuing care beds now because there is no demand. Advanced care planning is important too–it is sad when patients with dementia so severe they can no longer ambulate or communicate are giving life prolonging therapy that their younger selves may have never wanted under those circumstances. Furthermore, hospitals have adapted to having these “waiting for transfer” patients around–these low needs patients end up effectively subsidizing the higher needs patents. There are units in hospitals with these patients that have nursing ratios of 20 to 1–these units could never handle acute patients. Of course, you could hire more nurses, but that requires even more money–once again contributing to the endless upward spiral of healthcare spending. The problem is that the NDP does not recognize these sending increases as a problem, or they attribute it to “high priced executives,” when money spent on administration in AHS is actually the only area in health care that Alberta spends less than the national mean.

    “The PC problem with this fairly obvious solution was that they were ideologically opposed to public-sector solutions and early on identified seniors’ care and long-term care as great places for stealthy privatization.”

    Private sector LTCs have been a disaster with poor care, but this isn’t the reason for long wait times for care spaces. Can you name one liberal or NDP government in Canada that has been able to eliminate these wait times? The problem isn’t neo-liberal ideology–the problem is that in almost every way the Canadian healthcare system fails at trying to match supply to never ending demand, rather than trying to control the demand side of the equation.

    Reply

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