Alberta appoints new deputy minister of health to replace department’s controversial former top civil servant

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PHOTOS: Milton Sussman, Alberta’s new Deputy Minister of Health, as president and CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (Photo: CBC). Below: His controversial predecessor, Carl Amrhein, whose last day of employment with the Alberta Government was Friday (Photo: Government of Alberta).

The Alberta government has appointed a new deputy minister to oversee the province’s $20-billion-plus Ministry of Health.

The appointment of Milton Sussman by order of the provincial cabinet yesterday was noted in a 23-word Order-in-Council notice published on the government’s website today.

As of the close of business today, however, there had been no official statement about the appointment of Mr. Sussman, a former senior health official who held several important posts in Manitoba, as the senior civil servant in the department.

Mr. Sussman’s official biography from his previous position, as president and chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority for much of the the past two years, says he earlier served as Manitoba’s deputy minister of health and healthy living and as vice-president of long-term care and Chief Allied Health Officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

In addition, says the biography, which remains on the WRHA website, he was Manitoba’s Clerk of the Executive Council and Cabinet Secretary. Early in his career, Mr. Sussman was the Chief Executive Officer of Ten Ten Sinclair Housing, a Winnipeg-based not-for-profit organization delivering a transitional housing program for people with physical disabilities.

Last year, the Winnipeg Free Press rather uncomfortably suggested that Mr. Sussman was both “walking the razor’s edge” and “waist-deep in what be one of the most intriguing and important political debates this province has ever seen” – to wit, the desire of Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Pallister, elected in May 2016, to cut health care costs. In late June, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority announced it had parted ways with Mr. Sussman.

Mr. Sussman’s predecessor as Alberta’s deputy minister of health, Carl Amrhein, resigned in early September amid extensive coverage by CBC Edmonton about his and the department’s relationship with Pure North S’Energy Foundation, a private Calgary-based organization that championed a controversial alternative health treatment involving high doses of vitamins.

The CBC reported that Dr. Amrhein had a relationship with Pure North that went back to when he worked as the Conservative government’s appointed Administrator of Alberta Health Services – essentially acting as a one-man board for the province-wide health care agency – and before that to when he was provost of the University of Alberta.

Last summer, the CBC said, Alberta Health cancelled the remaining portion of a $4.2-million grant to Pure North, which was said by the broadcaster to have been more than $3 million.

No mention of Dr. Amrhein’s relationship to Pure North was made when it was announced he was resigning as health DM to become provost and vice-president of the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. His last day as Deputy Minister was to have been Friday. His official biography remained on the Government of Alberta Website this afternoon.

Categories Alberta Politics