United Conservative Party leadership contender Travis Toews talks AHS decentralization in Coaldale with the town council standing by supportively (Photo: Screenshot of Toews campaign video/Facebook).

Still spinning fairy tales about Alberta Health Services’ leadership conspiring to sabotage the United Conservative Party government, leadership candidate Danielle Smith yesterday published a statement vowing to “decentralize control of health care delivery to local decision makers and health professionals.” 

UCP leadership frontrunner Danielle Smith, the former leader of the Wildrose Party (Photo: Facebook/Danielle Smith).

In the same release, the UCP frontrunner and former Wildrose Party leader claimed that “on Day 1, should I win this leadership race, I will … immediately hire a new, competent and capable Alberta Health Services CEO.”

If she meant that last bit, it suggests she already has someone in mind – and one can only hope it’s neither a naturopath nor a chiropractor! 

Whoever Ms. Smith hires and whenever she hires them, it’s likely to be a market-fundamentalist determined to privatize as much of AHS as fast as possible on the strength of Jason Kenney’s 2019 mandate, before the government has to face the electorate in a true democratic test.

The same day, former finance minister Travis Toews, who appears to be in second place in the contest to captain the UCP, appeared in a video with the Southern Alberta town of Coaldale’s council to argue that “the highly centralized decision-making structure in health care delivery, particularly through Alberta Health Services, is failing Albertans.”

He went on to say he believes AHS is also “failing front-line health care professionals, disengaging them from the front lines, not allowing them to make changes, make decisions, ensure our system is nimble and appropriate offering best delivery and most efficiency.”

Outgoing Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

So, he said, “we need to decentralize the decision-making structure.”

To give Mr. Toews some credit, his decentralization chatter left room for more nuance. He conceded, at least, that “I don’t pretend to have all the detailed solutions at the back end. …”

But he’s still allowing Ms. Smith to set the narrative, and the direction of the campaign. And Ms. Smith’s calls for decentralization are clearly tied to her hostility toward public health measures, her skepticism about vaccines, and her frequent enthusiasm throughout the pandemic for quack cures for COVID-19. 

Progressive Conservative premier Ed Stelmach’s government may have created AHS in 2009 for some of the wrong reasons – it was done at least partly to break the power of Calgary Health Region CEO Jack Davis.

But the vast if hard-to-estimate sums spent to create AHS gave Alberta purchasing power in world markets that undoubtedly helped the fight against COVID-19, and has allowed Alberta to spend less on health-care administration than any other provincial health care system on Canada. 

Progressive Conservative premier Ed Stelmach, whose government created AHS (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Inspired by such demonstrable successes, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have adopted a similar province-wide approaches.

The idea of now going on a spending spree to decentralize the whole thing again for ideological reasons and to appeal to the UCP’s anti-vaccination base is bonkers! 

But it’s easy to campaign by making big promises, and this one illustrates the Smith campaign’s characteristic reliance on confident claims that big and complex problems can be solved with snap-of-the-fingers ideological solutions.

It won’t work. You can take this to the bank: If Alberta ignores the cost-cutting and understaffing that is the real cause of Alberta Health Services’ failure to support health care staff and introduces more chaos and expense by decentralizing AHS, the morale of Alberta’s already demoralized health care workforce will collapse. 

Count on it, the instant audit and decentralization scheme promised by Ms. Smith will drive even more health care professionals from Alberta than the exodus we are now witnessing.

Bid to woo rural docs recruits only one physician 

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Meanwhile, the NDP Opposition revealed Monday that after nine months of operation, the UCP’s three-year, $6-million plan to recruit new doctors for rural communities facing medical staff shortages has so far only managed to recruit … wait for it … one physician. 

“The UCP has essentially failed to place a single new doctor through this program in 2022,” said NDP Health Critic David Shepherd in a news release. 

In fairness, it did manage to place a single new doctor. One. 

The reason, Mr. Shepherd suggested, “is that front-line health-care professionals know they cannot trust the UCP. Three years of hostility and threats and harassment is not going to be erased with a slightly different program.”

Justice minister publicly tells Human Rights Commission chief to resign

On Monday, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro publicly asked Alberta Human Rights Commission Chief Collin May to resign.

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Mr. Shandro’s statement to Alberta media came in response to an open letter published Monday by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and signed by 28 Alberta-based Muslim groups.

Despite attempting to engage with Mr. May about a book review he wrote in 2009 that included statements described as Islamophobic, the letter said, “it has become clear that Mr. May does not appear to be interested in taking accountability or ownership over his actions. For that reason we have no choice but to call for his resignation.”

“Even as Mr. May promised to engage with Alberta’s Muslim leaders to learn and reflect, we have learned that Mr. May has also been issuing demand letters threatening to sue his critics,” the letter also said. “This is simply unacceptable.”

The entire letter from the NCCM can be read here.

In a statement emailed to the CBC, Mr. Shandro’s press secretary said, “upon receiving the letter, Minister Shandro requested an explanation from Mr. May. … After reviewing the explanation, Minister Shandro has asked for Mr. May’s resignation.”

Since appointees to government boards, agencies and commissions serve at the pleasure of the government, asking them to resign is not strictly necessary. The UCP demonstrated this soon after it was elected in 2019, when it removed more than 20 members appointed by the previous NDP Government in a single day. 

But by framing Monday’s decision as he did, Mr. Shandro signalled to the Muslim community that he acknowledges and understands its members’ concerns.

Like the CBC, AlbertaPolitics.ca has received a letter from Mr. May threatening legal action regarding articles published about the book review controversy. 

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17 Comments

  1. UCP leadership candidates seem like addled monkeys who can’t help touching with the third rail of health care. If they keep doing this, they risk getting a nasty electoral shock. They have already made a mess of health care, so it would be wise for them to resist the temptation to mess with it furher, if they want to try escape blame for it.

    To be fair, it was their predecessor party the PC’s who spent millions on centralization that might not have ended up saving the government as much as hoped or worked as well as hoped. However, the real problem now with health care is at the front lines. Further disrupting management will not help there and may only make things worse.

    I agree that Smith seems to unfortunately be setting the agenda for the leadership race, however that does not mean she will win – just that she is shouting the loudest. If someone else does win they would be wise to forget most of her crazy ideas or throw them in the trash right away.

    Mr. Shandro seems to have had a change of heart on the human rights commission, or maybe he was forced to come to his senses. Either by circumstances or his soon to be departing boss, who despite many other flaws, seems to understand minority group politics better than many in his party. After going through several bad response to multicultural issues at the end of the Harper regime, like the Niquab ban, I doubt Kenney wants an embarrassing appointment to the Human Rights body to be his legacy.

  2. It’s quite clear that there is some shades of Ralph Klein going on with regards to healthcare in Alberta, and what the UCP has done with it, and with what these UCP leadership candidates plan to do with it. They are weakening it further, through severe cuts and negligence, just so they can make the excuse to privatize it. Danielle Smith thought that Ralph Klein was an amazing premier, and this is so far from the truth. The damage from Ralph Klein’s cuts to healthcare in Alberta are still evident today. What Ralph Klein did to healthcare in Alberta had almost cost people their lives, and in other instances, it did end people’s lives. The UCP has cost people their lives too, with the negligence in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, and putting further strain on the hospitals. AHS was also another scapegoat by the UCP for the Covid-19 pandemic problems in Alberta too. Dr. Deena Hinshaw was controlled and manipulated by the UCP, and they threw her under the bus, after the UCP’s Best Summer Ever campaign went into effect, in 2021. Dr. Verna Yiu is gone. The problems will be mounting. Ralph Klein’s cuts drove nurses out of Alberta, and also ended their jobs, after he laid so many of them off, and what he did, didn’t help doctors either. What the UCP has already done to doctors in Alberta, hasn’t been any good. If Danielle Smith were in power, in Alberta, and Pierre Poliveire were to become Prime Minister of Canada, it will be a very bad situation with healthcare. It will be Americanized, and private for profit. People in America know how bad it is with their healthcare system. We should never emulate that, but Ralph Klein didn’t care, and neither does the UCP, or Pierre Poliveire care about that.

    1. Anonymous People in Ontario are already whining about Doug Ford forcing them into a lot more privatization of health care just like we knew he would. His pal Jason Kenney is promising to do the same thing in Alberta. These phoney conservatives just have privatize everything they can and don’t care who it hurts. It’s in their DNA.

      1. Alan K. Spiller: Mike Harris, who is a good friend of Ralph Klein’s, caused the long term care facilities fiasco, by supporting private for profit long term care facilities. The bad policies of Mike Harris also cost people their lives. Afterwards, we saw what John Baird, Tony Clement, and Jim Flaherty accomplished in the CPC cabinet, which also cost people their lives. Doug Ford ‘s father also was in Mike Harris’ cabinet. Unfortunately, very few people voted in the last provincial election in Ontario, so he managed to secure another majority government. Shortly after that provincial election, there are people who are dissatisfied with what Doug Ford is doing. There’s an old saying. If you give someone an inch, they will take a mile. This is exactly what has happened in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, where these phony conservatives and Reformers were put into power. Go back to the UCP’s Blue Ribbon Panel. On that panel was Janice MacKinnon. Janice MacKinnon was a Liberal, turned NDP, who turned into a Reformer. She emulated Ralph Klein’s slash and burn policies, by closing down rural hospitals in Saskatchewan. This made matters worse in that province. The UCP wanted her on their Blue Ribbon Panel, just so they could find a way to privatize healthcare in Alberta. Look at what the UCP has done to doctors in rural Alberta. Janice MacKinnon had to rectify the damage that another phony conservative, Grant Devine, did in Saskatchewan. She went about it the wrong way, and it ensured the NDP’s defeat in Saskatchewan. Now, there has been more damage done in Saskatchewan, with phony conservative and Reformer premiers, Brad Wall and Scott Moe. We would never see this nonsense under Peter Lougheed or Bill Davis.

  3. Uh-huh, yup, just another day on the flats.

    What appears to be the sane end of this clown-car says, “I don’t pretend to have all the detailed solutions …”. Uh-huh, then just exactly what is he pretending?
    Fact is, even the sane and sober side of this nutjob party are massively incompetent. Ever since Klein stumbled outta the bar and into leadership of this group of yahoos, conservatives have been enthralled with incompetence; they prefer it, they promote it.
    I mean, you can say or do anything that sparks in that vast, empty cavern known as the conservative brain and you never have to prove it or even show any results. What’s not to like?

    As my friend Buggsy likes to say, “What a maroon!”

  4. Threats, lawsuits, chaos: the UCP way. It’s too bad Mr. May won’t be taking present and future UCP members of government with him when he packs his desk and heads for the exit, if he heads for the exit. It sounds like Tyler Shandro has made this entirely optional.

    It’s a shame the UCP live in a world of repeating past mistakes. Dissembling AHS and returning it to past shambles is unwise. I recall living in a place in Alberta that Travis Toews knows well. The locals on the health board put their eggs in in the diabetes basket. Great, you might think. You would be wrong. This meant that people who had heart attacks could only get the most basic emergency care, but had to leave the region to see a cardiologist. This was no small feat, especially in the winter. The region had a pediatrician, but parents were told their child could only see the doctor if the child had been diagnosed with cancer. Asthma was a big problem in the area. Families that couldn’t get a GP (rural Alberta) were out of luck. There were no walk-in clinics. People without doctors had to go to the hospital emergency room to renew prescriptions. What happens in a place like that is that members of the skilled, educated workforce decide not to move there. The ones transferred there don’t stay for long, and usually only on terms that cost more for their employers. Families with children have better options than living in a place with subpar services. Something to think about.

  5. “…and has allowed Alberta to spend less on health-care administration than any other provincial health care system on Canada.”

    8 years ago maybe, but now?

  6. Thank you, DC, “bonkers” is the right word. Toews and Smith are talking about re-decentralization because they don’t understand the complex problems of health care, and they suffer from the delusion, all too common among politicians, that restructuring is the solution. It’s not.

    1. To be fair to both Toews & Daniellezebub, breaking up AHS had been a plank in the old Wildrose Party’s platform in a previous election campaign – in the 2015 election, if memory serves. So there’s a certain degree of ideological consistency there, at least, since Dani had been a ‘Roser, and Toews might very well have been at the time.

      Again, if memory serves — no guarantee there lol — the NDP’s position on AHS in 2015 was that what the health care system needed most was stability, so it could focus more on the sharp end of providing patient care and less on navel-gazing, internal reorganization and restructuring. And, in fact, from the time they took office until they lost in 2019, that’s exactly what it had.

  7. Ah the state of politics in 2022, I don’t like the true things you said about me so I will sue you for defamation. How is that supposed to work if you’ve already publicly damaged your own reputation ?

    As far as health care goes, we are well past a well functioning system and I’m terrified of what they are going to do next.

    I have heard from many of my peers (and experienced myself) that walk ins are impossible right now across the city. If you need walk in medical care of any kind you are going to the hospital or you are going without.

    It’s almost like the government does have some ability to destroy the health care system in this province so they can claim it needs to be fixed by the private model. The UCP are lobbyists for private health care.

    1. I would like to see a law passed making it a federal crime for an elected official to receive medical care outside of Canada. Maybe our elected politicians would stop trying to destroy publicly funded health care if they knew they were going to need to access it themselves one day.

  8. Welcome back Dave, hope your travels went well. I think there is a typo in the title. I’m fairly sure “destroying” is not spelled “b-u-i-l-d-i-n-g” 😛

  9. The Conservative/Republican Pierre Poilievre and his many allies around the world Proclamation of Intent.

    The Real people desire: No pensions. No RCMP. No Environmental Protections. No science. The Liberal and NDP political parties deemed terrorist organizations. Lists will be made consisting of all who have supported the aforementioned terrorist organizations and they shall be dealt with, they shall be silenced and extinguished. No Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Extreme tax cuts for the wealthy. No gun restrictions. Open carry of all firearms. The death penalty for all capital crimes. Public hangings, the rack, decapitations. No EI. No national parks. No public health care. No funding for education. No bilingualism. No Indian Act. No bank of Canada. Book burnings. No public libraries. No CBC. No climate change initiatives (Climate change is a hoax according to conservatives) No abortions allowed. Only heterosexual people allowed to exist. No Transport Canada. No Canadian passports. No support for seniors. No support for the poor ( bring back the debtor’s prisons). No federal prison system (privatize the entire enterprise). No vaccines are acceptable. No tolerance. Austerity only. No charity. No generosity. No dignity. No decorum. No recognition of The Monarchy (No King Charles, no future or present monarch). No Charter of Rights. No minimum wage. No support for the Ukraine. Support for Putin and his allies. No United Nations. No WHO. For conservatives/republicans war is grand, good for the economy. No environment Canada. No First Nations. Only discord, disinformation, hopelessness, fear, anger, vitriol, on talk radio is pleasing to the conservative/republican ear. Everyone who does not subscribe to the intent of the above proclamation will be deemed outrageous, protester, ill, unhinged, not a team player, not worthy, not cooperative, unkind. Only fascist ideology is acceptable, full stop. Democracy, art, music, theatre, literature, sex, expression, are all Satan’s work according to conservative/republicans.

    The USA will be a dictatorship and theocracy when the Republicans take control in 2024. Alberta will be an autocratic republic when the UPC take control. Canada will become a dictatorship when Pierre takes control. Many people support populists, many billions worldwide. For these people, their future is almost guaranteed (the Rapture!)

    Everyone who is not a conservative/republican is expendable and they will die en mass much to the glee of every conservative/republican person in the world.

    1. Concerned Human appears to have the gift of foresight as Much of this either has, or threatens to manifest somewhere in the US, UK or other libertarian/neofascist “stronghold’. It needs reminding concerned readers of the existence of the IDU (Googleable), a certain Steven Harper’s current iteration from whence it is highly probable, policies, strategies and dirty tricks continue to originate. The CPC and ‘Mr. Skippy’, UCP and kenney, GOP and trump, amongst others, globally, are members of IDU and acolytes of the man ‘ behind the curtain’.

  10. All I can say is: “Reorganizing is a Wonderful Method for Creating the Illusion of Progress while Actually Producing Confusion, Inefficiency, and Demoralization”, which to me apparently has been the foundation of the UCP and many previous Conservative Governments since Peter Lougheed. Our modern take on this is: if you have no idea what to do, re-organize.

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