As long threatened, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party Government yesterday announced the end of Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s tenure as the province’s chief medical officer of health through the most difficult months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Was Dr. Hinshaw pushed or did she jump? Was there compensation over and above the terms of her contract to get her to go quietly? Or will she have to make do with the $277,911 in “cash benefits” she took home last year for her performance during the tough months of the pandemic in addition to her $363,634 salary?
These are excellent questions that may never be answered.
Will Dr. Hinshaw have anything to say? That remains to be seen.
Last summer Ms. Smith called for an investigation to “get to the bottom” of Dr. Hinshaw’s bonus. That too seems unlikely, since whatever it found could now be turned against Premier Smith’s government.
The government’s news release yesterday announcing the appointment of Dr. Hinshaw’s successor had almost nothing to say about her.
Health Minister Jason Copping thanked her “for her service and dedication through the past several years.” That was all.
Premier Smith was not quoted. She is known to revile Alberta’s pandemic leadership. Indeed, her hostile views were at the heart of her successful campaign to capture the leadership of the UCP after her allies in the Take Back Alberta anti-vaccination-mandate PAC forced out premier Jason Kenney last spring.
Mr. Copping’s news release went on to sing the praises of Dr. Hinshaw’s replacement as CMOH, Dr. Mark Joffe, an experienced and respected medicrat with Capital Health and Alberta Health Services for a quarter of a century.
Dr. Joffe trained in Calgary, is an infectious disease specialist, and is known to support sane public health measures such mandating the use of face masks when airborne infectious diseases are spreading.
One would have thought he’s just the kind of person Ms. Smith would not have wanted in the job.
His appointment took effect yesterday.
End of story? Not quite.
You see, there is another Dr. Joffe in Alberta.
Dr. Ari Joffe is a prominent pediatric infectious disease specialist and high-profile COVID contrarian, much beloved by the right-wing press.
In February, Dr. Ari Joffe contributed to a Postmedia op-ed claiming that “lockdowns caused severe collateral damage” and “masks may teach children to be afraid of their peers and themselves as vectors of disease, likely contributing to the mental-health crisis.”
“Canadian expert’s research finds lockdown harms are 10 times greater than benefits,” screeched a Toronto Sun headline last summer over a lovingly transcribed interview with the other Dr. Joffe.
The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples, a leading Danielle Smith cheerleader, praised Dr. Ari Joffe for “his significant contribution.”
Mr. Staples noted approvingly in a column that Ari Joffe signed the controversial Great Barrington Declaration, which called for allowing COVID-19 to rip through the population while isolating oldsters for their own good in hopes of achieving “herd immunity.”
Never mind that among the 15,000 experts said to have signed the declaration by clicking a button on its website were such esteemed figures as Dr. Johnny Fartpants and Professor Notaf Uckingclue.
So, as unlikely as it seems, the question must be asked: “Is there a chance that the Alberta government appointed the wrong Dr Joffe?”
So tweeted University of Alberta economist and frequent UCP critic Andrew Leach, setting off a lively and entertaining debate on the Twitter site, which otherwise seems to be foundering thanks to billionaire mismanagement.
“Which is more plausible?” Dr. Leach asked. “Smith wanted to appoint a covid contrarian with whom she consulted and who was cited by David Staples and others as evidence against covid restrictions. Or that she wanted to appoint an AHS exec who supported mask mandates and such measures?”
Surely the Smith government appointed the Dr. Joffe that they intended to appoint. Right?