Alberta Premier Danielle Smith at a news conference, although not Wednesday’s newser (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

On Tuesday, both the United Nurses of Alberta and the Alberta Medical Association’s Section of Emergency Medicine sent letters to Chief Medical Officer of Health Mark Joffe urging him to implement temporary mask mandates and take other measures to reduce the wave respiratory infections battering children’s hospitals in Alberta.

United Nurses of Alberta President Heather Smith (Photo: United Nurses of Alberta).

On Wednesday at a news conference, the actual decider about public health matters, Premier Danielle Smith, delivered her response: forget about it. 

The letter from UNA President Heather Smith, which was also addressed to Premier Smith and Health Minister Jason Copping, implored the government “for the sake of Alberta’s children, and all Albertans” to “cease treating this situation as if it were a political inconvenience and address it immediately as the public health crisis that it is.”

“The simplest and most effective policy change that could be implemented immediately would be an indoor mask mandate to reduce the spread of influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus,” Heather Smith wrote. “However, even a strong statement acknowledging that wearing masks in indoor public spaces and limiting the size and number of public gatherings attended this holiday season could have a beneficial effect.” 

Stating that the current situation “has become truly dire,” the letter to Dr. Joffe from Dr. Arun Abbi, president of the AMA’s Section of Emergency Medicine, and Dr. Warren Thirsk, president-elect, urged the CMOH to immediately implement seven recommendations. These included the mask mandate, better air filtration in schools, and more messaging saying influenza and COVID-19 vaccines are safe. 

“There is a very real cost to not acting immediately,” they warned. “The cost will be paid by the increased suffering of many Albertans, including our vulnerable children …” Not to mention health care workers, they added. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mark Joffe (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“We are extremely concerned that without strong public health mitigation strategies, the suffering will worsen, preventable deaths will occur, and we may see our workforce attrition continue to the point where safe and timely acute care is no longer available to many Albertans.”

Premier Smith was having none of it. 

Responding to a question from a reporter about the UNA letter during Wednesday’s news conference, she started with a pro forma declaration of her respect for nurses, but soon made it clear that didn’t mean she was going to listen to what they had to say. 

“I always appreciate the input from our front-line workers,” she summed up, “but we do support choice.”

That is, of course, the choice to infect others with a dangerous ailment if, basically, you feel like it. That is what the United Conservative Party base and the Take Back Alberta group that now controls the party demand, after all. 

Former Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

So, “the best current scientific evidence, recently endorsed by our Pediatric Speciality colleagues,” as Doctors Abbi and Thirsk put it, will be ignored. 

Premier Smith didn’t bother to answer Heather Smith’s request, mentioned by the reporter in her question, for Dr. Joffe to make an appearance and speak for himself about the current crisis. 

But why not? She has already made it clear through her dismissal of Dr. Joffe’s predecessor, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, that chief medical officers of health who do their jobs and express opinions other than those of the government will not be in their positions for long. 

The news conference at which Premier Smith made these comments was called to tell the public not to worry about Emergency Medical Services, which seem to be in a state of chaos at the same time as the province’s children’s hospitals, because they’ll soon be augmented by “non-clinical transports for patients who do not require medical support during transport.”

In fact, Alberta Health Services does this now, with properly equipped and professionally driven vans for non-emergency patient transfers. So the idea cannot be dismissed out of hand. 

But what Premier Smith, Health Minister Copping, AHS Administrator John Cowell and other officials trotted out for the news conference and press release in many cases appears to be dumping recovering patients into taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and telling them to make their own way home. 

Like the proverbial penny, Lyle Oberg is back

Like that proverbial penny, Lyle Oberg is back again. 

Former Alberta larnin’ minister Lyle Oberg (Photo: Linked-In).

An Order in Council yesterday named Dr. Oberg, who will be 63 in 18 days, as a public member of the council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta until Dec. 20, 2025.

A physician by profession, Dr. Oberg is best known as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Strathmore-Brooks who was named minister of education (styled, in those days, minister of larnin’) by Ralph Klein in 1999. During his tenure in that job, teachers were awarded a 14-per-cent pay increase but school boards only got a 6-per-cent funding increase, proving again that for Conservatives math can be hard. No matter, untroubled, Premier Ed Stelmach later made him minister of finance.

In 2006, Dr. Oberg was kicked out of the PC Caucus for failing to urge party members in his riding to support Mr. Klein’s leadership review. He was readmitted three months later.  

Dr. Oberg dropped out of politics in 2008 and, in 2011 announced he was unhappy with the creation of Alberta Health Services and publicly quit the PCs, transferring his loyalties to the Wildrose Party, then led by Danielle Smith. 

He later worked for a cannabis production company. 

NOTE: I hope readers will forgive me if I take a few days to relax over the winter holiday. A Merry Christmas to all! AlbertaPolitics.ca will be back soon … possibly sooner than I expect if something really crazy happens in the next few days. 

Join the Conversation

37 Comments

  1. Of course, one would have to be a complete moron to not realize that the entire UCP caucus and their staffers have blown out of Alberta for better places – meaning those locations that are warmer and respiratory infection free. Being abandoned during a public health crisis should be routine for Albertans by now. It’s not like those that govern the province have any interest in the welfare of Albertans. I mean the votes are welcome, but they’re all welcome to die off after the election.

    This seems to be a habit among the CONs. They let crisis after crisis rip through Alberta, providing nothing in the way of safeguards or leadership, preferring to tell everyone to grab their bootstraps and hang on. I remember during my long-gone RPC days, there was this one guy who believed he was the epitome of self-reliance and individualism. Yes, he was always the first one to display and speak of his extraordinary fount of knowledge, declaring himself to be the perfection of masculine wisdom and all those things that make the truly the sterling man. Of course, he always kept his hair dyed black hair bizarrely shiny, as though to distract from the fifth of rye that was ever present in his jacket pocket. His usual response to anyone being disturbed by his casual public drinking was that “our FreeDUMBs were dying without protest”.

    I’m sure his liver protested to no avail.

  2. Seems Danielle Smith is pushing back against the dictates of the public health authorities and is determined to get a second opinion on health matters. What’s wrong with that? We are often told by doctors to go and get a second opinion after rendering a diagnosis.

    With regards to the recent pandemic it became evident the current medical establishment is a one size fits all with vaccines being proclaimed as the one true path to salvation with risk benefit analysis be dammed. In some circles getting the jab was akin to a religious experience.

    https://twitter.com/loffredojeremy/status/1510451557749432320?s=20&t=QTIB7lDXylKwpyhH0Oz5zA

    1. RonnieMac: The distinction is between public health and individual health. If you live alone on a mountain top you do not often need a mask, vaccination, or much in the way of public health. On the other hand, most of the public live in towns and cities and they do need both for their everyday lives. From whom would you suggest parents whose children are damaged by this public health negligence seek retribution?

      Best wishes of the season David. Thank you for your intelligent attention to Alberta politics and your astute views so clearly articulated. And thank you to the people who take the time to make comments and remind me that Alberta still has decent people.

    2. It must be so convenient for Albertans to have a premier who is also a medical expert, thereby eliminating pesky provincial consultations with so-called health care experts, ie. doctors, social workers, communicable disease controllers….
      Please send us those stats on results, we’re sure (in B.C.) they’ll be instructive as we have silly intrusion of medical so-called experts like chief medical officer, health minister who favours disease control, etc.

  3. It makes you wonder what will happen when someone relapses or dies in the Uber Ambulance without anyone trained to deal with medical issues? Does a person need to sue Smith for gross negligence?
    David enjoy your winter holiday, it’s always a pleasure to read your comments. Once Smith is gone, there will not be as many dumb adventures to write about, something a kin to when Trump left office, there was not very many goofy things to write about.

  4. Best wishes of the season to you and yours. May you not require an Uber ambulance (driven by a retraining Deena Henshaw?) or budget advice from Dr. O. Avoid post-turkey political discussions with your crazy uncle from Stettler. Arthur Dent and I look forward to more insights from you in 2023.

  5. It almost seems like Danielle Smith doesn’t care about people, including the smallest of people, children.The last person who said something like that was forced to resign her position. It seemed out of line at the time. Now it just seems like the statement wasn’t broad enough. Danielle Smith doesn’t care about people at all. Danielle Smith cares about power. That should be her motto for the 2023 election.

    Enjoy your well-deserved break. Stay warm! Alberta is very frosty now.

  6. Merry Christmas, David; I hope you enjoy a well earned holiday. Merry Christmas to my fellow commenters as well. Thank you, everyone, for sharing your well thought out ideas, and for poor David, who has to filter through the other ones.

    I think we all agree that Danielle Smith is a joke. In the spirit of Christmas, I thought I would give everyone an old image for a Christmas smile.

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/resizer/ZZ4owJAZSZ7b5OQqGNkT-bAx8MU=/900×0/filters:quality(80):format(webp)/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/tgam/HPZP3VS7A5GC5HKSZVFQ76I55I

  7. Something’s fishy about Dr Oberg’s appointment. Section 13(2) of the Health Professions Act states, “The following are not eligible to be appointed as public members:
    (a) with respect to an appointment to a council, a person who is a regulated member of that college”. So, is Dr Oberg still a practising physician or regulated member of the CPSA?

    I looked him up on CPSA’s website and he is still listed but as “inactive” & retired. So, while not technically a “regulated member”, I would argue he still should not be there as he cannot legitimately be argued to represent the general public and not the profession.

    https://search.cpsa.ca/PhysicianProfile?e=74419a21-8321-4d66-9e69-0a04f41821e0&i=0

  8. Ah, wonderful. Smith remains true to form, a True Believer who’s convinced she knows better than the experts, “because.” Because somebody on the internet says it ain’t true, it’s a guv’mint conspiracy.

    I wonder how Dr. Joffe will like being a sock puppet for a sock puppet.

    Merry Christmas to all, best wishes for the New Year.

  9. Yes, conditions in our hospitals will continue to deteriorate due to Smiths strange aversion to requiring masks and vaccinations even when it clearly makes sense. It reminds me of the story about the guy who was hitting his head against a brick wall. When asked, he said it was because it feels so good when he stops.

    Perhaps Smith is hoping that flu season will end soon and things will improve enough in time for her election, but voters could instead remember the all the needless chaos and problems she caused. She might do well to remember what happened to the guy, her predecessor, who rashly promised us the greatest summer ever. This could become her winter of discontent.

  10. Mask mandates do not have a scientific basis. So why would public health officials use voodoo? So why are nurses unions and doctors clubs asking for bad science? Maybe they have politic reasons. Or maybe they are just incompetent. Hard to say.

        1. They don’t say that. I think you know that.

          Merry Christmas David! I love reading your blog. I’m looking forward to the Alberta election next May, and I truly hope it’s on.

          1. Ahh, but they did say that, you just have to read between the lines.

            They qualified the mask mandate in school as “high quality masks”. Why do you think they made the qualification?

            Because the science says that there is no benefit of mask mandates as practiced.

            “Now if only a better quality of mask and mask wearing behaviour could be assured, it would all be good.”

            Which is what they are saying.

            And of course its incorrect also. Just look at China. Lots of very good mask wearers there. Doesn’t make a difference.

            In fact, its likely a case could be made that the false promise of mask mandates provides false assurance of safety.

            Doctors should stick to science. And nurses should too.

        2. It says nothing of the sort, either the letter from the section of Pediatrics or the letter from Abbi to Joffe. I don’t think reading comprehension is your strong suit; scientific appraisal certainly isn’t in your wheelhouse.

        3. Hey Brett, some 30 odd years ago I worked as a medical social worker at the U of A Hospital. At one point I had to interview an actively infectious TB patient. The requirement before meeting said patient? Gown and mask up. TB is an airborne infection. So if masks are ineffective tell me why that was medical policy? Or have infectious airborne diseases changed in 30 some years? Just asking.

          1. The wife worked with TB patients, she didn’t get TB.

            So, yes of course, masks and gowns used by professionals in professional situations are effective.

            But, mask mandates on general populations are not.

            That’s science for you.

  11. When my day is done with all the crazy Alberta news, I head for a comic relief to “Just for Laughs Gags”, on CBC Gem. Always hilarious, some more than others, all 21 seasons.

    Merry Christmas to you David and everyone commenting here.

  12. Merry Christmas , David, to you and yours! Enjoy some well earned time off.

    Your blog is a welcome relief amongst all the misinformation and disinformation that crowds our local media these days.
    Much appreciated!

  13. I hope you and yours have a nice Christmas. Looking forward to more great columns in 2023. And best Christmas to readers and commenters who enjoy your columns as much as I do. Nova Scotia has a rain warning with predicted thunderstorms and a wind warning for 90 kph rather than -27. Will be happy to be back in Alberta soon.

  14. Well, does Danni the under taker premier have shares in healthcare, mortuary and undertaker services I wonder? Increasing the Alberta death rate surely does seem like a policy priority with the Ultimate Con Party.

  15. In the three Thanksgivings since Covid arrived in the Spring of 2020, correlated spikes in hospitalization and, in many cases, deaths due to this respiratory disease occur in what we may now infer as typical epidemiology: in addition to kids returning to school each September, the traditional harvest feast is recognized as a significant vector of contagion because cooler autumnal weather brings celebrants indoors into close proximity with each other, everyone naturally eating and drinking while unmasked and, because the occasion is familial, kissing and hugging as well. Experience shows that elevating infection rates thence plateau or, perhaps, dip a bit, only to spike even higher in a few months in strong correlation with the more intensely intimate gatherings of holiday dinners and New Year celebrations when the weather is much colder (New Year celebrations are also more inclusively broad than familial holiday gatherings, celebrants thus less likely to confer with regard symptoms of sickness and prevention).

    Granted, we haven’t quite gotten to the 2022-2023 window yet—our third X-Mass/New Year epidemiological episode. Incubation of respiratory viruses taking four or five days to present symptoms and visiting relatives having yet to travel back to their respective regions, the epidemiological culmination won’t present until sometime in mid-January of the New Year. We do, however, have strong ground to infer that a post X-Mass/New Year spike will occur in 2023, something like clockwork. After pandemic protocols have been substantially relaxed, partly because the majority of citizens have been vaccinated against Covid’s latest strains, the secondary, phenomenal increase of influenza and other respiratory diseases coincidentally suppressed during the stricter Covid protocol period is an additional strain on already stressed healthcare capacity.

    Danielle Smith, the parachute premier with piddling popular permission, reveals the same reckless risk assessment with respiratory diseases as she does with psephology and politics—that is, as if tomorrow won’t happen the way medical science and pundits predict, both with very high confidence.

    Smith’s attitude is cavalier, to say the least. One wouldn’t be surprised to larn that she herself hasn’t self-administered the lump-of-coal suppositories she so aloofly offers to her fellow Albertans as freedumb of choice. Rest assured, Danielle: Albertans are making a list and will be checking it twice before freely marking ballot choices in the next election —which, speaking of Danielle’s risky behaviour, is scheduled for a mere four and a half months after her mid-January swamping of hospitals. If she had her way, it’d not only be an annual thing, but fully year-round.

    Nevertheless, if Covid protocols we’re all familiar with by now are followed, most of us will have a safe and enjoyable holiday and New Year. Danielle Smith has nothing of worth to add to that— that’s her exercising her freedumb.

    But the days are getting longer now, the eighth night of Chanukah culminates on Christmas Day and the New Year is numerologically propitious. I’d especially like to thank healthcare workers for enduring these last three years of extraordinary trials, especially in Alberta where the UCP government has made it especially and unnecessarily difficult. While most of us will have sugar-plums dancing in our heads on Christmas Eve, healthcare workers will be dutifully and selflessly attending to the grievously ill and dying. Wishing all of you the very, very best: your dedication can hardly be thanked enough.

    And of course, thank you David for everything you do. Enjoy your holidays and don’t worry about missing events roaring through the gorge of the season: it’s narrow but short, and there’ll be plenty newsworthy things waiting for you when you get back. It’s guaranteed! Wishing the best to you and to all my Alberta friends.

  16. Happy Christmas, David, and a very pleasant and positive New Year. Let’s all join you in hoping nothing crazy enough to bring you back to the keyboard happens over the next week or so :-).

  17. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you David, and to all those BTL.

    All of you contribute so much to this site that is worthy and enjoyable.
    Take care, Everyone ~
    W.

  18. All problems eventually yield to persistence and effort. Where there’s life, there’s hope – and a need for vittles. Wrath can return to joy, enemies can become friends, obstacles can become launching pads, and no one is beyond redemption. We need – therefore, we are needed. Everyone is someone’s hero. Just as the smallest actions changed in the past would drastically impact the present, the smallest actions we take in the present drastically impact the future. We matter.

    Best wishes to all.

  19. Ok! Enough good will! David? Get back to work! Our Kari Lake has reached the national crazy press down south. They have not much to call a win, but having a nullification gal looking for some sweet Republican help? That’s our Dani! She hits all their sweet spots!

  20. Thanks, David, for yet another, much needed, reality check and for providing opportunity for thoughtful commentary. For one who largely missed the earlier PC shenanigans, it is with elevated BP that I anticipate a full on Klein with the dubious fragrance of wild rose.

    Happy, health New Year!

  21. David, if you really cared, I suggest you don’t ever leave your cave because it will endanger grandma. No amount risk is acceptable unless it is authorized by your government. You really shouldn’t make any medical decisions for yourself as you are not an expert. Actually, you probably shouldn’t drive as there is a possibility you could kill someone else in an accident.

    Maybe personal freedom isn’t a big ticket issue for you, but for many hard working Albertans, its a deal breaker.

    Have fun with your irrelevance.

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