A video clip of Danielle Smith outlining how Alberta could privatize major public hospitals like the Peter Lougheed Centre, the Rockyview General Hospital, and South Health Campus appeared on social media last week.

The massive South Health Campus public hospital facility in Calgary – targeted by Alberta’s premier for privatization? (Photo: JMacPherson/Creative Commons).

Speaking to a conference on “meeting the health care challenge” on October 23, 2021, a few days less than a year before she assumed office as Alberta’s premier, Ms. Smith laid out a plan to sever major public hospitals from Alberta Health Services and privatize them. 

“You give money to Alberta Health Insurance. It’s a separate entity. It’s a government entity, so it’s publicly administered,” she explained her plan to her audience at the meeting of the “Economic Education Association,” a libertarian group. “They are forbidden from running any programs or any hospitals themselves.”

“Alberta Health Services becomes the contractor,” she continued, explaining how her plan would work after the creation of the new level of health care bureaucracy she’d dreamed up with the apparent purpose of dismantling public health care. 

She goes on: “Sure, we can, we can grandfather in their contract.” 

At this point, you can almost hear Ms. Smith’s sly wink. “For now. …” (Beat, beat.) “But then we would have the Alberta Health Quality Council do us an auditor function, and tell us whether or not Alberta Health Services should continue running the Lougheed Hospital, or the Rockyview Hospital, or South Campus, or any of the hundred hospitals that they currently run …”

Dr. Brian Day of the notorious Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It would seem from that remark that Ms. Smith, not yet premier, was pretty confident she could make the Health Quality Council of Alberta do her bidding on what conclusions to reach. (As premier, Ms. Smith appointed Dr. John Cowell, a former CEO of HQCA, as the sole administrator of AHS in November 2022.) 

Ms. Smith continued: “If they can’t meet the terms that we want them to, we can do an RFP. And then the Alberta Health Insurance can give a different contract to a different group of doctors …”

“That is completely compliant with the Canada Health Act,” the soon-to-be premier claimed. “It’s a structure issue. And it’s a political will issue. And we’ve got neither of those, unfortunately, because I presented this to the health minister and, uh, they did not act on it.”

“Imagine if High River Hospital, which does most of the hernia operations by the way in Southern Alberta,” she said at another point in her talk. … “What if they said, ‘You know what? We don’t need to be under the umbrella of Alberta Health Services. We’d like to charter directly with, uh, Alberta Health Insurance, get our money directly’?”

This too would be possible with her new Alberta Health Insurance bureaucracy, she asserted. 

Wildrose Loyalty Coalition Leader Paul Hinman (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“They’re able to do a thousand hernias, to get paid on a per-patient basis for a thousand hernias. If they’re able to change their operations so they can do two thousand hernia operations, then you allow them the funding to follow through.”

It’s hard to say how the United Conservative Party will try to spin this as not meaning what it obviously does, but one supposes that they will try, unless they’re lucky and media mostly ignores it. Right now, as alert readers are surely aware, the party and premier are busy spinning different remarks Ms. Smith made to a different audience, also in the fall of 2021. 

Like many things Ms. Smith has said – and there are bound to be even more of these serial bozo eruptions made by the premier when she was just a libertarian talk radio personality and market fundamentalist missionary now waiting to go off – this one has been sitting there on the Internet, hidden in plain sight. 

A clip of Ms. Smith’s entire talk is found here, but watch it quickly if you have a desire to hear what else she said. These things do tend to disappear when they become controversial. 

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier (Photo: Yanky Pollak/Parti conservateur du Québec/Creative Commons).

In fact, we’re getting to the point where we’re not really talking about eruptions any more, but a long running geological event on the scale, say, of Mount Pinatubo or Mount St. Helens! 

Ms. Smith bloviated at the Economic Education Association health care conference for more than an hour, so there’s more, of course. Here are a couple of additional points she made:

  • “Just establish a health spending account with $350 for every single Albertans and tell them, ‘Your employer can match it. You can match it. You can put money in tax free. You can gift it to a friend or family member. If you don’t need it and you want to set up a charity …’”
  • “Take Alberta Health Services out as the intermediary and we would see a proliferation of the kind of clinics that I was talking about, and the kind of telehealth services, and the kind of surgical services …. You need to give people the means to spend their own money on these types of services.”

If you’re wondering whether Ms. Smith really believes this stuff or was just saying what her audience wanted to hear, remember that she made many of the same points quite specifically when she ran for the leadership of the UCP last year. 

Other speakers at the conference included Dr. Brian Day, he of the notorious Cambie Surgery Centre who recently lost his long legal fight to force provinces to allow private for-profit health care before the Supreme Court of Canada, People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, and former MLA and current Alberta separatist Paul Hinman.

Join the Conversation


  1. Its getting hard to keep up with all of Smith’s musings. Its like the latest bozo eruptions are becoming distractions from her previous embarrassing statements. However, there are some common themes – extreme libertarianism mixed in with a desire to radically privatize and change health care.

    I suppose if you believe the people who currently run our health care system are terrible Nazis, it might follow that you want to get rid of the current system. I’m not sure bumping up to 2,000 surgeries from 1,000 is feasible or a good idea. While assembly line medicine might be very lucrative for someone, I see potential quality issues even if it is possible.

    No doubt these private hospitals will eventually end up being owned or run by a group of well connected medical professionals. This isn’t too far off from what the UCP is already trying to do, Smith seemed just a bit more eager and candid about it. Well at least the Smith of 6 months ago. The current version of Smith seems to try disavow much of this.

    So will the real Danielle Smith, please stand up? We would really like to know which one we should believe, but it is probably best not to risk it to find out by keeping her in power after the upcoming election.

  2. Now let me get this straight: for a gifted 350 bucks Danielle Smith could do two brain surgeries on herself instead of one?

    Such a deal…

  3. Dr Brian Day— As the group from Saskatchewan would say “Waterton—pfffffft!! ” another for profit- (including getting paid for speaking in the US).

    And since you have spare *time in between impressions (?) CBC News yesterday (JM) another video re: David Parker
    ” We need to control the party ” — a look inside TBA….
    ( I could not watch the whole video, my senses snapped @women making babies, not careers.

    *your fortitude for having to read through all these, is in MHO a testament to your commitment to help quell the sense of urgency that we feel, that Alberta is on fire, literally and figuratively .
    Many Thanks!!

  4. It baffles me with the level of ignorance Albertans have, by supporting these pretend conservatives and Reformers, who are only there for their rich friends. They don’t see the damage they will do, by getting the worst oil royalty rates, and the worst corporate tax rates, doing the most priciest shenanigans, destroying jobs, increasing poverty levels, increasing crime, destroying the environment, increasing utility and insurance costs, and harming public healthcare and public education. Danielle Smith has admired Ralph Klein, and he made a horrific mess of things in Alberta. His cuts to the public healthcare system in Alberta made nurses have to relocate out of Alberta, and also put people’s lives at risk. We have columnists like David Staples and Lorne Gunter supporting them. Anyone who criticizes the UCP gets called horrible names. Pierre Poilievre is no different. If Peter Lougheed were still around, I don’t think he would be impressed with any of this.

  5. I’ll tell you what: bad deal!! Giving me $350 in exchange for several hospitals built with public money, that she will give away to friends of the UCP, reeks to high heaven of a kickback scheme. I’m not saying she’s getting a well-padded offshore bank account direct deposit, no, I’m saying the optics of stealing public assets for her corporate friends is bad. Banana republic bad. King Ralph knocked a public hospital down and sold the bricks. Danielle the Nazi hunter is much worse. And all the silent Ml As can wear this, too.

  6. Danielle Smith wants us to forget all that. Wipe the slate clean, those past comments, policies, commitments count for nothing. Certainly do not judge her on them.

    Will it be the same post election if the UCP happens to win? Will she get another dose of alzheimers, forget her promises, and claim to Albertans that the election policies, promises, and comments were all a thing in the past and not be taken seriously?

  7. Doesn’t the NDP keep on saying, the health care system is broken? And the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So it’s great to see leadership that will look outside the box. You know, instead of rewarding their voting block with more victims, victims because if you aren’t part of the solution your part of the problem, and no sane person wants to be part of such an important problem to find a solution to.

    1. “And the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”…. does this mean that people who keep praying over and over for results that never happen, like, say, mass shootings to stop, are insane?

    2. Brett
      It’s broken because of the actions of the ucpTBA under Kenney and Smith. It is common knowledge they are just following the tried and true method: underfund, see it’s broken, privatize. It’s a proven line that is total BS in the results it produces. I’m sure you are fully aware of the really broken, free enterprise US medical system. And, you probably don’t care, it will be different (not bloody likely) here.

    3. As I’ve had occasion to remark before, you are a liar and a propagandist. I will go further, and claim that you are a willing participant in a subversive plan to provide pseudo intellectual cover for outright fascists. It is far past time where we can afford to be polite about these things.

      1. OK, that’s it boys.Stop now or I’ll stop you. You’ve been warned. DJC

    4. Bret Larson isn’t any smarter than Danielle Smith and her band of ignorant right wing extremists. I wonder if he could afford to pay $10,600.per month for five years after Ralph Klein forced privatized of our long term health care system upon us, like our family was forced to do. One other family we know paid $14,000. Per month, another guy told me it had cost him $464,000. and it still was, for his two parents in a nursing home and another family member paid $368,000. to subsidize his mother’s fees. Too bad Bret isn’t smart enough to understand what Smith’s stupidity will do to our children’s future and our fellow seniors, but I doubt he cares. But then he is likely just another senior who has an horrible reputation for being easy to fool as con-artists, bankers, police officers, and politicians know all too well.

      1. Alan K. Spiller: If you read my comment, I’m sure you know where I am coming from. You certainly have it right.

  8. It appears that everyone has to serve somebody, so it is more than likely not her ‘plan’, but the ‘plan’ of her particular avaricious and advantage seeking organ grinder(s).

    In any case, the adherence to the libertarian free enterprise belief system has been openly and steadfastly consistent and well documented. The so-called “serial bozo eruptions” are simply the public affirmations that demonstrate both a personal devotion to the mythology and an assurance to her benefactors, groomers, and advisors that she is thoroughly trustworthy and unreservedly committed to the cause, i.e., the endless quest for the profit that can be found in the exploitation of the new frontiers and markets made available by first reducing and then privatizing the most lucrative government services. That is, for example:

    “We want to send the message to the world community, and to the investment markets, that this is a place that is open for business, that this is a place that believes in freedom, this is a place that believes in free enterprise.”

    “We can have private delivery, public funding, stay within the Canada Health Act, and bring all of the principles that we know work in free enterprise to this most expensive service.”

    Where it is assumed that free enterprise is defined as, “Free enterprise, or the free market, refers to an economy where the market determines prices, products, and services rather than the government. Businesses and services are free of government control.”

    The present and future potential shareholders/rentiers should find it all very reassuring, because .“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” And so it is.

    1. Speaking of “serving”, I’m reminded of the 1950 short story by sf writer Damon Knight — later adapted into a 1962 Twilight Zone episode — entitled “To Serve Man”.

      Apparently-benevolent aliens land on Earth and make first contact with humanity. They go on to make enormous improvements in our quality of life by providing endless sources of energy, bountiful food production, and an end to warfare. They also offer visits to their home world.

      But the story’s narrator is skeptical of their seeming altruism, and works on translating one of their books. The book title is ‘How to Serve Man’, which seems very appealing — until he successfully completes the translation to find that it is a cookbook.

      How is this relevant, you ask? Well, for one thing, if Daniellezebub & the UCP are re-elected, our geese are collectively cooked.

  9. Danielle Smith is to Alberta as Mount Vesuvius was to Pompeii. Beware the pyroclastic flow.

    1. One of my beloved grade school teachers used to ask rhetorically: would you prefer to be buried in a ton of bricks or a ton of feathers (naturally a ton is a ton is a ton, regardless the substance: one would be equally squished by either a tone of feathers as by a ton of bricks)? Of course most students picked feathers because “they’re lighter.” (Smart-ass me always noted that, like fine toilet paper, feathers are much softer, regardless their weight. My education has served me well.)

      I don’t suppose it mattered much to the victims of Mt Vesuvius’ eruption in 74 CE what the agents of their demises were technically called. However, archeologists do discern that it was Pompeii’s twin city, Herculaneum, situated on the opposite side of the volcano, which was buried in a pyroclastic flow —extremely hot rocks mixed with suffocating volcanic gases—and Pompeii, downwind, with volcanic ash instead.

      The difference was the exclusion of oxygen in the buried areas: only partial and apparently gradual in Pompeii’s case—which allowed combustibles to be totally consumed and denied posterity—but near total in Herculaneum’s case which, by the time civic engineers in the modern city incidentally excavated far enough into the old pyroclastic flow covering the ancient city, accidentally revealed wooden structures, furniture, even artworks and legible scrolls—charred but not consumed because of the lack of oxygen— in the gravity-controlled event, as well as remarkably well-preserved human and animal remains which inform us much better than the famous casts of Pompeiians which are crude and sparse in comparison.

      It seems to me, from a safe distance, Danielle Smith is offering a ton of feathers. The real question for Alberta voters is whether they want their posterity read precisely or imprecisely. It’s true we all gotta go sometime: it’s really a question of choosing either the NDP to protect and improve public healthcare where anyone’s remediation or passing is guaranteed, regardless wealth, and doesn’t necessarily bankrupt one’s surviving family or Danielle Smith’s UCP where, if her party prevails in 19 days from today, one may thence choose between suffering illness due to lack of money or diminishing one’s bequeathments even if one can afford comfortable hospitalization. Never mind diminishing what we should value as civil society.

      Herculaneum Rocks!

  10. There is no way Smith could come up with this detailed scheme on her own in a million years. It is clearly written by lobbyists. Her talent is in the delivery.

    1. No, she totally runs the government without help at all.

      Shes just that hard working.

  11. It is all about the Take Back Alberta Group.

    They put her in the Premier’s chair. No matter what the election outcome is they control Danielle Smith’s tenure as Premier and/or Leader. And she knows it.

    Her first loyalty is to this group. As we used to say in business…..understand how a person is compensated and you will understand how they work.

    This is Danielle Smith’s predicament. She did not get there on her own steam and she knows it. The opposite is in fact true.

    She may be mouthing the song of the day during the campaign and in Calgary campaign events but she will always sing the TBA tune at the end of the day. She has no choice. The TBA has made this crystal clear to her.

    Not much choice for a washed up, has been, radio talk show host who cannot keep her lines straight from one month to the next.

    If things do not work out for Danielle I have no doubt that she could find employment with rebelnews as a reporter or a commentator. It would be her kind of employer.

  12. If Smith forms the next government, Edmonton should separate and join BC. Danielle is dangerous and Albertans who believe in facts, science and competent government deserve better.

  13. Guffaw !!!
    PP on Twitter….” See what happens when you remove gatekeepers ? 1400 internationally trained nurses get approved to work in a month.
    Good on Alberta”
    ……with a pic/title globe &mail — hospital with CHEO sign.
    So from his last trip to Edmonton, did he see a 630 CHED sign ?? Honest mistake, right??

  14. Considering some of the more unhinged and unfiltered comments that have been collected at some of the TBA meetings, one wonders if the style of policy will involve more doubling down?

    TBA boasts that they have taken control of half (and counting) riding boards in Alberta. This means that they can force obedience upon any MLA unfortunate enough to be elected under the UCP banner. Further, they boast that they are in the Premier’s Office and they are influential in policy creation. Give them an electoral win, and they will be calling every tune in Alberta.

    The boasting and bragging from TBA is impressive. And recall that when asked about options if the NDP are elected, David Parker declares, with considerable confidence, the NDP will not win. No ands, ifs, or buts, there will never, ever be a Premier Notley.

    Such boasting is dangerous braggadocio on the level of Mussolini.

  15. Recent round of UCP ads on Instagram borrow from the NDP playbook: citing past remarks or posts by individual candidates that could be construed as controversial.

  16. HAD A good laugh at the line about if they took the Alberta….. poliferation…..
    yes, if they just went with Smith’s ideas all would be well in health care. The problem is there are not enough health care professionals in the country. The aging baby boomers left the arena and retired. Younger doctors want a work/life balance. Provincial governments did not provide enough spaces in universities for medical students.

    I’m old enough to remember when we didn’t have a public health care system in Canada. It was not a good thing.

    Canadians have a longer life expectancy than Americans. One of the factors at play is, Canadians have better health care. Americans have privitized for profit health care. No money, no health care. If you are wealthy, you can get all the health care you can buyin the U.S.A.. Most can’t afford it. The average cost of birth in the U.S.A. is $18,800 and change. The majority of people who loose their homes in the USA is due to medical bills. People use their homes to leverage loans to pay for health care, ……..
    If people buy what Smith is peaddling, thats fine, but the problem is its going to negatively effect all those children who aren’t allowed to vote. Hardly seems fair.

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