Health care in Alberta is moving confidently into the 1990s!

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

The United Conservative Party Government led by Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is about to bring the province’s health care system back to the future with a massive infusion of new red tape, just like the old red tape. 

It’ll be so much like the Nineties you’ll be ready to celebrate New Year’s 1994 on Jan. 1!

Instead of Alberta Health Services, the largest provincial health care agency in Canada created in 2009, there will be new health care boards, new bureaucrats to staff them, and loads and loads of chaos to bring the bring the entire system closer to collapse! 

And the expense – it’ll be fabulous! Literally billions of dollars, most likely. Some consultants are going to get very, very rich. Some of them are doubtless already getting rich as we prepare to completely restructure a system that we’ve just spend a decade and a half and another billion or so completely restructuring. 

Well, one thing will be different: all those streams of red tape will lead directly back to the premier’s and health minister’s offices, which will now make all the province’s health care decisions. That should work out well. 

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Anyway, Premier Smith and Health Minister Adriana LaGrange, her Mini-Me on the health file, have promised for months to do something to instantly fix the intractable problems facing health care in Canada, so something dramatic had to be done. 

Never mind that what they’re proposing won’t help with the fundamental problem facing health care – the worldwide shortage of health care professionals, especially physicians and nurses. In fact, it’s almost certain to make it worse in Alberta.

And the elephant in the Operating Room, of course, is that this is also about wreaking revenge on AHS in particular for its enforcement the public health measures during the pandemic that so annoyed the UCP’s Qanon-influenced base, especially the Take Back Alberta faction that now dominates the party. 

Why, you may wonder, do we know this already if the government isn’t going to announce it until later today? 

Well, because the NDP published one of the foundational documents of the government’s big plan for health care yesterday – a slide show prepared for the provincial cabinet that was leaked by an unknown whistleblower to the Opposition. The Canadian Press confirmed later that the slides are the real thing, 

NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The release of the slide deck, the NDP’s news release, and the questions asked by Opposition MLAs in the Legislature yesterday certainly rained on the parade of puffery the government planned for its announcement today that it’s about break up AHS into easy-to-privatize chunks. 

As the slides explain, heavy spin and paid advertising will be required to persuade the public this won’t be another expensive disaster with “potential to fragment care delivery” and “risk of service disruption/failure,” to quote one slide.

In Question Period yesterday, beyond the premier’s assertion she is “100 per cent committed” to the plan as shown in the slides, Ms. LaGrange told MLAs (and by extension the rest of us) to wait for today’s announcement. 

So we have no choice, I’m sure readers will agree, but to toss aside the hallowed journalistic commitment to balance and go with the NDP press release for the time being.

“Smith’s long-promised breakup of Alberta Health Services is mostly a transfer of AHS functions into the Government of Alberta under the direct supervision of the health minister and premier,” the NDP news release summarizes. “There is no plan to move decision-making outside of the two major cities. Instead of regional boards, there will be four new government bureaucracies for continuing care, acute care, primary care, and mental health and addiction.” (Emphasis added.) 

So, the release quotes Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, “any UCP members who cheered for more rural or local decision-making in health care at their AGM this weekend are about to find out they’ve been brutally double-crossed by Danielle Smith.”

In addition to the massive new bureaucracy described in the files, the UCP plan will add seven new agencies with impenetrably bureaucratic new names like “Integration Council,” “Centre of Recovery Excellence,” and “Procurement and Systems Optimization Secretariat.”

What’s missing, as Ms. Notley pointed out, is that “there are no new doctors, no new nurses, no new paramedics, no new nurse practitioners and no new LPNs in this plan.”

“There will be entire new office floors filled with people at computers trying to figure out what the heck the UCP wants from them,” she said. “I strongly suspect many of those folks will skip this altogether and simply pursue their health care careers in other provinces.”

“We are heading down a very dangerous path when we allow politicians to decide on medical treatment methods,” Ms. Notley added. “We have massive, radically disruptive change, putting Albertans’ lives at risk. … Patients are forced to navigate 13 new agencies where there used to be one. Rural communities get absolutely no new decision-making powers and no new doctors, either.”

“Health care workers just desperately want some help and some more people working beside them. Instead, they are facing yet another onslaught of chaos from the UCP.” And, she asked, who benefits? “The only person who benefits from this is Danielle Smith, who gives herself sweeping powers to reach into any part of our health care and override medical professionals.”

Well, we’ll see this morning how the government tries to spin this. 

The UCP has scheduled an “embargoed news conference,” an oxymoronic concept, at 7:30 a.m. There will be another public newser at 9 a.m., after the participants have had a chance to practice their answers, at 9 a.m. The NDP will hold its own news conference at 11. 

UCP to dump ethics commissioner, chief electoral officer

Alberta Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler (Photo: Office of the Ethics Commissioner).

Never mind health care, the UCP also plans to get rid of its ethics commissioner, who recently authored a critical report about Premier Smith’s interference in the justice system on behalf of a political ally, as well as the province’s chief electoral officer. 

Marguerite Trussler and Glen Resler will be gone when their terms expire on May 24, the Globe and Mail reported yesterday. Both were appointed by previous Progressive Conservative governments, which from the perspective of the Take Back Alberta cabal that now controls the UCP, may make them worse than New Democrats. They will certainly be replaced by individuals more simpatico with the TBA worldview. 

Danielle Smith will share stage with Tucker Carlson, no matter what

Questioned in the Legislature yesterday about her plan to appear on stage with far-right American bloviator Tucker Carlson, known for advocating the violent overthrow of the Canadian federal government, Premier Smith made it clear she won’t be missing the opportunity to hob-nob with the MAGA celebrity just because of his loudly expressed racist, Islamophobic, white supremacist, homophobic, anti-vaccine, and anti-Canadian views. 

Far-right American bloviator Tucker Carlson (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

This seems on brand, actually, as Ms. Smith appears to share many of Mr. Carlson’s opinions, in addition to her past career as a right-wing talk radio bloviator. 

Certainly, Ms. Smith has advanced a separatist “sovereignty” agenda. And Mr. Carlson has described Canada as a dictatorship and opined that “I’m completely in favor of a Bay of Pigs operation to liberate that country.” (Alert readers will recall that the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 did not result in a change of government in Cuba, but whatever.) 

Mr. Carlson also complained vociferously when Mars Inc.’s M&M’s marketing spokescandies were redrawn to eliminate characters wearing spike heels and hooker boots. “The company added obese and distinctly frumpy lesbian M&Ms,” he complained. “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous, until the moment you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them.” I suppose it didn’t occur to him that the original cartoon characters might have been … in drag! 

Nice to know our government is working with serious people to, well, to do whatever serious things they’re doing.

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  1. Ah well, now everyone can well understand why I left for B. C. so many years ago. Alberta is no place for a person with any ability to examine problems, and come to rational solutions. I suppose there has to be some place for the Flat Earth Society to call home. And the believers in bad vapours causing the pox and consumption brigade. Alas! God have pity on Alberta.

  2. The UCP continues on the decades long conservative quioxotic quest to find the magic size or structure to make all health care problems vanish. In my opinion the greatest problems with the system are above AHS, but I suppose they are really not inclined to get rid of themselves.

    I suspect while everyone is confused they might get some political breathing room, at least until it become clear their restructuring turns out to be as fruitless as the past attempts.

    I am a bit surprised there are no rural super regions. But perhaps I have underestimated Smith’s uncanny ability to disappoint everyone, including her own strongest supporters.

    No surprise Trussler is going. Her ethics report on Smith came out at a very inopportune time during the election and I don’t think they forgot that. Also not really a surprise Tucker Carlson is coming to talk to Smith. He was really a glorified talk radio host. Like attracts like. As for that Bay of Pigs moment, I recall some American Conservatives were trying to make that happen during the Convoy rebellion and yes, it was about as well organized as the first one. It might be scary if they were actually better at being organized.

  3. There is an old saying. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Danielle Smith is an emulator of Ralph Klein, and an admirer of him. His policies wrecked havoc on the public healthcare system in Alberta, and cost people their lives, and put other people’s lives in jeopardy. Nurses were put out of a job, and had to retire early, or they had to relocate outside of Alberta. Doctors were treated shamefully. Hospitals were grossly neglected, demolished or shut down. The UCP got Janice MacKinnon, who started out as a Liberal, went to the NDP, then became a Reformer, on their Blue Ribbon Panel. She was responsible for the closure of rural hospitals in Saskatchewan, which made the NDP get defeated in that province. She was also copying the bad moves of Ralph Klein. The UCP wanted her on the Blue Ribbon Panel, just so they could find ways to make more cuts to the public healthcare system in Alberta, in order to foster private for profit healthcare in Alberta, which is exactly what Ralph Klein wanted. I recall reading that someone knew Ralph Klein and his family for a long time, since the early 1960s, and they knew he was bad then. They said that his parents were doubtful about his political aspirations, and his father Phil, was not pleased with what he was doing to the public healthcare system in Alberta. Don Getty regretted allowing Ralph Klein to be part of his government. Peter Lougheed was also very dismayed with Ralph Klein, and for good reasons. Angie Klein, Ralph Klein’s daughter, even voted for the NDP in 2015. I also recall reading about this same person who had no goals to become a politician, but they were very unhappy with the Alberta PCs. They were asked to join the Wildrose and be a candidate for that party. When they heard Danielle Smith giving praises to her hero Ralph Klein, they made the wise decision and backed off. The UCP wants the Ethics Commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer gone, and replaced, because they don’t want to be held responsible when they are doing something unethical. These aren’t Conservatives, just in name only, and their isn’t a Conservative bone on their bodies.

  4. IMHO: if ever there were any doubts about where some of that darkmoney/ ‘foreign’ interference in Canadian politics was coming from, OMG – Tucker??? He has obviously not been apprised of Dani’s ‘sensible ‘ shoes ….maybe someone should show him, there’s not much time left to save from more imprecise language, but then if it was good enough for Melissa Lantsman, I suppose DS figured it was fine for her.

    And speaking of his MLLOTO/PP ,I see he has a new ad out about his parents and pensions and how he’s going to protect them, and somehow implying that JT is trying to take them away. Nice try Skippy; we’ve heard that broken promise before, especially when it comes to the OAS….. and so it begins!!

    M in drag?…Hahaha !!!☆☆☆☆

    Dumping the ethics commissioner, says alot about the old adage– the truth hurts– especially if you have something to hide.

    What happened to the AHS, something about a UcpBoat ??
    I’m not sure if I’m thinking Tom Clancy or Alistair Maclean…. well that shelf needed dusting anyway, if I can convince myself to put up Xmas decorations this year.

  5. Maybe this whole nightmarish day of disasters for Albertans was dreamed up by Danielle Smith, Tucker Carlson and puppeteer David Parker while they were out drinking with lesbian M&Ms. What other explanation can there be? Buddy had better check with border control about his date with Alberta’s destiny. Not sure folks who incite treason in their own country and threaten to overthrow foreign governments are welcome here.

    To all the folks in Alberta who voted for this: kindly note that you voted to take health care and the CPP away from the rest of us. If you choke on your rainbow-colored peanut M&Ms, health care won’t be there for you, either. You’re not that special. Have the day you deserve.

    1. Ranger— down there in that rabbit hole is Tucker waiting to come out and invigorate his ‘manhood’ by exposing his ‘nethers to sunlight and red-light therapy……and I can totally see Parker joining in on the ” be the man you want to be “, but I’m having a really hard time figuring out how Danielle fits into the equation, especially since she is so against renewable energy. What do you when the sun doesn’t shine??

      So which kind of rabbit did you mean? Asking for a friend.

        1. DJC– Aye ,Captain! Admonishment acknowledged

          The irony is that my great grandfather came to Canada on the Lusitania (verified records)..landed in Halifax and traveled across to landlocked Alberta. Fast forward 100+yrs, and Alberta is floundering on turbulent waters with shoals on the port side and shark infested waters on the starboard side. And imho, generally being landlubbers, we are suffering from motion sickness from the HMUCP policies.
          Reading the comments on DS explaining why she’s meeting with Carlson, one of those (previously unnamed ) people that she said were “other sources” ???
          Please excuse me while I go out and scream at the moon.

          POGO, we need a “we’re not going to take it”….please!

  6. The detail that caught my eye when I read the CBC story this morning was the UCP’s plan to sell off government owned continuing care facilities to private operators, who will presumably then be contracted to provide continuing care ‘more efficiently’.

    I am opposed to the idea, but something else that needs to be watched is what will happen to the money raised by the sale of these facilities? My concern is that it will be put into general revenue, which will then significantly reduce this year’s deficit, but nothing else. This will allow UCPers to crow about what wonderful money managers they are, but leave the people of Alberta with nothing to show for the loss of these facilities.

    1. It would not surprise me if one David Kenney, brother of the famous Martin Kenney, would be looking to get back into the private health care business. That guy has a lot of Neurvana….

  7. Tucker Carlson and Danielle Smith seem to be made for each other. Welcome to the USA, Alberta.
    What a s#&t show.

  8. Hello DJC and fellow commenters,
    As I have said, Danielle Smith runs Alberta as her personal fiefdom and seems to believe that whatever she prefers is what will take place in Alberta. She seems to have no concept of the public and or an understanding that government is for the benefit of residents. Any chance of recalling Smith, Lagrange and a few others? Things suddenly feel as topsy-turvy as the world of Alice in Wonderland.

  9. STOP! Please stop the madness! You haven’t even touched upon the likelihood of a provincial police force, topless mountains and mini-reactors on every corner, all visible from the super-duper jet train piloted by none other than Joe 90. How can we fight back against these crazies? It’s time to lose our Canadian “politesse” and get down and dirty.

    1. With mental health and addictions now firmly in the “silo” of Our Lord of the Legislature Beer Chugging (“my”, “my”, “my” he kept repeating, like the seagulls in Finding Nemo), how long will it be before people with even mild depression find themselves swept up into involuntary care for indeterminate periods of time, along with those suffering addictions? My word, half the province will be locked up, and more if this government keeps piling on. But that will mean a provincial police force, aka the sheriffs, to pound the pavement looking for poor souls to snatch into the locked “world class private treatment centres of excellence for mind bending”, or whatever they’re called. Just turn those frowns upside down, along with the Canada flag on your shoulder flashes, officers. Surely it won’t be too hard to find unhappy people in Alberta.

      Never volunteer to clean if they snatch you. “Set in a dystopian future where a community exists in a giant underground silo comprising 144 levels…” It’s Smithberta people!

  10. …Question: won’t this strategy or lack there of close the doors on Rural Urgent Care Centers. We are in Dire Straits for Physicans in the first place.
    Also, where will the funding cone from? I honestly don’t believe the Feds will fund this Humanity Disgrace.
    Thanks David

  11. If my memory serves, former Harper Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blocked a British Member of Parliament from making a speech in Canada on the grounds he was a threat to national security for opposing British involvement in the invasion of Iraq. An invasion Canada did not take part in.

    Now I grant you Tucker Carlson’s call for the violent overthrow of the Canadian Government comes from a much less illustrious source, but perhaps our current Immigration Minister could be asked if someone who advocates violence and supports the Russian invasion of the Ukraine is also a threat to national security.

    PS: my memory did serve. Here is the story about Kenney blocking that British MP:

  12. Oh boy. The false-flag operation is over. Danielle Smith has nailed her true colours (MAGA red over Trump orange, with a bar of Republican red diagonally from top left to bottom right) to the mast. She’s gonna go down with the MAGA ship, or wreck the province trying.

    Some overly-hopeful folks (notably right-wing journalists and UCP candidates in Calgary who desperately wanted to be elected) figured Smith was either funnin’ them TBA guys along, or she’d mebbe hafta trim her sails to the prevailing moderate-right winds.

    Nope. Smith is a full-on separatist and Trump Republican Qanon queen. Danielle believes passionately that business can do no wrong, and government can do nothing right. Now she’s gonna prove that second part to God and everybody.

    This over-elaborate “plan” for AHS reminds me of the Old Tory scheme to combine all research facilities and related funding agencies in Alberta. They called the bloated misorganization “Alberta Innovates” and then split it into four sectors: energy and environment (hah!), health, bioscience (other than health) and “Technology Futures,” formerly Alberta Research Council and my employer of 35 years.

    The result was FIVE boards of directors, with the top level “responsible for” (hah!!) the four named divisions. The inevitable results were bureaucratic infighting for government grants, and neglect of the divisions’ mandates. I expect this insane move by Queen Danielle of Qberduh (emphasis on “DUH”) to be even worse.

    Danielle Smith shares a trait with other far-right Cons. Like Jason Kenney, Christy Clark (ignore the Liberal label, it was false advertising), Scott Moe and Doug Ford, Smith cannot build anything. She breaks stuff, because that’s so much easier than building something better.

    1. Mike, you are quite right I think. The AHS as devised was meant to cure bureaucratic silos, and I think it did. That amongst other issues. Now the Alberta Government has come full circle and created 4 or 5? Silos. The result will be a nasty cluster fuck of bureaucracy and infighting. The patients and staff will suffer. All hail the United Cons. And Peabrain Party. God help the innocents caught in this mess of that woman’s making. I wonder how long she can remain in her chair?

  13. Health care and politicians:
    Trump – inject bleach
    Johnson – hairdryer up the nose
    Smith – take horse dewormer.
    I wouldn’t trust them with aspirin administration?

  14. So, what I get from the TBAs that I know, is that they want to balkanize the system and end collective bargaining. I guess we give them enough rope and then strike. Not a pretty picture.

  15. Tucker Carlson has been a Russia booster for years who supports their invasion of Ukraine.
    So did Danielle Smith last year

    Craig Chandler is involved with this stupidity so probably David Parker is too.

    Dani and Tuck will probably push the Russian views on the energy transition:

  16. To quote the former Lougheed MLAs that I knew. “ Don’t ever trust a Reformer they destroy jobs, not create them, and help the rich steal the peoples oil and tax wealth. They are the worse enemy a conservative government can have and are hellbent on destroying everything our Lougheed conservative government has created for the good of the people and don’t care who may get hurt in the process. While they screw the people out of their wealth they replace the lost revenues with privatization pushing the cost of living for the people skyward and they don’t care ”.

  17. We have to keep in mind that Smith did not fall out of the sky or emerge from some primordial ooze. The voters of Alberta heard her pitch and said “yes, this is what I want”. No doubt, when the rest of Canada hears what his happening in this province they will shrug their shoulders and say, “They got what they wanted”.

  18. There were so many lies in the government’s news release it boggles the mind. One howler is that AHS had “taken on a heavier burden than it was intended to”, presumably referring to the integration of multiple domains of health care — acute care, continuing care, home care, EMS, public health and communicable disease control, and so on. Of course, this is equine excrement.

    When Ralph Klein’s government regionalized health care in the mid-1990s, dissolving dozens of hospital boards, health unit boards, nursing home boards, etc., one of the stated objectives was to break down walls or “silos” between those different sectors of the health care system, making them more integrated and able to collaborate better. While his real goal was to radically cut health spending, one of the few positive outcomes of that entire exercise was that this integration of sectors was largely a success. However, left out of that process were the three provincial health care bodies: the Alberta Cancer Board (ACB), the Alberta Mental Health Board (AMHB) and the Alberta Alcohol & Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC).

    Then in the early 2000s, the Klein government decided that then then-17 Regional Health Authorities were too many, and merged them down to a total of 9 Health Regions. But that integration of sectors was preserved, once the organizational charts were finalized. Again, ACB, AMHB, & AADAC were left out of the system.

    Finally, in 2008, Premier Ed Stelmach’s Minister of Health, Ron Leipert, seemingly on the back of a cocktail napkin, abruptly announced the merger of the nine Health Regions, along with the three provincial health boards that had been left out of past regionalizations, into one, single, massive provincial health authority: which became Alberta Health Services (AHS). Years of turmoil followed, but eventually stability was achieved — under the 2015-19 NDP government, in fact. And this single provincial health services delivery authority is a model now being emulated by other provinces from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia. So of course, Daniellezebub wants to blow it all up.

    Then there’s the matter of primary care and access to family physicians. This is another lie on the part of the government, since AHS has absolutely nothing to do with determining where private practice family physicians, or even specialists, set up their practices. Physicians are autonomous independent practitioners who own and operate their clinics, rent or own their clinic space, hire and pay their staff, pay the utilities and taxes on those clinics, and decide their own hours of operation. They’re basically small businesses who bill the government for the care they provide, if it’s covered, and the patients for what other care and services are not covered. But nobody in government or in AHS tells any physician where they can or cannot set up shop, or what hours their clinic will be open.

    It’s a matter of persuasion and coaxing and incentives to get physicians to set up in underserved areas and take new patients, and the two successive UCP governments have had a track record of doing the exact opposite, driving physicians out of the province.

    As for Nurse Practitioners, while there are some NPs practising in primary care around the province — my own primary care provider is an NP — there is a lack of clarity and consistency around employment and compensation models for NPs in the community.

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