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