A week ago, Canada’s premiers ended a meeting in Halifax agreeing that they shouldn’t poach health care workers from one another.

Nova Scotia Conservative Premier Tim Houston (Photo: Screenshot of CPAC video).

There’s a shortage all round, they seemed to be saying, let’s poach from poor countries instead of each other!

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston seemed to be the one who got the ball rolling on this thought. “I’m not a fan of trying to go to another province and trying to recruit some of their health-care professionals,” he told reporters at the provincial legislature a few days before. “I think there are other places to recruit from.”

To be fair, not all the places where Nova Scotia has been trawling for nurses and other health care professionals are what we still think of as being in the Third World, a term that’s starting to sound seriously dated nowadays. 

When the premiers got together three days later, there seemed to be a mood of genial amity on the topic.

Mr. Houston, who appears from out here in Wild Rose Country to be an old-timey Progressive Conservative, was of the opinion the premiers should all just try to get together, smile on each other, try to love one another, right now. 

Manitoba NDP Premier Wab Kinew (Photo: Screenshot of CPAC video).

“Trying to poach workers from another jurisdiction is not really supporting each other,” he said at the meeting’s closing news conference. “Actively recruiting health care workers that are already working and engaged in a health care system is something that Nova Scotia’s not going to do.”

“There was a significant unity amongst ourselves to prevent an aggressive act of recruitment campaign in other people’s backyards,” agreed Newfoundland’s Andrew Furey, a Liberal. “We all recognize that health care professionals right now are in high demand. They’re mobile. But Canada has an absolute imperative to continue to provide top-notch care in our own jurisdiction and robbing Peter to pay Paul does not help advance that agenda in any way, shape or form.” (Note to readers: Robbing Peter to pay Paul is a Biblical metaphor that has nothing to do with PayPal.)

Canada’s newest premier, Manitoba’s Wab Kinew, a New Democrat, sounded like he was in accord with that thought, too. “In the absence of that sort of collaboration, we may compete against one another into a future in which none of us can afford to staff our health-care systems, in which none of us can sustainably do so,” he told reporters at the newser. 

Not counting Danielle Smith, who we’ll get to in a moment, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe was the only other provincial premier to speak at the newser about that topic before the moderator shut it down, and he didn’t really have anything useful to say.

Well, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t going to be as easy to do as it might appear to be around the table with all these cordial provincial and territorial premiers. 

Newfoundland Liberal Premier Andrew Furey (Photo: Screenshot of CPAC video).

It’s true that not just in Canada, but around the world there’s a shortage of nurses and physicians – with the possible exception of the Philippines, where the government appears to be treating nurses as an export. So until we get serious about educating more nurses and doctors here in Canada, and see the results as graduates trickle into the job market a number of years later, provinces are going to find themselves in competition with one another no matter what their premiers say. 

That will require more spending, and possibly more taxes to pay for it, something the modern Canadian premier, regardless of what political party or philosophy he or she is supposedly associated with, will resist – often to the point of doing real damage to the commonweal. 

So it also matters a lot what a province’s health care policies are. Even intangible matters like expressions of respect for health care professionals may turn out to be significant. 

So whether or not Manitoba goes out and starts putting advertisements on bus shelters near hospitals in Calgary and Edmonton – or better yet, holding job fairs in Red Deer – it’s going to enjoy a significant recruitment advantage over Alberta when it comes to nurses in particular. 

Saskatchewan’s Sask Party Premier Scott Moe, who had nothing particularly useful to say (Photo: Screenshot of CPAC video).

Mr. Kinew campaigned and won on a platform of repairing the province’s battered relationship with its health care workers. “We are resetting the relationship right now,” he said during one of his first news conferences after the province’s Oct. 3 election.

Appearing with his new health minister, Uzoma Asagwara, he vowed Manitoba will hire more nurses and physicians and end mandatory overtime for nurses. He indicated he has a schedule for recruitment in mind. 

“We look forward to providing opportunities to front-line health care providers, doctors, nurses, to allied health care professionals, to have their voices heard and their expertise respected and to be part of the way we address things moving forward,” Mx. Asagwara said.

“If we want to keep health care professionals, nurses, physicians, engaged in working on the front lines, we need a comprehensive approach which includes, of course, compensation,” Mr. Kinew said at the closing newser in Halifax. “It includes better working conditions.”

Alberta just can’t compete with that. Here, the government is embarking on a massive and incoherent reorganization of the health care system that seems principally designed to exact revenge on Alberta Health Services for enforcing public health regulations during the pandemic and to make bits and pieces of the public system easier to sell off to the private sector in the future. 

And there’s been no consultation with nurses – only “briefings.” 

Never mind even the middle-term future, many nurses right now don’t know who they’ll be working for in a few months’ time – Alberta Health Services, as they do now, or one of the new bureaucracies being set up by the government. 

Confusion reigns in a health care system in deep trouble, and chaos lurks. 

Oh, and the United Conservative Party government also wants to wreck the Canada Pension Plan, after already messing with public service pensions, so Alberta health care workers’ retirements appear less secure as well. 

And what does Ms. Smith have to say about that? (Other than promising Albertans exactly what the creators of AHS promised them a decade and a half ago – that everything will work out fine … eventually.)

Well, in Halifax she seemed to try to blame past AHS policies and nurses themselves for the shortage of nurses, claiming that in Alberta “we only have 38 per cent of our nurses willing to work full time.”

This is a misrepresentation of the true situation. It’s true that mandatory overtime, cancelled vacations, threatened pay cuts under Jason Kenney, and abuse at work from anti-vaxxers encouraged by the UCP government have all contributed to a desire by some nurses to be able to have more control over their own lives.

But that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to work full time in jobs with reasonable time off, appropriate market-based pay, and a degree of respect. Almost everyone understands the seemingly unplanned chaos now being introduced by the UCP will only make things worse. 

If you were a nurse on the Prairies, where would you rather work? Wab Kinew’s Manitoba or Danielle Smith’s Alberta? 

No premier’s no-poaching agreement can keep health care professionals from talking to one another! 

Danielle Smith’s Alberta: Where bad ideas go to live forever

Service Alberta (and red tape reduction) Minister Dale Nally is off to Texas today to attend the 2023 North American Blockchain Summit.

Dale Nally, Alberta’s Service Alberta minister with responsibility for red tape reduction, when we feel like it (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That crypto collapse? Sam Bankman-Fried’s massive crypto fraud? Don’t worry about ’em!

You’d think that a minister of red tape reduction would be needed at home to persuade his cabinet colleagues not to set up massive new bureaucracies to replace Alberta Health Services, but Mr. Nally will be talking to “blockchain experts” instead, about how “to attract blockchain technologies to Alberta.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, he’ll tour cryptocurrency “mining” operations – which use vast amounts of energy to magically generate an electronic currency that appears to have no purpose other than abetting crime and tax avoidance. 

On Thursday, he’ll take part in a cryptocurrency roundtable discussion at the trade show. 

In other words, on top of everything else, the UCP’s not giving up on the crypto hustle. 

Yes, Alberta’s where bad ideas go to live forever.

Join the Conversation


  1. “In other words, on top of everything else, the UCP’s not giving up on the crypto hustle.”

    It’s the old Alberta song and dance:

    “Times is hard, baby and the hustle is really on
    Times is hard, baby, the hustle is really on
    Prices are high now darlin’ and all the good jobs are gone
    Sorry to say, baby, things ain’t what they used to be”


  2. A few years ago, the UCP was trying to attract Bitcoin mining, so its not surprising they fall for every business fad. Although, they are really a bit late to the Blockchain party, which was a bigger thing last year elsewhere and is not being so hyped now. Its more like Alberta is where over sold ideas go to retire or die.

    I suspect Alberta will do what it always does to attract more health care workers, throw more money out when they get desperate, despite the Nova Scotia Premier’s fine sounding sentiments. This is how Premiers meetings go, they all nod briefly in agreement and then go off and do whatever they want to do.

    However, the biggest problem is at the point Alberta’s reputation precedes itself. Lets see, doctors contracts torn up unilaterally by the last UCP government and now major restructuring imposed without consultation or much clarity. So, a province like Manitoba can probably more easily attract health care workers with a new government that sounds like it values them and promises more stability.

    I suppose health care restructuring may work politically in the short term, but when rural UCP voters realize in a couple of years their clinics and hospitals are still understaffed and they can’t attract more health care workers the chickens will come home to roost for our Premier who has a lot of glib answers, but few real solutions.

    1. Sorry Dave, I don’t think Smith’s rural base will ever clue in. These chickens are free-range, and they can’t recognize a coyote even when she’s about to feed them to her young.

      When doctors quit in droves, when nurses leave for Manitoba, Smith’s fanboys will blame the doctors and nurses for “deserting” them.

  3. Well, that’s typical Danielle. Take one fact (“38% of Alberta nurses don’t want to work full time”) and reverse cause-and-effect to blame the victims.

    It’s not just the deplorable list of bad polices by Jason Kenney’s government, either. Like Ontario, I fully expect that Alberta’s nurses get paid WAY better if they work for temp agencies. Imagine the effect on morale when a former colleague quits—and shows up again with more pay, less hours and far less stress.

    Who could possibly be surprised? Our premier is a Qanon junkie with a powerful, personal reality-distortion field between her ears. This is the Republican-Tea Party-Trumpie mindset in action.

    By the way…did Doug Ford have anything to say about the no-poaching-nurses idea? He was having a great time twisting Kenney’s nose during the War on Nurses. We probably lost a number of nurses and doctors(!) when Dougie softened his stance on actually paying health-care professionals what they’re worth. I doubt Queen Danielle of Qberduh would think the in-migration of young Toronto professionals responding to Kenney’s “Houses cost less in Albertastan”* campaign would be a worthwhile trade.

    Oh, and the blockchain thing. Boosters keep promising blockchain will be a technological marvel, unlocking secrets undreamed of, or something. Right. Like new and improved ways to make money disappear. Tracelessly and without warning. But it’s new, it’s shiny, and it’s techy. Just the thing to appeal to Smith and her fellow techno-illiterates. Boy, I wonder how Mr. Nally is going to come across in that round-table discussion. What gems of wisdom will he contribute? I can hardly wait…for the heat death of the universe.

    *If this reminds you of the “Cars cost less in Wetaskiwin” jingle, you’re right. What’s the point of bitching about politics if you can’t have a little fun?

  4. IMHO – re: nursing shortage.

    It’s been at least 25 yrs since I first learnt about the “poaching ” $$$$ of nurses and doctors from Canada to the US, because they were better trained here. This came from my family Dr, as she was going to the US on a very lucrative 5 yr (initial)signing, and she said alot of nurses were doing the same. Prime example was the number of nurses crossing the border into Detroit, during covid.
    And with the abuse suffered from the covidiots, Telus health was more than willing to “poach ” them– you won’t have to face ‘customers’ directly. Which is what DSUCP were/are working on. Again, ‘murcan style corporation programming, why do a community/ public service when we can make a profit out of this. Just another day in the hostile takeover game (for them). And if profits start to dry up, pull up stakes and ,’go back to Dodge’ , isn’t the first time and unfortunately won’t be the last until the cupboard is bare.

    Ah, crypto again, still ? Surprised? Not moi ! It’s been another one of Dani’s talking points that people were NOT listening to—-her advocating for the “technology sector “.
    She has been as consistent as d’rump, in telling you what she is going to do…..no one is paying attention, because they keep sending the media off on another wild goose chase/ scandal, and while everyone’s attention is there, put through more destructive legislation..and before anyone can make a fuss ,create a new distraction ( as stated- too good to waste).. So if the formula was good enough for DT, it’s going enough to for DS.

    **also noted that since Mr Outhouse did such a cracking good job for Dani’s election campaign, he’s now signed on with BHiggs . Swell !!

    Sidebar— interesting that in PP’S Vancouver presser today, that all of a sudden he’s advocating ‘green energy ‘ ,vis-a-vis : small nuclear reactors— in places that don’t have hydro power, and can’t do solar or wind. ( like Alberta??)
    The rest was the usual ” after 8yrs…yada yada” , with True North getting the first of the 5 q(?) that he almost answered.
    ‘nough said!

  5. Since Christmas is upon us, would it be rude or premature to make a New Year prediction? Who cares these days! Dani, or as I fondly refer to her as: Premier “Pork Barrel”, will jump the shark in January. Her convoyeurs will rally and her opposition will grow! Shark fin soup!

  6. Hello DJC and fellow commenters,
    The Philippine training scheme for nurses concerning. The Philippines is not noted for equality of opportunity or income distribution. (Think Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and following.)
    Nurses trained in the Philippines are recruited at employment fairs and through direct contact with nursing schools to move overseas. Overseas workers send home remittances which, from what I read, were over 9% of GDP from 2015 to 2021. Remittances are reported to have dropped to just over 2% of the country’s GDP in 2022, but I don’t know the reasons. The amount of remittances is reported to be about $36 Billion US for 2022.
    I have read that full-time nursing positions are not always available. The Alberta government’s lack of respect and the poor working conditions for nurses, created largely by government policies, may also play a part, I have the impression that agency nurses earn more than Alberta nurses employed by AHS, which I think would be demoralizing for AHS nurses.

    1. Christina: For years AHS (and its predecessor organizations) have complained that not enough nurses wanted to work full time, and also posted very few full-time positions. Nurses got used to that and organized their lives around it. Now the health care system, however it’s run, wants to switch it all up again? How do you think that’ll work out? DJC

    2. Hi Christina. I would be very surprised if agency nurses did NOT make significantly more than AHS nurses. And, of course, the agencies charge AHS far more than they pay the nurses they employ. Hey, the system works in Ontario; why not here? (I was gonna call it a scam, but I changed my mind.)

  7. Once again we see Reformers treating our doctors, nurses and teachers like third class citizens forcing them to spend millions on buying up foreign workers to place the ones they run off. I can remember reading an article years ago that pointed out that there were 19,000 Canada trained doctors working in the U.S. and they made it clear that they never felt that they received the respect they deserved in Canada and they blamed these phoney conservatives for the problem. There is no question that Lougheed’s system should never have been tampered with like Ralph Klein did. That goes with our oil industry also. Royalties and taxes should never have been slashed.

  8. I never realized how “American” southern Alberta is. History books don’t tell the complex story of migration, land grants, cultural and religious influencers and the omnipresent cattle culture. Look at a map of the Louisiana Purchase: big tongue well above the present day border.

    And now, 150 years later, we’re burdened by the faux American right known locally as TBA. How sad that the UCP couldn’t dream up an original political recipe and simply fell back into the pool of neo-con clichés.

    1. Yep, it’s complicated and very sad. Add in distrust of government, a culture of self-reliance (reinforced by religion, apparently) and—the big one—American anti-guv’mint, anti-tax propaganda. Result: Alabama North. Trumpland 2.0.

      1. Sorry, Mike and Lefty, I don’t think it’s complicated or complex.
        These people are ignorant in the extreme. They take pride in their lack of education and lean on tradition and religion to bolster their stupidity.
        And belligerence is their go-to defence when reality intrudes into their little cultish fantasies.

        Stupid, slow-witted, empty-headed freaks just itching to strike out and attack anyone and anything they don’t understand.
        Pretty simple.

  9. Won’t poach nurses from the other provinces………….and we promise not to run a deficient and we will have housing for all by Christmas.
    Those Premiers will poach, steal, bribe nurses to change provinces the second a lack of nurses/doctors/technicians becomes an impedement to being re elected.
    Some nurses won’t work full time. They have families, lives, etc. Why give that all up for a job which is stressful, dangerous, and light on pay and benefits. Compulsory over time. Yes, that certainly will help keep nurses on the job.
    they can quit and work part time or on call and be there for themselves and their families.
    For decades governments knew the aging baby boomer nurses/doctors would be retiring, the population in Canada was growing, but no one did anything much to deal with it. The various governments thought they could recruit from the Phillipines forever.
    Had the provinces invested in their young people over the past 4 decades, we would not be lacking in staff today. Better working conditions would help also. Privitization of security staff in hospitals hasn’t helped much either.

  10. I guess the UCP didn’t learn anything from that huge crypto collapse that occurred just a few weeks after the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War. With all those sanctions and bans on financial transactions in/out of Russia, the only avenue many Russians had to access currency was to liquidate their crypto assets. And then the collapse happened. The buyer’s market for cheap, though heavily used, video cards is great now that so many crypto mining operations were mothballed. I guess Dale Nally needed some away time in Texas, c/o of Alberta.

  11. Hello DJC,
    I don’t think that will work out very well at all.
    With mandatory over-time, I would suppose that nurses working part-time would quite possibly be required to work more hours than their regular shifts.
    And I would think that most full-time nurses wouldn’t want to work over-time as nursing is very demanding and, when you’re tired, you are likely to make more errors.

  12. The UCP is intent on turning our healthcare system into an American style one. They don’t really care.

  13. If this Province was not circling the drain this entire UCP debacle would be kind of funny. Other than 2015, as far back as I can remember we have been voting for absolute idiots in election after election. The current Premier is just this side of certifiable and just take a look at the Cabinet. It is a Confederacy of Dunces if ever there was one. The Back Benchers are nothing more than trained seals that could not even pass muster to be elevated to the Confederacy of Dunces. Every election is the same. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    Why do I not hear 38 NDP MLA’s screaming from the rooftops over what is happening in this province?

  14. My wife chooses to work .4 in a dialysis unit. She has immigrant colleagues who while working as LPNs have completed the onerous requirements to be Registered Nurses in Canada and then cannot get full time jobs from AHS. These very competent and hard working folks are now looking at going to the US.

  15. In Alberta it is not a case of ‘poaching’

    It is more a case of health professionals being unhappy with their work environment and working conditions for year after year. And a case of health professionals in Alberta having zero confidence in the Government and zero trust in the Government that has no issue ripping up negotiated contracts.

    Most professionals who have left were not poached. They ran. They were young enough that they did not have firm ties to the Province and were relatively mobile. It started about 8 years ago. It is still happening. What is worse….AHS cannot attract enough professionals to even replace those who have bolted the Province.

    Alberta cannot attract health professionals to rural clinics and hospitals. Nothing to do with poaching. It is all about the inability to attract and recruit. And the working environment and remuneration in areas outside of Alberta.

  16. Go for it Alberta!!
    For every pissed off Doctor and Nurse you have British Columbia benefits !
    Daniel Smith and her supporters bring out the worst of selfishness in humanity.
    Selfishness only succeeds with the young and big paychecks!
    Just wait until your population ages!!!
    Alberta lusts for the win-loose lifestyle of the slave states.
    Had you had an effective opposition leader and message it could have be so, so much different.
    This is what happens when the ‘voting majority’ lusts for the financial benefits of Tarsands ( not oil sands)
    So….Keep it up Alberta adjacent provinces will benefit from your complacency.


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