The United Conservative Party’s knee-jerk vow to opt out of the national pharmacare program agreed to by the Liberal and NDP caucuses in Parliament last week is encountering stiff headwinds from an unexpected point of the political compass. 

Calgary Chamber of Commerce President Deborah Yedlin (Photo: Calgary Chamber of Commerce).

Yesterday, the Edmonton and Calgary Chambers of Commerce issued a joint press release urging Premier Danielle Smith and her government to quit already with their petulant response to a program that could save Alberta businesses big money and help the provincial economy. 

“With the ongoing labour shortage and need to attract talent, and the cost to employers for providing health-related benefits, along with the financial benefit of pooling resources across provinces, a national pharmacare program, if developed well, could benefit Alberta’s economy,” the two business groups said. 

Behind the scenes, I expect, the phone lines from executive suites to the UCP were burning up, and the messages had a sharper tone. Something requiring fewer parenthetical clauses, perhaps, more along the lines of, Knock it off, ya jerks! Now!

Chambers of commerce are normally pretty influential with conservative governments. But the UCP is a different kind of conservative government entirely, and it will be interesting to see if they pay any more heed to the business crowd than they do to any of their other critics. 

“While more details are required to better understand the implications and potential benefits of a national program, we encourage the Alberta government to evaluate its feasibility and work with the federal government to explore whether it meets the needs of Albertans,” the chambers said politely, and quite reasonably. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, wearing her ideological blinkers, or something (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“Given the persistent labour shortage in Alberta, we need every advantage to remain a magnet for talent,” explained the Calgary Chamber’s president, Deborah Yedlin, whose PR boffins were obviously making an effort to have her sound both polite and firm. “We cannot limit our ability to attract and retain the labour force we need.”

“If people – including staff, entrepreneurs, and consumers – are not well supported, our economy can’t fire on all cylinders,” said the Edmonton Chamber’s president, Doug Griffiths, a former municipal affairs minister in Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservative government. “We’ve learned this in spades over the past few years.”

Mr. Griffiths, who ran for the leadership of the PC Party in 2011, once wrote a book called 13 Ways to Kill Your Community, which was supposed to tell rural Alberta communities how not to kill themselves, economically speaking. 

Rule No. 1 in Mr. Griffiths’ book was “the first of the 13 Ways to ensure the failure of your community is to forget the importance of water,” which shows, if nothing else, that he’s out of sync with the current Alberta Conservative government, which apparently has never seen a wasteful use for water it didn’t love, especially if fossil fuels are involved. 

Indeed, Mr. Griffiths may want to revise his opus to offer a 14th way to kill your community: Elect a UCP MLA. But I digress. 

The chambers’ news release listed four key ways that opting in to a national pharmcare program could help Alberta businesses:

1)    It would help ensure Alberta remains an attractive place for people to work or start a business

2)    Since 15 to 30 per cent of employer costs are related to providing employee benefits, it could save businesses big bucks

3)    Improving the health of employees could result in more stable and reliable staff

4)    And, yeah, since they pay federal taxes, “Albertans should have the opportunity to partake in the benefits…”

Will the UCP listen any more to its friends in business than it does to its long list of chosen foes in education, health care, and renewable energy, just to name a few? Probably not. The Smith Government seems quite resistant to opinions that run contrary to its belligerent approach to Confederation. 

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

For her part, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange was sticking yesterday with Monday’s talking points on opting out of pharmacare and demanding the feds just hand over the money with no strings attached.

“The vast majority of Albertans already have access to drug coverage,” she insisted in a statement published on social media, a verbal shrug about the chambers’ concerns and others like them if ever there was one.

“The province is willing to work and discuss ways that the federal government can invest in Alberta’s pharmacare program to enhance the existing program that is comprehensive and currently available to Albertans,” it concludes. (Emphasis added.)

Alberta’s pharmacare program, as readers of this blog have been busy pointing out in the comments section, is not a pharmacare program, but a confusing hodgepodge of inadequate supports that leaves many ill Albertans with huge medical costs.

UCP moves South Edmonton Hospital from back burner to shelf 

Did the UCP Government just promise to spend $20 million on a plan to create a plan for a new Edmonton children’s hospital that may be built eventually so they could pull the plug on the South Edmonton Hospital announced by the NDP government in May 2017?

A new hospital on a greenfield site like this one – the South Health Campus when it was under construction in 2011 – will cost you well over $1,000,000,000 now (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Sure sounds like it. After all, $20 million might make a nice trust fund, but its chump change compared to the cost of a new modern hospital – for example, the first phase of Calgary’s South Health Campus cost $1.3 billion

So, yesterday, Ms. LaGrange held a news conference to announce with great fanfare that that the government will be devoting a piddling $20 million for a pre-plan that might lead up to a plan to build a stand-alone Stollery Children’s Hospital someday in or near Edmonton. 

A lot of official ink was devoted yesterday to this rather speculative announcement, without contributing many actual facts or timelines. 

Meanwhile, Ms. Lagrange admitted that the badly needed South Edmonton Hospital, on which construction was supposed to start in 2020, will now be moved from the back burner, where former UCP Premier Jason Kenney put it as soon as he was elected in 2019, to the shelf. 

“On the South Edmonton Hospital, we are pausing to have a more comprehensive look at how we can better serve the needs of Edmontonians and all of the north of Alberta that utilizes facilities within Edmonton,” Ms. LaGrange told reporters

Presumably Edmontonians will continue to be punished until their morale improves enough to elect a UCP MLA.

An excellent night to a walk in the snow? 

Today is the 40th anniversary of Pierre Trudeau’s famous walk in the snow. 

The late Pierre Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, dressed for a walk in the snow (Photo: Rod MacIvor, photojournalist, via

It was on the evening of Feb. 28, 1984, that the elder Mr. Trudeau took his possibly metaphorical, possibly literal walk through the blizzardy streets of Ottawa and made his mind up to leave politics permanently – having accomplished a remarkable amount during his 18 years in Parliament. 

The next day, Feb. 29 – 1984 being a leap year just like 2024 – he announced his decision to the world. 

There are many in Canada, and not just opponents of the Liberal Party, who think tonight might be a fine time for Mr. Trudeau’s son, Justin, to take a similar contemplative walk. 

Well, we’ll see, I suppose. It sounds, though, as if the younger Mr. Trudeau may decide instead to try to stick around until Feb. 29, 2028. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Why haven’t Albertans come to their senses and realized that these phony Conservatives and Reformers are up to no good, and are not there for them, and their well being? What is it going to take for them to smarten up? It’s totally baffling how they allow the UCP to treat them like garbage. Anyone that does call out Danielle Smith and the UCP for their lies, and pricey shenanigans, gets insults hurled at them. This is seen in comment sections in newspapers. Anything that is a benefit, such as pharmacare, or a much needed new hospital, gets rejected by the UCP. Danielle Smith and the UCP are following the utter foolishness of Ralph Klein, and his bad healthcare policies, which put people’s lives at risk. Under the UCP, and their very bad healthcare decisions, and policies, more people will have their lives put at risk. We didn’t see this stupidity when Peter Lougheed was premier. Former Conservatives have even said that Rachel Notley was like Peter Lougheed in leadership style. Too bad Albertans made the big mistake of not keeping Rachel Notley as premier of Alberta. We would have been seeing a return to the oil royalty rates, and corporate tax rates that Peter Lougheed was getting, no very expensive boondoogles, while public healthcare, and the important services we all need would have been funded properly.

  2. With Danielle Smith and the UCP it’s all about having as much power and control as they can. It shows they are hypocrites. The UCP wants the Liberals in Ottawa to stay in their lane, and not interfere with whatever the UCP does in Alberta, and yet the UCP wants power and control over municipalities in Alberta. David Parker, and Take Back Alberta, also have a role in this, which is very much a given.

  3. More rural hospitals will be built. Edmonton and northern Alberta need a hospital. The 200 beds offered up by a new children’s hospital is great but Edmonton and northern Alberta needs at least a 1000. Someone should ask for the business case that was completed for the hospital.

    1. Alberta is the place where the late Premier Ralph Klein knocked down a hospital in Calgary’s core during a period of growth. Condos, man. People who lived in Calgary then will never forget. It’ll take at least as much time as from 1998 until 2016 for Edmonton to see a new hospital.

  4. In the years since most of the successful politicians in the Canadian scene have had a shelf life of roughly ten years, welcomed onto the stage with loud cheering and exiting to a chorus of good riddance! JT is coming up on ten years now. So it’s time to move on. No doubt he’ll land with both feet on the ground, maybe leading one of those unelected governing bodies that dot the landscape of western democracies these day, dictating terms and conditions that get rubber stamped by the various parliamentary bodies.

    1. Ergo Harper, chair of the International Democrat Union. Sounds good, right? But it’s global organising of alt right, with the likes of Steve Bannon and buddies.

  5. If belligerence could be a political party, the UCP should rename itself. BUCP sounds about right. Let’s not say we weren’t warned in the last election, when they tried to sound a bit more reasonable, but not really. So we’re in for a few more years of them trying to stick it to their enemies even if it hurts most Albertans in the process.

    With the Federal pharmare plan, it is outright rejection and I can see why the Chambers of Commerce are upset. Businesses often pay for part of the cost of employee insurance so Alberta will now be at a competitive cost disadvantage to places that more reasonably accept what the Feds offer.

    The limited, likely planning money, for the Children’s Hospital reminds us what the UCP has accomplished with the South Edmonton Hospital which is nothing. It is not in the interests of the surrounding areas that voted UCP to starve Edmonton of needed new hospitals as it grows. No new hospitals in the city as it doubled in size over the last 30 years. But again they will hurt their own to make their point and yes UCP supporters csn get diabetes too.

    As for Trudeau I doubt he will be bullied to leave now and certainly does not want to just copy his father. So if he is going, he may wait a bit for a less snowy time. Yes, that does not leave as much time for the party to get a new leader, but hey the UCP scramble was very late, not pretty and yet somehow they managed to get reelected with a new leader. So you never know. I feel he will go, but at a distictive time and place of his own choosing.

  6. Marlaina, Adriana and the rest of the UCP are in a race to destroy Alberta’s public healthcare system. Good luck finding a doctor in four years unless you are wealthy. It’s beyond childish to refuse pharmacare before even knowing how it will work, but all Marlaina needs do is say the magic words Justin Trudeau and all rational thinking comes to a screeching halt amongst her deluded supporters.

  7. Shelving the much-needed South Edmonton Hospital is payback for ousting the UCP’s only MLA in the city, Kaycee Madu. The Alberta Health minister might be thick as a brick, but she understands that game. But to dangle a mere $20 million in front of the desperate fund-raisers for the Children’s Hospital when she literally flushed $75 million down the commode with Smith’s Turkish Tylenol? That’s a pretty low blow. The people in the small towns and rural ridings who voted for these incompetents need to connect the dots when they come to Edmonton for medical treatment and have to queue up outside of what’s left of our health care infrastructure, waiting for care from disappearing doctors and nurses. Tell them to bring their own duct-tape because that’s about all that’s holding the system together anymore.

  8. “…chosen foes in education, health care, and renewable energy,…” Good article on CBC this morning on Shopper’s Drug Mart collecting $75 from the province for a phone consult while a doctor can collect $38 for a patient visit. Just checked with the medical doctor in our family and she says the pharmacy can bill $100 in Alberta. What it it about this UCP government that has such disdain for medical doctors that they are will to pay virtually anyone else more for less? Let’s hope that this proposal to opt out of a Canada-wide pharmacare plan meets with the same response as the proposal to opt out of the Canada Pension Plan.

    1. Doesn’t matter what we think. She won’t release the results of her socalled consults about APP because they were so pro CPP but she’s going to shove it down our gullets anyway.
      Ditto pharmacare. Doesn’t matter how much we want it, she won’t approve it. The woman has nothing but contempt for ordinary Albertans. Guzzling wine and giggling about rousting homeless out of their tents to rile lefties at the exclusive Ranchmans last weekend literally made me sick. Her toxicity affects us on a visceral level.
      We’ll have to fight for pharmacare like everything else. So much for rule for the people by the people. Unless the people are the wealthy and or TBA.

  9. “Today is the 40th anniversary of Pierre Trudeau’s famous walk in the snow.” In today’s Karl Nerenberg explains how the election of Mr. Peepers and his lackeys will result in most of us except for the fat cats taking our own hypothermic walk in the snow. Would a change of leadership by the Liberals make a difference?

    1. Tom: Excellent question. At this point, I would say, almost certainly. But who? DJC

      1. Mark Carney. Sean Fraser. Melanie Joly. Unfortunately, Carney is emphatic that he supports JT.
        On the other hand, the NDP was supposed to landslide the 2015 election. JT came up from behind. Mulcair himself says don’t underestimate JT.
        I for one have noticed a change in his demeanour lately, a bit punchier and less modulated, a good thing. And even his photo ops, more natural, relaxed leaderish. Plus all the dosh and regulatory supports for everything from housing to online bullying. His Trojan horse is steadily delivering despite the right’s blustering blethering.
        PP2.0’s smarmy snarkiness, rudeness and siding with altright is not going to wash at the polls on election day.

        1. Mark Carney is also smart enough, and experienced enough, to remember what happened when Michael Ignatieff got roped into politics.

  10. Chambers of Commerce, do you really think Canada’s best workers want to lose their Canada Pension Plan, too? Stand up for that, why don’t you? Stop spreading the myth that Alberta’s workers have a higher rate of personal federal income tax and therefore pay more federal tax than anyone else in Canada. You know this isn’t true. There is not a surcharge for being Albertan. Taxation is based on income and high earners pay more, full stop.

    Young workers would be well-advised to consider their financial future with a CPP and a national pharmacare program in another province. These things are significant. You won’t have them here in Alberta. Cut your losses and leave. Alberta’s loss is Canada’s gain.

  11. No money for a new hospital, but lots of money for a hockey palace in Calgary. Totally on brand for the UCP/TBA fascists.

  12. There are some basic public services that we expect our Provincial Governments to provide to taxpayers.

    Two of those basic services are the provision of health care and the provision of education.

    My take is that the current and past UCP Government is failing abysmally on both.

    It is time that the UCP spent less time on Ottawa bashing and more time taking care of issues within their own house.

  13. Mr. Griffiths’ book looks rather interesting. Check the other pages of his website; he started a business to advise rural municipalities how to avoid failure. I wonder how many county reeves are asking him for advice in the face of David Parker’s drive to angrify rural Alberta.

    But DJC, while a 14th chapter about failure by electing a UCP MLA might be an effective summary, I think the topic is covered already:
    Chapter 4: Deceive Yourself
    Chapter 7: Don’t Cooperate
    Chapter 8: Live in the Past
    Chapter 10: Be Short-Sighted
    Chapter 13: Don’t Take Responsibility
    (Maybe Chapter 12, too: Become Complacent.)

    I dunno, maybe the NDP should buy a bulk order of Griffiths’ book and hand ‘em out at meet-and-greets?

  14. Re LaGrange punishing Edmontonians (of whom I’m one): good news and bad news. Bad: no new hospital for at least a decade, planning times, contract tenders and construction times being as they are.

    Good news: at least the chaos-management consortium of LaGrange, Smith & Anderson have decided not to destroy any existing hospitals. Yet.

    1. Very likely. I suspect having the suggestion come from Trudeau and Singh, the arch-enemies of reactionary Oilberduhstan, would have been enough.

  15. What with the opposition to the UCP’s recent action to opt out of the federal Pharmacare program in favour of … something else … is causing concern among the chambers of commerce in both Calgary and Edmonton, as well as some of Alberta’s moderately sized cities. So what gives, apart from their teenaged angsty intention of giving another inch to PMJT?

    Given David Parker of TBA’s recent outburst concerning the private life of Skippy Pollivere, which drew a half-hearted rebuke from Queen Danielle, it’s beginning to appear not all maybe well in CONland. Okay, Pollivere who has been stridently against any form of digital ID, has reconsidered his position on the issue, if only to protect the children from online porn. The comedy that ensued from this sudden and weird pivot cause more than a few eyebrows to arch. Was Pollivere bending to the crazy Christians in the CPC caucus, because they are all about peeking into people’s windows and private lives? (Just to make sure they are doing God’s work, of course.) Likely, because a quick defense of Pollivere’s action came from uber-Catholic Garnett Genuis, who made the strange assert that he trusts the online porn giants to keep personal information private. This left Trudeau to jump in and defend privacy rights, because … comedy.

    In the middle of all this insanity, enter David Parker of TBA to attack Pollivere for having a ‘sham marriage’ and being an adulterer. This led to Smith’s public rebuke of Parker’s antics. With a these packs of leopards eating so many faces, one wonders how much longer they can keep up appearances?

    Now that the UCP has pretty much declared war on everyone in Alberta, does this mean that Danielle Smith’s own days as premier are numbered? David Parker is a strident ideological cult leader, so you know he’s looking to bounce Smith at the first opportunity. Publicly damaging Pollivere is just Parker flexing his muscles, just to show Pollivere who the boss really is. If Parker needs to wreck Danielle Smith just to bring Pollivere into line, he will do it.

    1. Or could the Alberta portion of these antics be a terrible distraction for a rotten, no-good budget that’s about to hit the fan? It’s never a good thing when a finance minister makes a video about his boots. Putting the boots to anyone soon?

      Alas, while feigning horror at the antics of her boss/strategist/friend David Parker, Marlaina Premier is not sorry enough to order him to cancel a BBQ with Devin Dreeshan to plan for party politics for municipalities. In fact, someone called the cops on Thomas Lukaszuk for daring to expose this secret meeting to the light of day. Drama queens!

      The distract-o-rama machine is burning the midnight oil. Whatever’s coming is going to be uglier than taking away the Canada Pension Plan and punishing Albertans by refusing to join a national pharmacare program.

      In other news, I can’t wait to hear testimony at the various Coutts trials about who was really the man behind the curtain in all this. You don’t suppose some plea deals reached earlier might have had some strings attached, do you?

    2. The eastern media seems unaware of the conflict between Ms. Smith, Parker and Skippy’s private life. We only hear about how Peepers and the CPC are trouncing both Trudeau and Singh in the polls. Hopefully things will change before 2025. If they don’t, take cover.

    3. Well, Parker has bragged about how many Con leaders he’s responsible for deposing. Kenney, O’Toole (or was it Scheer?); with two more targets in his sights, why stop now?

    4. If you are going to critique Pierre Poilievre I have no problem with that. But please make an effort to spell his name correctly whether you are francophone or anglophone. It’s Poilievre.

      1. My fault, I suppose, dear lady. I do try to correct spelling errors when they occur in comments, as happens to us all from time to time, but sometimes the sheer volume overtakes me. DJC

  16. Sarah Hoffman tweeted today that she will build the South Edm Hospital. It seems to me she makes a strong case to be leader by championing health care.

  17. Meanwhile, off-topic from your excellent post, but the hypocrisy here needs to be pointed out.
    Here Smith says she never makes personal attacks:
    But on Feb 21, 2024, in her official statement:
    “It is going to be an exciting time for our province and for Canada – especially once we finally get a Federal Government that acts like a strategic partner, rather than a delusional adversary.”
    and she has called for Guilbeault to be fired more than once.
    Feb 5:
    “”I’d like to see a change in the environment minister so we can try to reset our relationship. There is one extraordinarily ideological member of that cabinet who seems to be running the show. I don’t know why the prime minister hasn’t reined him in,” Smith said.”

    I say she is a bully and worse words I will leave to the readers’ imiginations.

  18. Parker insults Hoffman and Nenshi, not a problem for Marlaina. Parker insults Skippy and the Missus, its an egregious attack on the sanctity of life itself as far as Marlaina is concerned. Was it Skippy’s office or Stephen Harper that called and told Smith to start chirping?

  19. Rural Alberta RN hospital experience 1979. Who do you think did preoperative. Pre op shaves for male surgeries The JANITOR. What did nurses have to use to set up the case room. Area used to deliver babies. FORCEPS. I bought my own sterile gloves and kept them on the unit with extras in my locker. How many new hires Rn left less then their 1 st year because of these outdated practices Who knows. I did. Wouldn’t you

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