The Alberta motel medicine scandal that was still unfolding yesterday with the premier’s revelation 39 more discharged hospital patients were being housed in Leduc hotels by the same company as the stroke patient at the heart of the original news report is a logical and predictable result of the privatization of health care that the United Conservative Party continues to push. 

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange – her explanation Thursday seems to have been contradicted by Premier Smith’s explanation yesterday (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Credit where credit is due, once it became a news story, the Smith Government’s swift response to Contentment Social Services’ failure to pays its bills was appropriate and necessary to ensure clients weren’t tossed into the streets of Leduc. 

From a political perspective, the government can now focus with some justice on the inappropriately named company as the scapegoat for a much broader problem created by this and past governments’ approach to public health care. 

This is certainly politically smarter than blaming patients themselves for picking the wrong post-hospital care provider, which was the UCP’s and Alberta Health Services’ first instinct when the story broke last week.

But it will do nothing to prevent similar situations from arising in the future as fly-by-night operators continue to take advantage of a situation created by the government’s ideological commitment to the triple blight of privatization, financialization, and “red tape reduction.” 

Even legitimate corporate care providers will cut corners to maximize profit if they are given the chance – as the UCP just did with its elimination of legislated minimums for personal care in the Continuing Care Act passed last year and the regulations that come into effect on April Fool’s Day. 

What will Red Tape Reduction Minister Dale Nally have to say about the premier’s promise to provide more regulation of agencies providing housing to discharged hospital patients? (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

So this problem isn’t going to go away just because a hammer comes down on Contentment Social Services. 

Premier Danielle Smith dropped the startling information that there were 39 more Contentment Social Services clients at risk of losing shelter as a result of the company’s problems during a news conference in Calgary yesterday on an unrelated topic.

“We don’t really know much about them, but what we’ve discovered over the last few days is that they used to have rental housing and because of a variety of factors – it sounds like they had a pest management problem – they moved their clients to hotel rooms,” Ms. Smith said in response to a reporter’s question. 

She said the government has paid a $25,000 hotel bill to forestall the possibility the discharged patients would be evicted.

“From what we can tell, they’re just simply not delivering a level of service that we think is adequate for high need patients, and high-needs individuals,” she continued. So, she promised, “we’ll be working with each individual to make sure that they are with a more appropriate care agency.”

Moreover, she said, “there’s still some work we need to do to understand why they were recommended in the first place. But I would say we’ve now seen demonstration that they’re just not up to the task for being able to care for these vulnerable members of our population.”

This seems like a reasonable response, but it also appears to contradict what Health Minister Adriana LaGrange and Alberta Health Services CEO Athana Mentzelopoulos were saying only the day before that once patients have been discharged from hospital, they are on their own and need to make their own living arrangements.

“We’re talking about people who are assessed by front-line health care workers to be able to make choices on their own about where they are going after discharge,” Ms. Mentzelopoulos said on Thursday. 

“This particular non-profit agency … is providing non-medical care, non-medical housing,” Ms. LaGrange said at the same Thursday newser. 

So which is it? Was Contentment Social Services caring for high needs, vulnerable patients, as the premier said, or discharged patients capable of making decisions on their own, as AHS has been saying? 

Meanwhile, the situation that led to the current Motelgate scandal remains murky, with many questions unanswered or inconsistently answered.

Will the government keep Ms. Smith’s promise yesterday that there will “absolutely” be more regulation of agencies providing discharged AHS patients with housing, and that there will now be a list compiled with the help of the social services ministry of “accredited agencies”? 

And whatever will Dale Nally, the UCP Government’s minister of red tape reduction, have to say about that? 

The NDP Opposition says it has asked the Health Quality Council of Alberta to investigate “how Albertans are being discharged to agencies without proper oversight to ensure every patient is accommodated and properly cared for.”

The premier is unlikely to look with favour on that idea. There may be a reason, after all, that her news conference, to announce provincial funding for the arts in Calgary, began with a singer belting out a rendition of Don’t Stop Believin’.

Yeah, I’m sure the UCP would prefer that we all just hold onto that feelin’

About 45 of Take Back Alberta founder David Parker’s supporters showed up at Elections Alberta’s office yesterday to protest (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

About 45 protesters show up to support TBA leader

David Parker doesn’t seem yet to have said how his interview yesterday afternoon with Elections Alberta went, or what he said or didn’t say to them. 

On the Ides of March, the founder and financial officer of Take Back Alberta vowed not to provide the Legislature’s elections administration agency with the list of donors to the registered third-party advertiser that he said he’d been asked to hand over. 

“I will not be releasing the names of our donors so that they can be harassed by left wing activists,” he said at the time, when he also called on supporters to hold a protest “in light of the rampant corruption at Elections Alberta.”

In the event, about 45 chilly protesters showed up outside the agency’s unassuming office near Edmonton’s former downtown airport. Most were getting along in years and the sensible ones bugged off to the Starbucks across the street as soon as they could decently make an exit.

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  1. Is Danielle Smith becoming worse than Ralph Klein? He was extremely bad. His healthcare cuts put people’s lives at risk. Danielle Smith is clearly emulating him, and her shortsighted healthcare policies are going to do just that. What exactly were people thinking when they voted for the UCP?

  2. David Parker confirms that when he identifies progressives, his TBA cult members will harrass them. I talked to one of his deluded cult members yesterday who condones Parker’s puerile behavior and thinks it is befitting a so-called leader.

  3. “…But I would say we’ve now seen demonstration that they’re just not up to the task for being able to care for these vulnerable members of our population.”

    Using Ms. Smith’s rationale that not being up to the task warrants their removal, can we also get rid of some of our UCP politicians who are similarly ‘not up to the task’?

  4. As David has pointed out many times, a UCP mantra seems to have become, ‘no rules were broken’. I wonder if Contentment Social Services can make the same claim, since reducing red tape has left us with so few rules to break. As a result, can Contentment sue the provincial government for breaking their contract, since they did not break any rules? Or, more to the point, will the UCP be giving Contentment a severance to make sure there is no lawsuit?

  5. “I will not be releasing the names of our donors so that they can be harassed by left wing activists,” he said at the time, when he also called on supporters to hold a protest “in light of the rampant corruption at Elections Alberta.”

    “On Friday morning, he returned to the same theme in the same venue: “Dear Leadership of Alberta Health Services,” he tweeted. “We are coming for you, and we will not rest until your evil communist ideology is eradicated from the face of this province. Sincerely, Take Back Alberta.””

    Back to the future of McCarthyism? Hardly, it (21st century 50 cent McCarthyism) remains the comfortable and comforting background steady state diversionary ‘scare’ tactic and is the routine grist for all of the paranoids managing the Alberta petrostate (corporate/state) mill.

  6. Lagrange did her best to destroy public education and she’s doing the same with public healthcare. Meanwhile Marlaina is on another taxpayer funded junket to Houston to promote fossil fuels. These people seem to enjoy punching down on the vulnerable. It is to weep.

    1. Just curious, what is this ‘Marlaina’ reference I keep seeing with regard to Smith?

      1. Expat: It’s her legal first name. Marlaina Danielle Smith. This was seen as ironic when Ms. Smith adopted policies requiring that teachers notify parents if their children want to change their names or pronouns at school. Ms. Smith said it was her family’s choice to call her Danielle, not hers, but she’s OK with it. While one can never be too confident that Ms. Smith is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, this is a common practice in many families. DJC

  7. What a frightening mess for anyone who needs continuing care right now. The UCP government lies continue. Two conflicting statements cannot both be true. It seems that Albertans can’t grasp this concept: the UCP have complete contempt for human dignity.

    What next? We’ve seen total disregard for the safety of children in private daycare centres and the worst E. coli outbreak in Alberta history. We’re watching failure upon failure to protect the people of this province. People who are too young, too old or too sick to speak up have already borne the brunt of this government’s callous actions and inaction.

    The UCP caucus has zero boundaries. At what point can we conclude the sum of the actions is no longer oversight but intent? Historical precedent will tell where this leads. When governments treat the people as disposable, we should all move beyond concern to code orange: alert, alert, alert — worry! What is done to the “least” of us can be done to the rest of us.

    Why is TBA, the command centre of the UCP, trying so hard to avoid accountability and subvert Elections Alberta? Are we getting closer to knowing who funded the convoyeurs at Coutts and beyond? I guess their supporters don’t want to stick around for the SHTF moment.

  8. “Payin’ anything to roll the dice
    Just one more time
    Some’ll win, some will lose
    Some are born to sing the blues
    Whoa, the movie never ends
    It goes on and on and on and on”

    The lyrics, by Journey, seem to be telling the UCP plot. They’ll govern by rolling the dice. Some will lose. Cry us a river, you whiny babies. We’ll keep doing the same thing over and over and over and over. What are you going to do about it? Nothing: three more years, you losers!

    Thanks, Journey, for allowing this song to be the anthem of Alberta. I think.

  9. This is just the tip.

    There will more more revelations coming from frustrated ER staff, EMS staff, patients, etc in the near future. AHS, at the working level, the pointy end, is in a complete state of disfunction and it is getting worse according to those I know who are part of the day to day operations.

    The issue is not only Danielle Smith. It is about those around her who she has trused with making positive change. They do not have a clue about the effective delivery of health services. And it is about the increasing number of resignations of professional health care staff.

  10. Where the recent debacles in long term care services go, the UCP is probably wondering why people don’t die when they’re supposed to.

    As for the aged and the loony protesting in support of David Parker’s defence against the inquiries by Elections Alberta, I’m wondering why people don’t die when they’re supposed to?

  11. So…39 accounted for; but what about the other 111 of the 150 that Ms Lagrange said spaces were created in the last 5 months ? Are there more motel/hotels in different cities in Alberta that “clients ” were sent to ?
    Does Mr Nixon’s credit card have that much room on it, that he could put $25,000 on it? NICE !! and how many more rooms is he going to have to cover? This C- grade…correction F-grade script is only believable to those that are watching without the subtitles. IMHO it’s an insult to Albertans, that DS and co. think that people actually believe what she is trying to sell.

    Awwh!! only 45, so sad — I guess the saying about “finding out who your real friends are, when you’re in trouble” applies here.

    Now the question is, does Elections Alberta have to/ will they release their findings??

    1. The scary thing is, many do believe what she is selling! Read the comments on any video about moving to Alberta or any CTV News story about Alberta and there they are! The damned and the ignorant and all trying to sell tickets to the cult of TBA/UCP a la Danielle Smith!

  12. Ah, Take Back Alberta: a lot of hot air and as soon as they get “a whiff of (legal) grapeshot” they collapse like a cheap suit. There may be a lesson there for dealing with the UCP as well.

    And today let’s not forget the father of it all: Brian Mulroney. He had his hand out right to the end. He retired to Trump’s Florida on his government pension and now he is back getting a government paid funeral. Typical of that section of the Canadian establishment that sold out and moved to America while their NEPO babies take their turns sucking at the public teat.

    1. Well put. Not speaking ill of the dead is one thing but the media coverage of Mulroney has been non-stop sycophancy. The guy did as much damage to this country as he did good in the world.

      1. Do not speak ill of the dead.

        Brian Mulroney loved Canada…..and unmarked envelopes stuffed with cash.

  13. Well well. The Useless Crap Party is challenging intelligent citizens for the umpteenth time! Got a Grand Mother/Father with health problems? That’s your problem! You should have made sure they never got sick! Libertarianism is so simple! Just like Dominionism and the brain dead garbage excuses that support both for the sake of their vanity!
    This ones for Dani and her head injury cabinet!

  14. Great stuff.
    This reader still wonders what healing foods were administered to the patients. Pizza, Burgers, Chinese?

    1. Chuck: McDonald’s, according to the only witness account I have seen, although there’s a KFC right across the street from the Travelodge. DJC

  15. Naheed Nenshi recently made an observation about the Smith government that rather fits this case. His first insight is there is nobody in the UCP who seems capable of creating good functioning policy, by which I think he means policy not formed on fantastical right wing ideology. And second, there is nobody in this administration who can execute policy, or cause it to be executed. In Nenshi’s example, he spoke of the near power black outs in the recent cold snap. Nobody from demented Danielle on down gave any advice/publicity about reducing power demand. Nenshi used his network to spread information about how to lower power demand. This government only howled about the Trudeau guy. Not a word about cooking without using ovens, not running laundry etc. To cut electric usage.

    Here also we have policy built on fantastic right wing imagining. Not needing acute care, means you are able to manage for yourself, and can negotiate with the free market. Regardless of what I think of Mr. Nenshi I believe his observation is accurate. This government needs to go, surely almost any other party short of a bunch of anarchists would be better. Heck, maybe they would be better?

  16. I’m sure if she could get away with it Danielle Smith would happily dump
    these excess patients out by the dumpsters behind the hospitals.

    There really needs to be a proper investigation. How did the Minister decide which patients should be warehoused in these roach motels? Who signed off on these patients’ discharge from acute care? It is unthinkable that anyone would put a helpless, handicapped human being into these situations. Smith is defensively claiming “there’s no room at the inn”- well for God’s sake build it! Notley and Hoffman had the South Edmonton Hospital started and it would have been done in 2026 but for Smith cancelling it. Albertans should be livid.

    1. I still drive by one hospital on occasion, looking for unmarked reefer units in the loading docks, near the K-Bro laundry trailers. So now you know!

  17. It is very clear to me why we have these problems and probably will continue to have them. At every opportunity, the UCP chooses to cheap out on health care.

    For instance, Edmonton’s population has doubled over the last 35 years. Yet no new major hospital has been built since then. One was proposed by the previous government to be built in 2019, cancelled by the UCP, briefly dangled by them in the recent election and then postponed again. So no wonder there is a shortage of hospital beds in Edmonton.

    The current health care mess in the City of Edmonton is entirely of the UCP’s making. Perhaps it was meant to punish those who did not vote for them, or they felt they had no seats to lose ,so it was safe politically to do so. But being petty and mean spirited can come back to bite, in ways unexpected to those that think they can get away with it, and it is now.

    Had the needed hospital been constructed in 2019, we probably would not be having this discussion or dealing with this issue. There is no room in the health care system now in the Edmonton area and it is entirely the fault of the UCP and its past bad and short sighted choices.

  18. So, I watched a bit of Right Hon. Brian Mulroney’s state funeral, and I was struck by something that should give everyone pause about these grand occasions and the sort of people who show up.

    The broadcasters/hosts/play-by-play announcers went on and on about Mulroney’s sterling record as a “great Canadian”. Yep, he had a record, alright. But I was quick to notice that the record they presented was predominately about the cause of tackling Acid Rain and South African Apartheid. Okay, these were laudable accomplishments, of sorts; but there was the obvious and very convenient overlooking of the Mulroney Government’s routine ethical lapses, the endless rifts that resulted because of Mulroney’s vainglorious effort to best P.E.T. and secure Quebec’s entry into the Canadian constitutional family, which stumbled twice until it was finally crushed in a federal referendum. The endless provincial infighting, the national unity crisis magnified like it has never been before, the glad handing, the lust for Reagan style Americanization, and the pandering to that end. Yeah, that’s a sterling record, fer sur.

    So, I’m watching the service, taking place in the spectacular environs of a grand church, and I was trying to remember if the church was Notre Dame de Montreal or the Basilica de Montreal, only to discover that the church is called Notre Dame Basilica de Montreal. Being a confirmed and violently militant atheist, I chuckled and at my weird obsessiveness over that wacky quasi-pagan religion called Roman Catholicism, their strange sacrifice rituals and their poorly veiled efforts to elevate Mulroney to something not unlike sainthood.

    If it’s true that spectacular arseholes get the best send-offs, then President Trump’s funeral when he dies in office should be amazing.

    1. JM: I listened to the CBC’s coverage this morning and I was astonished to learn what a great guy Mr. Mulroney was, and how he was beloved by all Canadians. I must’ve remembered wrong – false memory syndrome, perhaps – but I could have sworn he was almost universally reviled when he was finally booted out of office and sent packing; that he had to move to Florida because people would spit at him in the street. Who knew my memory could be so bad? Also, it turns out that the adoption of free trade with the United States was a wise and good policy that has done wonders for Canada, and that and through his constitutional efforts Mr. Mulroney actually saved Canada! And here I’d remembered him selling the country out to the United States and pretty well laying waste to the rest of the place in slow motion by bringing in Thatcherite neoliberalism. Well, boy, was I ever wrong about that! DJC

      1. Well, like every good Québécois, Mulroney headed for Florida because it’s joking called Quebec Sud by the many Snowbirds that winter there. Yes, I called Mulroney Québécois because he is. I remember around the time of the 1984 election, many, many people in Alberta thought Mulroney was English. (With a name like that?!) It was at this time that my younger self clued into how stupid people can be. But then, during my naive involvement in the RPC, I was amused to learn how many members hated Mulroney because he was French-Canadian. It’s amazing what a difference nine years can make.

        As for FTA, yeah there were benefits, however, still exploited by American economic nationalists, among them Donald Trump. (I’m sure he’ll throw the New NAFTA out the first chance he gets for … reasons.)

      2. Mr Mulroney left quite the mixed legacy, for sure. In the negative side, free trade and the privatization of dozens of Crown corporations top the list. Then there’s the GST: politically unpopular at the time — and still — but economically and fiscally superior to the hidden 13.5% Manufacturer’s Sales Tax it replaced, and far more comparable in its application to the Valued-Added Taxes (VAT) used in many highly-progressive European countries. And, no government since has seen fit to eliminate it, although the Harper government did reduce it to the current 5% from the initial 7%.

        On the positive side, there were two significant environmental initiatives that nobody could ever imagine coming from the current version of the Conservative Party, with its rampant climate change denialism: the acid rain agreement with the US, and the Montréal Protocol on the protection of the ozone layer. Then there’s the end of apartheid in South Africa and the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, which Mulroney — to his eternal credit — was a key player in achieving.

        So, was he deserving of the hagiographic tone of his obituaries? No. Was he as bad a PM as we all predict Pierre Poilèvre would be, if he wins the next election? Not by a long shot. IMHO.

    2. The last time I was in such a church it was for a funeral. At one point they fired up the incense pot, smoke and choke, coughs galore. Next time I’ll don a respirator or wait outside.

  19. “[T]hey’re just not up to the task for being able to care for these vulnerable members of our population.”

    Wait—what? Did Danielle Smith tell the TRUTH? She must be really scared. Or maybe I’m being harsh. After all, Smith is said to be a nice person, by everyone who knows her. Maybe she genuinely regrets seeing these vulnerable people stuck in a bad situation made by her own government. Maybe she’s truly sympathetic to their plight. (Maybe Smith is worried the muck LaGrange has kicked up will stick to Smith. Anyone care to bet which is more likely?)

    That won’t stop Smith—and LaGrange, oh no—from continuing their crusade and personal vendetta against the evil, autocratic, bloated bureaucracy of the Alberta Health Services. How DARE they try to protect people from disease?!

    God help us when the bills come due for Smith’s stupidity. Rebuilding AHS into an effective health-care delivery system will likely cost twice what Smith is wasting. We’ll have to start by firing every middle-manager, and up, that Smith & LaGrange hired. Then hire back at least some of the qualified people S&LaG fired/ transferred/ quit in disgust to rebuild a functional system.

    Whoever forms the next government will have to raise taxes. Oh, the humanity. It’d be poetic justice if Smith was forced to put in a sales tax, but Alberta can’t take eight years of Smith’s idiocy. Amazing that someone with two university degrees (it says on Wikipedia) can be so utterly clueless.

    1. Mike: Ms. Smith is charming. That is not necessarily the same thing as nice. DJC

    2. Mike—Oxford dictionary
      ” slag ”

      noun- stony waste matter separated from metals during the smelting or refining of ore.

      verb- produce deposits of slag

  20. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of David Parker’s latest antics. A small crowd of mostly elderly folks, mostly chatting among themselves (only one seems to be displaying a sign to passing cars), none obviously making a scene. What gives? It must be a terrible disappointment for The Leader, who doubtless hoped to overwhelm Elections Alberta with his mighty army of disciples.

    Oh, and what happened to Jason Kenney’s “No protests on public property” law? It sure looks like the so-called protesters are standing on a vacant lot (owned by whom?). Only the guy holding up the sign is visibly on the public sidewalk. Well, they’re obviously not making much of a fuss; and anyway, Kenney’s law only applies to left-wing, tree-hugging, wind-turbine-worshipping Commie-wannabes. So I guess that’s all right…isn’t it?

    1. Mike J Danysh: You are referring to this. I could tell that they were mostly seniors. What are they supposed to be taking back Alberta from? Had I been by there, I would have let them have it. The group seems quite lost. Does Davey really believe that he can fire the entire staff of Elections Alberta, if they ask him to provide a list of donors? Hopefully, they put the screws to his undemocratic tomfoolery, and make him pay the price for that, and he fizzles out into obscurity, along with whatever followers he has left.

    1. I believe the $1600 was a security deposit, so the actual fee charged to clients (because they can’t be called patients, because that would mean they need care) could be about double that amount, so $3200. I hope the families chime in and tell us more. It is a mystery.

  21. I’m not nearly as charitable in lauding Smith for handing over $25K to Travelodge. The question would be why?? I understand the reason you gave, David, but I think it’s much deeper than Travelodge kicking the patients out. I see it as Smith trying to be a hero and wanting to get the #MotelMedicine off the headlines. Lagrange is not getting the results she wants from her sessions and already one of the four pillars has been announced, as being delayed. The whole thing is a sham and needs to be canned!

    (By the way, was it paid on Jason Nixon’s credit card? Dani seemed to be gushing all over him and his efforts in Leduc – something that can’t be said for his actions with the Edmonton encampments, but that’s another story.)

    1. If Jason Nixon did use his personal credit card then he will be getting quite a rebate in the spring. Many cards return (kick-back) of 2 to 3% so he might get $750.00 for ‘helping out’. Not too bad.

      1. Seems like something that Nixon would do, for the benefit, as he appears to think that he’s the smartest guy in the room. 🙁

  22. With all my might I have resisted posting this. However all my might failed me! (c)onservatism is dead and gone. We’re left with “tumble weed” cranky brat hegemony (C)onservatives! You got children? Beat ’em ’til they fall in line!

    1. Pogo—

      I think I’m over plopped… ????tw

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