Seven years ago yesterday, Alberta’s NDP government announced the location of a desperately needed new hospital in South Edmonton.

Keep your eye on this still-empty field, where no hospital will likely ever be built. (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Roughly halfway through the Notley Government’s term in office, it was a warm and sunny spring day when the announcement was made at the 130-hectare site owned by the province near the intersection of Ellerslie Road and 127th Street.

“With a projected 350 to 500 beds, the new hospital will provide expanded health-care delivery to a city that is seeing some of the highest population growth in the country,” said the government’s news release that day. It would cost $400-million, the government said. 

“Southwest Edmonton has seen significant growth in recent years and this trend is expected to continue through to 2030,” it continued. “Over the next decade, the largest growth rate of seniors will occur in the Rutherford area of southwest Edmonton.”

“Our government is proud to make the dream of a new Edmonton hospital a reality,” said premier Rachel Notley at her outdoor news conference. 

The project, added health minister Sarah Hoffman, “is another example of our government’s commitment to supporting the critical frontline services Albertans depend on.”

Former premier Jason Kenney, who was determined to undo everything the NDP did in its four years in power, no matter how much sense it made (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It would be, observed Brian Mason, the infrastructure minister of the day, “the first hospital to be built in Edmonton in over a generation.”

The media that turned up that day mostly wanted to ask Ms. Notley questions about what she was going to do about the B.C. government’s concerns with the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, so the next day’s reports mostly treated the announcement as a done deal. 

Unfortunately, like Rome, modern hospitals can’t be built in a day. So while some prep work started on the site, the South Edmonton Hospital project hadn’t gotten very far when the newly formed United Conservative Party led by Jason Kenney handily won the general election on April 16, 2019. 

Trump-like, Mr. Kenney was determined to undo everything the NDP government had done in its four years in the driver’s seat, no matter how much sense it made or how much value it added. 

In those pre-pandemic days, Mr. Kenney was already making it clear to his supporters he planned to cut health care workers’ salaries and reduce spending on government services of all sorts – especially health care. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who apparently thinks South Edmonton residents should drive to Red Deer if they need an Emergency Room (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

The South Edmonton Hospital was just one of the first victims of Mr. Kenney’s promised “Summer of Repeal,” although the new UCP premier didn’t quite dare to kill it off completely. Instead, his government said the opening of the new hospital would be delayed for three years, from 2027 to 2030. 

That would have gotten him through another election, perhaps, with the possibility of a few seats in Edmonton had the Summer of Repeal not been followed by the Summer of COVID, which resulted in Mr. Kenney being sent packing by his party’s MAGAfied Take Back Alberta faction. 

After the 2023 election, with Danielle Smith at the helm of the UCP and not a single government seat in Edmonton, the project was in real trouble. Ms. Smith, as was obvious even before the vote on May 29, 2023, was not a leader for all Albertans, and if there’s one thing the UCP understands, it’s revenge.

On Feb. 27, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange brought up the unbuilt hospital and said the UCP would be “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.”

On March 1, the provincial budget made the obvious official – the UCP was pulling the plug on the South Edmonton Hospital. There was nothing in the budget for the project, on which $69 million had already been spent. 

A variety of creative excuses were offered, including that costs keep going up – which is certainly true. That’s what happens in inflationary times. But what it illustrates is the UCP’s irresponsibility in dropping the project for purely political reasons in 2019. 

That doesn’t matter to the UCP, though. They’ve killed it deader than the proverbial mackerel.

Premier Smith cheerfully suggested that if South Edmonton residents were in a hurry to visit an emergency ward, maybe they could drive to Red Deer, 150 kilometres to the south, which will be getting a new hospital.

In fairness, Red Deer needs a new hospital as badly as South Edmonton does. The difference, of course, is that from the government’s perspective the smaller city’s residents have a better track record of voting for the right party. 

Chances are very good now that the South Edmonton Hospital will never be built. 

Keep your eye on that valuable parcel of land at Ellerslie and 127th, though. 

What do you want to bet that the UCP would just love to sell it off to a friendly developer, if they can only figure out a way to do it without anybody noticing? 

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  1. This shows different things about the UCP. Their priorities are definitely backwards. Public healthcare isn’t something they are concerned about. Straight out of their hero, Ralph Klein’s play-book. If it isn’t private for profit, or if it can’t make their rich friends even richer, they don’t want to support it. A new hockey arena for Calgary is good, but a new hospital for Edmonton is bad. It was also the NDP who got a much useful superlab under construction, and the UCP, with their less than stellar wisdom, had that stopped, after they were elected in 2019. I also recall that the UCP’s lone MLA, Kaycee Madu (who had controversies of his own), had made the promise that Edmonton would indeed get the much needed new hospital if the UCP were re-elected in 2023. Kaycee Madu was rightfully dumped, and Edmonton didn’t get its much needed, new hospital. Reformers have a habit of saying anything to get elected. Danielle Smith even made the promise of giving Albertans personal tax cuts, if the UCP were re-elected in 2023. Those have never happened, and they likely never will. With the UCP, it’s all about revenge. Anyone that doesn’t go along with them, and doesn’t support them, gets treated badly. Edmonton and Calgary are seeing that. Pierre Poilievre is the same way. He is saying anything to get the CPC elected. Once these Reformers get into power, people will not be any better off.

  2. For all the complaining about the shortages of hospital beds, the reasons are very simple. No major new hospital has been built in Edmonton for over 30 years. Since then the population of the city and area has doubled.

    So the current government comes up with increasingly desperate and ineffective ways to free up hospital beds, such as sending people needing long term care off in a taxi to motels.

    Of course, Smith and her UCP gang hasn’t done a great job of creating affordable long term spaces either, hence all the supposed bed blockers. But the real bed blockers are the current government who stubbornly refuse to build a new hospital here.

    Spite and parsimony do not make a good health care policy. So perhaps more Edmontonians will eventually have to end up making the even longer trek to Red Deer and potentially overwelm the nice new and expanded health care facility there.

    In the end, there are unlikely to be any winners from Smith and the UCP’s continued bad health care policy and planning decisions.

    1. Spite and parsimony are the revealed preferences of the Alberta electorate. Punishing Edmontonians is what they want to do.

  3. The TBA party proves time and again that they only work for their political owners and rely on a base of easily manipulated voters. I am glad to be moving from Edmonton back to Canada this summer, finally. And I won’t be letting the door hit me on the way out. Thanks for all the money!!

  4. They will use the same method the mewling pukes used to sell off the valuable land around the former Deerhome in Red Deer: lots of yammering about more housing and trendoid nonsense about de-institutionalization. The resulting reality was a happy developer and lots of very vulnerable former patients wandering the streets looking for their old home.

  5. They could sell the land to build a cheap motel and put up seniors, especially veterans, with complex needs mental health patients with a history of violence in the same room. Nothing quite says ucp like letting veterans get attacked in their sleep just to help the rich get a tiny little bit richer.

  6. I remember when the NDP government announced that they were building a new hospital at Henday and 127 street. A lot of people in north Edmonton were happy that we were finally getting a much-needed hospital, since there are no hospitals in the north end of Edmonton.

    The clarification soon followed that the NDP were actually planning to build another hospital on the south side. The folks of Castledowns et al would therefore continue to rely on hospitals in other sectors of Edmonton, mainly by going downtown to the Alex, or perhaps if feeling adventurous heading out to St. Albert’s hospital. Sometimes we have to make the journey all the way to the Grey Nuns, the hospital already situated on the south side of Edmonton.

    1. Chambery: The Royal Alex is on the north side of the city. So is the Misericordia. The Sturgeon Community Hospital in St. Albert is very close to Castledown. With respect, I think the case for the South Hospital was stronger. DJC

      1. If all the folks on the south side of Edmonton were required to come to central Edmonton for all their hospital needs, we’d never hear the end of it. Perhaps that’s the problem: they advocate better for their needs than other parts of Edmonton.

        We’ve used the St. Albert Hospital before but it is hardly accessible for those without reliable transportation.

        And if the Alex on 111 Ave is a north side hospital, this means that the Misericordia (87 Ave just north of the Whitemud, U of A and Grey Nuns are all south side hospitals. A four to one hospital ratio between the south side and north side of Edmonton does not seem like a proper or fair ratio to me.

  7. I read in a Rick Bell “column” Dani called herself the most freedom loving politician in the history of this country.

    Free to die I guess.

  8. We live close by it’s location and shortly after the UCP took over the huge sign advertising it disappeared leaving us to believe that it never would get built, then in 2023 work began with a lot of pipes now in piles on the ground and yet once again it’s been delayed and you can bet David is right they are likely trying to privatize it. The fact that these fools continue to help the rich steal our oil and corporate tax wealth leaves them in financial ruin and replacing this lost revenue with privatization is their only answer to anything that’s how ignorant they are. Funny how they spread the lie that Ottawa is stealing all our money when they are the ones doing it, and don’t want our municipalities receiving any from Ottawa to help them survive because it makes them look like damn fools. Where is the intelligence in bragging about bringing thousands from other provinces into Alberta and not having the Health Care System or Education System to handle it?

  9. This needed hospital will never be built.

    However, if Edmonton wants another NHL arena, Queen Danielle is in a giving kind of mood.

  10. Hmmm!! 130 hectares?
    Well now, that sounds like it would fit in nicely with Marlaina’s/ Nate Glubish’s plan–( X- May 29th)
    ” I see a huge opportunity for Alberta to be the data centre capital of Canada, if not North America — NG,minister of technology and innovation.
    “Massive AI Data Centres Worth Billions are coming and Alberta wants to lead Canada”
    ( Chris Varcoe/ Calgary Herald May 29th)
    …..companies considering such developments are getting into queue…(AESO)…..including 3 that would require up to 400 megawatts.
    And it goes on….but imho ,if Edmontonians don’t mind sharing all that extra power with all those AI servers…
    “Adding more load means the province would have more customers sharing the static costs of transmission, distribution and the entire system, which would “help pay the bills “, Neudorf said.

    Much better value than some hospital, right? And in the winter when it gets cold and dark and they have to do rolling brown outs, well heck it’s just those people from Edmonton who don’t know how to vote. It’s their own fault.
    I’m still trying to figure out where all that extra power & water are going to come from, that she’s been holding out on with the Feds. ???

    1. The government isn’t funding those data centers or the generation and transmission required to support them, so your point is irrelevant. Any water consumed will have to be purchased from existing license holders as the South Sask basin has been frozen to new licenses since 2006. The blackouts were due to new generation projects being behind schedule, mainly the 900MW Kineticor facility near Edson. Capital Power will be adding ~500MW additional supply with Genesse 1 and 2 repower and Suncor’s boiler replacement will add ~800MW. Numerous smaller gas, wind and solar projects are also coming online.

  11. Sidebar, if admisable….

    Immigration lawyer today, discussing whether d’rump would be able to come to Canada– ie: convicted felon/ inadmissible here and 37 other countries….which lead to an interesting conversation, which in turn, lead to an observation from one of our group. During d’rumps initial campaigning ( and since) he said he was going to put a stop to ” rapists and felons ” coming into the country ” — so does that work in reverse as well?
    Beyond our legal pay grade, sad to say. Hmmmm!

    1. White collar criminals of any kind are rarely denied entry as they generally don’t pose physical risk. Why should Trump be any different? Is he going to pay off a porn star while in Canada?

  12. Just another e.g. of how dumb Smith is and how little she cares for the voters of Alberta. What can be done to one city now, can be done to another in due course.
    Lets wait and see until the dying due to lack of hospital beds starts. As some will be crying in front of the cameras some one ought to ask them how they voted.
    Large number of people from B.C. and Ontario are moving to Alberta due to lower housing costs. Wonder what they plan on doing when they need a hospital?
    A new subdivision with shopping area? Just the thing they need. Of course it will be difficult when people can’t get to a hospital or the hospital is full.
    You could say, Smith and Company are so vengeful it runs right into stupid.

  13. The politicization of hospital location and construction is nothing new. Look at the saga of the new Grande Prairie Regional Hospital, which was intended to replace the 1984-vintage Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, located near downtown on 98 Street and 105 Avenue.

    Some years ago, during the Ed Stelmach PC government, Premier Stelmach himself came to Grande Prairie to announce a new hospital to be built in the extreme northwestern reaches of the city, on the north side of 132 Avenue at around 108 Street. There was a 60-acre parcel owned by a local developer who was going to donate 40 acres to the then-Peace Country Health regional health authority, and build a commercial complex on the other 20 acres for such services as a drug store and medical clinic. Big signs went up, but not much else happened for the next while.

    Then, not all that much later, Mr Stelmach’s Health Minister Ron Leipert announced the formation of Alberta Health Services out of a merger of nine regional health authorities and three provincial health boards — but pointedly omitting the Roman Catholic Church’s parallel health care system, known as Covenant Health (formerly known as Caritas; I don’t recall when they changed their name). One of AHS’ first acts with respect to local health infrastructure was to kibosh the new north-end Grande Prairie hospital.

    A few years later, AHS announced Grande Prairie would get a new hospital after all — but not where Peace Country Health had wanted it to go. Instead, Grande Prairie Regional College donated a parcel of land that it owned along the west side of what was then known as the Highway 43 Bypass, just south of Bear Creek, to AHS, for a new hospital and health education centre. The College would get two floors of an entire wing of the hospital for its Nursing Education programme, moving that faculty out of the Douglas Cardinal-designed campus on the east side of the Bypass.

    Construction started in 2011, and was supposed to take three years. But by the time the NDP took government after the 2015 election, the project was seriously behind schedule. There were conflicting accusations about sub-contractors not getting paid by the general contractor, Graham Construction, and about change orders by Alberta Infrastructure leading to delays and escalating costs. In 2018, the then-Minister of Health, Sarah Hoffman, dismissed Graham and brought in Clark Builders to take over and bring it to completion. Construction largely finished and the keys handed over to AHS in 2020, at which point a lengthy commissioning process began, which was severely complicated by the pandemic.

    The facility finally opened in December 2021, ten years after construction began. The old Q E II Hospital was redesignated as an Ambulatory Care Centre and continues to provide some outpatient care services. The attached Mackenzie Place Continuing Care Centre has had two of its three nursing units reclassified as Supported Living, and the third is now an Enhanced Care Unit for older adults living with dementia.

    1. Jerry: I’m pretty sure the name change occurred in 2008 when the Catholic run hospital boards were amalgamated into one organization, paralleling the creation of AHS. DJC

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