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Alberta Diary: A few harmless slaps were landed, but last night’s PC leadership debate in Edmonton was no donnybrook

The Three Tory Amigos just before last night’s Edmonton debate. Below: Mr. Lukaszuk, who your blogger says was the debate winner, frontrunner Jim Prentice, and the challenger with the best chance, Ric McIver.

If last night’s Alberta Progressive Conservative Leadership debate in a North Edmonton Ukrainian community hall shows anything, it’s that candidates Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk were slightly better brawlers than leadership frontrunner Jim Prentice.

But you’d expect the two challengers to pile onto the favoured candidate at an event like this – the only forum in the entire leadership campaign not carefully scripted by the PC Party (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Wild Rose Country no more? What are we gonna call this place if the Alberta Party starts soaring in the polls?

Alberta Minister of Licence Plates Doug Griffiths poses with some of the versions of Alberta’s plates considered by provincial officials before they settled on the three finalists unveiled yesterday. Below: Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen, centre, examines a licence-plate-making facility on a recent government trip to Minnesota. Below that: The real Doug Griffiths and his sidekick Jonathan “Dep’uty Jono” Denis, the chief lawman of the territory.

So here’s my question: If it were the Alberta Party instead of the Wildrose Party breathing down the necks of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, would they change the name of the province?

Yesterday, elected (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: A question for Premier Dave Hancock: Who will rid Alberta’s Tories of their turbulent Education Minister?

Education Minister Jeff Johnson flips burgers at Alison Redford’s K-Days Breakfast, last year. A sign of things to come for Mr. Johnson? Below: Premier Dave Hancock, who knows what he needs to do, former premier Redford, who knew exactly what she wanted, and Alberta Information Commissioner Jill Clayton, who knows the law.

Now that we know Education Minister Jeff Johnson or someone in his office broke Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to send an email to more than 34,000 teachers back in 2013, is it time for Dave Hancock to start acting like he really is (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Alberta’s Tories appear to have waded into the shallow end of the political gene pool

Jim Prentice surrounded by supporters in Edmonton. Below: Defiant Education Minister Jeff Johnson, Premier Dave Hancock, political strategist Stephen Carter.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

Never mind the bit about any second coming being at hand. You can go too far, in my estimation, searching modern poets for political metaphor. Anyway, that was what Alison Redford was supposed to be, wasn’t it? Or was that Ed Stelmach?

Just the same, I do have a revelation for you: the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, the mighty dynasty created 43 years ago by the (Read more…) - Alberta politics: Alberta PC leadership race is policy-lite in early days

TweetThe race is still in its early stages, but Albertans hoping the Progressive Conservatives leadership contest would spark a great policy debate about the future of our province are so far disappointed. The most notable news so far from this race has been the growing number of endorsements collected by front-runner Jim Prentice. While 45 of […]

Alberta Diary: Newsprint ‘wraps’ – not good for fish and, as it turns out, not much good for newspapers either

The Edmonton Journal’s “wrap” Friday, showing the hidden front page inside. Below: The wrap’s uninspiring front page.

Now that nobody sells fried fish wrapped in yesterday’s edition of the local daily any more, presumably for fear the ink will leak through into your liver, the term “wrap” has come to be faintly respectable in newspaper circles.

The word nowadays is used to describe a four-page advertising feature that wraps around the entire newspaper. They’re one of the few profitable services the declining industry has left to sell in an era when fewer readers want the print product, and when ads (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Alberta Workers Compensation Board poised to give back more than $500 million to employers

Alberta Workers Compensation Board officials ready shipments of money to send back to employers. Actual WBC staff may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk and now-official Tory leadership candidate Ric McIver, who gave up the K in his first name for the benefit of all Albertans.

The Alberta Workers Compensation Board is poised to give back more than half a billion dollars in employer contributions thanks to an unexpectedly good year for its asset-liability management activities.

Leastways, so says a slide prepared for a meeting the month before last of the Industry Task Force Association, (Read more…) - Alberta politics: Insiders will pretend to be outsiders in the PC leadership race

Tweet Former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel is not running for the PC Party leadership Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel announced yesterday that he will not run for the Progressive Conservative Party leadership. Mr. Mandel was seen as a great hope by many Edmonton Tories, who believed him to be the outsider who could breath some fresh […]

Alberta Diary: If Albertans can’t trust actuary’s conclusions, why did AHS hire the same firm? Hint: it’s not the firm you can’t trust

The Alberta Health Services computing division, figuring out how much they spend on consultants this quarter, hard at work. Actual Alberta health bureaucrats may not appear exactly as illustrated.


It was interesting, surely, to read the Wildrose Party’s revelation yesterday that Alberta Health Services had spent close to a quarter of a billion dollars on consultants for such services as communications advice, executive coaching and fine arts expertise in a mere 18 months in 2012 and 2013.

But it was revealing, too, in a small way, to take a peek at whom some of the favoured consultants were on (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Municipal Affairs Minister Ken Hughes quits Alberta cabinet – presumably to run for PC leadership

Half-confirmed Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ken Hughes, on the night in 2011 Alison Redford won the party’s leadership. Well, that was then and this is now, as the appalled looking unidentified passerby sensed to have sensed. Below: Doug Horner. Anyone else?

Alberta’s Municipal Affairs Minister quit his cabinet post yesterday, by the sound of it because he intends to run for the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party.

If that’s the reason for Ken Hughes unexpectedly showing up in one of the back rows of the Legislature’s latest seating chart – he didn’t give a lot of notice that (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: A mystery that won’t go away: Why do Alberta patients still face such long waits for lung surgery?

A horse with a silver blaze, curried mutton and a dog that did nothing in the night-time helped Sherlock Holmes get to the bottom of a mysterious death. Will it take a legendary detective to uncover the problem with lung surgeries in Alberta? Below: Dr. Verna Yiu; Dr. Raj Sherman; Dr. Ciaran McNamee.

Scotland Yard Detective: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Sherlock Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Detective: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Holmes: “That was the curious incident. (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Allaudin Merali files suit against Fred Horne, Alberta Health Services for breach of contract, defamation

Health Minister Fred Horne: target of defamation, breach of trust, loss of income suit by former Alberta Health Services CFO. Below: Allaudin Merali.

Allaudin Merali filed a statement of claim today in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench against Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne.

“The statement of claim includes claims for a breach of contract, defamation and loss of income,” Mr. Merali said in a carefully worded email sent to media and bloggers.

Since the former Capital Health Region and Alberta Health Services CFO’s expense account became a cause célèbre and a political embarrassment to the (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Small changes may signal glimmer of awareness of trouble ahead among rank and file Tory MLAs

Members of Alison Redford’s brain trust plan the latest hashtags in the Twitter war with AUPE … No! Wait! That’s Bob MacNamara telling LBJ about his plans for the war in Vietnam! What the hey? Below: That rude info-graphic; Red House Chief of Staff Farouk Adatia; White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Opposition political operatives in Alberta spent an entertaining weekend poking through the entrails of the Progressive Conservative government’s Sunshine List, noticing cool things to mention like the fact Premier Alison Redford’s chief of staff earns $144,000 a year more than the guy who does the same thing (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: About those 620,000 missing patient files: the timing’s interesting but the accountability’s a bigger deal

Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne: He’s outraged about those 620,000 missing patient files. Below: Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton. She’s looking in to it. Now, everyone go back to sleep.

Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne claims to be outraged he’s only just learned the personal health records of 620,000 Albertans were on a laptop computer that disappeared, presumably stolen, in Edmonton last September. And well he should be.

But no one in a position of responsibility seems all that concerned that the records – which included names, birthdays, health card numbers, billing codes and diagnostic codes of enough patients to fill (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Fred Horne’s flu-jab count: thoughtful response to a health problem or quick fix to a political crisis?

Albertans line up for flu shots at Bonnie Doon Mall in Edmonton yesterday. Actual vaccination lines may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Heath Minister and de facto Alberta health Services chief executive Fred Horne.

Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne, who nowadays doubles as the unofficial chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, held a news conference in an Edmonton drugstore yesterday and told the respectfully gathered media that not enough Alberta health care workers are immunized against influenza.

Indeed, he claimed, only an alarming and startlingly precise 46 per cent of them have had the flu jab!

A drugstore (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Alberta’s 13 most under-reported political news stories of 2013

Another aircraft takes off from Fort McMurray International Aerodrome loaded with CO2 captured from Alberta’s Athabasca bitumen sands. The gas will be stored in the basements of Russian buildings as part of a deal worked out through the province’s $2-billion “carbon capture” program. Actual Alberta carbon capture boondoggles may not operate exactly as described. Below: A Lethbridge student continues studying as hydraulic fracking operations take place next to her school; why is this doctor smiling? Hint: He runs a Family Care Clinic.

Soon it’ll be 2014 and the mainstream media can get back to doing what it does best: panicking (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: A serious question for Albertans: Is the Redford Government out of control?

Whose House is it? In Alberta, not yours! Public service union members tried to enter the Alberta Legislature yesterday to protest Bills 45 and 46, and soon found the doors barred. Below: Some more of the 400 or so people who braved the coldest spot in Edmonton for an impromptu rally organized by public service workers yesterday.

Albertans got a first look at the Redford Government’s suspiciously timed public employee “restraint” legislation yesterday – which effectively bans meaningful collective bargaining in the public sector and allows the province to impose agreements by fiat.

Many of them, of course, won’t (Read more…)

Susan on the Soapbox: Running with Scissors: Another AHS CEO Bites the Dust

It’s like running with scissors. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.

On Oct 17, 2013, Duncan Campbell took over as interim CEO of Alberta Health Services, replacing Dr Chris Eagle who abruptly resigned with two years left to go on his five year employment contract.

Duncan Campbell

Mr Campbell eagerly took up the challenge of rebuilding AHS. Within a week he’d downsized the senior leadership team and was planning to finalize the remaining leadership changes and review the functions of the zones and province-wide services by Oct 31.

He acknowledged the many parts of (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: More chaos at top of Alberta Health Services: CEO out after 1 month; 2-headed replacement found

Is this the management model in the Alberta Health Services executive suite? Actual Alberta health ministers or AHS administrators may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: AHS Administrator John Cowell, ex CEO Duncan Campbell, new co-CEO Brenda Huband and new co-CEO Rick Trimp (no relation).

This just in! Alberta Government replaces Alberta Health Services CEO …. again!

The revolving door to the AHS executive suite is now spinning so quickly somebody’s going to get hurt. Unless, that is, everybody stays calm….

Now, it’s true that Duncan Campbell, who was put in the top job at AHS just 30 days (Read more…)

False positive: private profit in Canada's health care: Edmonton’s Medical Laboratory Proposal: A Private Insanity

I wrote the following post as an op-ed in the Edmonton Journal, October30, 2013. I hope it plays a part in halting the privatization of Edmonton’s medical laboratories.

The Alberta government is proposing to give the private sector a 15-year contract to run medical laboratory services in Edmonton. This policy meets the popular definition of insanity: a condition where you do the same thing again expecting a different result. The government proposal has been tried many times before, twice in Alberta, and it has not worked.

In 1996, premier Ralph Klein sought a private-sector provider to deliver all laboratory services (Read more…)

Susan on the Soapbox: Janet Davidson is appointed Deputy Minister of Health

Janet Davidson

The Redford government just passed an Order in Council appointing Janet Davidson Deputy Minister of Health. This decision has many implications, not the least of which is this: Will Ms Davidson continue in her role as Official Administrator of Alberta Health Services? Is she legally allowed to perform both roles and collect two pay cheques, one as Official Administrator and one as Deputy Minister, at the same time? If she can, is this an indication that the government is backing away from its practice of creating boards and packing them with cronies who’ve served them (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: 70-plus AHS VPs over the side: Alberta doesn’t reinvent the health care system – sort of…

Another visually riveting moment in the history of Alberta Health Services – from left to right, CEO Chris Eagle, Health Minister Fred Horne and just-appointed Deputy Health Minister Janet Davidson at yesterday’s news conference in Edmonton, exactly as illustrated. Below: NDP Leader Brian Mason speaks for the opposition; new AHS Administrator Dr. John Cowell.

Methinks the minister doth protest too much.

OK, I didn’t count. But Health Minister Fred Horne, Alberta Health Services Chief Executive Officer Chris Eagle and Janet Davidson – we’ll get to who she is in just a moment – kept insisting at their press conference yesterday (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Queue-jumping inquiry report surely wounds Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman

Wildrose Opposition Leader Danielle Smith, looking for all the world like a future premier, lands a few easy punches on the government after the release yesterday of the health care queue-jumping inquiry report. Below: Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman and former AHS CEO Stephen Duckett, both assailed in the report by Commissioner John Z. Vertes.

Time will tell if the report of Alberta’s inquiry into medical queue jumping turns out to be the skillful strategic win for the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Alison Redford it appeared to be when it was released yesterday morning.

But one thing is virtually (Read more…)

Susan on the Soapbox: A(nother) Trip to the Mayo: The Power of Seamless Connections

For the record, the Soapbox family is not crazy about going to the US for medical care, but our eldest daughter (let’s call her “Missy”) has some serious health issues (I blame it on Mr Soapbox’s gene pool) and her GP refused to book the necessary appointments with specialists because—get this—“there were too many cooks in the kitchen”!

The Doctors Mayo

So we followed in the footsteps of Mr Soapbox and our younger daughter “Mini” and set out for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

We got off to a less than auspicious start. I kicked over Missy’s hot (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Redford Government, Alberta Health Services Division, drops two political hot potatoes

Health Minister Fred Horne, at the wheel of Alberta Health Services, reverses course on some unpopular policies faster than you can say “take action to improve care.” The actual AHS does not actually resemble an NDP-orange Dodge Charger from Hazzard County, Alberta. Below: AHS Administrative Officer Janet Davidson, at right, with the real Fred Horne.

If you ever wanted proof there’s more to democracy than just elections, and that democratic protest can really make a difference, all you have to do is think about the screeching bootleg turn executed by Alberta Health Services yesterday.

The G-forces must have been (Read more…)