is edmonton’s former capital health board being targeted by a calgary-led witch-hunt?

Witch Trial Alberta Health Services

The Alberta Health Services investigation into former Capital Health executives.

Are executives of the former Calgary Health Region, now comfortably occupying senior positions at Alberta Health Services, campaigning to discredit the work done by executives of Edmonton’s now-defunct Capital Health Region?

AHS President and CEO Chris Eagle announced earlier this week that, following the Allaudin Merali expense-claims scandal, an Ernst and Young audit would expand to include expense-claims from all former executives of Edmonton’s Capital Region Heath Authority. This expenses audit could include investigations into former Capital Health President and CEO Sheila Weatherhill, who recently resigned from the AHS Board of Directors, and potentially Ethics Commissioner Neil Wilkinson, who served as Capital Health’s board chairman until 2008.

Despite calls from critics to expand the expenses audit, it will not investigate former executives from Alberta’s other now-defunct regional health authorities.

Before it was dissolved, Capital Health was widely seen as an example of innovative regional health care in Alberta for its pioneering of Health Link and creation of the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and the Edmonton Clinic at the University of Alberta. The targeting of only Capital Health officials in this expense-audit could be seen as a campaign to discredit their many successes of Capital Health by officials from the former Calgary Health Region, which was mired in a financial deficit.

Some current Alberta Health Services senior executives who were employed or connected with the former Calgary Health Region include President & CEO Mr. Eagle, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer Bill Trafford, Chief Operations Officer Chris Marzukowich, Chief Medical Officer David Megran, and Senior Vice President (Communications) Roman Cooney. Even the AHS senior vice-president in charge of the Edmonton zone, Mike Conroy, held several senior management positions with the Calgary Health Region.

For many years, the Calgary Health Region benefited from political proximity to both Premier Ralph Klein, and former Provincial Treasurer Jim Dinning, who later served as chairman of the health region’s board of directors. Prominent politically connected directors appointed to serve on the Calgary Health board included Premier Klein’s constituency president Skip MacDonald and Progressive Conservative Party vice-president Scobey Hartley.

In some circles, it is suspected that the creation of the provincial health superboard was a reaction to the political brazenness of former Calgary Health Region CEO Jack Davis, who was known to use media attention to leverage increased funding from the provincial government. As CEO of Capital Health, Ms. Weatherill used considerably more tact than her Calgary counterpart, relying on official channels to lobby the government.

In its final year of existence, the Calgary Health Region recorded a $85 million deficit and Mr. Davis went public to get more money from Premier Ed Stelmach’s government before the 2008 election, which threatened to make it an campaign issue. Shortly after the Tories were re-elected in 2008, the regional health authorities were dissolved and Health Minister Ron Liepert created Alberta Health Services. The dissolution of the Calgary Health Region led to Mr. Davis receiving a $4 million retirement package (Ms. Weatherill was paid about $2 million under her supplemental executive retirement plan).

Expanding the expense-claims audit beyond the Capital Health Region could reveal similarities and contrasts in expense-claims, but more dangerously for some, it could dive into the annals of PC Party patronage. The regional health boards across the province were notoriously stacked with appointees who also happened to be card-carrying members of the PC Party.

Among the prominent Tories appointed as chairman of the former regional health authorities included cabinet minister and PC election campaign manager Marvin Moore in the Peace Country Health Authority and former cabinet minister, Ernie Isley, who served as chairman of the Lakeland Health Authority, which posted a $4 million deficit in 2002.

11 thoughts on “is edmonton’s former capital health board being targeted by a calgary-led witch-hunt?

  1. Stuart

    It all started with a FOIP by CBC. To pull from your title stunt – Do they secretly have a crush on Calgary?

    If the media or citizens groups start the ball rolling in Calgary with a FOIP and that uncovers ‘crap’ it will continue from there. Somebody please do so. In the meantime it will be the same old porkbarreling and denial.

    Reply
  2. Will Munsey

    But Dave, what do you suspect is the ultimate end game of this? Is it really just to get to the bottom of this sort of patronage to end it… or to embarrass a group of people out of power? I have a hard time believing it’s happening because it’s the right thing to do.

    Reply
  3. Darcy Dupas

    The shocking thing is how the shame, rightfully placed upon these individuals, is accompanied by these massive severance packages.

    It is far to apt a comparison to Leviticus, where the scapegoat is given a silver necklace to bare the inequities of the community out into a land uninhabited; but in this case, the inequities are borne to an off-shore bank account.

    Reply
  4. ema2

    For a clearer picture of the cronyism that has been rampant at AHS, I suggest reading these articles :-
    1. http://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/Sowing+seeds+health+fiasco/7062647/story.html and
    2. http://albertaviews.ab.ca/issues/2003/mayjun03/mayjun03health.pdf
    Note the cast (of mostly PC characters) that come up, including the infamous Gary Mar.
    My heart just aches for the treatment/abuse suffered by Brian Bechtel.
    The wicked irony is that we now have Neil Wilkinson as our ETHICS Commissioner??!! Read it and weep, for shame.

    Reply
  5. Wanda

    Not that it matters….but pretty sure Chris Marzukowich never worked for the Calgary Health Region. He joined AHS from a region in BC.

    Reply
  6. jerrymacgp

    Broken link: “…notoriously stacked with appointees who also happened to be card-carrying members of the PC Party…” leads to a “Page no longer exists” error message.

    Reply
  7. Susan Wright

    Interesting question…why? I think Redford has lost her fragile grip on power (if she ever had it in the first place). As a result shrewd people are rushing in to fill the vacuum. Someone thinks this audit is a good idea (for whatever reason) but only if it is done in this haphazard but deadly way. Others like the DM of Agriculture hire former cabinet ministers to newly created positions without giving Alison a heads-up and she takes a week to decide that she’ll support the appointment instead of taking the DM apart limb from limb. It’s utter chaos. I can’t wait for the 2013 PC leadership review.

    Reply
  8. Harry Jaglalsingh

    A study of the College of Cardinals surrounding Mme Redford explains everything anybody needs to understand.
    When Lougheed knocks on doors for her election, then gives up a Law Partner to join this College,and his MP former Assistant does the same(and I’ll leave out mention of the other “distinguished” College members fore the sake of brevity), nothing has changed. It’s the same old Order. A faction controls that other faction, which in Stockholm Syndrome fashion,agrees to the coersive powers of the former in the sole interest of it’s longevity and powers of Control. Nothing is changed.’Twas ever thus.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: Edmonton Notes for 8/26/2012 - MasterMaq's Blog

  10. Pingback: Something was rotten in the former Calgary Health Region. | daveberta.ca - Alberta politics

  11. Pingback: Firing AHS board a short-term solution to a Tory political problem. | daveberta.ca - Alberta politics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *