Queue-jumping report quashes another Tory scandal

Over the past eight months, Premier Alison Redford‘s Tories have been quickly dispatching the handful of scandals and allegations that dogged them and robbed them of their political agenda throughout 2012. Facing an aggressive Wildrose official opposition, the Progressive Conservatives were marred by controversy as they struggled to put forward a coherent government agenda in the months following last year’s election.

Premier Alison Redford
Premier Alison Redford

With the delivery of Justice John Vertes final report from the semi-independent Health Services Preferential Access Inquiry, the long-governing Tories have dispatched another potentially embarrassing scandal that has dogged them since their party’s 2011 leadership race.

The final report into allegations of politically-influenced queue-jumping  released today found no smoking gun or Watergate-type connections between senior politicians and preferential access in Alberta’s health care system.

While the scope of Justice Vertes’ inquiry was narrower than Premier Redford originally  promised, with no investigations into the alleged intimidation of medical professionals, there are no signs of any massive cover-up.

There are questions about the quality of the responses from those questioned during the inquiry hearings. As the report said, “many witnesses, even though called to testify under oath, exhibited a regrettable failure to recollect events and activities that should not have slipped so easily from memory.”

Raj Sherman MLA
Raj Sherman

While the inquiry did discover some startling cases of queue-jumping, including at the private Helios cancer screening clinic in Calgary, the report rebukes the two prominent individuals who claimed there was political interference.

The first allegation was made by former Alberta Health Services President and CEO Stephen Duckett in a speech and he admitted his sources were second-hand. Dr. Duckett has since returned to Australia, where he is the health program director at the Grattan Institute.

Maybe the politician to lose the most from this report is Liberal Party leader Dr. Raj Sherman, who has spent years claiming to have first-hand evidence of queue-jumping. Dr. Sherman, an emergency room doctor and former parliamentary assistant to the Health Minister, spoke with credibility two years ago and earned a folk-hero status when he was turfed from the Tory caucus in 2010. The Doctor has been unable to produce any evidence supporting his claims, which will certainly hurt his credibility.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alberta
Danielle Smith

Dr. Sherman’s absence at today’s inquiry report announcement was noticed, as New Democrat MLA David Eggen and Wildrose official opposition leader Danielle Smith made themselves readily available for interviews outside the official media briefing. None of the province’s five Liberal MLAs were present at the event.

Looking  and sounding more like a Premier-in-waiting each day, Ms. Smith responded to the final report with calm and ease.  Not overly critical, the opposition leader questioned the limited scope of the inquiry compared to its originally promised mandate and complimented its recommendations.

The report makes numerous recommendations, including the creation of a Health Advocate and the strengthening of whistleblower protection legislation for health care workers. Both of which have the potential to be positive changes for the health care system.

The Tories may take the recommendation to create a Health Advocate as an opportunity to push the long-shelved and controversial Alberta Health Act into law. Approved by the Assembly in October 2010 , the legislation has collected dust without Royal Assent since.

8 thoughts on “Queue-jumping report quashes another Tory scandal”

  1. A good commentary, but I have to disagree with one thing – Smith being a “premier in waiting”. An opposition leader like Brian Mason hits hard but offers alternatives. Smith offers nothing but shrill, negative politics that will never take her out of her base that she has now. The Wildrose party will need a new leader for that.

  2. Hindsight is 20-20, but I don’t think the 7 million dollar price tag was worth it. I also don’t think an inquiry should cost so much. The real criminals are the government lawyers.

  3. And #pcaa proves once again that they are masters of manipulating and creating rules that will ensure they get the outcomes and results they want. This whole inquiry was a farce. Of course it was released right away, they knew exactly what it would say.

    Even Vertes wrote: “Many witnesses, even though called to testify under oath, exhibited a regrettable failure to recollect events and activities that should not have slipped so easily from memory.”

    For me, that is the most damning part of the report. Not only Sherman and Duckett that couldn’t remember, but all those employees and executives. Bad memory or intimidation? Oh, right, not allowed to be discussed.

  4. @midge, Dave not so fast. Every witness got amnesia and the I “don’t recall syndrome” , simply because none of the witnesses were provided legal protection of any kind and they did this on purpose to silence and thereby make witnesses appear as though they were not telling the truth. The whole purpose of a que-ue jumping inquiry was a political cover bait and switch, a legal trap for some of the witnesses involved. So you see, witnesses are screwed if they say something and screwed if they say nothing. YES ITS A CATCH 22 for witnesses. Legally concocted for entrapment and to silence to discredit witnesses.

    RED Ferd originally promised a far sweeping PUBLIC JUDICIAL INQUIRY into physician intimidation, waste and impropriety. BUT Not one opposition party EVER asked for a “queue jumping inquiry” . This is something tories rammed through, they picked the judge and narrowed the terms of reference for the whitewash result they wanted. 7 million bucks for 10 lines of fluff.

    They could have trained more Dr.s or hired nurses instead of that waste.

    @Dave I really felt you should have provided a more thoughtful analysis on this topic. Disappointing.

  5. The biggest loser here is Danielle Smith. She has harped on and on about this report saying there’s some “smoking gun” – when it turns out there was a lot of nothing. She is hardly qualified to be a minister or leader of the oppositon let alone Premier and people in southern Alberta are getting ashamed that they voted for her.

    Time for a new leader.

  6. Most important line : the scope was narrower than Redford originally promised”. – this says it all. Those intimidation s were not related to the queue so those allegations could not be explored cause they were out of scope! And I agree- there was no protection for witnesses so amnesia was a great disease at the time of the inquiry. So why did the judge say Raj and Duckett’s statements were not substantiated- of course they could not be when everyone forgot everything, everyone that they ever experienced while working in this cesspool. The one doc couldn’t remember an email he wrote and could not remember why he wrote it.
    For $700′ I could have come to the same conclusion given the scope of the inquiry- that would a saving of a mere 6,999,300 dollars! “Peanuts- eh?

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