Tag Archives: Shirley McClellan

NDP MLAs stood behind by-election candidate Bob Turner at a campaign event in Sept. 2014. Left to right: David Eggen, Rachel Notley, Bob Turner, and Brian Mason.

Misericordia versus Royal Alex: A legacy of poor long-term planning by the old PC government

Campaigns to rebuild two Edmonton area hospitals now competing for scarce funds to fix crumbling infrastructure are being run by organizations that include former Tory insiders who sat at the budget table when the decisions were made that led to the two facilities’ current dilapidated condition.

Alex the Spokes-puppet

Alex the Spokes-puppet

Political jockeying for funding for the Alberta Health Services-run Royal Alexandra Hospital in north-central Edmonton and Covenant Health‘s Misericordia Hospital in southwest Edmonton is intensifying as provincial budget deliberations heat up.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation recently launched a public campaign to lobby the provincial government to provide additional funding for the hospital. The campaign’s message isn’t wrong. As the campaign’s memorable spokes-puppet points out, the Royal Alex has been on “top of the list for infrastructure redevelopment for more than 20 years.

New Mis Now” was a campaign slogan used by the New Democratic Party opposition during a 2014 by-election in the Edmonton-Whitemud constituency. NDP candidate Bob Turner criticized then-unelected health minister Stephen Mandel for a lack of funding from the Progressive Conservative government to build a new Misericordia Hospital in booming southwest Edmonton. Covenant Health is continuing to put pressure on the now-NDP government to invest in a new Misericordia Hospital.

They are both right. Both aging facilities are in need of major investment.

Iris Evans

Iris Evans

But how did we get to this point?

Poor long-term planning and a legacy of political meddling in the administration of the regional health authorities is likely the real reason why two aging Edmonton hospitals are in their current condition.

The blame lies with the old PC government, which sat in power from 1971 until 2015. During some of the province’s biggest economic booms, when resource royalties from oil and natural gas flooded into government coffers, the PCs could have chosen to invest in our aging public infrastructure. But through many of the boom years that took place during their final two decades in power, the PCs were more focused on giving out tax breaks or vanity cheques than investing in public infrastructure or saving for future generations.

There is some irony that three people who were sitting at the table when the lack of long-term planning occurred over the past twenty to twenty-five years are now personally connected with the organizations lobbying the NDP government for hospital funding.

Shirley McClellan

Shirley McClellan

Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation board member Iris Evans served in the PC government from 1997 to 2012, including as minister of health and finance. Sitting on the Covenant Health Board of Directors are Ed Stelmach, a former premier and cabinet minister from 1997 until 2011, and Shirley McClellan, another former minister of health and minister of finance. McClellan served as Minister of Health from 1992 to 1996, when deep funding cuts were made to Alberta’s health care system, and later as Minister of Finance from 2004 to 2006.

So now, Albertans, and an NDP government faced with limited funds and low international oil prices, have to deal with the previous government’s lack of foresight.

As government, the NDP is now responsible for figuring out how to fix the infrastructure problems created by the old PC government while living up to the promises they made while in opposition. Some real long-term planning would be a good place to start.

Photo: NDP MLAs stood behind by-election candidate Bob Turner at a campaign event outside the Misericordia Hospital in Sept. 2014. Left to right: David Eggen, Rachel Notley, Bob Turner, and Brian Mason.

Will Premier Redford’s TV message address Alberta’s tax dilemma?

“Our party was elected to keep building Alberta — to focus our spending on the priorities that you told me were important, and that is exactly what
we’ll do.” – Premier Alison Redford in an email to Progressive Conservative Party supporters on January 23, 2013

Premier Alison Redford will star in a pre-recorded television message tonight following the 6pm news hour on CTV in Calgary and Edmonton. The Premier is expected to use the 8-minute address as part of the government’s ongoing exercise of managing public expectations about the upcoming provincial budget.

The budget is expected to include a projected $3 billion deficit, largely influenced by a lower price of oil than  including a drop in the price of oil. The promise of “no new taxes, no service cuts” has put Alberta’s Tories in an unenviable political bind and set the tone for this year’s provincial budget debate.

Despite the cries of fiscal hawks wanting to slash and burn the province’s public services, as I wrote earlier this month, Alberta’s revenue problem has already become the defining issue the 2013 budget debate.

Raising the levels of natural resources royalties or reasonably increasing taxes are not issues the Premier is expected to touch on during tonight’s television appearance, but raising taxes is an issue that a handful of former politicians have recently delved into. Former Premier Ed Stelmach, former Finance Minister Shirley McClellan, former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, and former provincial Liberal leader Kevin Taft tackled the tax dilemma facing Alberta’s finances last weekend at the University of Alberta.

According to economist Bob Ascah, who was at the weekend event, a one-per cent sales tax could raise $750 million in revenue for the province.

And as reported on David Climenhaga‘s Alberta Diary Blog, Glen Hodgson, the chief economist of the Conference Board of Canada has also weighed in on Alberta’s tax dilemma:

“Not having a provincial consumption or sales tax is highly popular and has been great politics, but it denies the provincial government a steady and stable source of revenue through the business cycle.”

surprised that gary mar is supporting privatized health care? don’t be. just look at his record.

A photo of Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Gary Mar.

Gary Mar

Was it the beginnings of a complicated political strategy, the osmosis of sitting in the Edmonton Sun offices, or the anticipation of an endorsement from former Premier Ralph Klein that caused Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Gary Mar to come out swinging in favour of privatized health care this week?

Speaking to the Edmonton Sun editorial board, Mr. Mar is reported to have said that believes Albertans should be able to pay for private health care and jump public wait lists. A Liberal press release reports that that Mr. Mar even compared medical treatments to luxury items – like recreational properties.

While it is surprising that this may be one of the first definitive things that this perceived front-runner has said during the course of this less than exciting PC leadership contest, Mr. Mar’s support for privatized health care is not a shock.

As Health Minister in 2000, Mr. Mar was Premier Klein’s point-man for private health care after the Bill 11 protests. The unpopular piece of health care privatization legislation was eventually amended and watered down before the Tories made it law, but it was not the end of Mr. Mar’s support of private health care while Health Minister.

Health Minister Mar also oversaw the publication of the pro-privatization Mazankowski report and the creation of private health care schemes like the now defunct Health Resources Centre (which declared bankruptcy in 2010).

At the end of his tenure as Health Minister in 2006, Mr. Mar ended up joining the list of Health Ministers under Premier Klein who failed to convince Alberta’s public health care supporting population that the cure all their worldly ills was the privatization of health care (others on the list include Shirley McClellan, Halvar Jonson, and Iris Evans)

This past June, Mr. Mar’s campaign released their health care policy, which was peppered with support for public-private partnership schemes. The release of the platform unfortunately coincided with the decision by the private Chartwell Real Estate’s Colonel Belcher Centre to evict 29 seniors and veterans from a designated assisted living centre in Calgary. The company had deemed the seniors and veteran residents as no longer profitable for the company (the company later reversed its decision after the expected public outcry).

Should Albertans be surprised that Gary Mar supports privatized health care? No. Just look at his record.