Posted on Jul 8, 2020
NDP CALLS ON PREMIER, MINISTERS & CEOs TO TESTIFY BEFORE PUBLIC HEALTH COMMITTEE, ALSO SEEKS COVID-19 PUBLIC HEARINGS IN IMPACTED COMMUNITIES
EDMONTON - Members of the NDP Opposition on a committee reviewing public health in Alberta are calling on the premier, a series of cabinet ministers as well as CEOs at the sites of major COVID-19 outbreaks to testify in a bid to prevent further tragedies in the future.
“The premier promised this committee would do a ‘deep dive’ of the Public Health Act and determine areas where improvement can be made,” said NDP Health Critic David Shepherd. “I can think of no better place to start than the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If we want to be prepared for a second wave or another pandemic, then we must have a clear understanding of what happened during this one.”
“This government dragged its heels during outbreaks at meat-packing plants and continuing care facilities and they used the pandemic to give themselves sweeping powers under the heavily criticized Bill 10. Mistakes have been made, lives have been lost. We must learn and prevent this from happening again.”
The Opposition is seeking the following notable witnesses to appear before the committee:
- Premier Jason Kenney
- Minister of Health Tyler Shandro
- Minister of Justice Doug Schweitzer
- Minister of Labour Jason Copping.
- JBS Canada President David Colwell
- Cargill Chairman and CEO David MacLennnan
- Revera President and CEO Thomas Wellner
- Retirement Concepts CEO Azim Jamal
- Extendicare CEO Dr. Michael Guerriere
“We had the largest COVID-19 outbreak in North America at the Cargill plant, “ said NDP Labour Critic and committee member Christina Gray. “We can’t get to the bottom of this catastrophic health failure and others without a full accounting and examination of what happened. The premier can either follow through on his own commitment to review public health procedures in this province — and that includes safety for essential workers — or he can continue to cover for the failings of his cabinet ministers and wealthy CEO buddies.”
NDP Justice Critic and committee member Kathleen Ganley noted that the committee was established by the premier in response to outcry over the passage of the omnibus Bill 10 at the height of the public health crisis.
“The government is facing a constitutional challenge in court over this bill — it’s deeply concerning,” Ganley said. “At a time when Albertans were looking to their government for leadership, what they got instead was a massive power grab. The public has a right to hear the ministers who brought that legislation forward explain why they have stood behind it despite mounting opposition from Albertans across the political spectrum.”
The Official Opposition will also seek to hold physically distanced public hearings in High River and Brooks, sites of the two largest Alberta COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as the designated Alberta Health Services headquarters in each medical zone: Medicine Hat, Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton and Grande Prairie.
“Albertans have questions and concerns about how the COVID-19 pandemic has been handled so far. In many cases, this government has done little to provide answers,” said Sarah Hoffman, NDP Education Critic and committee member. “Many Albertans feel you have to be a bigwig CEO to have any standing with the current government. These public hearings would ensure public accountability during the ongoing pandemic.”
Proposals on potential witnesses and public hearings are to go before the subcommittee of the Select Special Health Act Review Committee Wednesday afternoon. NDP members have been critical that crucial subcommittee meetings are being held in secret and off the public record. Attempts by the Opposition to make these meetings public have been ignored by the UCP majority on the committee.