Posted on May 12, 2020

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd issued the following statement in response to a letter published today by Alberta’s doctors:

“Premier Jason Kenney is doing serious and permanent harm to Alberta with his war on our province’s doctors.

“All over Alberta, and across Canada, people are shaking their heads at Kenney’s attacks on frontline healthcare professionals in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. They know that as we live through this COVID-19 emergency, doctors are heroes. It’s clear Albertans agree as they continue to reject Kenney’s disgraceful attempts to paint their family doctors as some kind of lazy or greedy villains.

“So the premier has changed tactics. Now he’s trying to convince Albertans to blame the Alberta Medical Association. The AMA is nothing more than Alberta doctor’s professional association. Its membership and elected leaders are all practicing Alberta doctors, and it’s been their voice for more than a century. But today, UCP government staff call it “a partisan proxy,” a “lobby group” that “spews misinformation.” They have even called the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association part of an “Alberta Axis of Drivel,” whatever that is. This is a juvenile and irresponsible approach from Jason Kenney to one of the most serious issues facing our province.

“At a disastrous press conference on April 24, Health Minister Tyler Shandro tried to blame the wave of doctors resigning from rural hospitals on the AMA. He again tried to claim the association was giving its members “misinformation.” Ironically, at the same time Shandro was trying to smear Alberta doctors for lying, he was also dishonestly trying to strip 141 communities of their rural designation. He was forced to undo these changes a few days later when he was caught. And while Shandro and various UCP MLAs have tried to claim the AMA has used rural doctors “as a tool to try and get advantages,” doctors have acclaimed highly-respected rural physician Dr. Vesta Michelle Warren as their next President.

“Doctors see right through this clumsy attempt to divide them. Not a single doctor has ever said they felt misled by the AMA, and in fact large numbers have come forward to reaffirm their support. Leaders in every specialty and geographic area have signed a letter in support of the AMA as their elected representative.

“Yet, Tyler Shandro and his staff continue trying to vilify doctors. Instead of listening to pediatricians who told the minister his cuts would harm their ability to care for Alberta’s most medically fragile children, Shandro sent his staff onto social media to smear them. This disgraceful behaviour is encouraged in the Kenney government. 

“Minister Shandro has triggered two privacy complaints from Alberta doctors concerned about his handling of private information. He has triggered two major lawsuits against the province claiming he violated Albertans’ constitutional rights. And he admitted to going to a doctor’s home at night and yelling at him in his driveway in front of his family and neighbours.

“And yet Jason Kenney describes Shandro as “one of the most capable ministers of health that this assembly has ever seen.” If the premier really believes his health minister is doing a great job, it makes me question what goal Kenney has truly sent Shandro to accomplish.

“The goal of Alberta doctors is to provide lifesaving care to all of us. Doctors are more than willing to get back to the table and work out a deal that contains costs and protects patient care. If Premier Jason Kenney is content to have Tyler Shandro speak on his behalf, it’s because he is not interested in protecting either the provincial budget or Albertans’ health. 

“It is the job of the government to negotiate in the best interests of Albertans to ensure public dollars are spent efficiently to provide the quality services they depend on. Tyler Shandro’s reckless war with doctors fails on both counts. It’s time for Jason Kenney to abandon this senseless strategy of aggression, enter arbitration with Alberta doctors and work collaboratively to find savings that don’t endanger patient care.”