Posted on Feb 23, 2021


CALGARY - NDP Leader Rachel Notley is calling for increased investment in healthcare in Budget 2021 to keep Albertans safe through the ongoing COVID emergency, and to address the growing backlog in care created by the pandemic.

“Alberta’s healthcare heroes have been working flat-out to keep us all safe over the past year,” Notley said. “Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP must provide them with the resources they need to keep up the fight, and to start helping the Albertans who were forced to wait for their care while our hospitals filled up with hundreds of COVID patients.

“Obviously that means dropping his plans for mass layoffs and wage rollbacks.”

The Opposition is calling for a repetition of the $1 billion in additional annual COVID funding that the legislature authorized in 2020, as well as $1 billion in both 2021 and 2022 to address the backlog in surgeries, diagnostic imaging, and mental health support, for a total call of $3 billion over two years. This includes $100 million for five insured mental health sessions for every Albertan, which the Opposition proposed in December. The Opposition is also calling for the government to shelve the mass layoffs, wage rollbacks, and service cuts described in the Ernst & Young review of AHS, and to put these cuts to Alberta voters in 2023.

“Above all, Albertans need a stable healthcare system during this pandemic. The provincial government will also need to work collaboratively with healthcare professionals to catch up on growing backlogs. This has to start from a place of respect, and that means dropping Tyler Shandro’s plans for chaos and conflict,” Notley said.

“During the 2019 campaign, Jason Kenney repeatedly denied that he planned mass layoffs in healthcare. He owes it to Alberta voters to let them vote on his plans to fire 11,000 nurses and other health professionals.”

Dr. Luanne Metz works at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.

“There is a lot of concern about growing waitlists created by COVID,” Metz said. “We need funding to manage the backlogs. But we also need to implement proven strategies to manage waitlists. The solution is NOT a privately funded tier of care. That is known to increase public wait lists. Evidence shows we must create single-entry waitlists, assure appropriate referrals, and support primary care. Waitlists cannot be managed without strong primary care.

“Finally, we have all seen the disastrous outcomes in long-term care due to COVID. For-profit institutions have had worse outcomes. We must not sell off publicly owned facilities.”

Rebecca Brown is a registered nurse, also at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre.

“We have all been working very hard over the past year,” she said. “We all took that on willingly  because we chose a career in healthcare and did so because we want to help people. It’s been very difficult to fight against a pandemic on one side and at the same time fight our provincial government on the other side.”

“This is the time when we should all be pulling together to keep Albertans safe. I’m very worried about the layoffs in Tyler Shandro’s plan. Those 11,000 Albertans are frontline healthcare workers and they are critical members of our team. This is not what Jason Kenney told us he would do in 2019 so it seems pretty reasonable for him to hit pause on those plans, get through this pandemic and then put those layoffs in his platform for the next election.”

Notley questioned Kenney’s spending priorities and said it’s time to put Government support behind things that actually matter.

“Jason Kenney has thrown away billions of Albertans’ tax dollars on his failed corporate giveaway, a ridiculous war room, and a wild gamble on the United States election result,” Notley said. “For Budget 2021, it’s time for him to get serious about protecting the healthcare that Alberta families and businesses rely on.”