Posted on Sep 30, 2020


EDMONTON - Over the course of two days at the Public Health Act Review Committee, UCP government MLAs voted against making the Chief Medical Officer of Health an Independent Officer of the Legislature, doubled down on their unconstitutional Bill 10 power grab, refused to enshrine reproductive rights in the Public Health Act, and ignored the dramatically rising death toll from opioid overdoses.

After blocking Dr. Deena Hinshaw from speaking at a previous meeting, UCP members voted down a proposal to establish her role of Chief Medical Officer as an Independent Officer of the Legislature. Establishing the position of the CMO as an Independent Officer would ensure that Dr. Hinshaw’s confidential advice would become public, and would allow her to speak her mind.

“Albertans want to hear Dr. Hinshaw’s frank professional advice, not the version that has been vetted and approved by Premier Jason Kenney, Tyler Shandro or Adriana LaGrange,” said Sarah Hoffman, deputy leader of the NDP Official Opposition. “Albertans are concerned that this government has not acted on her best advice. I have to question why the UCP is so scared of giving her formal independence to speak her mind.”

Government MLAs also refused to reverse Bill 10, which gave cabinet ministers the unconstitutional power to write new laws without the approval - or even the knowledge - of the legislature. Bill 10 has prompted a constitutional challenge against the government. The Public Health Act Review Committee was touted by Kenney as means to address possible abuses of power in the Public Health Act.

“Jason Kenney literally gave himself the power to write or rewrite any law on whim, and this committee has done nothing to retract that extraordinary and unconstitutional overreach,” said David Shepherd, NDP Critic for Health. “That all UCP MLAs on the committee would blindly follow Kenney down this dangerous path is deeply concerning. Even rank and file members of the UCP are outraged by the government’s behavior on Bill 10 and are actively seeking to reverse it at the upcoming UCP Annual General Meeting.”

NDP MLAs proposed to enshrine the rights of Alberta women to a safe and accessible abortion in the Act as a public health issue. Government MLAs also voted this down.

“Jason Kenney and his ministers have made no secret of their hostility to a woman's right to make decisions about her own body. Despite his campaign promise to avoid social issues, the UCP is still fighting a 30-year-old battle to roll back these hard-won rights for women,” said Kathleen Ganley, NDP Critic for Justice.

UCP MLAs also voted down a proposal to give new powers to the Chief Medical Officer of Health to respond to the increasingly deadly opioid crisis, which killed 449 Albertans in the first half of 2020.