Opposition parties press for health inquiry

By Keith Gerein, edmontonjournal.com
November 3, 2011 12:06 PM

Newly minted Liberal Leader Raj Sherman is urging Albertans to let a bunch of doctors — not lawyers — run the province, promising a Grit government would fix a broken health system within two years.
Photograph by: Greg Southam, edmontonjournal.com

EDMONTON - Alberta’s three main opposition parties are banding together to pressure the provincial government to call a full public inquiry into allegations of political meddling in the health system.

The Liberals, Wildrose and NDP have sent a letter to Premier Alison Redford, demanding that she make good on her campaign promise of an inquiry. They say that inquiry must be called under the parameters of the Public Inquiries Act.

“On June 7, Alison Redford said that if she became premier she would hold the public inquiry the opposition has been calling for, that is, a full public inquiry under the existing Public Inquiries Act,” Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said in a statement. “For the sake of public health care and her own credibility, she must keep that promise.”

Redford and Health Minister Fred Horne said they are committed to a judicial inquiry but indicated it might be handled by a newly beefed-up and independent Health Quality Council of Alberta. Horne said this week that the government plans to introduce legislation this fall to give the council expanded powers and make it more independent from government. He indicated such a council would have the ability to conduct inquiries, appoint judges to oversee them, issue subpoena and compel testimony.

But the opposition parties say that isn’t sufficient.

“As you are aware, that’s not the same things as a true public inquiry, because HQCA investigations are conducted behind closed doors,” the letter said.

In addition to making the process open to the public, the inquiry must be called by the end of 2011 so that some results can be heard prior tot he next provincial election, the leaders said.

Horne has indicated the inquiry might have to wait until 2012 to allow the health quality council, in its current format, to finish a review of allegations of doctor intimidation in the health system.

“I urge Premier Redford to avoid breaking another promise and use the tools she already has at her disposal to call a judicial inquiry without delay. It’s time to cut the talk and get on with the action,” NDP Leader Brian Mason said in a statement. “There’s no reason for combining the Health Quality Council and a judicial inquiry except to create an opportunity for evading the truth.”

“This is about accountability and doing what you say you’re going to do,” Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said in a statement. “Ms. Redford promised Albertans a public inquiry so they can know the truth about what’s going on in the health care system. She can’t back away from that promise now.”

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