Our publication schedule for the Progress Report newsletter got nuked by my medical problems last month, so we’ve got a lot to catch up on. Let’s get right to it with the big news from Thursday afternoon: Danielle Smith has fired the entire board of directors of Alberta Health Services.
Dr. John Cowell has been appointed as the new AHS administrator and will take the place of the board for an as-of-yet undetermined amount of time. Cowell was in a similar position nearly a decade ago, having served as administrator under Alison Redford the last time the conservatives who run Alberta fired the entire AHS board.
I’m not in the business of defending richly-compensated political appointees—there were some unpleasant folks on that board, like the odious right-wing economist John Mintz—but it’s not entirely clear why the board had to go, or how turfing them will make anything better. Smith’s justification seems to shift depending on the audience. The messaging to her supporters has orbited around vague implications that the AHS board is responsible for ‘tyrannical’ COVID measures, but to the general public today the pitch was that the board would get in the way of reforming the system.
Smith says she’s directed Cowell to focus on reducing surgical waitlists, reducing ER wait times, and improving EMS coverage. These are good goals, but they’re also the ones a person would pick if their plan is to contract more and more out to the private sector, something Cowell seems very comfortable doing. In fact a sizable chunk of the Q&A with journalists was devoted to talking about a pilot in Red Deer where inter-facility transfers were (maybe) being handled by a private operator.
Dr. John Cowell is essentially the czar of health care in this province for the next six months. Hopefully he doesn’t break too many things.
Dr. John Cowell (left), Health Minister Jason Copping (middle), Premier Danielle Smith (right) at the press conference where the announced the firing of the AHS board and the appointment of Cowell as AHS administrator.
Consequences seem to have finally arrived for Sean Chu, a city councilor in Calgary who admitted, in documents that became public last year, to “caressing” and “sexual foreplay” with a minor while Chu was a 34-year old CPS officer. (The woman alleges Chu did much worse than just that.) While council debated whether or not to start icing Chu out this week, it was revealed that Chu more or less doxxed the mayor; he apparently had taken photographs of the mayor’s license plate, photos which somehow ended up in the hands of harassers. Even former Chu allies like conservative grifter Craig Chandler are turning on him now.
Pediatric wards, school classrooms, and drugstore shelves in Alberta—and across most of North America, really—are struggling under a triple-whammy of COVID (still here!), the return of seasonal influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Huge numbers of kids are out sick from schools across the province, but the Premier has signaled she’s against mandating masks at schools and local school boards are too timid to challenge her, despite a recent court ruling confirming that school boards do have the legal authority to do their own mask rules. The surge in kids’ infections has almost completely burnt up the supply of kids’ cold and flu medicine, which in turn is driving parents who can’t treat their children’s fevers to bring them to the ER. If you’re in that situation yourself, you might consider a compounding pharmacy, which can make the medicine on-site.
4B Harm Reduction, an independent street outreach team working in Edmonton, is leading a rally on November 21 outside city hall to demand that the city actually and sufficiently addresses the poverty and homelessness crises in the city. And with the turn in the weather we’re hearing unconfirmed reports of unhoused people dying in tent fires or freezing to death in porta-potties. Unfortunately it’s impossible to officially verify if these happened because the province doesn’t track the deaths of unhoused people. Advocates are calling for that to change.
Edmonton Transit has completed its roll-out of the new ARC card, a top-uppable tap card for transit fares like they have in many other cities. The hope of the city is that the new system will not only make things easier for drivers, who don’t have to be fare collectors, but save frequent travelers a bit of money.
- Despite some absolutely bottom-of-the-pit polling, Premier Smith has decided to power ahead on taking Albertan’s pensions out of the CPP and on instituting a provincial police force, two deeply unpopular plans left over from the Kenney administration.
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