As drug poisoning deaths set new records the UCP create a new war-room to promote the “Alberta model”

The UCP is carving out around 10,000 mental healthcare and addiction workers and $1.13 billion from Alberta Health Services (AHS) as part of their health care restructuring plans. That’s on top of creating a new war room-like organization to promote the “Alberta model” of abstinence-only drug treatment that’s killing more people than ever. 

Recovery Alberta will now be the organization responsible for the delivery of mental health and addiction services currently delivered by AHS. 

The other organization will be the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence (CORE), a new crown corporation. According to Mental Health and Addiction Minister Dan Williams, CORE will conduct research and program evaluations, advising the province on best practices for mental health and addictions.

Mental Health and Addiction Minister Dan Williams at the press conference announcing the creation of Recovery Alberta and CORE. Image via GOA Flickr. 

Kym Kaufmann, a former deputy minister of mental health and community wellness in Manitoba who left that position the same month that the Manitoba NDP took over government last year, will be CORE’s CEO. Before working for the Manitoba PCs, she was the CEO of Eden Healthcare Services, a faith-based mental health care company based in Manitoba. She has no research experience. 

When asked by a journalist what CORE will do Kaufmann said, “it will help the government advance the Alberta Recovery Model.” 

The chief scientific officer of CORE will be Dr. Nathaniel Day, a loyal friend of the UCP government and the “Alberta model” of abstinence-only, recovery over everything else approach. Day only appears to have co-authored three scientific papers in his entire career with seven total citations by other researchers.  

By comparison, addiction expert Dr. Monty Ghosh (also a working doctor) has published or co-authored 13 papers with 327 citations. Dr. Elaine Hyshka, a Canada Research Chair in Health Systems Innovation at the University of Alberta's School of Public Health has published or co-authored 98 papers and been cited 1339 times.

Everyone famously loves and respects the war room, or Canadian Energy Centre, and I expect that we’ll see a lot of the same cherry-picked stats, nonsensical op-eds and pugnacity that the war room became known for. The government is setting aside $5 million to set up CORE. 

Carving out mental health and addictions services into a separate entity will now allow for even more partisan micromanaging of the file. The premier’s chief of staff, Marshall Smith, and his allies are running one big social experiment on the people of Alberta; the early results are not good. In 2023, we will see a new record for most deaths ever from drug poisoning. Given the UCP’s ideological commitment to making things worse, don’t expect those numbers to improve in 2024. 

Siloing mental health care and addiction services into a new organization also allows for more public money to flow to private and unaccountable recovery facility operators. Details are starting to trickle out about who is running these “recovery communities,” which have already been opened in Red Deer and Lethbridge, but no one has any discernible  idea of what success looks like, aside from running as many people as possible through abstinence-only 12 step programs. 

Expect to see legislation this spring introducing forced treatment for people who use drugs. While it’s a thoroughly discredited idea that makes it even more likely people will die of drug poisoning, evidence doesn’t stop Danielle or Marshall Smith. 


Sandy and Nora, the hosts of one of Canada’s most popular (and good) political podcasts, are coming to Edmonton on April 20th. I’ve already got my tickets, you can get them here

The Recall Gondek campaign is whimpering to a close and in an interview with Rick Bell, which I will not link to, petition organizer Landon Johnston admits to only collecting about 10 per cent of the necessary signatures. That number will likely get whittled down once it gets audited by city staff. What a joke. 

Much of the coverage of the ANDP leadership bid of Jodi Callahoo Stonehouse has focused on her water policy and the fact that she’s a First Nations woman. But as Jeremy Appel writes for us, her work at the Edmonton Police Commission is highly relevant and troubling. 

Speaking of the ANDP leadership race, our platform and endorsement trackers are still being updated regularly. 

A new report finds that the upcoming massive drought will have quite a large effect on one of Alberta’s biggest industrial water consumers – the oil and gas industry. 

This is the online version of the Progress Report email newsletter. Don't depend on some social media or search engine algorithm to find this content in the future. Sign up to get updates on the most important local political issues in your inbox every week. If you like what we do at the Progress Report there is also one big way you can support us and that's by becoming a monthly donor. The regular donations of the 500 or so regular monthly donors keeps this small, independent media shop going.