EDMONTON -- Earlier this morning, the new UCP cabinet was sworn in. Adriana LaGrange was named Minister of Health, Dan Williams as Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, and Jason Nixon as Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services.
All of these ministers are new to their portfolios. Both former UCP Ministers of Health lost their seats in the election. The same is true for both past Ministers responsible for seniors, who had been failing seniors in care as per recent Auditor General reports, as well as past Ministers responsible for mental health and addictions, including the government’s failing abstinence-only approach to the drug poisoning crisis.
“Friends of Medicare would like to congratulate the new Minister of Health, and all Ministers who’ve been sworn in to these important health care portfolios,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “We hope that the new Ministers will bring fresh eyes and perspectives to the issues that we face in health care, and that they will be more willing to meet with, and listen to, health care stakeholders when making decisions going forward.”
This new cabinet is sworn in at a time when Albertans are witnessing the UCP’s health care privatization schemes fail before their eyes. Privatized food in hospitals is a disaster, privatized labs are failing to deliver, and a new report has shown privatizing surgeries has only worsened wait times and reduced capacity. All while a health care short staffing crisis continues to leave tens of thousands of Albertans without a family doctor and dozens of facilities across the province facing repeated temporary closures.
“The government urgently needs to reverse course on their privatization agenda, because the fact of the matter is that their privatization schemes are only worsening Alberta’s urgent health care short staffing situation,” said Gallaway. “And with so many health care workers openly contemplating leaving the province, our new Minister of Health must move quickly to show that this government has any respect for our health care workers, and to prioritize a plan to retain those already working so hard to keep Alberta’s health care system afloat.”
Danielle Smith ran on a much-touted ‘Public Health Guarantee’ and repeatedly promised that no Albertan would ever have to pay to access their health care. This in spite of her own government’s record on privatization, and the mandate letters provided by Premier Smith to her former ministers, which simply accelerated the UCP government’s privatization while continuing chaos in the public health care system.
And given Adriana LaGrange’s track record in furthering privatization of Alberta’s public school system in her role as Alberta’s former Minister of Education, and given Dan William’s previous introduction of a bill which attempted to legislate new barriers to accessing health care services, Friends of Medicare is extremely wary of these appointments.
“Friends of Medicare will be watching closely to ensure that Premier Smith is true to her promise that no Albertans will have to pay for health care, and we will continue to fight to strengthen and protect universal publicly-funded, publicly-delivered health care for all,” said Gallaway. “To that end, we will be reviewing the cabinet mandate letters provided to these new Ministers closely in the days and weeks ahead.”
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