The old boy’s club is alive and well in Alberta’s health care

August 12, 2021
EDMONTON

The old boy’s club is alive and well in Alberta’s health care

Alberta Health Services has managed to largely avoid the scrutiny of Albertans after many years of instability and costly reorganizations. But now, this government has made clear that they are willing to compromise that, via the appointment of privatization ideologues to the AHS board.
 
On August 10, a news release from AHS announced that Hartley R. Harris had become the newest member of the AHS board, suggesting he would “provide a fresh perspective to the AHS Board and Alberta’s healthcare system.” Harris, an electrical engineer and president of the Calgary-based Catch Engineering, has become the latest addition in this government’s continued effort to “transform our healthcare system and move forward with the recommendations outlined in the AHS Performance Review.”
 
Concerning is that Mr. Harris, as per a recent story from independent journalist Kim Siever, is well known to Health Minister Shandro. Harris was the Chief Financial Officer for Shandro’s 2019 campaign, and as could be expected, was also a financial supporter.
 
“This government has shown time and again their disdain for our public health care and the workers who keep it going,” says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “They have continuously worked to undermine our public health care system, and now they’re appointing their cronies to spout their ideology on the inside. It is deeply concerning for the future of public health care in Alberta.”
 
Previously in the summer, we saw another appointment to the AHS board: Jack Mintz. A similarly troubling choice, Mintz was previously appointed chair of the government’s “expert panel,” tasked with coming up with ideas to respond to low oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, he is the National Policy Advisory for Ernst & Young (EY), the company that the Alberta government paid $2 million to recommend sweeping privatization of our health care system. EY has also since become Alberta’s “Health Contracting Secretariat,” a new office which will be used to build internal markets for outsourcing (aka privatizing) various parts of our health care system—a recommendation that they themselves made in their initial report. Mintz also sits on the board of Rapid Test & Trace, a company that provides private COVID-19 testing, an ostensibly profitable business in a province that is planning to close designated testing facilities as soon as next week.
 
Mintz is a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute—the 'think tank' that informed both the Ernst & Young and Mackinnon reports, both of which recommended the further privatization for our health care. Notably, in their landmark Cambie Case ruling, the BC supreme court said: “It is unclear whether any general conclusions can be drawn from the Fraser Institute surveys, even if these surveys could generally be relied upon as providing reliable data (a proposition I seriously question).” As he is fundamentally opposed to universal public health care, we find his appointment to the AHS board incredibly troubling.
 
The AHS board is directly accountable to the Minister of Health and is responsible for the governance of AHS. The organization works in partnership with Alberta Health to deliver public health care services across the province. 
 
“These appointments further erode any semblance of trust that Albertans have when it comes to this government’s commitment to our public health care,” says Azocar. “When the governance of our public health care is left in the hands of those with the same ideological bent as this government, and are committed to the same agenda of health care cuts and privatization, how are Albertans supposed to believe that their public health care won’t be compromised and undermined?” 
 
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