Danielle In QP, November 6: Health Services Expense Reporting

Ms Smith: On to another issue. Mr. Speaker, we’re glad to see Dr. Chris Eagle has decided to pay back some personal expenses that he incurred as head of Alberta Health Services. Now, the amounts are relatively small, and they came under AHS’s tough new expense policy, implemented last month. You have to wonder about expenses incurred by others before that new policy came into place and how much of those expenses are going to be paid back and how many expenses were offside at the multiple health regions before they became the AHS. To the Premier: why is it Alberta taxpayers can’t have this information?

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Health.

An Hon. Member: You be careful how you answer this one.

Mr. Horne: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I think the questioner should be careful about how the question is asked. The fact of the matter is that there has been no finding  whatsoever that any of the expenses that Dr. Eagle chose to repay violated any of the policies or procedures that were in place at the time under the Calgary health region. The fact that Dr. Eagle has chosen to reimburse Alberta Health Services for the expenses is an example of his concern about public perception on this issue. I think we should congratulate him for doing the right thing, and I think we should recognize that it does not serve us well to undermine confidence in Alberta Health Services or its leadership.

Ms Smith: I did commend Dr. Eagle. I’ll ask the question again to the Premier because the Premier has bragged about raising the bar on transparency and accountability. She’s even given speeches about it. Here is another opportunity to prove it. I’m asking the Premier: will she order the  release of all health region executive expenses going back from 2005 all the way to today?

Mr. Horne: Mr. Speaker, we have in this province a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that provides exactly the mechanism for access to all of the information the hon. member is referring to.

This government, this Premier have put in place the most aggressive, the most transparent policy around travel and expenses of any jurisdiction in this country. That has been called a gold standard by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an organization which the opposition loves to discuss in this Chamber and apparently relies very heavily on their opinion for assessments in these and other matters. We have the toughest policies in place today. The agencies, boards, and commissions that serve this government have all been asked and are expected to adopt these polices.

The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition. 

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Initially it sounded like they were going to do that broader release, but then the Alberta Health Services Board chair said that it would be too expensive. Of course, if you’re going to hire some big international accounting firm to do a forensic analysis – but that’s not what we’re asking for – they could simply post the expenses and let Albertans take a look. Premier, what is it the government is trying to hide?

Mr. Horne: Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member would care to check, there are well over a thousand pages of receipts that were posted last week by Alberta Health Services with respect to the expenses that she mentioned. This government has no intention of doing the hon. member’s homework for her. We have the most aggressive and most transparent expense and travel policy in the country. It is there for all to see. The FOIP Act is available as a mechanism to look for things that the hon. member might be interested in further. They’ve made good use of that. We’re interested in the health system of today and moving it forward, and we intend to do just that.