Danielle in QP, November 20: Judicial Inquiry into Health Services

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The government’s sloppy management has badly eroded Albertans’ confidence in the health care system. There is a judicial inquiry under way over the issue of health care system queue-jumping. Job expenses for a former government relations executive at the former Calgary health region indicate that her job was largely partisan in nature. That same individual was described by a former minister of health in an exchange with the former MLA for Calgary-Varsity as the person to speak with if an MLA had a constituent access problem. He even claimed that they could get service within two hours. Does the minister agree that there’s at least an appearance of a problem with this?

Mr. Horne: Well, Mr. Speaker, we continue to see the hon. member attempt to construe one unproven allegation after another in the hopes of fearmongering and diminishing Albertans’ confidence in their health system. Every time she does that, she insults the health professionals and other support workers that work very hard to deliver health care services every day. She knows full well that the information is available to her. She’s accessed that information. There is really nothing further to say on behalf of this government with respect to these unfounded allegations. 

The Speaker: The hon. member. 

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There is something further to say. I’ve written Mr. Justice Vertes, pointing out some of our concerns and suggesting that such government relations employees be called as witnesses before his inquiry to explain how their jobs related to helping certain politicians work through the health care maze. Perhaps the minister can tell us: what does a government department need a government relations person for? 

Mr. Lukaszuk: Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that I am troubled to hear that the Leader of the Official Opposition has written letters trying to influence the justice relevant to what the opposition has been asking for for months, to have an independent judicial inquiry. Now as an opposition they ask the minister to interfere with the justice to direct the inquiry, which way it should be moving and who the witnesses should be. That is directly contrary to what they have been asking for for months. They’ve been asking for an independent inquiry, and they shall have an independent inquiry.

The Speaker: The hon. member.

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Queue-jumping, illegal donations, lavish expenses, bullying, and intimidation have added to a cloud of suspicion, yet the Minister of Health seems unwilling to look into the obvious issues that have existed for years, insisting that everything is okay now. Will he join us in asking Justice Vertes to call all the government relations officers before his inquiry so we can get to the bottom of the queue-jumpingscandal?

Mr. Horne: Mr. Speaker, the very fact that the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition would ask in this House during this question period for a member of this government to work with her in order to interfere in an independent, judge-led inquiry, that this opposition asked for, is an answer to the question in and of itself. It’s not only inappropriate; it’s an affront to the independence of the judicial panel, and the hon. member should know better.