Danielle In QP, November 27: Health Regions’ Expense Reporting

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, more health expenses, more lavish spending. This time it’s the chief information officer of the former Capital health region. It’s a pattern that we’re seeing over and over. Now, the minister will say that – and I already know this – health region doesn’t exist, and he’ll also say that now the expense rules are really tough, but Albertans deserve to know how things were managed in the past to trust that they’re being run properly now. Many of the same executives still work for AHS. Why won’t the minister just release all of the expenses for all of the executives for all of the health regions going back to 2000?

Mr. Horne: Well, Mr. Speaker, leaving aside the questions that the hon. leader asked and answered for herself, what I can tell you is that the answer is very simple. The fact is that the policies and procedures that govern the expenses in question, which go back seven years, in fact, are not the policies and procedures that are in place in Alberta today. As you’ll know, Alberta Health Services has adopted the government of Alberta’s new travel and expense guidelines. They are among the most stringent you’ll find in North America. They are endorsed by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which should be a source of immense pride and gratification to the members of the Official Opposition, and we stand by those.

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, the lavish lifestyle of the Capital health chief information officer included $700 at one restaurant, $1,000 at another, and even included 75 cents for a newspaper and mileage claims as low as 1 kilometre at a time. Honestly, minister.

The minister will say that these expenses were in keeping with the norms of the time, and that is precisely why the minister should clear the air by releasing all of the expenses for all of the executives for all of the regions going back to 2005.

Mr. Horne: Mr. Speaker, if the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition is going to continue to ask me a question and then answer it on my behalf, I don’t know why I would waste House time by standing up and answering. But I will say to you once again – and for the record I have never said – that these expenses represent a, quote, norm of a period of time. These expenses are of as much concern to members of this side of the House as they are any other. The fact of the matter is that people in government, people who ran for government in 2012, not 2005, have a responsibility to deliver policies and procedures that Albertans would expect today. We have done that. Those are in place. The information is there for all to see.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Fair enough. It was AHS who said that the rules were in keeping with the norms of the time. But, Mr. Speaker, not all the news is bad. The latest release proves that the government relations officer in the former Capital health region, Brian Hlus, was very modest in his expenses. Why won’t the minister protect the reputations of other good employees like Mr. Hlus by releasing all of the expenses of all the executives of all of the health regions going back to 2005?

Mr. Horne: Mr. Speaker, what should be the most transparent of all to everyone in this Assembly is that the Official Opposition persists in regurgitating public information, including the names of particular individuals who served under former health regions, in question period every day. Their motives are beyond our ability to comprehend. What I can tell you is that if the Official Opposition wants to persist in looking up policies and procedures of health regions that no longer exist, we allow that to be their prerogative. They also told us that they want to take us back to the days of local hospital boards, when a province-wide policy on travel and expense claims like we have in place today would not be possible. We leave it to Albertans to decide which they would prefer.

The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition for third main set of questions.

Ms Smith: Our motive is simple, Mr. Speaker. We’re just trying to raise the bar on openness and transparency.