Alberta in the 21st century: PART 1 (of many)

THIS IS AS GOOD A TIME as any to reflect on the future of the province.

Self-isolation, social-distancing, the lockdown in general, most Albertans have time on their hands, right? It’s a very different scenario from months ago, when Donna travelled the province with the Fair Deal Panel, listening carefully to what Albertans had to say about what (and what not) to do in the years ahead. The Panel’s report is written, but that doesn’t mean the conversations can’t continue — virtually.

We opened the BEYOND POLARITY door to a virtual town hall.

And we’re pleased to share some of your suggestions — comments we’ve lightly edited — sent thus far (via the link at the end of this post):

Brian Mills likes the idea of using radio to connect with our most vulnerable, Alberta’s seniors:

I really like the idea of using radio to reach out to Alberta’s seniors! CKUA Radio Network broadcasts throughout the province and offers a variety of programming. It might be worth exploring with them the idea of a special daily broadcast aimed at seniors featuring music and information targeting these folks. Ken Regan (recently retired) might be a great host.

Barbara Stolee is questioning whether good ideas can be heard across political divides:

Tensions have risen on all fronts, as initial attempts to present logical arguments were met with non-responses, which in turn resulted in more heated rhetoric, more non-responses or deprecating/denigrating comments, and relationships spiralled out of control.

Barbara makes a good point. The polarities are real. That said, is it possible to rise above the partisan & ideological noise to share an idea? We want to think you can be both pragmatic & idealistic. Please write us!


Fred Peterson

Meet Fred Peterson, a geophysicist from Canmore, just shy of the gates of Banff National Park.

Fred has put a lot of thought into improving healthcare. He believes the prairies can lead the field again, as Saskatchewan did in 1962 with the launch of Medicare; this time, innovative leadership could come from Alberta.

Witnessing what’s going on south of our border, the failings of a private sector healthcare model become glaringly obvious.

What can we do to improve our system here in Alberta?


1) Liability

Folks that choose to utilize the provincial health care system should have very limited rights for legal recourse. New Zealand has a reasonable system we could modify for our use, one that compensates for any harm without the need to resort to the legal system. This strategy could move the considerable money that goes into medical insurance directly into healthcare. It could also have a trickle-down effect throughout the system and result in a very large savings. Most of our insurance funds flow east and south [Fred suspects]. This is the area where I think the most money could be saved most quickly.

2) Risk intolerance

Our society is very risk averse (for example, we put helmets on kids to go to the playground), and that leads to problems with the disposal of perfectly good and potentially reusable equipment. One example is our aversion to reusing the scarce N95 masks.  People want all possible tests run when they are ill. What is the risk decision tree used in our healthcare systems, from primary care through to emergency and hospital care? In healthcare, we always seem to err on the ultra-safe and very expensive approach. This is a long term problem that will only evolve as society is pressed to care for more people with less money. COVID may bring about some short term changes in reuse awareness and strategies. 

3) Triage

More of our primary care could be carried out by an RN or nurse practitioner; we need only see the doctor when merited. I can even imagine a system where Albertans could choose to pay an upgrade cost if they aren’t satisfied with the advice they get at any level and choose to progress to next level without a referral.

4) Privacy 

This has been a major obstacle to reducing costs because it has severely limited ease of communication between doctors, and between patients and doctors. Again this is a societal issue but unreasonable privacy concerns cost us huge amounts of time and money. Some legal changes to Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy (FOIP) may be needed to make privacy restrictions less onerous and more practical within the healthcare system.

5) Practitioner motivation

All practitioners and people would benefit from a system that rewards quality & efficient care. Not easy but done in some systems [Fred believes]. As an example primary care networks could be motivated to provide better after hours care to enable improved “healthcare homes” and keep folks out of emergency and hospital wards.

6) Teamwork

An adversarial approach to cost reduction dooms Albertans to either poor healthcare or poor cost reduction or both. Our leaders, both medical and political, need to realize that it is in everyone’s best interest to have similar objectives in addressing the issues and to work towards same. A BS and sand tossing approach, as currently happening, will fail.

Well done, Fred! Thanks for stepping into BEYOND POLARITY’s virtual town hall & letting readers know what’s on your mind.

And we bet you — yes, you — have good ideas for Alberta’s immediate future.

Comment below or send us an e-mail. We will lightly edit your contributions to ensure that your voice is heard. You have a lot to offer others.

This column is the consensus opinion of the writers Donna Kennedy-Glans & Don Hill. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to BEYOND POLARITY — scroll down on your phone or tablet, or look to the right in the panel beside this post. Enter your email to FOLLOW, a wheel spins, hamsters get fed.


One thought on “Alberta in the 21st century: PART 1 (of many)

  1. OK – here is an idea to get some jobs going immediately.
    Announce a Non – Refundable Home Improvement Tax Credit.of $2000 per house per year for 5 years. . A homeowner has to spend $10, 000 on materials or labour to improve his / her house.
    The program leverages a $1 to create $10 worth of activity.
    The program will be attractive to homeowners who are thinking about doing some improvements and some who just like reducing their taxes.
    It will be especially attractive to seniors who have their homes paid for and who need to do some improvements to help them stay in their homes.
    It could include additions, basements suits, granny flats, and other ways to generate rental income in a home.
    There are many idle or inactive tradespeople right now in Alberta who normally are building houses . This program sends them a lifeline.
    Lets help the ordinary citizens , construction crews, and trades people keep busy earning real income this year.
    Murray Rasmusson

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