The smartest guy in the UCP room still doesn’t get it.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro thinks it’s about him, his wife, his interests outside of public life. He’s wrong. And Alberta’s rural physicians just reminded him who’s the boss in a pandemic.
The doctors have it exactly right. Resistance to their reasonable complaints is futile. And the so-called ‘walk back’ by Minister Shandro, a short while ago, is half-hearted and not at all reassuring (we bet he’s getting another ear-full from backbench MLAs worried about pissing off their non-urban constituents even more than they already are).
RAISE A LITTLE HELL
God help us all if Minister Shandro still believes he’s on the right track. As for the ‘left’ and the Opposition New Democrats, in particular, the doctors haven’t been exactly cozy or keen either (more on this in a moment).
Raising hell to protest ‘command & control’ political decisions is something Albertans are noted for and good at. And there’s a lot of political history to fall back on. Recent in-your-face examples include (and are not limited to):
#WEXITERS reaction to a heavy-handed Ottawa;
Wildrosers (particularly in rural Alberta) heading for the exits — objecting to the PC government’s fiscal conservative DNA diluted by all that latte-sipping urban-condo-living, well… you get the general idea.
And now the province’s doctors…
DOCTORS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
On social & mainstream media (and as we learned, should anyone bring it up in a treatment room), doctors spoke honestly & candidly as individual care-providers.
As a rapid-fire movement, the doctors shrugged off Opposition entreaties to have the ND carry their flag—setting aside partisan notions of any sort—the doctors made it plain they were not going to being co-opted as a left ‘thing’. As for the right, Minister Shandro’s political triage—call it a band-aid solution to a self-inflicted wound—the boo-boo continues to fester.
CHOREOGRAPHING SPECIAL INTERESTS
What makes the doctors mad-as-hell-and-we’re-not-taking-it-anymore movement different is best illustrated by Donna’s recent experience with the Fair Deal Panel. It was an instructive listening tour.
Teachers across the province sang with one voice—talking points courtesy of the Alberta Teachers Association. In one city, after spouting off their mantra “Don’t let AIMco touch my pension!”, a claque of button-wearing unionists, having said their say, abruptly got up & left the hall without so much as bothering to listen to what the rest of the room was thinking.
It’s not that the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) has been sitting on the sidelines. The AMA’s launch of a $25-million lawsuit against the Kenney government earlier this month is a tactical maneuver.
Now this is where it gets tricky.
The AMA has an activist role in the mind of the public. Politically, they’re a force to be reckoned with. However, Health Minister Shandro has been waging war against individual doctors. Doctors in small town clinics. Doctors in independent practices. Their fight is personal.
NO LONGER BUSINESS AS USUAL
Donna understands implicitly there’s been much to not like about Alberta Health Services (AHS), our province-wide, fully-integrated health “system”. Local healthcare providers complained bitterly to Donna when she was a PC MLA. Brain dead micro-management stuff: paint colours for hospital waiting rooms had to be approved by a committee in Edmonton (yes!); protocols for seniors in care homes allowed little room for discretion. And for patients, the AHS system can be a maze of less-than-obvious connections requiring patience beyond reason to navigate. AHS has even been pressured to provide roadmaps for patients and a patient-first strategy.
It would have been easy for the UCP government to hide behind the AHS curtain; to pit doctors against one another and against other healthcare providers; to shame physicians as those greedy bastards trying to sponge up more than their fair share of healthcare dollars at a time of great economic woe in Alberta.
In the good old days before the pandemic, divide & conquer was an affective political strategy. But it’s a strategy that constitutes a BIG FAIL for the UCP government. And it’s insane for the Health Minister and his minions to think otherwise.
Who in their right mind would choose NOW to distract doctors from their handling of the COVID crisis? The logic—if there is any—would be like Winston Churchill rationing ammunition to the military at the onset of World War II.
So—poor Tyler. He doesn’t get it.
He had a health scare last week. He called 811. The nurse on the line recommended he go “immediately to emergency.” He walked into the ICU at Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital: a chest Xray, CT scan, bloodwork, ultrasound, ECG monitoring, the works, all offered up by a compassionate, efficient and qualified healthcare team in less than four hours.
Don left the ICU with a clean bill of health and renewed confidence in Alberta’s healthcare system. It’s not broken, he said. Please don’t fix it.
And so we come to assessing the political health of this government in the legislature.
PITTING ALBERTANS AGAINST ONE ANOTHER
If the pandemic has taught us anything, thus far, it’s that we’re all in this together.
We’re a herd—perhaps a herd of bison as the Premier is fond of pointing out—the well-being of one citizen can compromise the well-being of us all.
Herd immunity and a COVID vaccine may convince us to see things differently, but until then, attempts to pit Albertans against one another will backfire. And any politician stupid enough to play that game risks permanent censure.
A PRESCRIPTION FOR THE HEALTH MINISTER
Pity poor Tyler—not.
Politics is not a prophylactic. A University of Calgary law degree doesn’t hold a candle to the will of pregnant women in rural Alberta.
Is the Health Minister clever enough to discern between essential & non-essential?
And if not, well… then what?