Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Braid: Stelmach strikes at leadership hopeful Alison Redford


By Don Braid, Calgary Herald June 8, 2011
Comment 27 StoryPhotos ( 1 )

Calgary MLA Alison Redford announced she will be running for leadership of the Alberta Conservatives. Alison had an informal question session at the Alberta Art Gallery in Edmonton, Alta. February 16, 2011.Photograph by: Brian J. Gavriloff, Edmonton JournalWell, we sure know who Ed Stelmach doesn't want to follow him as PC leader: former Justice Minister Alison Redford, who called Tuesday for a judicial inquiry into health care.

In a remarkable salvo, the premier tried to cast Redford out of the PC fold into the pit of opposition hell, for daring to disagree with his obdurate refusal to call that inquiry.

"She's taking the same position as Raj Sherman, who's now -I don't know what he is now, an Independent? -and I believe David Eggen who is also an NDP candidate (and) is asking for the same."

So there you are -a Tory who disagrees with Ed is lower than Brian Mason's shoelaces. She's as bad as Doc Sherman -former PC, Independent MLA, and Liberal leadership candidate -who swears he's seen specific cases of VIPs being rushed into wards for preferential medical care.

Eggen, of course, is the executive director of the Friends of Medicare who will run as a New Democrat in Edmonton-Calder, the riding he held for the party from 2004-08.

Far from being offended, Eggen was delighted by the plug from Stelmach; and his analysis of why it happened might be very close to the mark.

"I know Stephen Duckett has touched a nerve with these allegations," Eggen said. "The head of Alberta Health Services came in and realized people were abusing the health system.

"He tried to correct the problem, and now it's coming back to bite the Conservatives. I'd say Ed's squirming for sure."

Duckett alleged that some CEOs of former health regions had "go-to guys" to deal with MLAs requests for, ahem, "waiting list adjustments."

That prompted Redford to revise her earlier view that the study by the Health Quality Council is good enough.

She now feels a full judicial inquiry is essential because "if Albertans can't have confidence in the system at this core level, it's going to be very difficult to improve health care in any other way.

"So let's just call the inquiry. We'll get to the truth and move on. It's just too serious an allegation for a public system."

I asked Redford the question faced Tuesday by many Tory MLAs: Have you ever seen, or engaged in, cases of quick care for the mighty?

"There are none that I'm aware of," Redford said, "but that shouldn't be the test anyway. . . . We've got to get to the bottom of whether or not this is true."

It won't be easy. Nobody's naming names, not even Sherman and Dr. Paul Parks, who also cited specific cases. Dr. John Cowell, head of the Health Quality Council, noted that he didn't get any calls with details Tuesday.

But this VIP influence system, if it existed, is sure to be a closed loop. In every case, the "fix" would include a powerful patron (MLA at least), a VIP patient, and a compliant medical person who greases the gurney.

How likely would any of those people be to talk voluntarily? Not very.

But a public inquiry, unlike the Health Quality Council probe, would have power to compel testimony.

Sherman and Parks could be made to reveal names.

The people they named could be called to the stand -under oath.

Nobody knows those rules better than Redford, the lawyer-justice minister appointed by Stelmach right after winning her first election.

Now he uses his waning influence to paint her as a castaway. Do other leadership candidates have the nerve to join her in the lifeboat?

Don Braid's column appears regularly in the Herald dbraid@CalgaryHerald.com

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