Who Controls Alberta's Health System? Alberta Or Ottawa?

Sometimes life takes us down unexpected paths, and these last couple of months have exemplified that for me.

For those who aren't aware, when I am not busy promoting the Free Alberta Strategy, I am a practicing lawyer. In recent months, however, these two worlds have somewhat merged.

During the pandemic, government and government officials have utterly failed to perform their most sacred duty - that of protecting the rights and personal liberties of their citizenry. COVID restrictions and mandates seemed to keep multiplying week by week, while freedoms diminished.

I am grateful, however, to have been given the opportunity to fight many of these egregious restrictions with my law firm, and I'm very pleased to report that a recent legal challenge of ours was successful in helping to convince AHS to repeal an unjust vaccine mandate imposed upon their employees and contractors, and instead, offer these Albertans rapid testing as an alternative to losing their job.

Although the COVID vaccine is a good option for many, for some it poses more risk than benefit, which is why individuals in consultation with their physicians - and not the State - should make the ultimate decision as to whether to take the vaccine.

As a former MLA, I never could have foreseen having to defend the rights of Albertans from governments and agencies hell-bent on taking their jobs away if they do not comply with a mandated medical treatment.

A big takeaway for me from my involvement in this work, however, was a realization of just how critical it is for Albertans to take back control of our health care system from Ottawa as soon as possible.

For some reason, no one seems willing to acknowledge that Alberta's health care system is pathetic - an unmitigated disaster.

With a budget of $23 billion per year, AHS was unable to handle more than 200 ICU patients at a time. And it was forced to cancel life-saving medical procedures to provide even that paltry capacity. It bullied and intimidated doctors and nurses (and still does) for any attempts at innovative treatment solutions, and couldn't come up with anything resembling adequate surge capacity for our hospitals even after having two years to prepare for the most recent wave of cases.

This is not, however, entirely the fault of the Alberta government.

Canada's health system is one of the most ineffective and inefficient in the developed world. Nations considered quasi-socialist by many (think Germany, Sweden, France, and Australia as examples) have far more effective universal health systems as they leverage both private and public delivery and insurance resulting in more actual funding for health, innovation, and services for all.

But any province wanting to try something different in Canada, can't.

This failing top-down centralized government monopoly running our health care system in Alberta is really the end result of federal government intrusion into provincial health systems via the Canada Health Act, and is enforced with Canada Health Transfer dollars.

The federal government over-taxes all Canadians by billions of dollars and then returns that money to the provinces to pay for health care, with strings attached - including mandating this state-run model of health care that has entirely failed our People.

Any province that would dare to offer private health care options will have all federal health funding yanked away, but its citizens would have to keep paying the extra federal taxes.

Is this constitutional? Of course not! Section 92 of the Constitution clearly provides jurisdiction over health care to the provinces. But no province has ever challenged the constitutionality of the Canada Health Act in this regard.

Alberta needs to do so now.

Our provincial government needs to pass the Alberta Sovereignty Act, as proposed in the Free Alberta Strategy, declaring that we no longer recognize the Canada Health Act within our province.

We must then introduce sweeping reforms that will get rid of the bloated and inept AHS bureaucracy, decentralize health care delivery to the local level, and promote innovation and investment by leveraging both private and universally available public health care insurance and delivery - as happens in virtually every other developed nation.

If the federal government tries to retaliate by withholding Alberta's share of the federal health transfer, many of the legal and political options outlined in the Free Alberta Strategy can be used to make up the funding gap.

Moreover, the cost savings, increased efficiency, influx of private investment, and improvement in health outcomes for Albertans would send a message to the other nine provinces and put incredible pressure on Ottawa to return governance over all aspects of health care to the provinces.

This pandemic has demonstrated the fragility and danger of a centralized health system that is being indirectly controlled by politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa.

Make no mistake, though, Ottawa's preferred solution is more centralized control. There is a growing chorus of voices in Ottawa that think the federal government should take over Alberta’s health system entirely. The Constitution be damned!

The battle for control over Alberta's future is fully underway. We cannot ignore it. We need to be a part of the solution and help restore Alberta's rights of self-governance - including the reform of our dangerously ineffective health care system.

I hope you will join us in this initiative by:

  1. Signing, and getting your family and friends to sign, our petition.
  2. Helping us promote and advance the cause by making a donation.
  3. Attending our upcoming town halls in February (to be announced shortly).

Our plan this year is to hold town halls in every Alberta constituency, continue to meet with and secure the endorsements of provincial MLAs, and convince the Alberta government and electorate that implementing the Free Alberta Strategy is the best way forward for Alberta.

Hope to talk again soon.

Rob Anderson
Executive Director
Free Alberta Strategy

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