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Alberta Election: Candidates talk healthcare

Healthcare is one of the biggest portfolios that the provincial government manages and it accounts for roughly 40 per cent of the provincial budget.

Healthcare is one of the biggest portfolios that the provincial government manages and it accounts for roughly 40 per cent of the provincial budget.

The Gazette asked the 18 St. Albert-area candidates running in the upcoming provincial election to talk to us about how they believe they could improve the healthcare system. Each candidate was given a 150-word limit.

Q: What do you see as the biggest issue facing Alberta’s healthcare system and how would you change that?

Marie Renaud
NDP – St. Albert

When we were elected in 2015, during the recession, we chose to build and hire and not make deep cuts that would harm families. We cancelled the Conservatives' healthcare premiums and refused to fire thousands of healthcare workers. We started to address infrastructure deficits created by years of Conservative government neglect, finally replacing things like decades-old boilers. And the new $2.3-million Sturgeon Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit will allow newborns requiring higher levels of care to receive treatment right here in St. Albert, helping to support the approximately 3,000 deliveries per year.

We’ve made progress, but there’s more to do, and all of this is at risk under Jason Kenney’s plan. Experiments with privatization, the threat of bringing two-tier, American-style healthcare to Alberta, and tax cuts for corporations will hurt front-line care. I’ll fight to ensure our healthcare system works for all Albertans.

Jeff Wedman
UCP – St. Albert

As Canadians, we are rightfully proud of our Medicare system. A United Conservative government will maintain or increase health spending, and preserve our universally accessible, publicly funded healthcare system.

The biggest issue facing healthcare in Alberta is sustainability. On healthcare, Alberta spends more per capita than any other province in Canada.

We will commission a performance review of AHS to identify administrative inefficiencies, and reinvest the savings into front-line services. We will empower our front line workers to fully participate in the review, crowd-sourcing their expertise to improve our healthcare system.

We will reduce surgical wait times by replicating elements of the highly successful Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative. We will also expand innovations like the “medical home” care model of the Crowfoot Village Family Practice. To ensure government is making decisions using the best data, we will expand the budget for the Alberta Health Quality Council.

Barry Bailey
Alberta Party – St. Albert

I will do everything in my power to ensure that Alberta becomes the healthiest jurisdiction in North America! I support a health policy that focuses on preventive and proactive measures such as home care supports so seniors can live at home longer. We would invest in early childhood health and provide free annual dental check-ups and x-rays for children under 12 years old. Our child care plan will make child care affordable and accessible and include the Caregiver Tax credit.

We must also protect our most health-vulnerable Albertans. The Alberta Party will create an additional 3,500 long-term care beds, implement a comprehensive dementia strategy and strengthen primary care networks.

We know the healthcare system can be improved. We will ask the front-line care providers for their advice about how we can improve and innovate services delivery and remove inefficiencies.

Kevin McLean
Liberal Party – St. Albert

The biggest issue is a combination of the fact that we pay the most per capita in Canada for healthcare and that the number of seniors are going to double in the next 20 years.

We have far too many seniors in hospital beds waiting for long-term care. This is a big cost to the system and more importantly not the standard of care our seniors deserve. This is threatening the fiscal sustainability of our system.

I want to see us invest in areas that drive down long-term costs and make the system more sustainable. This includes areas like preventative care, continuing care and mental health and addictions.

Cameron Jefferies
Green Party – St. Albert

There are myriad issues facing Alberta’s healthcare system, such as wait times for medical procedures, the rising healthcare costs that are expected to accompany Alberta’s aging population, and the need for more family physicians.

In my view, a priority should be placed on working to address the health-related Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to ensure that Alberta’s health services truly extend to every Albertan. Alberta’s Indigenous people face barriers to accessing and benefitting from health services, and those barriers are the result of social inequalities and racial injustices – both historical and contemporary. To address this, I would prioritize actions that directly support existing First Nations’ healthcare practitioners, help increase the number of new First Nations’ practitioners, and promote the development of culturally informed community-based health initiatives.

Don Petruka
Alberta Advantage Party – St. Albert

I have said this before and I will openly say it again: there is a glut of upper and middle management in Alberta Health Services. We currently have the highest per capita spending on healthcare in Canada with some of the longest wait times.

Throwing more money at the problem is not the answer. From internal sources, acquisitions and procurement could be streamlined saving an average of 2 billion dollars a year.

AHS is being mismanaged. If our current management, with its $720-million annual management salary budget cannot solve this problem, maybe it's time to make drastic cuts – from the top. Because $720 million would help you hire a lot of doctors, nurses and frontline workers. Food for thought.

Sheldon Gron
Alberta Independence Party – St. Albert

The biggest issue facing Alberta’s healthcare system is the threat of privatization. This is due to the current costs of $22 billion, or 40 per cent of the total spent by the Alberta taxpayer. These costs are also on the rise, due to our aging population. Wait times in Alberta are also extensive, an average of 23 weeks – three weeks longer than the Canadian average because of a lack of services to meet demand. As a result, we are forced to ration services to patients.

It costs a lot money to offer services like our health system and most taxpayers are okay with this. This doesn’t mean that we can’t evaluate current expenditures and appropriate those funds better. Efficiency is key. Because we’ll have surpluses from holding back federal transfer payments, we’re able to increase funding to the services we offer, making them more readily available and decreasing wait times.

Natalie Birnie
NDP – Morinville-St. Albert

I’m proud to be running on Rachel Notley’s team, working to provide stable healthcare funding to meet our growing population’s needs, while continuing to contain administrative and managerial costs as the lowest in the country.

We’ve seen a lot of progress already, but I know Albertans want to see more action to tackle wait times. Rachel’s plan invests $90 million per year toward reducing surgical wait times and increasing emergency care for Albertans in need. That means getting our paramedics and ambulances out into communities faster, expanding access to specialists and increasing capacity for procedures that typically slow the system down.

Nearly 40,000 more Albertans will get the surgery they need over the next three years with this strategic investment. We can’t afford to freeze or cut healthcare spending, like Jason Kenney is proposing, and put this at risk.

Dale Nally
UCP – Morinville-St. Albert

As part of our plan to make life better for all Albertans, a United Conservative government will ensure a patient-centered healthcare system.

Albertans have the most expensive health system of any province in Canada, yet results lag as compared with other jurisdictions. Wait times are an important issue in Alberta that needs to be addressed.

A United Conservative government would maintain or increase health spending over four years and seek to find administrative efficiencies without affecting front-line services. The UCP is committed to reducing surgical wait times to under four months. We would accomplish this by looking to other jurisdictions to model programs that have yielded positive patient outcomes, such as the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative.

Neil Korotash
Alberta Party – Morinville-St. Albert

While our healthcare system faces many challenges, effectively dealing with dementia will be our biggest challenge. Over the next 15 years, the number of dementia patients in Alberta is expected to double. One in 10 Albertans over the age of 65 and nearly half over the age of 90 will be living with dementia. I have have seen first-hand the strain a lack of available resources can put on caregivers and it is clear that we need a provincial strategy.

The Alberta Party will implement a comprehensive dementia strategy to ensure care for patients and supports for caregivers are effective and sustainable, and promote quality of life, independence, and dignity. To this end, we’ve pledged to create 3,500 long-term care beds, create a new caregiver tax credit and implement a more effective waitlist policy allowing partners to stay together.

Cass Romyn
Green Party – Morinville-St. Albert

The biggest issue I see facing Alberta’s healthcare system is a lack of doctors, rural clinics, and a lack of understanding, research and development regarding mental healthcare.

There is also the issue of affordability when it comes to uninsured services, third-party insurance, pharmacare and even dental care. We need to improve our current healthcare system, adding universal pharmacare and dental care, among other common, yet currently uninsured health services to the list of insured services.

We need to invest in research and development when it comes to increasingly common, unfortunate diseases like MS, CS, arthritis, etc. We need to build clinics and/or increase the amount of mobile clinics operating rurally. We need to hire more doctors, and teach more doctors within Alberta. We need to focus on preventative healthcare measures to promote long and healthy lives, reducing strain on our provincial healthcare system financially, both short and long-term.

Tamara Krywiak
Alberta Advantage Party – Morinville-St. Albert

As a Registered Nurse, I have been deep in the trenches on the frontlines of healthcare. The root of Alberta’s healthcare issues is inefficient spending. For example, layers of management lacking clear roles and accountability.

Healthcare workers are regularly told, “There is no money for that.” There is, we just need to spend with clear intention and purpose.

We need an independent panel to complete a comprehensive review of healthcare spending to reveal and correct spending inefficiencies. This will release funds to hire more medical staff where it matters: on the front lines of caring for the public. Without skilled healthcare workers, healthcare cannot be delivered. More staff in emergency rooms will decrease wait times.

We also need more long-term care facilities for our aging population. People are waiting at least a year for a bed in long-term care. This is simply unacceptable.

Mike van Velzen
Alberta Independence Party – Morinville-St. Albert

Due to all subsidies and taxations implemented on Albertans, and under the Alberta Independence Party platform, we will be able to fund our entire healthcare system without losing any current services, therefore relieving financial strains from Albertans.

Oneil Carlier
NDP – Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

As a rural MLA, I know access to healthcare is something my constituents think about a lot. I want them to know they can raise their families in their communities and still have access to the level of care they deserve.

As a member of Rachel Notley’s team, I’ll be fighting to protect and improve universal public healthcare in rural communities so that families can receive the care they need closer to home. I’m proud of the work we’ve done already, like hiring more paramedics, building more long-term care spaces and expanding the scope of practice of health professionals who serve rural and remote communities, but I know there’s more we can do, and cutting or freezing healthcare spending like Jason Kenney is proposing will only hurt care in our rural communities. I’ll work to ensure we continue investing in healthcare for rural Alberta.

Shane Getson
UCP – Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

There are a number of challenges to the healthcare system but most of the concerns that I have heard are over the wait times and access to services.


We are going to look at the efficiencies to be gained in the current system, and adding funding to HQCA to put in place better control and metrics of performance.  Provide patents increased choices of medical practitioners, as well as making available nurse practitioners to provide additional support / services and allowing them to bill Alberta Health.

Don McCargar
Alberta Party – Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

I would like to say that our healthcare in Canada is among the best in the world, and as such I am very grateful to live here. However, steps can always be taken to improve the effectiveness of any system, Canadian healthcare included.

The two areas I feel should be addressed are access for services, as wait times are getting long, and the affordability of prescription drugs, which I believe must be subsidized by the federal and provincial governments.

With this in mind, our government needs to implement the following courses of action. First, we must consult Albertan patients, survivors and caregivers to learn how their experiences can inform a nationalized pharmacare program. Second, we must diversify the healthcare services available in rural Alberta to support a complete community concept which include expanded facilities such as rural hospitals, long-term care facilities, seniors housing and wellness centers.

As an MLA, I would participate with existing healthcare infrastructure to address these issues personally.

Darien Masse
Alberta Advantage Party – Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

I think we can all agree that in one form or another the system is broken. Everything from misuse of the hospital emergency facilities, to supply inefficiencies, to top-heavy management. Hospital emergency should be used for just that, emergencies, not a sore throat or conditions that can be addressed at your family doctor's office. When it comes to supplies for the healthcare system, purchasing can be centralized into one system and process. Avoid wasted inventory, better purchasing prices, less cost to manage. By eliminating top-heavy management, we can redirect those savings to the front-line staff. It has been said that once addressing these issues we can easily save $2 billion tomorrow. A substantial number.

Healthcare in Alberta is a vital service. Once properly fiscally managed, wait times will go down and services will go up.

Better work place, better healthcare, better province.

Gordon McMillan
Alberta Independence Party – Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

The biggest issue with healthcare that I can see from news and talking with people is wait times.

I feel rather than throw money at this to decrease wait times, we could investigate and see why there are, talk to front line workers, see if the system can be improved upon before just spending. By no means am I talking cuts, but streamlining may improve upon service to the public.