One day after the premier held an event at the Chinook Regional Hospital, questions are being raised about whether the event violated Alberta Health Services rules about political activity — with some saying it resembled a political campaign.
Alberta Premier @RachelNotley speaking in response to @jkenney proposed freeze on healthcare spending. @globalnews @GlobalLeth pic.twitter上海龙凤419/Fc2A3u5Kx2
— Chris Chacon (@ChrisAChacon) February 23, 2019
Rachel Notley addressed the media and hospital staff inside a common area within the Lethbridge hospital, taking aim at recent comments made by UCP leader Jason Kenney about exploring privately delivered health care options.
READ MORE: UCP Leader Jason Kenney wants to explore private health-care options
An AHS policy, however, prevents political events within AHS facilities.
According to Section 2.1 of policy #1148 Political Activity: “AHS facilities shall not be used for any political activity, including, but not limited to use for the purposes of canvassing, campaigning, making political announcements, touring and other activities.
“During an election campaign, political parties are not permitted to use AHS facilities as a backdrop or host location for an campaign event or activity.”
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The policy goes on to state: “Elected officials may access AHS facilities for the purpose of carrying out their duties to the election office provided they do not engage in any political activity and comply with applicable AHS policies and all standard access requirements in place at the facility.”
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In a statement to Global News, Cheryl Oates, a spokesperson for the premier, said: “Not a single tax dollar went to this announcement. The nurses who came to speak out about the dangers of Jason Kenney’s plan to privatize health care, came on their own time because this issue is important to them.
The event was done in a public area of the hospital, but we understand the concern and will ensure future campaign events are not done at AHS facilities.”
Kenney took to 苏州美甲学校 Saturday, raising concerns about the premier’s conference in the hospital.
It is an unethical abuse of public resources for the NDP Leader to hold a partisan news conference in a public hospital, as she did today. Those are party, not government signs.
This is explicitly prohibited by AHS policy.
Stop campaigning at public expense. Call the election. https://t.co/rg6vd8ATm0
— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) February 24, 2019
The premier’s spokesperson responded, igniting a war of words on social media Sunday morning.
Not a single tax dollar went to this announcement. The nurses who came to speak out about the dangers of @jkenney plan to privatize health care, came on their own time because they are worried about what he will do to front line services. #ableg https://t.co/s97K3YcY2X
— Cheryl Oates (@cherylanne) February 24, 2019
Nice of the Premier’s spin-doctor to admit that the NDP’s partisan stunt held in a public hospital in violation of AHS policy was a “campaign event.” Too bad that her boss hasn’t called the election, though.
And how did this violation happen in the first place? Accountability? pic.twitter上海龙凤419/JQRjitUSN2
— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) February 24, 2019
In a press release Sunday morning, the UCP’s Jason Nixon called for the province’s ethics commissioner to investigate whether or not Notley violated AHS policy.
“Saturday’s NDP campaign event was not just a clear violation of AHS policy, but it also seems probable that the Premier and her staff broke Government of Alberta rules that prohibit them from using their influence to host a partisan event in a public hospital,” Nixon said.
“I have written to Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner to ask for an immediate investigation into this event and I’m calling on Alberta Health Services and the Premier’s office to explain this clear violation of AHS policy for the benefit of the Notley NDP.”
Chaldeans Mensah, a political scientist with MacEwan University, said Saturday’s event was clearly partisan.
“The signage is clearly NDP signage – Rachel Notley, Fighting for You. It’s clearly a partisan announcement,” he said. “There’s no seal of the premier as backdrop to say this is an announcement from the Office of the Premier. What is also telling, this is being done at a public institution, and public organizations and institutions get their funding from the government. They should be non-partisan.”
Mensah said the fault lies with both AHS and the premier’s office.
“AHS should scrupulously follow its policies on non-partisanship. Their policy is very clear,” he said.
“Likewise the premier, noting the election writ, hasn’t been issued, should avoid all appearances of using a specific setting of a public institution, which depends on government for funding.”
However, Mensah said the practice of the ruling government conducting campaign events before the writ is dropped has been done by the PC government provincially as well as by parties on the federal level.
“Notley is obviously not breaking what clearly, has been, a practice that politicians engage in in Canada but it’s not a fair practice,” he said. “The government shouldn’t jump the gun and take advantage of its position to exploit issues like this for partisanship.”
A spokesperson for AHS would not answer any questions regarding the NDP event and directed Global News to its policy but did say it was not organized by AHS and participants were not representing AHS.
While an election has not yet been called in Alberta, legislation requires one be held between March 1 and May 31 of this year, preceded by a 28-day campaign period.