Conversations with Albertans on healthcare criticized for being too private
In June, the province announced it would have discussions with Albertans to improve health care. However, the meetings – taking place across the province – are being criticized for being too private.
In poll after poll, health care tops the list of priorities for Albertans, and in June, the Redford government announced MLAs would be talking to their constituents about their health care concerns throughout the summer. These meetings were described as conversations with Albertans, but have been more private than some expected.
"I was advised it was invitation-only and that I probably should go,” reveals Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle, “and I didn't go."
Towle is the MLA for the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding, and while she didn’t receive a formal invitation to the meeting in Sylvan Lake on Wednesday, felt she should be there.
“If you want to have a forum on health, I’m not opposed to that at all. If you want to invite key stakeholders in those discussions, I’m not opposed to that at all, I think that needs to happen,” says Towle. “However, the elected representative should have an invite as well, and, we are also residents of this riding.”
Steve Young, the PC MLA running many of the meetings, says there’s no rule against having opposition members attend. In fact, he called Towle’s contributions to the Sylvan Lake meeting “insightful.”
Roughly 20 people were invited to attend that meeting, which lasted about three hours. Seniors advocate Frank Webb was one of the guests invited to take part.
“It was good,” he says. “They were there, not to advise anything or give any advice, or what their suggestions were, they just got information for some of the things they wanted… they were just writing things down.”
He appreciated being able to give his input, and enjoyed the smaller group setting.
“Yes, that was a good format in a way.” Webb says with a larger group, the meeting would have taken longer, and perhaps – accomplished less. Still, what will be done with the feedback gathered at these meetings remains to be seen.
“I’m glad I went, but whether something’s going to happen, I don’t know.”
“Is it just going to be left alone again?” wonders Webb. “They’ve had meetings before… nothing comes about.”
Regardless of what happens from here, Webb feels he’s doing an important job by taking part in the political process.
“Even if they don’t respond… at least I said something.”
He also said something before the meeting, to Towle, the elected MLA for his riding.
“She came because I phoned her about it,” he says. “She is our rep here, and she was very good.”
“I had good and valuable information, not only from my constituents but also from my own experience,” Towle explains.
“If they wanted to have a conversation with Albertans… make it open, public and transparent, as they promised they would.”
“I think it’s clear, Premier Redford has said and campaigned on an open and transparent government, and clearly they’re a close-minded and secretive government.”
In addition to being an invitation-only meeting, media was not allowed to attend the meetings, being held in various constituencies across the province.
Young says media wasn’t permitted because personal information is often shared and names shouldn’t be used.
Global News contacted the Health Minister for a response and to clarify what the conversations were. We were told to expect a response on Monday, since representatives were on vacation until then.
Read it on Global News: In June, the province announced it would have discussions with Albertans to improve health care. However, the meetings – taking place across the province – are being criticized for being too private.