You are here

More bad news for Alberta healthcare

Left JAB by John Bell

June 6, 2021

This week in Hell – oops I mean Alberta, but you can see where I’d be confused – Premier Jason Kenney announced the appointment of University of Calgary Professor Jack Mintz to the Alberta Health Services board of directors.

Mintz’s appointment was greeted with gushing enthusiasm by Alberta’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro: “We are very fortunate to have someone of Jack’s calibre on the governing body of AHS as the organization builds on its strengths while implementing strategies to become even more efficient.” Readers should recall that Shandro and his wife are owners of private health service providing businesses, which in JasonKenneyLand does not qualify as a conflict of interest.

AHS board chair David Weyant (QC) is equally enthused: “This is a time of complex challenges for health systems, not just in Alberta but around the world. Jack’s experience, including in health-care innovation, will enhance the broad set of skills and experiences already on our board and will provide invaluable guidance to AHS as the organization addresses our health-care challenges.”  Why is Weyant, a lawyer, boss of a healthcare service? Kenney chose him for his “extensive financial, legal and business expertise.”

What, you were expecting someone with healthcare experience to lead your public health services provider?

In case you haven’t been reading the fine print, and don’t recognize that name, let me not Mintz words. Let me tell you why Albertans should be very, very afraid.

The official announcement of his appointment cites many of his accomplishments, his work with the board of Imperial Oil, the MacDonald-Laurier Institute, the C.D. Howe Institute, and the Canada West Foundation. Yes, Jack is hip deep in the tar sands, an academic supporter of the oil and gas industry. So it is no surprise that Kenney had previously appointed him chair of the Alberta Premier’s Economic Recovery Council. 

One of Mintz’s side hustles that is not cited is his work with the far-right “think tank”, the Fraser Institute. His entire academic career has been devoted to defending corporate tax cuts, reducing “red tape”, and advocating for “smaller government”. He is all for privatization of services and using legislation for driving down salaries and working conditions for public sector workers. 

Along with his soul mates, Jason Kenney and Stephen Harper, Mintz is a devoted disciple of neoliberalism and all that it entails–tax cuts for the rich, privatizing social services, weakening workers’ organizations and unions, and austerity as a solution to economic crisis. No less a weasel than Pierre Poilivere has anointed him a “brilliant economist”. As an academic he couches his right-wing arguments in dispassionate language. His connections to corporate Canada have earned him the accolade “bipartisan”, because, after all, both Conservatives and Liberals share his corporate allegiance. But in his heart of hearts Mintz is all Tory.

Putting the gas in gaslighting

As such Mintz is a frequent op-ed contributor to the National Post, where he serves as a voice that tells corporations what they want to hear, and politicians what they are to do.  Typical of such efforts is his 2018 essay against “diversity”In the best tradition of expert gaslighters, Mintz begins by distancing himself from crude racists like Maxime Bernier. He then acknowledges the economic advantages of immigration “in principle”, the better to discard them later.

Then he gets to the meat of his argument: immigration weakens patriotism and national identification. He proves this by citing the phenomenon of “ethnic fragmentation”. The villain here is multiculturalism and “diversity”, weakening the Euro-centric tradition of Canada’s past. “Ethnic fragmentation” is a term invented by right-wing social scientists like Mintz so they can make subtly racist arguments without the uncomfortably racist language. 

He even produces a chart that proves that Canada is the most ethnically fragmented major economy.

Mintz argues: “What is critical to note, though, is that there is no evidence to support the political hypothesis that ethnic and linguistic fragmentation — a.k.a. ‘diversity’ — leads to higher growth.” 

Mintz is too crafty to say so explicitly, but read between the lines. He truly believes – not opportunistically but with the fervor of the zealot – that Canada’s economic wellbeing depends on so called nation-building projects, like tar sands bitumen production and pipeline projects to get the sludge to market. By Mintz’s logic, since arguments against the petrocracy, be they economic or environmental or both, have risen roughly parallel to Canada’s rising “diversity”, then “diversity” must be to blame.

Privatizing healthcare

Every decision, every appointment, every budgetary announcement Jason Kenney has made about health care has been designed to weaken public services and open the door for privatization. That all this is happening in the midst of a public health emergency is all the more damning.

He has cut funding for public services, resulting in thousands of lost jobs, many of them in health care. He has slashed funding for seniors’ pharmacare. He has green-lit two-tiered care in the form of private surgical clinics. 

Kenney unilaterally ripped up Alberta’s contract with doctors, reducing payment, to force them into the privatized system. The result has been chaos, radicalizing a normally docile profession and prompting an exodus of medical talent to other provinces.He threatened to “streamline” health services in smaller, often widely spaced communities. This meant loss of select services or outright closures of public clinics and hospitals. The resulting uproar among Kenney’s rural, small town base, did force him to slow down his assault on services, but not discard the goal.

All these decisions would have been made on the advice and with the blessing of Jack Mintz. He has long been one of Canada’s most powerful, and dangerous, unelected power brokers. Kenney’s latest appointment of Mintz is evidence that, as the pandemic emergency wanes, the UCP will redouble its attack on public healthcare.

Forewarned is forearmed. Will Alberta healthcare workers finally say enough is enough, and take collective action to save public services? Their devotion to their vocations has been proved through their tireless service during the pandemic. Public support is high, and diversity is no obstacle to solidarity. Now is the time to face Kenney and Mintz and say “No more!”



Geo Tags: 

Featured Event



Visit our YouTube Channel for more videos: Our Youtube Channel
Visit our UStream Channel for live videos: Our Ustream Channel