Have I got this straight? Preston Manning just made a recommendation to give politicians absolute authority over public health that was so excellent the Alberta government accepted it a week before they got it?
Can someone remind me why we gave the superannuated godfather of the Canadian right a budget of $2 million and paid him $253,000 in personal pin money if we weren’t going to wait for his recommendations and at least talk about them for a day or two before implementing them?
On Wednesday, Manning, 81, dropped his 116-page doorstopper report and another 253 pages of appendices advising us to stop putting doctors in charge of public health emergencies and quit listening so much to scientists and medical researchers in the event of another pandemic so we can give equal time to “alternative scientific narratives.”
The six-member Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel chaired by the former Reform party leader and son of a Alberta Social Credit premier would like us to strengthen individual rights at the expense of collective survival rights in the face of another deadly pandemic.
The panel’s recommendations included such gems as calling for the government to be “expressly forbidden” from halting in-person school classes during a public emergency, unless there are undefined “exceptional circumstances.”
Another recommendation calls for amending the Employment Standards Code and Health Professions Act to make it easier for anti-vaccine health-care workers to endanger their patients and co-workers in health-care facilities.
Seven days earlier the government announced its plan to dismantle Alberta Health Services and put all the responsibility for running it in the Premier’s Office, which is pretty much the same thing the Manning panel wants. Please don’t tell us the government’s right hand didn’t know what its left hand was doing!
That said, the panel also recommended “streamlining system administration” and the UCP plans to do the opposite, so there’s that.
We don’t have to list all of the panel’s 90 recommendations, a few of which may even make sense, to know that this is nutty and dangerous talk from a guy who only a decade ago was saying he saw need for Green Conservatism if conservative parties were going to survive.
But that was before Canadian Conservatives downed the MAGA potion.
Premier Danielle Smith said in a statement to media by her press secretary that her United Conservative Party government will “will review and analyze the report and consider the panel’s recommendations as we prepare for future legislative sessions.”
But you’ve got to know that since Manning has pretty much delivered what Smith was looking for to satisfy the wound-up rage machine that engineered her entrée to the Premier’s Office last year, she’s likely to follow up on at least some of this stuff with dangerous legislative changes.
During the pandemic, and presumably since, the premier was an enthusiastic booster of such quack COVID cures as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
“This report marks a clear deviation from scientific integrity and rational public policy, suggesting that conspiracy theories and pseudo-science be given the same legitimacy as evidence-based medical treatment,” Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said in response. “This is not only irresponsible but also incredibly dangerous.”
It’s pretty hard to argue with that assessment.
“The report’s recommendations pave the way for fringe extremists, like David Parker and Artur Pawlowski, to have control over the health and safety of Albertans,” she continued, naming two prominent anti-vaccine allies of the premier. “By undermining the expertise of dedicated experts, health professionals, and frontline workers, the UCP is failing Albertans all over again.
“Recommending that ‘alternative scientific narratives,’ such as Danielle Smith’s promotion of a horse de-wormer for treating COVID-19, will undoubtedly harm Albertans,” she added. “Such an approach to public health undermines the hard work and dedication of our health-care professionals.”
Again, all true, but equally unlikely to dissuade Smith and her anti-vax cabinet and caucus.
University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young, who is bravely trying to read the entire report, noted Wednesday night that “the word ‘death’ appears six times. And the word ‘freedom’ appears 262 times.” A telling detail.
This time last year Manning was stepping away from his fake “national citizen’s inquiry” into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act to end border blockades and city occupations by the Convoy crowd. Whatever happened to that thing, anyway? An “interim report” attracted little attention in September.
Before that, in 2019, Manning was taken on by then-premier Jason Kenney as a member of Alberta’s so-called Fair Deal Panel, a nine-member committee struck to overcome Alberta’s perpetual case of péquiste envy.
I guess the question now is what he’ll do next to keep himself occupied?