The Alberta NDP is calling for the full list of Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s recent public health recommendations to cabinet, as it questioned how much the UCP factored them into the new COVID-19 restrictions announced Tuesday.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health was asked repeatedly on Wednesday whether cabinet accepted all the recommendations she presented in an eight-hour session Monday, however Hinshaw did not give a clear answer.
When asked what recommendations, if any, were rejected, Hinshaw would only say her “recommendations have always been respectfully considered in the final decisions.”
“As you know, it’s my role to make recommendations and provide options with the advantages and disadvantages.
“It is also my role to be focused on the public health and preventive medicine expertise that I bring,” she continued.
“And then it is the role of cabinet to make the extremely difficult decisions about how to take that information and include, along with it all of the other considerations that must be brought to bear on these very impactful decisions.”
When asked to provide a “yes or no” answer on whether she recommended stricter measures to cabinet, Hinshaw would only say her recommendations included “a broad range of options.”
“There were different components to those and the recommendations again, were respectfully considered within those final decisions that were taken,” Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw was then pressed again, and asked why she believes it’s in the public’s interest to not be transparent about advice given to the government that has been rejected.
“I want to be clear that my role is set out in legislation.
“The role that I have is to provide recommendations to the minister to promote and protect the health of Albertans and to prevent disease and injury. And that is a role that I take very seriously.
“And as I mentioned earlier, the recommendations that I made were in the series of options for consideration,” she said in response.
“The questions about all of the different factors that go into the final outcome is really critical that elected officials be the ones to make final decisions because there are public health considerations, there are other considerations such as the wishes and values of the population who elected leaders to make decisions on their behalf.
“So it is appropriate that elected leaders make final decisions and I take my role, which is to provide those recommendations to the minister and his colleagues, very seriously and do the best job that I can in that role.”
In a Wednesday news release, the NDP called for Premier Jason Kenney to release all of Hinshaw’s recommendations, “including the public health measures he refused to implement.”
“Jason Kenney is clearly hiding public health advice from Albertans,” Opposition NDP Health Critic David Shepherd said.
“It’s obvious that the small package of half-measures Kenney announced yesterday were all that he could convince the extremist fringe of his caucus to accept. Albertans have the right to hear Dr. Hinshaw’s unfiltered, professional advice and judge Kenney’s decisions for themselves.
“If Jason Kenney really is putting into force all the public health advice he’s getting, then I say prove it.”
The NDP went on to say Kenney didn’t take meaningful action to mandate face masks, and said the restriction on indoor gatherings is “packed with complicated exemptions.”
The government’s move to “abruptly” shift the school year online for students in Grades 7 to 12 was another measure the Opposition took issue with, saying it presented a safe school re-entry plan months ago that would have negated the need to take students out of the classrooms.
The NDP also took issue with the data that went into Tuesday’s health measures, saying that without a properly functioning contact-tracing system, “it’s impossible to develop effective, targeted measures.”
In an emailed statement, Kenney’s office said it would not publicly release Hinshaw’s recommendations.
“Alberta’s government will continue to work with CMOH Dr. Hinshaw, and other public health experts to protect lives and livelihoods,” press secretary Christine Myatt said.
“In a democracy, the burden of decision-making ultimately falls to the duly-elected leadership.”
Wednesday was not the first time Hinshaw has been questioned on how much of her advice is accepted and put into action by the provincial government, and in the beginning of her Wednesday update, she acknowledged that people have questioned her role in the implementation of new restrictions.
“Under the Public Health Act, as chief medical officer of health, I advise the government on its public health recommendations. For many decisions, I present a range of policy options to government officials, outlining what I believe is the recommended approach, and the strengths and weaknesses of any alternatives,” Hinshaw said.
“The final decisions are made by cabinet.
“As I have said in the past, I have always felt respected and listened to and that my recommendations have been respectfully considered by policy makers when making their decisions.”
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