Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said if her NDP were to win the spring election, it would scrap a COVID-19 review committee headed by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning.
Notley says Premier Danielle Smith should focus on helping Alberta families struggling with inflation rather than paying Manning $253,000.
“We will not sue this panel and we will do everything we can to deny what is an outrageously unjustified level of compensation (for Manning),” Notley told reporters on Tuesday.
“(Manning) brings no objectivity (and) no scientific expertise to the work of assessing and assessing this issue,” she added.
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“This is an exceptionally costly blow to Danielle Smith’s extreme base at the expense of Alberta taxpayers at a time when people need her to focus on their cost of living and their health care system.”
Alberta’s general election is set for May 29.
Smith announced the panel in a statement last week, setting the budget at $2 million. Manning is to choose the other members of the panel subject to the approval of the premier of the United Conservative Party, gather feedback from experts and the public virtually, and then publish a final report and recommendations by Nov. 15.
The panel’s online portal is active. Those who sign are asked to answer a question: “What changes, if any, should be made to the legislation to better equip the province to deal with future public health emergencies?” »
Smith addressed concerns over Manning’s nomination while addressing listeners to his call-in radio show Corus on Saturday.
She said she chose Manning in part because he was working to organize a larger citizen inquiry into the federal government’s response to COVID-19, called the National Citizens Inquiry.
She also said she wanted someone high-level to lead what she promised would be a forward-looking document to address future public health crises.
“You need someone with stature to make the process credible, and Preston had already indicated that he wanted to do that at the national level,” Smith said on the radio show.
Asked about Manning’s compensation, Smith said it was nearly a year of work.
“When you ask someone who is a very high-profile person to give up everything they do, sometimes you have to be willing to pay for it,” she said.
Manning could not immediately be reached for comment. In a column published last week by Postmedia, he wrote that the purpose of the panel “would not be to review or overhaul the full gamut of the Government of Alberta’s response to COVID.”
Smith’s office said Manning would step back from his role at the National Citizens Inquiry to avoid any conflict of interest.
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In November, Manning announced plans for the nationwide, citizen-led and funded inquiry into the effects of Canada’s response to the pandemic.
In a statement at the time, Manning said federal COVID-19 restrictions “have impacted physical and mental health, civil liberties, fundamental freedoms, livelihoods and social well-being. and general economy of all Canadians.
“The fracturing of families and communities and the erosion of fundamental Charter rights deserves a thorough and comprehensive investigation.”
In May 2022, Manning submitted an essay to the Frontier Center for Public Policy on how such a national, citizen-led inquiry into COVID-19 might unfold.
The essay tells the story of fictional heroine Leah Wahlstrom exploiting latent public anger over COVID-19 measures culminating in a national inquiry. The inquiry finds that the federal government grossly mishandled its handling of the pandemic, cynically fearmongering to get Canadians to comply while failing to protect their Charter rights.
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Law professor Lorian Hardcastle, who specializes in health policy, said there were lessons to be learned, but the Alberta inquiry must be led by someone seen as neutral.
“Instead, they’re appointing someone who is really vocal in their opposition to public health measures and someone who doesn’t have particular expertise in public health issues,” said Hardcastle, of the University. from Calgary.
” It’s a joke. It is a waste of public money. »
Political scientist Lori Williams of Mount Royal University in Calgary said inquiries are typically led by judges, who are seen as willing to consider and weigh evidence from multiple angles in an impartial manner.
“Everyone has suffered some kind of harm from COVID, but (Manning) doesn’t look at the harm from COVID. It examines the harms of COVID restrictions,” Williams said.
“It’s a recipe for confirmation bias.”
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