CBC has secret recordings of Alberta government cabinet discussions with Chief Medical officer Deena Hinshaw.
Which means, of course, CBC rounded up a left-wing crank to make the case that unelected Hinshaw should have the right to shut down the economy without telling CBC readers exactly who that left-wing crank really is.
After a summer and fall of taking a very hands-off approach to the pandemic, the Alberta Government, in reaction to rising case counts, has put in place some targeted restrictions without putting the province into the kind of heavy lockdown happening in Manitoba and Ontario.
While in-person gatherings are limited, schools, churches, stores, and restaurants remain open with reduced capacity. The Conservative cabinet met with Hinshaw and wrestled with the new restrictions for eight hours before Wednesday’s evening press conference. These meetings are protected by cabinet confidence — nothing about the discussions can leave the meeting room.
However, twenty COVID response team meetings were recorded and leaked to the CBC:
Secret recordings reveal political directives, tension over Alberta's pandemic response
Recordings provide rare glimpse into relationship between civil servants, political officials
The level of political direction — and, at times, interference — in Alberta's pandemic response is revealed in 20 audio recordings of the daily planning meetings of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) obtained by CBC News, as well as in meeting minutes and interviews with staff directly involved in pandemic planning.
Taken together, they reveal how Premier Jason Kenney, Shandro and other cabinet ministers often micromanaged the actions of already overwhelmed civil servants; sometimes overruled their expert advice; and pushed an early relaunch strategy that seemed more focused on the economy and avoiding the appearance of curtailing Albertans' freedoms than enforcing compliance to safeguard public health.
“What is there suggests to me that the pandemic response is in tatters,” said Ubaka Ogbogu, an associate law professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in public health law and policy.
“The story tells me that the chief medical officer of health doesn't have control of the pandemic response [and] tells me that decisions are being made by persons who shouldn't be making decisions,” said Ogbogu, who was given access by CBC News to transcripts of specific incidents from the recordings.
Ogbogu has been a staunch critic of the UCP government. In July, he publicly resigned from the Health Quality Council of Alberta, citing the potential for political interference in its work due to amendments to the Health Statutes Amendment Act.
Based how they presented the information, I think CBC wants me to be mad that the cabinet — elected politicians who work for us and are accountable to the electorate — made the decision to restrict but not close Alberta.
The elected decision-makers, whose job it is to balance all interests — business, economics, charter rights, and public health — made this decision after hearing from the health bureaucrat whose sole job it is to be concerned about the pandemic.
That’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s not the duty of unelected, unaccountable health bureaucrats to control the economy.
Hinshaw agrees, explaining in a Thursday press conference that she always felt respected in her meetings with the UCP cabinet and that politicians making pandemic decisions is “how democracy works.”
And that so-called staunch critic of the UCP, Ubaka Ogbogu, trotted out by CBC to treat Hinshaw like a political football?
He’s not just a bad faith critic. He’s a Trudeau Foundation Scholar. Maybe the state broadcaster could have included that in their story, in the name of context, accuracy and balance.