Mere days after the UCP won a nail-biter contest at the polls, a familiar face emerged in Alberta Health, to the chagrin of freedom-loving Albertans.
The province's former chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, became a private hire after being unceremoniously fired last November by Premier Danielle Smith.
Hinshaw appeared to have a job with the Indigenous Wellness Core (IWC), a program of Alberta Health Services (AHS) focused on Indigenous health care. However, a furor erupted online over her prior support of masking and vaccine mandates during the COVID pandemic.
On June 3, AHS issued a supposedly fabricated retraction claiming, "Dr. Hinshaw is not employed by AHS," as first reported by the Counter Signal.
The CBC reported Hinshaw’s initial job offer slated her to start on June 5 but had since been revoked. That decision greatly irked the IWC medical lead, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, who resigned soon after.
"I've worked in the position I have because of integrity and because I'm genuinely concerned about Indigenous health," said Tailfeathers, who confirmed the authenticity of the June 3 notice.
"I thought they valued that, and I thought that my experience and wisdom would help guide making some changes and seeing some better outcomes in Indigenous health," she said, referring to Hinshaw being fired again by AHS.
"Metaphorically, it's like the Indian agent still exists. The Indian agent thought he was carrying out the Queen's wishes and the Indians' voice didn't matter."
If hired, Hinshaw would have served as the IWC Public Health and Preventive Medicine Lead in a part-time capacity.
Tailfeathers commented that the team followed all AHS protocols in the hiring process, despite the public uproar stemming from the health bureaucracy's handling of COVID.
"What we were looking for is somebody, of course, who knew provincial public health policy and was well-versed in public health," she said. "We needed a candidate well versed in and understood the Indigenous side of health."
The IWC medical leader said her team "did look for a candidate who was Indigenous" but prioritized experience and good rapport with Indigenous leaders. Hinshaw did not respond to a request for comment concerning the matter.
According to Tailfeathers, Hinshaw received the job offer in May. However, it is unclear if the decision to revoke that offer came before or after the leak earlier this month.
"I was told that this person was no longer going to work, not going to fill the position," she said, receiving no further explanation why.
The CBC inquired with the Premier's Office whether they had conspired to reverse Hinshaw's second stint with AHS. They received a brief response.
"Alberta Health Services is responsible for hiring decisions, and the government of Alberta does not comment on AHS personnel decisions," wrote Sam Blackett, press secretary to the premier.
In February, the UCP worked quickly to create a panel to review their governance lapses during the pandemic to improve future responses to health emergencies.
The province has named five members to the COVID review panel, led by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning.
Smith has publicly expressed remorse over the province's handling of the pandemic by failing to scale up hospital capacity as promised and forcing the government to impose "freedom-busting" health restrictions.
Manning, announced as chair in January, will receive a stipend of $253,000 and a total budget of $2 million to conduct the investigation. He will propose recommendations to Smith in the coming months and follow up with a final report by November 15.