Thursday, June 13, 2013

Massacre of the Bureaucrats

Alberta Fire's Entire Health Services Board, Never To Be Replaced

Dull though Canada may seem to the outsider, amusing things nevertheless sometimes happen here. A leaked video of Prime Minister Stephen Harper doing take-offs of his predecessors provides one example. Funnier, some will think, and perhaps more significant, was yesterday's massacre of Alberta's highest paid healthcare administrators. That story may even have a moral, though if so, we leave it to the reader to decide what.

By Don Braid

Calgary Herald, June 12, 2013: Alberta Health Services has had its share of bizarre moments, but it’s unlikely that anything will ever top the past two days, with the entire AHS board getting itself fired after fighting the government - for the sacred right to raise executive pay.

As excuses for a mass firing go, that’s a great one. But Health Minister Fred Horne’s move puts AHS into a whole new world. There will be an “official administrator” - Janet Davidson - and no board members at all. Horne did not say he will ever appoint another board.

Obviously, we’ll see a monument to perks champion Mike Duffy before there’s another health care uprising in Alberta. Nor will there be any more board meetings like the chaotic, embarrassing mess on Tuesday.

Timeline: Events leading up to the firing of the board

As the entire board thumbed its nose at the government, the meeting descended into weirdness even beyond ex-CEO Stephen Duckett’s 2010 departure after his cookie-eating episode, and the subsequent resignation of several board members.

Why did the AHS board stand up for $3.2 million in executive pay top-ups, even while hundreds of care workers and nurses are being laid off?

“At the end of the day, it’s a word called integrity,” chairman Stephen Lockwood said. “And while I’m the leader or chair of this board, we’ll continue to operate with integrity.”

Lockwood said he and the board were fighting for “autonomy” and the right to make decisions without interference from politicians.

“The world of politics is foreign to me, really,” said this man of painfully starched rectitude, one of the oddest figures to stride across Alberta’s public stage in many years.

“The world I live in is a world of right and wrong.”

The principles are noble, but Lockwood and his board took their last stand over an absurd freedom - the right to award pay perks to the highest-paid people in health care, with no apparent concern for the jarring clash with front-line realities of cuts and layoffs.

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