EDMONTON — NDP Leader Rachel Notley wants to debate Alberta Premier Jason Kenney over the government’s plan to cut thousands of health care positions over the next several years.
Notley issued the challenge in a news release Tuesday, saying an NDP attempt to hold an emergency debate in the legislature on the planned cuts was shot down by the UCP government.
“We know the UCP want to hide from the serious consequences of their health care cuts to Alberta families,” Notley said. “That’s why these cuts came out after the budget debate. But Jason Kenney owes it to Albertans to come clean.”
She said she would debate Kenney on live television or on a Facebook livestream.
“It doesn’t really matter where this debate occurs, as long as Albertans can watch and this Premier is held accountable for his direct attack on public health care,” she said.
Notley threw down the gauntlet moments after nurses, patients and doctors spoke out about the cuts.
More than a dozen health workers, doctors and nurses called on the province to reverse the cuts, saying they would affect patient care.
“In addition to news Friday that over 5,000 nurses will be fired, or see their positions contracted out to private providers, the UCP government is proposing changes that will decrease compensation for primary care physicians,” the Alberta NDP said in a news release.
One of the physicians speaking out, Dr. Lauren Eastman, said patients without comprehensive primary care will be forced to use higher-cost options like emergency rooms and hospital admissions.
Up to 7,400 jobs could be cut in the next four years, including 5,900 positions held by members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and 500 front-line nursing positions.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro has maintained that Alberta is still increasing health spending and the planned cuts are about repositioning the system.
The cuts followed a Mackinnon panel report that found Alberta is spending approximately $3.6 billion more per capita than other provinces and not receiving better health care outcomes.