Ron Orr - MLA Ponoka-Lacombe

MLA Ron Orr on Alberta’s COVID-19 response

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta’s government has consistently implemented evidence-based measures to protect both lives and livelihoods.

We created the best COVID-19 testing program in the country, which allowed us to open our economy sooner and more safely than anywhere else in Canada, and we provided PPE at no charge to industries, school divisions – and in Alberta’s true giving fashion – other provinces in need.

While we have watched other jurisdictions impose sweeping lockdowns – indiscriminately violating people’s rights and destroying businesses – we have thoughtfully re-opened our economy while following clear public health protocols to keep Albertans safe.

The opposition continues to spread misinformation about doctors leaving the province. In reality, Alberta has seen an increase in doctors, with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) reporting that the province actually gained a net 246 doctors since 2019. The CPSA also reported that for the first time ever, there is now a record 11,000 doctors registered in our province.

The CPSA’s report proves that doctors are continuing to live and practice in Alberta in impressive numbers, and for good reason: Alberta pays more than any other province, has lower taxes, provides an unparalleled quality of life, and now has the most attractive compensation package available for rural and remote doctors in Canada.

Our approach to physician compensation balances the need to protect the availability of vital medical care white ensuring taxpayers’ dollars are spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. What the CPSA’s report demonstrates is that our approach is working and that Alberta is still the best place for physicians to practice in Canada.

Alberta’s government is pursuing Alberta Health Services’ (AHS’) modernization plan in an effort to face the fiscal realities.

As a province, we still spend more per person on health care than any other province in Canada, and physician pay makes up more than 10 per cent of government’s total budget. The most recent fiscal update shows $20.9 billion being spent on health care – not including COVID-19-specific costs. At the same time, we are protecting the front-line health care jobs patients rely on.

It’s fair to ask whether AHS should be in the business of directly employing staff for things like laundry, janitorial, cafeteria and lab work, however. Modernizing AHS will see many of these roles transition to private-sector providers. Currently, 68 per cent of laundry services and a substantial percentage of lab services, including 73 per cent of lab services in Edmonton and northern Alberta, are already contracted out. Alberta’s government will re-invest these cost savings back into the front-lines to reduce wait times.

Alberta is facing three crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, the shutdown of much of the global economy, and a collapse of global energy prices. Faced with this triple threat, our job is to save both lives and livelihoods.

We cannot focus on either the pandemic or the economy. The two are intertwined.

The balanced approach we have taken as a government has not resulted in a second wave of lockdowns that we are witnessing in other provinces or outbreaks on the scale of Quebec and Ontario. It is an approach that is working and will give our job creators a head-start in the post-COVID economy.

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit alberta.ca/covid19.

As always, it is my honour to serve as your MLA. If you have any questions or concerns on this or any issue, feel free to contact me at the constituency office at 403 782 7725 or by e-mail at Lacombe.ponoka@assembly.ab.ca.

Opinion