EDMONTON — Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says she understands why there is concern about the premier holding a campaign event inside a hospital and promises the NDP won’t stage party events in public health facilities again.
“I get why people are uneasy about this specific event,” Hoffman said Tuesday.
“It’s important that as health minister I’m in (health) facilities and that the premier is, too. But I totally appreciate that there were concerns raised.
“We’ve made it very clear with the (campaign) tour what the guidelines are around (Alberta Health Services) and we won’t be doing events inside of AHS facilities.”
Hoffman made the comments after Premier Rachel Notley delivered a campaign-style attack speech against the Opposition United Conservative Party on Saturday in the atrium of the Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge.
The event featured signs with the slogan: “Rachel Notley: Fighting for You.” There were staffers standing behind Notley, some in medical garb, showing support.
Alberta Health Services is the arm’s-length medical-care delivery arm of Alberta Health. It has rules that forbid campaigning in its facilities, as it is to remain politically neutral.
The UCP has called on the ethics commissioner to investigate.
Verna Yiu, president of AHS, has told the United Conservatives in a letter that officials were under the impression it was a government event.
Cheryl Oates, the premier’s spokesperson, said Sunday that no tax dollars were used and that medical staffers standing behind Notley for the announcement were volunteers.
“The event was done in a public area of the hospital, but we understand the concern and will ensure future campaign events are not done at AHS facilities,” she said.
Both the UCP and the Alberta Party say the event is symptomatic of Notley’s NDP misusing public funds to campaign for partisan benefit. Notley has made multiple appearances in recent weeks in her role as premier, criticizing the opposition.
UCP Leader Jason Kenney said it must stop.
“AHS hospitals belong to Albertans, not the NDP. And our premier should know better. She should know the rules,” Kenney said Monday.
“This is just another sign of how this government is campaigning at our expense. Just call the election already.”
Alberta Party house leader Greg Clark, said, “For months now, Rachel Notley and the NDP government have been shamelessly using public money to soft-sell their record, and trying to buy votes with Albertans’ money.”
By law, the election polling day must be held sometime this March, April or May. That means Notley can drop the writ any time now to launch the 28-day campaign.