Red Deer MLA Adriana LaGrange failed Albertans during the fourth wave when she was left in charge in August, according to the NDP.
The NDP said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s calendar, newly released through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIP) request, showed that she was the acting health minister from Aug. 3 to 29 when daily COVID-19 cases soared from 126 to 960, and the number of Albertans in hospital with COVID more than tripled from 90 to 336.
“Adriana LaGrange was responsible for the healthcare system and the public health of all Albertans through the month of August, and she did absolutely nothing as thousands got sick and our hospitals filled up,” said NDP deputy leader Sarah Hoffman during a news conference Thursday.
“There was nobody at the wheel in this UCP government as Alberta sped towards disaster.”
On Friday, Nicole Sparrow, LaGrange’s press secretary, said LaGrange was designated acting Minister of Health as part of a formal bureaucratic process for any minister who takes time out of the office.
“Although minister LaGrange was prepared to step in if required, (then health) minister (Tyler) Shandro was available and remained working throughout his time away. At no point was he unreachable or unable to fulfill his duties as health minister. He continued to attend briefings, and COVID Cabinet Committee meetings throughout this time,” said Sparrow.
The NDP said documents released through FOIP show that Premier Jason Kenney and Shandro were both on holiday as the deadly fourth wave took hold of Alberta.
The NDP said the UCP’s failure to act against the fourth wave led to hundreds of preventable deaths, and tens of thousands of cancelled surgeries.
Hoffman said LaGrange legally signed papers to become the acting health care minister and she must face the music.
“So many Albertans died and so many others have suffered greatly because of the UCP’s negligence in August,” Hoffman said. “Adriana LaGrange must take responsibility for her failure to protect Albertans when the danger was obvious.”
And Kenney should also take responsibility for allowing his health minister to be away at that time, she said, referring to then-health minister Shandro.
“The consequences were deadly. The fourth wave was far worse in Alberta than anywhere else. It’s clear that nobody was stepping up.”
During Thursday’s question period in the Legislature, Hoffman asked LaGrange when she was briefed about the fourth wave and why did she do nothing.
LaGrange did not respond, but Kenney did.
“The former minister of health continued to be on the job every single day, seven days a week. It’s true he took a period of time with his family to have a bit of personal time. I was talking to that minister every single day,” Kenney said.
Hoffman said to LaGrange that when cases tripled and it was clear “action was needed, you did nothing, but you must have wanted to, so why didn’t you?”
Again it was Kenney who responded and called Hoffman’s line of questioning ridiculous because the letter Hoffman was referring to was a formality for signing authority only and the former health minister was fully engaged.
“Acting minister means being able to act, premier. Acting ministers make decisions. They take meetings. They’re kept in the loop. I know, I’ve done it,” said Hoffman.