Alberta briefs – March 18

Premier Ed Stelmach says he made sure the number of rural seats was unchanged when electoral boundaries were redrawn last month even though most Albertans live in cities.

Rural riding protected: Stelmach

EDMONTON — Premier Ed Stelmach says he made sure the number of rural seats was unchanged when electoral boundaries were redrawn last month even though most Albertans live in cities.

The Opposition Liberals immediately pounced on the premier’s remark, which he made to an Edmonton meeting of rural municipalities.

Liberal Leader David Swann says Stelmach is fuelling rural-urban rivalries by refusing to acknowledge that a significant majority of Albertans live in cities.

“It’s a very clear admission that this is political decision,” Swann said Wednesday. “This is about rural-urban, but it’s about fair representation and he’s basically defying that.”

But the premier later told reporters that he felt it was important to maintain the same number of rural ridings.

“It’s a decision based on what’s good for Alberta,” said Stelmach. “This finds the balance between urban and rural.”

In a report last month, Alberta’s electoral boundaries commission recommended the creation of four new urban ridings, but no change to the number of rural constituencies.

The commission has recommended adding two new ridings in Calgary, one in Edmonton and one in Fort McMurray, raising the number of seats in the province to 87 from the current 83.

Complaints against doctors up 40%

EDMONTON — Complaints against Alberta doctors increased by more than one-third last year and questions are being raised about why.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons announced Wednesday that there were 756 complaints by patients in 2009, up from 550 the previous year.

The complaints fall under several categories, and a nine-page report issued by the college offers no specifics.

The largest number of complaints — 277 — fell under procedural issues related to quality of care. There were 175 complaints about the attitude of the doctor in the way he communicated with the patient.

There were also two complaints about doctors violating sexual boundaries, but no specifics.

The college says it can’t pinpoint the reason for the marked increase. But a college official says the best guess is that a shortage of doctors and increased waiting times are to blame.

“We really don’t know the reasons, so all we can do is speculate,” said Dr. Trevor Theman, the registrar of the college. “We’re not seeing a big rise in any particular category, whether it’s access issues or other things.”

Edmonton teen killed in ski accident

INVERMERE, B.C. — A 16-year-old Edmonton boy has died after crashing into a tree while skiing.

RCMP say Skylar Lockwood was on the first day of a school outing when the accident happened at the Panorama ski resort near Invermere on Monday.

Police say a friend saw Lockwood lose control just before he hit a tree.

A passing skier who was a trauma doctor immediately began CPR until the boy was taken off the mountain.

Lockwood was flown by helicopter to Invermere Hospital but was later pronounced dead.

Police say he was wearing a helmet but his injuries were severe.

Khat seized at Calgary airport

CALGARY — Airport officials in Calgary have seized a large quantity of a drug popular with some immigrants from eastern Africa.

Canada Border Services officers discovered 31 kilograms of khat in the luggage of two visitors from the United Kingdom.

Khat is a flowering plant native to tropical East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula that is chewed or brewed as a drink.

It contains an ampetamine-like stimulant that causes euphoria, excitement and a loss of appetite.

Police have charged Melinda Zsuzsanna Meszaros, 36, and Katalin Racsko, 53, both of London, with importation of a controlled substance.

RCMP Sgt. Pat Webb says khat isn’t illegal in England, but it is in Canada.

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