Alberta Liberals hope more silenced doctors, nurses will speak out

A nurse from Black Diamond is adding her name to the growing list of medical professionals who say they have been hushed for criticizing provincial health policies, says the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.

A nurse from Black Diamond is adding her name to the growing list of medical professionals who say they have been hushed for criticizing provincial health policies, says the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.

Retired physician David Swann, along with Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, met for dinner in Red Deer on Thursday with members of the party’s local riding associations.

Swann has called for a public inquiry, independent of government influence, into accusations of corruption laid in the Legislature by maverick MLA Raj Sherman, a part-time emergency physician and ousted Tory who is running for leadership of the Liberal party.

Eight physicians and now one nurse are backing Sherman’s claims that medical professionals were forced into silence for criticizing health-care policies, said Swann.

Whatever the outcome of a public inquiry, it’s important to uncover the truth, and he hopes more medical professionals will step forward, he said.

Sherman’s decision to remain as an independent MLA despite joining the party and announcing his designs on becoming its new leader fits precisely with Liberal policy, said Swann.

That policy discourages sitting members from crossing the floor to join their caucus because they weren’t elected as Liberals.

Swann believes it is more democratic for MLAs who want to switch alliances to sit as independents and wait for a byelection or an election if they wish to join a different party.

“Sitting as an independent is one way of honouring that commitment to one’s constituents,” said Swann. However, if Sherman were chosen as leader, he would then have to join the Liberal caucus, he said.

Swann sees Sherman as a benefit to his party.

“He has been passionate and courageous on health care. He has exposed mismanagement and intimidation that I experienced myself when I left in 2002,” said Swann.

“They fired me. That’s why I’m in politics. I spoke publicly for stronger action on climate change. I thought that was reasonable to address as a health officer.”

Sherman has been raising issues in the emergency room for the last 12 years, said Swann.

So far, he and Laurie Blakeman, MLA for Edmonton-Centre, are the only two people seeking to replace Swann at the helm.

Details of when and how the selection will be made have not been settled, said Swann.

The Alberta Liberals have 30 candidates ready to run if a snap election were called, he said.

Richard Farrand, president of the party’s Red Deer North riding association, said neither his group nor its counterparts in Red Deer South have named a candidate for the next provincial election.

He believes the Liberals could make a stronger showing at the polls than they have in the past.

“Right now, it might get easier, with some of the revelations that are coming out and the 40 years the government has been in and showing now sign of real improvement, and some of the policies are coming home to roost,” he said.

“I think there’s a spirit of rebellion in the air.”

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com