Alberta to sue criminals for health-care costs

The Alberta government is taking aim at criminals whose violent actions leave taxpayers with a hefty hospital bill.

The Alberta government is taking aim at criminals whose violent actions leave taxpayers with a hefty hospital bill.

The same legislation also opens the door for the province to sue tobacco makers for the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses.

Legislation introduced Monday would allow the government to file lawsuits against convicted criminals to recover health-care costs related to crimes.

“Whether it’s gang shootings or convenience store robberies, individuals have to know that the taxpayer is not going to be on the hook for their costs,” said Health Minister Ron Liepert.

The health minister said Alberta may be the first province to adopt this type of legislation.

“I’m not aware of anyone else, but there’s nothing saying that we can’t lead the world,” he said. “I know our caucus feels very strongly that the taxpayer should not be on the hook for those costs.”

Liepert explained that Bill 48 would also be used to file lawsuits against convicted drunk drivers who injure themselves or others.

It could also allow Alberta to sue tobacco makers or join existing lawsuits in Canada.

“If there was some initiative by other provinces and we didn’t have this legislation in place and we chose a policy to participate, we wouldn’t be able to,” he said.

Alberta modelled the tobacco lawsuit portion of this legislation on a law in British Columbia which has survived a court challenge, said Liepert.

A 2005 Supreme Court of Canada decision upheld a B.C. law authorizing the province to file lawsuits against tobacco companies that challenged the legislation.

Most other provinces have since passed similar legislation to join this legal action.