Why was Alberta's chief medical officer not consulted in decision to end public health order, NDP asks

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health appeared to be unaware on Wednesday of the premier's intent to end the public health emergency next month.

Premier Jason Kenney said he intended to end the order when it expires on June 15

Dr. Deena Hinshaw was asked about Premier Jason Kenney's remarks at her news conference on Wednesday. (CBC )

Alberta's chief medical officer of health appeared to be unaware on Wednesday of the premier's intent to end the public health emergency next month.

Earlier that day, Premier Jason Kenney announced in question period that his cabinet would not renew the 90-day order-in-council declared under the Public Health Act when it expires on June 15. 

The order was issued by Kenney and his cabinet on March 17. 

Controversy over end of public health emergency

3 years ago
Duration 3:05
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer, was unaware the of the premier's plans to let the 90-day public health emergency lapse on June 15.

When CBC News asked Dr. Deena Hinshaw about what this would mean for Albertans, she said, "I haven't had the opportunity to have that conversation so I think that might be a question best addressed to the premier in terms of that particular information." 

Hinshaw's consent isn't required for cabinet to allow the order-in-council to expire.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley asked Kenney in Thursday's question period why Hinshaw wasn't consulted. 

"Why was this fundamentally serious public health decision made by the premier without Dr. Hinshaw's knowledge?" she asked. 

Kenney did not address the consultation question in his answer. Emailed questions to his communications staff about whether Hinshaw was consulted were also unanswered 

Instead, Kenney told the legislature that the order was declared to ensure the health care system wasn't overwhelmed by cases of COVID-19 and that those conditions no longer exist. 

"That was now weeks ago. We have a thousand acute beds set aside for COVID patients occupied by about 45 of those patients," Kenney responded. 

"We no longer require those extraordinary authorities which were the entire premise of the invocation of a public health emergency in the middle of March."

Notley said the government of British Columbia extended its public health emergency by two weeks after consulting with public health officials. 

The premier said a final decision hasn't yet been made and that a sharp increase in cases would change the government's plans. 

In recent days, Kenney has faced criticism for suddenly downplaying the effect of the pandemic in Alberta by calling it an "influenza" and suggesting the public health response should focus on protecting elderly people so the province can reopen.

"We cannot continue indefinitely to impair the social and economic as well as the mental health and physiological health of the broader population for potentially a year through measures for an influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the most elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with comorbidities," he said.