Alberta’s NDP calls for inquiry following report on province’s first wave response

EDMONTON – Alberta’s Opposition is repeating its call for a public inquiry following the release of an independent report into the United Conservative government’s handling of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NDP deputy leader Sarah Hoffman told a news conference on Saturday the inquiry would ideally be headed by a retired judge and should follow the model used by the Walkerton inquiry, which probed an E. coli outbreak in 2000 that killed seven and sickened 2,300 in the Ontario town.

Hoffman says the 126-page KPMG report on Alberta’s response during the first wave of the pandemic has been in the government’s hands since March, but it didn’t release it until late Friday afternoon.

The review looked into the government’s response to acute and continuing care, the economic consequences of the pandemic, messaging on COVID-19, the government’s decision-making process and procurement of personal protective equipment.

It made several recommendations, including that the province work collaboratively with other stakeholders, such as municipalities.

Hoffman noted it also warned about the effects that outbreaks would have on staffing, but a spokesman for Health Minister Tyler Shandro says Alberta has already made significant progress on one of the recommendations by filling more than 1,000 vacancies for registered nurses in the past year.

“The report shows Alberta was on the right track and on par with other provinces dealing with the early stages of an unprecedented global pandemic,” Brett Boyden said in an emailed statement, noting the report was “a snapshot in time” of the government’s response to the first wave.

“We want to thank KPMG for their work on this report, which will help inform Alberta’s approach to widespread emergencies in the future.”

Hoffman earlier this week also called for an inquiry, saying part of the reason one was necessary was Shandro hadn’t released the review of the first wave response.

Shandro responded on Twitter that it would be released later in the week.

The NDP on Friday also called on the province to release internal modelling that the government says supports its decision to eliminate its public health measures.

Premier Jason Kenney’s government has decided to end testing, contact tracing and mandatory isolation requirements.

“The KPMG report is damaging. It provides very real evidence and recommendations that the government ignored entirely. And it only covers the first wave,” Hoffman told reporters.

“Albertans don’t trust this premier and they don’t trust this health minister.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, has said the modelling suggests cases will rise for a month but will have a limited impact on the province’s acute care system.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2021.