Government provided close communication support to chair of panel that calls for deep cuts
EDMONTON - Internal government correspondence, obtained via Freedom of Information requests, shows that the Kenney government wrote speaking notes and an opinion piece for Janice MacKinnon, the Chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) found today.
“Premier Kenney has touted the so-called Blue Ribbon Panel as independent, but these documents call into question the independence of its Chair, Janice MacKinnon,” says Gil McGowan, president of the AFL.
“Government emails prove staff in the Premier’s Office and in the Treasury Board and Finance provided speaking notes and an op-ed that was published in major news outlets,” says McGowan. “Jason Kenney used the government’s resources to get the report he wanted.”
The heavily redacted documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information process, show that the government wrote speaking notes and an opinion piece for MacKinnon.
The documents clearly show that an opinion piece published in the Calgary Herald was written entirely by the Kenney government. In a May 2019 email to MacKinnon, a department official wrote, “Premier’s office would also like an op-ed to go out from you as Chair. Can you take a look at the following draft, which is based on your speaking notes?” MacKinnon responds, “The op-ed is great. Well done I have no changes.” The piece supposedly was published on May 10, 2019.
“When we saw the MacKinnon Panel report contained hospital wait-time data from the Fraser Institute that was considered ‘poor quality’ and ‘highly inaccurate’ by Alberta Health Services, we decided to dig deeper and look at who was calling the shots,” says McGowan.
“These government documents paint a disturbing picture: the government promised a fair and independent look on how to balance the budget before the next election, but we got the opposite,” says McGowan. “The panel wasn’t allowed to look at provincial revenues, only spending. The panel’s report contained highly torqued propaganda from the Fraser Institute to justify privatizing health care. And now we find that the Chair, Janice MacKinnon, was guided by staff to use Premier Kenney’s messaging as her own.”
“The MacKinnon Panel report calls for deep cuts and privatization for public services like health care and education because that’s what Premier Kenney has always wanted. Kenney misled Albertans before the election when he said he wouldn’t cut and he continues to mislead when it comes to independence of Janice MacKinnon from his government.”
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