Calgary Herald

Report `not good news for our safety,' Notley says


Similarly, the report makes several recommenda­tions to amend Alberta's Bill of Rights to protect “the rights and freedoms of all Albertans” as well as ensuring “the right of every Albertan not to be coerced ... into submitting to medical, psychologi­cal or any other type of care or treatment.”

Premier Danielle Smith had mused late last year about amending Alberta's Human Rights Act to protect those who chose to not get vaccinated, but has since backed off that pledge.

Other recommenda­tions challenge traditiona­l approaches to public health, with one suggesting that “evidence-informed decision-making consider non-scientific evidence as well.”

When asked, Manning cited Indigenous healing practices as an example of such evidence.

“You don't want to exclude that evidence that hasn't been arrived through applicatio­n of the scientific method and testing in some laboratory,” he said. “You can't say it's not legitimate.”

Smith issued a statement Wednesday thanking Manning for his work, but added the government has yet to decide which or how many of the recommenda­tions it will pursue.

“At this time no decisions have been made in response to the recommenda­tions,” it states. “Together with our caucus, we will review and analyze the report and consider the panel's recommenda­tions as we prepare for future legislativ­e sessions.”

Manning couldn't say what the next steps would be now that the report had been released, but said he expects at least some of the recommenda­tions to come into force eventually.

“We'll just have to wait and see which they actually do,” he said. “They wouldn't have commission­ed this panel unless they intended to do something with the report.”

In January, Smith announced that Manning, a veteran conservati­ve politician, would chair the panel with the goal of identifyin­g lessons and legislativ­e amendments that could be used during any future pandemics. Manning, 81, was to be paid $253,000.

In defending that salary, he said he also had to give up his political consulting work for the past year, and that the findings represente­d value for money, citing the issues with the last government response to a health emergency.

“I think most people would say spending $700,000 or a million dollars or two million dollars ... if you can prevent that from ever occurring again, that will be a pretty worthwhile investment.”

On Wednesday, NDP Leader Rachel Notley told reporters the report opens the door to normalizin­g what she termed “conspiracy theories and pseudo-science.”

“That is not good news for Albertans. That's not good news for our safety and the quality of our health care,” she said. “If you read between the lines, this report has multiple efforts buried within it to limit the scope of scientists and medical profession­als and I think that that is bad news for Albertans.”


The panel sought input from experts and the public around the question of “what changes should be made, if any, to the laws of Alberta to better equip the province to cope with future public health emergencie­s?”

The public's answers to those questions, received through an online survey, appear to partly contradict the report's conclusion­s.

Postmedia acquired more than 3,100 of those replies via freedom of informatio­n requests and analyzed each to determine its main message. The analysis showed just over one-third of replies — 36.6 per cent — stressed experts, including a more independen­t chief medical officer of health, should play a bigger role in addressing future public health emergencie­s.

The second-most common sentiment in the replies expressed opposition to public health measures, including masking and vaccine passports, as well as a preference for elected officials to guide policy during the next public health emergency.

Manning said the survey showed people didn't understand the relevant legislatio­n.

“What the feedback indicated is that people don't have any idea of what is the legislatio­n that governs this thing,” he said. “The feedback that I think the government is going to value is not what came in on that website, but the feedback that comes in now if people have a better idea.”

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