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Hinshaw’s COVID bonus did no favours for UCP leadership candidates

Hinshaw’s COVID bonus did no favours for UCP leadership candidates

The whopping $227,911 cash bonus on top of Dr. Hinshaw’s $363,634 salary last year is the highest ever paid to an Alberta public employee.

A photo of Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw during a COVID-19 update.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw during a COVID-19 update. Credit: Chris Schwarz / Flickr

Who made the decision to give Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s already controversial chief medical officer of health, that eye-popping $227,911 cash bonus for 2021?

Whoever it was, when they primed that ticking time bomb, they did no favours for the former members of Jason Kenney’s cabinet who would soon be running to replace him as United Conservative Party (UCP) leader and premier of Alberta!

Monday, when the CBC’s Janet French broke the story based on information she gleaned from the government’s salary disclosure database, can’t have been a happy Heritage Day for Travis Toews in particular.

The whopping 63 per cent cash bonus on top of Hinshaw’s $363,634 salary last year is the highest ever paid to an Alberta public employee and appears to be wildly out of whack with the other 106 such benefits paid to public employees last year. 

When Kenney announced his delayed resignation after his underwhelming 51 per cent endorsement in the party’s leadership review vote last May, Toews was seen as the front runner and choice of the UCP establishment to replace the premier. He was a trusted insider in Kenney’s cabinet. 

But it’s hard to see how he won’t now end up wearing a lot of this decision, which is bound to be unpopular. His campaign could well be derailed by the revelation.

Indeed, it’s doubtful there were very many Albertans who weren’t gobsmacked to learn yesterday that Hinshaw had been paid more than a quarter million dollars extra for working during the nightmare Kenney had promised would be the “Best Summer Ever.” 

Alas, the premier’s hurry to “open for summer” in 2021 contributed to the near collapse of the public health care system.

But everyone knows COVID-19 was an ongoing disaster that was faced by most health care workers, many of whom not long before had seen the government trying to roll back their pay and benefits. 

There was a lot of dark speculation in public social media forums Monday about why so much money was lavished on Hinshaw – who was already among the highest-paid public health officials in Canada.

She has been harshly criticized by both the anti-vaccine crowd in the UCP base that’s been coalescing around anti-vaxx candidate Danielle Smith and by Albertans worried by the government’s response to COVID-19 who do not share Smith’s apparent distrust of science.

Those who weren’t infuriated by vaccine mandates and the requirement to mask up were frightened and angered by the way Hinshaw seemed to ignore sound public health practice to do the government’s bidding whenever Kenney and his cabinet pushed to act as if COVID were over.

If there was anyone left who wasn’t fuming, they probably were when they heard overtime trotted out as an excuse for Hinshaw’s huge bonus.

Well, Hinshaw had a few supporters on social media Monday, but their voices were definitely in the minority. 

Smith and candidate Brian Jean, both former Wildrose Party leaders neither of whom were members of Kenney’s cabinet, were quick to pile on. 

“‘We’re all in this together’ didn’t mean what we thought it did,” tweeted Smith yesterday. “Albertans are rightly stunned & outraged they gave Dr. Hinshaw @CMOH_Alberta a $228k Covid bonus.”

“While Albertans were losing businesses, while our health system was collapsing under mismanagement, the people on the Sky Palace balcony signed off on an all-time record bonus,” tweeted Jean, who made a point of calculating the payout at $19,000 a month. 

It must be noted that the problem was not mismanagement at AHS, which was competently led through the pandemic by CEO Verna Yiu. 

But Yiu, it is significant to note, was fired by the UCP Government in part because she insisted all health care workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 – a clinical decision overruled for political reasons by Health Minister Jason Copping last December.

The difference between the way the two physicians were treated is striking.

Leela Aheer takes the bull by the horns – for real

No one can say UCP leadership candidate Leela Aheer isn’t prepared take the bull by the horns – literally. 

The sometime cabinet rebel fired by Premier Kenney for daring to criticize him for his notorious Sky Palace patio party in June 2021, jumped the fence Saturday at the Strathmore Stampede and took on a raging bull that was trampling a young man who’d toppled into its path.

She didn’t really think about it, she told a reporter. “It’s a mom thing, I guess.” 

The video’s pretty wild. If this doesn’t increase her support come voting day, the UCP might as well just quit pretending to be the cowboy party! 


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David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike…

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