rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Queue-jumping inquiry report surely wounds Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Raj Sherman

Time will tell if the report of Alberta's inquiry into medical queue jumping turns out to be the skillful strategic win for the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Alison Redford it appeared to be when it was released yesterday morning.

But one thing is virtually certain: the much-anticipated conclusions by retired Justice John Z. Vertes -- whose yearlong effort to get to the bottom of allegations about line jumping in Alberta’s health care system was properly known as the Health Services Preferential Access Inquiry -- is bound to be a political catastrophe for Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman.

Vertes' report all but called Sherman a liar -- or, to put an only slightly more kindly spin on it, a deluded fantasist. It's hard to see how the part-time Emergency Room physician and former PC Parliamentary Secretary for Health can escape the political consequences of that harsh judgment.

In a nutshell, after months of testimony, the commissioner reached the conclusion there was no basis whatsoever for the startling allegations of routine line jumping that contributed to the brouhaha that sparked the inquiry -- claims made principally by Sherman and former Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett, in public at least.

As for Duckett, it’s doubtful he'll care much about the slings and arrows shot by Vertes. The PhD economist hired to run AHS in 2009 and fired when he became a political embarrassment to the Conservative government under then-premier Ed Stelmach in 2010 is back in his native Australia, lionized by the antipodean media and sitting pretty as a director of an influential health care think tank.

He mildly expressed disappointment with the report's tone in an email interview with a local newspaper yesterday. Given the man's personality, however, we can anticipate a more entertaining riposte from Duckett sometime in the next few weeks. But the uncomplimentary judgment of a provincial inquiry in faraway Alberta is not going to do him any harm Down Under.

The fate of Sherman, who was notably absent yesterday at Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre where the report was released, is a different story though.

Tracked down by the local media, the former Opposition leader rather lamely seemed to suggest it had all been a misunderstanding … by the media. He's going to have to do better than that, however, if he expects to salvage any credibility from this situation.

As for the government, its representatives strategically avoided the late-morning news conference at which the report was released -- and why wouldn't they, since on the political questions that mattered the report essentially did the government's work for it?

Not only did Commissioner Vertes conclude there was no basis for Sherman's and Duckett's original allegations, he dismissed the few examples of preferential treatment the inquiry did manage to uncover as little more than accidents, unintentional efforts by overly conscientious physicians and the exertions of well-meaning health system executives who made "courtesy calls" on behalf of VIP patients.

Obviously the government's profound hope is now for everyone to pay no attention until after Labour Day, whereupon we can expect a flurry of news releases on unrelated topics.

Ever after, of course, Premier Redford and her ministers can point to the commissioner's favourable conclusions -- never mind that the inquiry was never allowed to look into allegations of bullying and intimidation of health care professionals or that it was instructed to stop its work almost as soon as it stumbled upon a case or two of actual queue jumping.

Still, with Sherman twisting in the wind, Health Minister Fred Horne couldn't resist summoning the media and gleefully telling reporters that Sherman and Duckett really ought to "look to their own conscience to decide what they do in response to that finding."

They will decide to do something, of course, but the result won't be the apology Horne was not-so-subtly hinting at.

The absence of the Liberal leader and representatives of the government didn't mean Opposition politicians weren't on hand to make a little hay while the last of the summer sun shone on.

Wildrose Opposition Leader Danielle Smith and NDP Health Critic David Eggen -- both representing parties that unlike either the Tories or Liberals were not likely to face embarrassing questions from the media throng -- turned up in businesslike grey suits and professionally landed a few easy punches on the government for the shortcomings of the inquiry's mandate and the government's past performance.

Both managed to look like serious people, potential premiers even, and wisely refrained from saying anything critical about the commissioner's anodyne recommendations. Nor did they assail the cost of the inquiry, which had a $10-million budget, but, it is predicted, will turn out to have cost considerably less.

No need to repeat the inquiry's recommendations here. Readers of this blog can read them for themselves in the mainstream media. Suffice it to say only that most were not particularly earth shattering and some were sufficiently broad to be meaningless:

"Recommendation 4: Reduce wait times."

Well, yes, that would help!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.