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New Legislation to Provide Democratic Oversight to Pandemic Management

Today, Independent MLA Todd Loewen will announce new legislation to enhance accountability, transparency, and democratic oversight for Alberta’s Public Health Act. MLA Loewen will formally introduce Private Member’s Bill 202, the Public Health (Transparency and Accountability) Amendment Act, 2022, today in the Legislative Assembly. “MLAs, on behalf of their constituents, need to take an active and public role in pandemic management,” said Loewen. Bill 202 directly responds to a legislative review of the Public Health Act that was completed more than a year ago. Speaking before the Public Health Act Review Committee in 2020, Dr. Deena Hinshaw stated that “checks and balances” may need to be added to the Public Health Act to provide “assurances that there’s not going to be [the] use of this act in an inappropriate way.” “Bill 202 ensures that MLAs can provide these checks and balances while ensuring Cabinet and Medical Officers of Health can take swift action to protect the public where needed,” said Loewen. Bill 202 also enhances requirements for a democratic review of any extension of a Public Health State of Emergency. “One of the most important features of this bill is that it guarantees the Assembly a full debate and a vote before any Public Health State of Emergency can be extended. This is vital. If Justin Trudeau and the federal government must seek House of Commons and Senate ratification for the federal Emergencies Act, there is no good reason why Alberta’s government can’t seek similar ratification before extending a Public Health State of Emergency.” “It is not acceptable to Albertans for Cabinet or bureaucrats to operate without a democratically expressed mandate for months on end. Democracy matters more during an emergency, not less.” Bill 202 also requires Cabinet and Medical Officers of Health to table all health orders in the Legislature, and it provides MLAs with a process to review, debate, revoke, or amend some of these measures. “This is necessary to provide clarity and counteract misinformation,” said Loewen. “During a Public Health State of Emergency, MLAs and the public need to know exactly what legal powers are being invoked. This is a measure designed to address Albertans’ concerns and reduce unnecessary public frustration promptly.” “I truly hope we never face another public health emergency like the recent pandemic. But if we do, it is important to learn from our mistakes and address the systemic issues that led to deepening divisions in our society. The best place to start is by ensuring greater transparency, accountability, and democratic oversight.”

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