Posted in obvious haste to distract UCP foes and appease party’s base, Manning panel survey asks only 1 question!

Posted in obvious haste to distract UCP foes and appease party’s base, Manning panel survey asks only 1 question!

Updated: 11 days, 2 hours, 46 minutes, 24 seconds ago

Other than geriatric former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, 80, Premier Danielle Smith’s “Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel” hasn’t even been appointed, or if it has the public hasn’t been informed. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

And even this assumes Mr. Manning is not in fact the entire “expert panel” – which, as we shall see, is a possibility. 

The panel’s ostensible purpose is “to review the legislation and governance practices used by the Government of Alberta during the management of the COVID-19 public health emergency and to recommend changes necessary to improve government response to future health emergencies.”

To assist it in this work, the panel has published an online form on the government’s website asking Albertans to “share your ideas with the panel.” 

However, the survey, if that’s the word, has only one question.

And that question is pretty silly, considering. 

It asks: “What, if any, amendments to legislation should be made to better equip the province to cope with future public health emergencies?”

Conservationist and NDP candidate Kevin Van Tighem (Photo: University of Lethbridge).

Remember, most of the Albertans who respond will have only a rudimentary understanding of the province’s public health legislation, if they have any understanding at all. 

Many from among the United Conservative Party’s base will have the notion that any kind of organized public health regulatory framework is bad. Because freedom! 

Still, you’d think that Mr. Manning, the superannuated godfather of the Canadian right, would at least try to make it appear as if he’s doing something to earn the $253,000 he’s being paid by Alberta taxpayers to stage-manage this charade. Apparently not. 

It sure looks as if the single question – maybe there will be more later when the panel gets its act together, or maybe not – is intended to elicit the responses the government wants to hear from the already tuned-up anti-vaxx rage machine that engineered Ms. Smith’s entrée to the Premier’s Office.

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The NDP Opposition suggested the objective of Mr. Manning’s appointment was simply, in Opposition Health Critic David Shepherd’s words, “a desperate call for help from Danielle Smith for Preston Manning to help cement her support on the far right.”

“Over a quarter of a million dollars is a lot of Albertans’ money to hire someone to chair a committee that has obviously been struck for political gain,” Mr. Shepherd said in a statement sent to media.

This is credible, but it’s likely not the whole story. 

Certainly Mr. Manning, the man who by most accounts talked Ms. Smith and her Wildrose MLAs into crossing the floor of the Legislature to join the Progressive Conservatives back in December 2014, is not looking for answers like the one suggested by conservationist Kevin Van Tighem, the NDP’s candidate in the Livingstone-Macleod riding where Ms. Smith lives. 

“What a weird survey,” Mr. Van Tighem tweeted last night. “I answered: make the Chief Medical Officer more independent, have her/him report directly to the Legislature not to a Minister or to the Cabinet, and increase penalties for violations of public health orders.”

The one-question survey also shows signs of having been thrown together in extreme haste – no doubt the result of the need to distract from the latest revelations about efforts by staff in the Premier’s Office to interfere with the administration of justice in the aftermath of the Coutts blockade. 

The fact of the single question is strong evidence of unseemly haste. 

Would-be respondents can link directly to the survey page through the panel overview page, type their response into the form and submit it without registering. The system responds: “Thank you for participating. Your comments will be shared with the panel.” 

That is all. It doesn’t ask for a name, an email address, or anything else. It’s not clear if system even records if you’re from Alberta? (Readers outside Alberta should give it a try and see what happens.) 

If you want to say the same thing again without even having to use another browser, feel free. The ‘Manning inquiry’ will accept multiple responses too.

Is anybody even going to be reading these by-design anonymous comments? 

Meanwhile, would-be respondents entering through the “online engagement portal” at your.alberta.ca are urged to “stay connected by registering an account. You will be able to participate in and be notified of engagement opportunities on topics that matter to you.”

Very well, but if you register, there is still only one question, no effort is made to determine if your registration email address is legitimate, or that you are who you say you are.

So, really, it seems likely all you are doing is signing up for more spam. 

The best that can be said about all this is that it’s negligent. The site architecture is incomprehensible.

So how is this a legitimate way to develop policy? 

A one-question survey with zero respondent demographics lends the thinnest veneer imaginable to a claim a public consultation led to whatever Ms. Smith and Mr. Manning cook up for this preposterous exercise.

In its hurry to be seen doing something, this government barely trying to make this look like a legitimate consultation!

Even Jason Kenney’s ridiculous “Fair Deal” Panel, of which Mr. Manning was also a member, had more apparent legitimacy than this nonsense.

According to the government’s uninformative press release about the panel, Mr. Manning will present a final report with recommendations to the government on Nov. 15. 

The order signed by Ms. Smith establishing the panel says it will exist until Nov. 30. It is not clear from the order when additional panel members will be named, or even if they will be. 

“The President of Executive Council may appoint additional members to the Panel from time to time by amendment to this Order. The Chair may recommend additional members to the President of Executive Council who may consider such names in further appointments under this Order,” the order states. (Emphasis added.)

Or may not, obviously. 

The premier is the president of the Executive Council. 

Everything else about this announcement and survey suggests the whole thing was cobbled together in about 10 minutes over coffee – or perhaps something stronger. 

As many have observed, the last time Ms. Smith took Mr. Manning’s advice, the result was that the NDP led by Rachel Notley was soon elected. 

The timing of this fatuous exercise, however, suggests its objectives also include providing justification for postponing the election scheduled for May 29. 

After all, how can Mr. Manning report if the election goes ahead on May 29, as the Election Act now says it must, and the UCP is not re-elected? 

Either the law will have to be amended to delay the election until after November, or Mr. Manning, who luckily for his retirement security is already able to collect a generous Parliamentary pension, risks not getting paid for his efforts.