EDMONTON- Former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach, who recently became chairman of the board for a major Catholic health care organization, is offering a conciliatory tone on the issue of physician-assisted death but he says he wants to see more details on how the policy will be set out.
“It is a topic that does polarize, there’s no doubt about it,” Stelmach said in an interview with Global News Thursday. “”We’ll see what the committee will bring forward to the federal government and what the legislation is going to be and then our provincial government said they’re going to have extensive consultations in terms of how do we approach physician-assisted death, what will be the conscience rights issues, what will be the rights of the patient. We’ve (Covenant Health) always found a solution.”
Stelmach, who served as premier of Alberta from 2006 to 2011, began his tenure as board chair for Covenant Health on Jan.1 after having already spent several years on the board. He said the job appealed to him because the organization has influenced him from ever since when he was a child and he spent a couple of months in hospital.
“My wish is to give back to the community of sisters (catholic Sisters in Alberta), the Sisters’ legacy,” Stelmach said. “It’s just an incredible part of our history in terms of the health care that they provided- always opening their doors to the most vulnerable.”
Covenant Health runs 18 health care facilities across the province, including the Grey Nuns and Misericordia hospitals in Edmonton. When asked what his priorities will be as board chair, he said aside from seniors accommodation, infrastructure ranks at the top, including the renewal of the Misericordia Hospital.
He also said despite the fact he spent his political life as a Progressive Conservative, he is satisfied with how the new NDP government is responding to the upgrades needed at the Misericordia and that more generally, he has a good relationship with key members of the Notley government.
“Government needs partners, especially in health care, and I have a good relationship with the premier, the minister of infrastructure; the minister of health is a very good person – knows her ministry extremely well and our values (Covenant Health) align very well with the priorities of government,” Stelmach said. “What you see on camera in the leg(islature) is one thing but what you do behind the scenes in terms of working together is a different story.”
When asked about the current political situation in Alberta, Stelmach indicated he is busy with his new job and not weighing in on politics as much, but did seem to suggest he believes there is an urgent need to resolve the regional differences among premiers with regard to building new oil pipelines.
“We have the third largest reserves of oil in the world and we’re the only country without tidewater access. So no matter the label of government, all provincial premiers have to set aside their regional differences, work with the federal government and work for a common Canadian need which is tidewater access.”
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