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Government files statement of defence in response to Alberta Medical Association lawsuit

Health Matters: Alberta Medical Association files lawsuit against provincial government
Alberta doctors have launched a lawsuit against the provincial government. As Su-Ling Goh reports, they say the province violated their charter rights by terminating their master contract.

The provincial government has filed its statement of defence in response to a lawsuit brought forward by the Alberta Medical Association on April 9.

The AMA cites the termination of its agreement, the government’s conduct during negotiations and Bill 21 as some of the reasons for filing the claim. The lawsuit also claims that more than $250 million in damages has ensued due to governments’ actions in breaching a contract.

Read more: Alberta Medical Association files lawsuit against provincial government

On Thursday, the government responded to the lawsuit and filed a statement of defence with the Court of Queen’s Bench.

The statement disputes accusations from the AMA that the government did not engage in good faith and have meaningful negotiations and consultations with the organization and its members.  

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“Alberta’s negotiators worked hard and in good faith to arrive at an acceptable agreement that would still ensure that Alberta’s doctors would be the highest-paid physicians in all of Canada,” Minister of Health Tyler Shandro said in a news release Thursday.

“We believe this claim is groundless and we look forward to a timely resolution.”

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In its statement of defence, the government also outlines several other factors it believes to be misrepresented or false in the lawsuit put forward by the AMA, including:

  • The AMA was not prepared for negotiations and did not table any proposals until well into the process
  • Alberta Health responded to each proposal once they were presented and offered amendments to accommodate the AMA’s interests
  • Following mediation, the parties agreed that negotiations were at an impasse
  • Government chose to use the clause in the agreement that allowed for the agreement to be ended by either party
  • The AMA agreed to include this clause in the agreement and was fully aware of the government’s ability to exercise it
  • Physicians are not employees of the ministry

Read more: Mediator brought in to break logjam in contract talks between doctors and Alberta government

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In its lawsuit, the AMA outlined various aggravating factors leading to the statement of claim and noted the government’s actions led to a breach of Section 2d of the charter, Section 1e of the Alberta Bill of Rights, International Labour Organization standards and has breached contract.

As a result of the province’s actions, the claim also stated that AMA members have suffered a loss of reputation and loss of income and job security.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro, however, said failed negotiations and budgeting shortfalls were addressed the best way possible given the province’s current situation.

“Alberta’s economy has been devastated over the past five years and our budget has faced shortfalls as a result,” he said.

“Our goal throughout negotiations was to simply hold the line on cost overruns while maintaining spending at the highest level ever.”

The full statement of defence can be read here.