Our charter challenge for due process and fair negotiations

April 9, 2020

Dr. Christine Molnar, AMA President

Dear Members:

A constitutional challenge

If you told me a year ago that I would serve the Minister of Health with a Statement of Claim for a constitutional challenge, in the midst of the worst public health crisis in a century, I would have been incredulous. Yet, that is what happened this morning.

The AMA and the three officers of the AMA, Dr. Paul Boucher, President-Elect, Dr. Alison Clarke, Past President and I, are the plaintiffs on behalf of members. While we are named in the filing for legal reasons, the claim is registered on behalf of all AMA members because the government has left us with few alternatives but to defend our interests, and those of our patients, in court.

We are all aware of the long path of negotiations with government since the fall of 2019. The AMA has negotiated in good faith. We have:

  • sought to engage in constructive negotiations;
  • engaged in mediation; and
  • offered reasonable alternatives and savings to more efficiently deliver health care in Alberta.

On February 20, the Minister walked away from negotiations and terminated our contract. The AMA’s position is that, in doing so, he violated the charter rights of all Alberta physicians by removing our access to independent third-party arbitration. We are, therefore seeking two things:

  • fair and reasonable negotiations toward an agreement; and
  • the right to third-party arbitration, which is something that is available to every other essential service provider in this province.

While the Board and I strongly believe this court filing is necessary, I am not happy to have to take this step at this time. Of course, patients do not need to worry that it will impact pandemic care. Alberta doctors will be here for them. We asked the Minister many times to at least delay implementation of the Physician Funding Framework until after COVID-19. Government would not agree and implemented their changes on April 1. So, here we are.

Physicians and government need a structured, long-term way to work together. Otherwise, without an agreement and without any effective recourse or opportunity for collaboration, we are subject to the whims of government and have no real power to bargain. This claim seeks to return balance to the relationship between the parties and place the AMA on a more level footing for negotiations. Through this claim, we are simply asking for the same rights that other health care workers and first responders enjoy.

The AMA’s ultimate goal is to negotiate a fair agreement with government. So far this has not been possible. I have tried every persuasive argument at every opportunity, and have done so many times. Now, post April 1, we have no other choice.

We recognize that filing this claim will not change anything overnight and the litigation process will take considerable time. We are committed to ensuring that the rights of members, both current and future, are protected. We will do what is necessary to see this claim to conclusion and press the government to offer physicians a fair and reasonable agreement that ensures the sustainability of our practices and protects care for our patients.

Here is the Statement of Claim and a Frequently Asked Questions document for your review. The claim lays out the history of how we got to this point and all we have done to try to find resolution. This has taken some time and we are not at the end of the road yet. I know many members have asked why the AMA did not launch a public education campaign at one point, or always debate government misinformation at others. Quite simply, as the claim shows, we were doing everything we could to keep talking - which is always the best opportunity. We will continue working to keep communication open and advocate strongly for physicians with evidence and a patient focus. We will see what progress there is to be made in the background, as all of us turn our attention to the ominous approach of the COVID-19 peak in Alberta.

In your service

Christine P. Molnar, MD, FRCPC
President, Alberta Medical Association

9 comments

Commenting on this page is closed.

  • #1

    Wendy Nickel

    Member of the public

    2:11 PM on April 09, 2020

    I think the UCP has acted in a despicable manner. Its continued attack on our health care providers is unforgivable.

  • #2

    Kem Algu

    Physician

    6:01 PM on April 09, 2020

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. We applaud you all.

  • #3

    Ray

    Member of the public

    6:09 PM on April 09, 2020

    You choose to raise concerns of lack of new contract now during this covid 19 challenges
    Shows your true colors of GREED HIGHEST PAID DORTORS IN CANADA
    REALLY POOR JUDGEMENT

  • #4

    Chantel Cameron

    Member of the public

    7:53 PM on April 09, 2020

    I support doctors! Kenney and the UCP are dead wrong. Please let me know if there is a petition where we can show our support.

  • #5

    Janice Fraser

    Member of the public

    7:21 AM on April 10, 2020

    I support taking this legal action against unreasonable, unfair, and dictatorial government who are abusing negotiations in good faith of our treasured Alberta doctors. I stand with all of Alberta in demanding Minister Shandro resign or be relieved from Cabinet.

    I am with our doctors 100% although saddened that this UCP government forced AMA into having no other remedy available. Let this be an example to all Ministries - where our democratic processes are protected by holding the balance of power to account by our Judicial System!

  • #6

    Jim O'Neill

    Member of the public

    1:29 PM on April 10, 2020

    The Alberta health system is still recovering from the Klein days. These people need to properly tax the rich oil companies which hasn't benefited anyone but the rich. The money that the UCP have given them over the last couple of years would have greatly benefited the population of Albertans in our time of need now. I've lived in all the western provinces and I've had a lot of issues with the health system in Alberta. Hope you guys do well in court.

  • #7

    Brent

    Member of the public

    1:54 PM on April 10, 2020

    Jason Kenney is still the same smug Conservative he was always. He only has poorly thought out policies, that invite litigation because they are Glib solutions with NO legal merit. He is a pro·té·gé of Stephen Harper and his government of failed litigations that Double the cost of Govt. because his actions are felonious and illegal. This is the strategy of a Govt. that believes the litigation procedures will be stretched out in the courts by his Legal team of political Hacks, beyond the next election cycle thus allowing his Political Hacks to spread lies about their opponent for YEARS, eroding public trust and using the media as a TOOL to spread their Conservative Brand of disinformation and Propaganda. That is my opinion of what I see coming from the Kenney Govt, is the same old rehashed Harper Agenda.

  • #8

    David Sheppard

    Physician

    3:42 PM on April 10, 2020

    Well done for starting this lawsuit against the UCP government. It is appalling that the government’s lethal combination of arrogance, intransigence, incompetence and just plain stupidity has made this action necessary. The catchphrase “legal counsel advises, the client decides” might be a problem. My gut feeling is that good legal counsel would advise the government to settle out of Court. My fear is that the government will adopt a “damn the torpedoes” attitude. At least the bright side of that scenario would be the massacre of the premier and the health minister on the witness stand.
    Thank you for your excellent representation of members’ interests.
    David Sheppard

  • #9

    Alan Paul

    Member of the public

    1:44 PM on April 13, 2020

    I wrote the following letters to our premier, health minister and our local MLA:

    It is disappointing and wrong that your government has implemented the new Physician Funding Framework at this time. Not only is it short sighted, but it will diminish the medical care of all Albertans and threaten the viability of community medical practises across our province. Specifically, it harms our family doctors that are the frontline and backbone of proper health care.
    I call on you and your ministers to stop this needless harassment of our medical profession! Please make proper health care the number one priority it should be.
    Respectfully,

    Alan Paul

The AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.