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


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Alberta Medical Association Mission: Advocate for and support Alberta physicians. Strengthen their leadership in the provision of sustainable quality care.