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UCP calls on ethics commissioner to probe NDP press conference at Lethbridge hospital

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2019-02-25 Dave Dormer
Jason Kenney, Rachel Notley are posing for a picture: UCP leader Jason Kenney was critical of Premier Rachel Notley after she held a news conference at a Lethbridge hospital on Saturday, which Kenney says was in violation of an AHS policy. © CBC UCP leader Jason Kenney was critical of Premier Rachel Notley after she held a news conference at a Lethbridge hospital on Saturday, which Kenney says was in violation of an AHS policy.

The United Conservative Party is calling for an investigation into an NDP press conference held at a Lethbridge hospital on Saturday afternoon.

Premier Rachel Notley spoke at Chinook Regional Hospital, where she criticized comments made by UCP leader Jason Kenney earlier in the week, when he said he was open to competition and allowing some private companies to perform publicly funded health-care procedures.

Kenney raised concern on Twitter that the premier was holding a partisan news conference in a public hospital, which is against Alberta Health Services policy.

"It is an unethical abuse of public resources for the NDP Leader to hold a partisan news conference in a public hospital, as she did today. Those are party, not government signs," he wrote.

"This is explicitly prohibited by AHS policy. Stop campaigning at public expense. Call the election."

Enacted in 2012 the policy reads, "AHS facilities shall not be used for any political activity, including, but not limited to use for the purposes of canvassing, campaigning, making political announcements, touring and other activities."

Notley's spokesperson, Cheryl Oates, responded to Kenney on Twitter, saying the announcement was done in a public area of the hospital and no tax dollars were spent to do it.

"Not a single tax dollar went to this announcement. The nurses who came to speak out about the dangers of @jkenney plan to privatize health care, came on their own time because they are worried about what he will do to front line services," she wrote.

"The event was done in a public area of the hospital, but we understand the concern and will ensure future campaign events are not done at AHS facilities."

UCP house leader Jason Nixon issued a release Sunday, calling for an investigation.

"Saturday's NDP campaign event was not just a clear violation of AHS policy, but it also seems probable that the Premier and her staff broke Government of Alberta rules that prohibit them from using their influence to host a partisan event in a public hospital," Nixon said in a release.

"I have written to Alberta's Ethics Commissioner to ask for an immediate investigation into this event and I'm calling on Alberta Health Services and the premier's office to explain this clear violation of AHS policy for the benefit of the Notley NDP."

Saturday was just the most recent incident of Kenney accusing the NDP of campaigning before dropping the writ for the spring election campaign.

Once an election is called, the campaign will last 28 days.

Under the province's fixed-date election legislation, the next provincial election must be held between March 1 and May 31, 2019.

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