CALGARY, Feb. 28, 2013 /CNW/ - And so before we conclude this week's
proceedings, I want to make some remarks concerning our procedure as I
said. As you just heard, we will receive the submissions of commission
counsel and other counsel in Edmonton during the first week of April.
After that, barring unforeseen circumstances, I expect to be engaged in
the writing of my report.
The purpose of my making this statement this morning is to inform the
public and the participants in this inquiry of certain developments
with respect to the delivery of that report. When I undertook this
commission of inquiry, I stated that this exercise would be conducted
in an open and transparent manner. That is why I feel it necessary to
relate the following sequence of events.
During our hearings in January, it became apparent that we would require
hearings beyond those originally scheduled. The nature of this inquiry
was such that commission counsel were constantly receiving new
information that had to be investigated. Indeed, as you have just heard
from Ms. Hollins, they received information up until last night and,
indeed, received further information this morning that they must
investigate. An inquiry such as this could go on at length examining
individual allegations of questionable conduct. However, there has to
come a point where we say that we have enough evidence to draw
conclusions and to make a reasoned analysis of the issues as required
by our terms of reference. I rely on the advice of Ms. Hollins in that
regard. I think that no further substantial evidence needs to be
However, again, as you heard from Ms. Hollins, there is new information
that had just come forward that still must be investigated, and may
indeed have an impact on our schedule going forward.
Having said all that, I should say that I have, over the course of these
proceedings, become increasingly concerned about meeting the April 30
reporting deadline as set out in the Order in Council setting up this
commission of inquiry. We encountered various logistical delays in
starting up the public hearings and it became apparent, especially
during our January hearings, as I said, that our original schedule
would have to be extended to allow for further hearings in February. As
a result of this, I realized that there would not be sufficient time
between the April date for the final submissions and the deadline of
April 30 set for the delivery of my report to the Speaker of the
Legislative Assembly. I simply did not think it possible to complete a
comprehensive and well-reasoned report within a few weeks of receiving
all the information necessary to complete the report. I therefore wrote
to the Minister of Health on January 22 requesting that cabinet extend
the deadline to October 31. That date was chosen since I was confident
that it would be ample time and so I would not have to ask for further
extensions. On February 19 I received a letter from the Minister
informing me that my request had been rejected. No reasons for the
rejection were given in that letter.
Anyone familiar with the history of commissions of inquiry in Canada,
both federal level and provincial, knows that requests for an extension
of time are not unusual. Indeed, I can name half a dozen well-known
inquiries in the last few years where extensions were requested and
granted. However, to reject such a request is unprecedented.
Not only is such a rejection unprecedented, it borders on an
interference with the independence of this commission since it would
require me to rush through a report that would not be as complete or
thorough as I would want. It also precludes any further hearings if the
need, albeit unlikely, should arise.
The decision to reject my extension request left me with two options.
One, I could have shut down the inquiry at that point, held no further
hearings whatsoever, and tried to put together the report --- a report
that would be incomplete and without the benefit of a thorough
analysis. Or, I could go ahead as planned and then prepare my report
taking the time that I think is reasonably necessary to do justice to
the task I was appointed to do. I decided on the latter course of
action. To do otherwise would be a disservice to the people of Alberta.
They, as well as the participants in the inquiry, deserve a report that
is comprehensive, thorough, and carefully reasoned.
However, in a further effort to resolve this, I instructed my executive
director to make inquiries about a way to obtain reconsideration of
Accordingly, my executive director held further discussions with the
Minister's staff over the last few days. I again wrote to the Minister
on February 27th, yesterday, outlining in greater detail the reasons for the request.
Among those was the fact that we have over 3,000 pages of testimony
from 68 witnesses, including the six experts we heard from this week,
and 158 exhibits. All this evidence must be reviewed and analyzed. To
think that all this could be completed in a matter of weeks is
unrealistic to say the least. I have informed the Minister that I
anticipate having the report ready by August 31st. That, in my opinion, is the time required for writing, review and
editing, and production of the report. I informed the Minister as well
that while I do not anticipate further evidentiary hearings I cannot
rule that possibility out completely, as evidenced by what we've just
heard from Ms. Hollins about the new information just received. I also
advised him that, even with an extension, all indications were that the
commission would remain within the original budget.
I have heard nothing further in response. I hope that at some point
before April 30 cabinet will agree to extend the deadline. In the
meantime, I will proceed as planned. I will endeavour to prepare my
report as expeditiously as possible, but I will take the time that I
consider necessary to ensure the report is comprehensive and thorough.
The public deserves no less.
Let me conclude by saying that I do not want this unresolved issue of
the deadline for my report to detract from the important work of this
inquiry. I do, however, feel an obligation to advise all interested
parties, and the public, of how I plan to proceed.
SOURCE: Health Services Preferential Access Inquiry
For further information:
Health Services Preferential Access Inquiry
Phone: (403) 270-2059