Alberta’s premier is laying the decision of rescinding a job offer to the embattled former chief medical officer of health at the feet of the man who was at the head of Alberta Health Services for one year.

At an unrelated press conference on Monday morning, Smith didn’t directly address allegations that she directed AHS to rescind an approved contract for Dr. Deena Hinshaw to become part of the AHS Indigenous Wellness Core.

The Globe and Mail first published those allegations, which stemmed from a resignation letter from Dr. Braden Manns, who was an interim VP at AHS.

In the letter verified by Global News, Manns said he was resigning because the premier “was reaching down four levels into AHS” to instruct that Hinshaw’s contract be pulled.

“Well, I can tell you that I put Dr. (John) Cowell in place to make these decisions. I talked with him on a weekly basis. We talked about staffing decisions a lot,” Smith told reporters on Monday.

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“So ultimately, it’s the official administrator and now the board and the CEO who will make those decisions. And it was the case in this instance, too, that the decisions of AHS were made by AHS.”

According to Manns’ resignation letter, on June 1, the internal memo about hiring Hinshaw went out by the IWC, and “very shortly thereafter,” Manns was informed by then-CEO Mauro Chies that Cowell wanted to put a hold on the contract.

Later that day, Cowell told Manns that hiring Hinshaw was a “major problem” and Cowell took a call from the premier, Manns’ letter said.

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Manns said a meeting after that call had Cowell reveal “the premier is firm that there can be no hiring of Dr. Hinshaw.”

“In response, I expressed my concern that the premier was reaching down four levels into AHS and instructing us to rescind an approved contract after a comprehensive search and selection committee process,” Manns wrote. Manns was overseeing the search and selection process, which took months to complete.

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The following day, Manns said he was advised that, despite reassurances Cowell could change Smith’s mind about the contract reversal, the direction was “clear” and Manns was instructed to rescind Hinshaw’s contract.

“This type of political interfence in hiring should not be permitted,” Manns wrote in his resignation letter that was also sent to Chies and 10 other AHS executives on June 11.

Smith and her most ardent supporters have vociferously opposed COVID-19 pandemic measures and public health orders, for whom Hinshaw was often the official spokesperson.

When pressed about her answer on Monday, Smith said it was Cowell and Chies who decided to rescind Hinshaw’s job offer.

“I talked with Dr. Cowell all the time about staffing decisions, and he always made it clear that the decisions by AHS were made by AHS, so for him, in conjunction with the CEO,” she said.

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Cowell was named official administrator on Nov. 17, 2022, to replace the 12-member AHS board, and had his contract renewed on June 23, 2023. Cowell’s role as official administrator ended when the health minister announced AHS’ new seven-member board on Nov. 8.

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Mauro Chies was named AHS president & CEO on March 20 after serving on an interim basis for months. Chies was replaced by Athana Mentzelopoulos on Dec. 11.

The cancellation of Hinshaw’s contract led Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, then the senior medical director of the IWC, to resign.

The Opposition said Smith’s actions cost the province the service of both Tailfeathers and Manns.

“Our health care system is in crisis. This information is incredibly troubling and dangerous as we see rising illness across the province putting enormous pressure on our healthcare system with no word, let alone action, from the government or Chief Medical Officer of Health,” David Shepherd, Alberta NDP health critic for primary and rural care, said in a statement.

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“This is a time for leadership, and yet every day we learn new information about how deeply the UCP are failing Albertans. Political interference into hiring at AHS is completely unacceptable, and this government must be held accountable.”

Irfan Sabir, the Alberta NDP critic for justice and public safety, said this continues Smith’s “record of political interference.”

“This latest revelation about her efforts to terminate Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s contract in days following the provincial election is yet another example of her personal disregard for ethics and the rule of law,” he said in a statement.

“What’s even more concerning is that around the time the ethics commissioner was meeting with former AHS officials about the Premiers alleged unethical behaviour, the UCP and the premier’s office were leading the efforts to replace the current ethics commissioner.

“Danielle Smith must come clean on whether she has been investigated by the Ethics Commissioner again for political interference and she must stop her efforts to terminate the ethics commissioner’s job.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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