$1,400 automotive service expensed by AHS official administrator for single-day journey

,400 automotive service expensed by AHS official administrator for single-day journey

Lower than two weeks after he was appointed official administrator of Alberta Well being Companies, throughout a high-profile shakeup of the well being authority by the Danielle Smith authorities, Dr. John Cowell expensed a $1,400 automotive service for a visit from Calgary to Edmonton and again.

Publicly accessible AHS expense paperwork reveal Cowell racked up a $1,462.50 invoice for Nobnish Transport, a Calgary- based mostly limousine and sedan service on Nov. 29, the day of the Throne Speech.

Cowell was appointed official administrator of Alberta Well being Companies on Nov. 17 as Smith made good on her marketing campaign promise to disband the 11-person AHS board.

The doc reveals an prolonged, four-passenger sedan was booked for 13 hours, between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., making a spherical journey from Cowell’s residence in Calgary to Edmonton the day of the Throne speech. He additionally had a gathering with Well being Minister Jason Copping.

It is the primary expense Cowell has claimed throughout his newest stint as AHS official administrator. He was beforehand appointed to the identical place in 2013.

The bill, dated Dec. 1, reveals a cost of $1,170 for the automotive and driver, a 20-per-cent gratuity amounting to $234, plus GST, billed at $58.50. The GST was exempted and the reimbursement totalled $1,404.

It reveals Cowell made a cease at at AHS’s company workplaces and the legislature — the place, in each circumstances, the automotive and driver waited for him — earlier than returning to Calgary the identical day.

“The optics of which are fairly poor,” stated Lorian Hardcastle, who teaches well being regulation and coverage on the College of Calgary.

She stated the expense declare by Cowell seems “extreme.”

“Each time we take a look at the health-care system there are questions round spending and worth for cash and areas the place we should always tighten the purse strings and areas the place we should always enhance spending,” she stated.

“So there is a disconnect between that sort of discourse [and] somebody who’s being paid fairly handsomely, after which additionally submitting fairly beneficiant expense claims.”

Lorian Hardcastle teaches within the departments of regulation and medication on the College of Calgary. (Colin Corridor/CBC)

Cowell was introduced in to reform AHS and repair a health-care system the federal government characterised as “unable to satisfy rising demand,” at a time when ER wait occasions ballooned and lots of medical doctors and nurses stated their hospitals have been in disaster.

He was tasked with 4 priorities: lowering ER wait occasions, enhancing EMS response occasions, lowering surgical wait occasions, and enhancing affected person circulate by way of the well being system. Cowell offered a 90-day replace on Monday, throughout which he outlined a lot of well being system enhancements.

Mount Royal College political watcher Lori Williams stated this spending revelation is unlikely to sit down nicely with Albertans, lots of whom are struggling financially.

“It appears to be like just like the consolation and comfort of presidency officers is extra necessary than smart stewardship of taxpayer {dollars}. And that is not a glance you may afford, particularly main as much as an election marketing campaign,” stated Williams, an affiliate professor of coverage research at MRU.

“For anyone who’s been entrusted with managing and fixing the health-care system, spending pointless {dollars} on what seems to be a luxurious, that is a really tough factor to reconcile.”

AHS stands by automotive and driver expense declare

In a press release emailed to CBC Information, AHS confirmed Cowell went to Edmonton to attend conferences and the Throne Speech.

“[He] required the usage of a car in order that he may work and take calls of a delicate nature whereas on the street, and likewise keep away from the expense of an in a single day keep,” spokesperson Kerry Williamson stated.

“The price of the journey is equal or higher than airfare, lodge, parking and taxi use. Dr. Cowell’s bills fall throughout the Authorities of Alberta’s expense coverage, which permit reimbursement for the expense of utilizing a third-party car, similar to a city automotive or taxi.”

Mount Royal College political scientist Lori Williams known as the optics of Cowell’s expense declare ‘indefensible.’ (Colin Corridor/CBC)

$16 orange juice reminder

This expense declare may hang-out the UCP authorities, based on Williams.

“It appears to be like an exorbitant luxurious to the common Albertan. And … the optics are horrible,” she stated.

“Similar to Bev Oda’s $16 orange juice was fairly catastrophic…. Equally right here, anybody who travels Pink Arrow [bus] to Edmonton and again, and might work on the way in which to and again from Edmonton, is aware of that you would be able to take that journey for significantly much less cash. You may even fly for much less cash.”

Oda, a former Ontario MP and minister of worldwide co-operation beneath then-prime minister Stephen Harper, got here beneath fireplace for a 2011 journey to London by which she stayed in an costly lodge, paid $1,000 a day for a automotive and driver, and notably charged a $16 orange juice to her room.

She ended up apologizing and repaying a few of her journey expense declare. Oda later stepped down.

“So the query turns into, does this seem like, but once more, entitlement — not being cautious about cash that is not theirs and but is being offered by of us who’re actually struggling financially proper now,” stated Williams.

‘Completely affordable’

However Mount Royal College political scientist Duane Bratt sees this as the price of doing enterprise.

“That appears completely affordable and completely regular for me. This can be a high-paid government. That will permit him to have a driver so he may work whereas he was travelling between Calgary and Edmonton ,” stated Bratt.

“If you break it down, it is roughly $100 an hour. Is that this somebody that we would favor to waste extra time driving … particularly when you are going to a number of conferences? I haven’t got an issue with this.”

Bratt stated flying would add time, whenever you think about going by way of safety, and expense, with the added price of taxis.

“We’re coping with an necessary government managing a multibillion-dollar health-care system…. Why should not he have a automotive and driver so he can work as an alternative of driving?… Would you like safe and confidential paperwork on a bus or on a airplane,” he stated.

“This can be a very environment friendly method particularly when you are going to a number of conferences.”

In the meantime, Hardcastle famous different AHS executives and board members claimed less expensive journey late in 2022.

“This does appear to be on the upper facet of issues actually. There have been varied others who flew, or who claimed the federal government’s mileage charge, which might be fairly a bit decrease than this declare.”

Different expense claims present Heidi Overguard, a member of the now disbanded AHS board, claimed a return flight from Calgary to Edmonton (over two days) to attend a board assembly in October, totalling $863.64. The report included a word citing restricted accessible flights as the rationale for the elevated fare.

One other board member, Sherri Fountain, claimed $703.64 for the same flight. This expense report additionally famous the excessive airfare.

AHS executives typically declare mileage for his or her private automobiles for journey.

For instance, Kerry Bales, chief program officer for addictions and psychological well being, claimed mileage for a spherical journey from Pink Deer to Calgary in November, totalling $160.59. That journey additionally included a $200.96 lodge keep.

A service like UberX is also a less-expensive journey possibility between the cities.

A fast test by CBC Information on March 1 reveals that a one-way UberX from Calgary to Edmonton would price roughly $402. The return journey would price about $341.

“I believe it is crucial for somebody who’s engaged on enhancing the health-care system to guide by instance,” stated Hardcastle.

“And I believe there’s that moral obligation to be as finances aware as attainable, understanding after all that the well being system finances is all the time a big situation.”