Dr Yiu is fired, Jason Kenney is “Under Review”

Two people were fired this week.

Dr Yiu was fired without cause on Apr 4. Jason Kenney is being ‘fired’ in slow motion, his dismissal will be confirmed on May 18, 2022 when the mail-in ballots are counted, or a year later on May 29, 2023 when the results of the next provincial election are in.   

Let’s start with the bewildering dismissal of Dr Yiu.

Of with her head

Dr Verna Yiu was the CEO of Alberta Health Services. It’s a large, complex organization employing more than 108,000 direct employees (including about 10,000 doctors) and offering services at 900 plus facilities across the province.

By all accounts she was a good leader.

In 2020-21 AHS was recognized for the fourth consecutive year as one of Canada’s top 100 employers, Canada’s top employers for young people, and Alberta’s top employers. It was also recognized for the third consecutive year as one of Canada’s best diversity employers.

Dr Verna Yiu

Dr Yiu led AHS through the horrors of the pandemic, speaking out in press conferences to—oh, how should we put this, to “clarify” something Jason Kenney and his officials had just said—and ensure the public was fully aware of the devastating impact government policy was having on AHS and its ability to deliver healthcare to Albertans during the Covid-19 crisis.

The pandemic is not yet over but Dr Yiu has been fired because, in the words of Health Minister Copping, “It’s time to move forward with an ambitious agenda to improve and modernize the health system, and renewed leadership at [AHS] will support delivering those changes.”

The need for renewed, supportive leadership was so important that Copping repeated it at the end of his press release, leaving Albertans with the impression that Dr Yiu would not have supported what the Kenney government has in store and Kenney was prepared to pay $573,841 in severance to get her out of the way.  

Now contrast Dr Yiu’s leadership with that of Jason Kenney.

Finally, a leadership review  

Kenney has been UCP leader since 2017. Over the last 5 years UCP supporters have been asking themselves: who is the real Jason Kenney, the servant-leader who toured the province in a blue pickup truck or the Ottawa-top-down politician?  

Their consternation came to a head last fall when they forced the party into an early leadership review.

And with good reason.

Under Kenney’s leadership party membership plummeted. In 2018 it was 200,000 (or 160,000 depending on who you believe), today it’s around 57,000.  

In 2020 the UCP and the NDP were neck and neck in political donations of around $5 million each. Last year the NDP outpaced the UCP, raising $6.2 million while the UCP dropped to $3.8 million.  

Kenney’s approval ratings slipped from 61% in May 2019 to 30% in Mar 2022. Notley now sits 10 points ahead at 40%

His party is still under investigation by the RCMP over allegations of fraud in the last leadership race.  

A number of his cabinet ministers have been disgraced. Devin Dreeshen and Tracey Allard were demoted. Tyler Shandro and Kaycee Madu are still in cabinet.

His caucus is in turmoil and his MLAs have been signing letters demanding his resignation for over a year.  

Only I can save you

Kenney puts this dissension down to complaints about his handling of covid. He says he’s not perfect, he’s not God Almighty and everyone makes mistakes.

But this level of insurrection is more than mere frustration over Kenney’s covid policies. Even Doug Ford who’s been severely criticized for mishandling the pandemic and the Ottawa occupation has an approval rating 13 points higher than Kenney’s.

Kenney is fighting for his political life. But instead of addressing his supporters’ complaints about his policies and his top-down leadership style he’s asking them to believe that without him, they’re facing a dystopian future because only he can save the party from the lunatics who are trying to take over the asylum and those grumps like Brian Jean who want to split the party, perhaps destroying it forever, and only he can save Alberta from Rachel Notley and the dreaded socialists.

This is what historian Timothy Snyder describes as a self-deifying claim of an authoritarian who demands faith, not reason, from his supporters. For this reason alone Kenney deserves to be jettisoned.

Yiu vs Kenney

Yiu complied with her employment contract which required her to faithfully serve AHS, act in the best interests of AHS, perform her duties professionally, obey all applicable laws, standards and rules of conduct and refrain from publicly taking positions that conflict or are in opposition to AHS.  

Kenney, as party leader is obligated to promote the party, its policies and principles. When he won the last election he promised that help was on the way and hope was on the horizon. The UCP membership will decide whether he’s delivered on his promise.

Yiu was fired for doing her job. Kenney is still here, but not for long.

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37 Responses to Dr Yiu is fired, Jason Kenney is “Under Review”

  1. Public Servant says:

    Kenney will “win” the leadership review by cheating (just like last time). Hopefully the RCMP are paying attention this time.

    • Public Servant, we’ve reached that Trumpian point in the process that no matter what happens, if he wins or loses, the result will be seen by some as fraudulent. Not only is that bad for the UCP, it undermines the public’s faith in democracy.

      • Agree, Susan. Public cynicism is our biggest danger. Love your quotes from Timothy Snyder, who writes in his book, “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century,” ‘Authoritarians regimes usually include a secret state police force.’ Why does Kenney want an independent police force in AB? On another note, in their book, “Authoritarian Nightmare: The Ongoing Threat Of Trump’s Followers,” John Dean of Watergate fame and Bob Altemeyer, professor emeritus, University of Manitoba and considered an authority on authoritarianism, state that (paraphrasing) not only is it imperative for people to vote authoritarians out of office, it’s incumbent on citizens who value democracy to get at least one other younger adult to vote. Offer to drive them to the polls, take them for coffee–anything that works. Writing this makes me all the more determined to do that, especially since young people have the most to lose if authoritarians like Kenney win. Thanks for another excellent post, Susan!

      • Judy, what an excellent suggestion. I’ve been thinking about younger voters as I watch politicians like Pierre Poilievre make grandiose promises of more freedom, affordable housing and cryptocurrency as the way to beat inflation. I worry that young voters may not know how our institutions work and as a result may fail to ask the questions that need to be asked, namely how will Poilievre deliver on these promises? Is Poilievre going to rewrite the Charter? If so what’s in and what’s out? Is he going to cap the prices developers can charge for houses? How does that line up with free market capitalism? Is cryptocurrency really currency or a commodity that rises and falls on the market like any other commodity? Does the fact it’s unregulated make it more risky?
        In the old days slick politicians promised a chicken in every pot, today they’re promising affordable housing and cryptocurrency. We need to have indepth conversations with younger voters so at least they’ll know what questions to ask when politicians try to razzle dazzle them.

  2. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks again for another great blog. The UCP gets more and more terrible as each day goes by. They always do things that disappoint Albertans. Hopefully, in due course, Albertans can come to their senses and can the UCP. I wonder why it has taken the R.C.M.P so long to deal with the premier of Alberta, (that title certainly lacks merit), and their investigation into how he attained his position of power? The firing of Dr. Verna Yiu, is similar to the firing of Lorne Gibson. The UCP refuses to face rightful criticism. Or, anyone that doesn’t match their deluded thinking becomes a scapegoat. As usual, I’ll share some more fitting music. This is another song in my music collection. It is from 1995. The song is Just Scream, from Tom Cochrane. It is from the album Ragged Ass Road. The guitar solo is from Alex Lifeson, from the Canadian prog rock band, Rush. I have seen Tom Cochrane a few times live and met him. I saw Rush twice live.

  3. Dwayne says:

    Susan: The next song I’ll share is a duet with Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. It is Wanted Man, Take 1. Bob Dylan wrote this song. I also have this in my music collection. The song was recorded in 1969. I saw Bob Dylan live in 1990. I didn’t see Johnny Cash live, but I did see Rosanne Cash live. Bob Dylan is a brilliant songwriter. The song title seems perfect for what we see in the political world of Alberta.

  4. Paul Pearlman says:

    I would like to know if anyone can tell me what the policies and principals of the UCPare??? Jason Jason Jason has once again proved he has the clown car moving in all directions but slowly running out of gas.Firing the head of the AHS is just another move to keep the heat off Alberta’s commander and chief no telling what will be next? The true Progressive Conservatives have no where to go and the rest of the clowns are made up of Wild Rose, Reform, Alliance and any other right of right thinkers we have in the Province no real policy just bad reactions to what ever pops up as I have said before Jason Jason Jason what will be next?? Hold on it will only get crazier in the next month or so when they count those mail in ballots .

    • Paul I was looking at last year’s UCP policy document which covers many areas. With respect to healthcare, it states the UCP supports publicly funded, privately delivered health care where cost effective. The concern I have here is that the UCP have also taken the position that we could have avoided covid restrictions if AHS had twice or triple the number of ICU beds ready to deal those who got really sick. They kept referring to the Florida example. There are a couple of problems with this way of thinking: (1) ICU beds are the most expensive form of healthcare (this would drive up healthcare costs, not reduce them) and (2) healthcare experts have said it is better to limit the spread of covid (with restrictions if necessary) than let it run rampant and treat those who are infected.
      If continued privatization the road the UCP are driving down, then it then should be the subject of extensive public consultation so Albertans understand what they’re getting before it’s implemented.

  5. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Here is my final song pick, which is also in my music collection. It is from the supergroup, Led Zeppelin, off of their 1970 album, Led Zeppelin 3. It is a John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page composition, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp. It has elements of country music, folk music and skiffle music in it. John Bonham shows his skills as a master percussionist here too. He plays spoons, bass drum, hi hat, and castanets. After the Yardbirds broke up in 1968, Jimmy Page formed Led Zeppelin, after wanting to continue on with a band, and not go back to session work. John Paul Jones, a famous session musician, bassist, keyboard player, and multi-instrumentalist, joined, because he also wanted to leave the session world behind him. When Jimmy Page was looking for a singer, Steve Winwood, (who helped create another supergroup, Blind Faith, that was very short lived, and had another former Yardbirds guitarist, Eric Clapton), was considered, but couldn’t join. Neither could another consideration for a singer, Terry Reid. Terry Reid did recommend Robert Plant. After persuasion, Robert Plant’s former bandmate in The Band Of Joy, John Bonham joined Led Zeppelin. This is another happy and uplifting song, which is good.

  6. Here’s a ‘conundrum’ for Albertans to figure out.. I’ll gift wrap it within a ‘scenario’

    What if I CLAIMED purely via INFERENCE or INSOLENCE..
    that yet another ONGOING CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY is underway in ALBERTA ? This one would imply or claim that the Current Kenney Government & UCP Party is planning Legislation to replace the RCMP in Alberta with a new Government / UCP Police Agency !

    It’s somewhat well known what happened & continues to happen with the Wet’suwet’en Tribal lands and the embattled Coastal GasLink Pipeline to Kitimat in BRITISH COLUMBIA. Even the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT knows this ‘file’ intimately. Of course the Alberta Government knows this file intimately.. but do the people in Alberta – Pensioners.. comprehend that THEY OWN CONTROLLING INTEREST OF SAID PIPELINE via AimCo with KKR, an American Pension Fund Manager ?

    How can Albertans understand the RCMP Special Unit, including Snipers & Attack Dogs is directly connected to the so-called OWNERS of the PROPERTY & INFRASTRUCTURE. Put another way.. how could they not be fully aware ?

    I try to imagine the full scale of the obvious implications here becoming COMMON knowledge at this particular moment in time. An Invasion of Ukraine, utter destruction, price of ENERGY soaring, Kenney’s POLITICAL REPUTATION tanking, a Provincial Election coming hard on the heels of a ‘LEADERSHIP REVIEW’ that may not happen at all in the midst of a brutal PANDEMIC.. just 100 we’re invited the other night to a 45 minute self deification of Jason Kenney.. plus a major league multi camera production team

    My point ? My big finish ? My ‘smoking gun’ ?
    Your precious Premier has somehow neglected to mention a SINGLE WORD of this to Albertans. No grand announcement when the deal was signed. Not a single word has ever left his lips on the PURCHASE or PURPOSE. Not a single word out of Mainstream Media in Canada !! Not a single word out of BC or Ottawa.. other than to complain about ‘the Indian protests’ of a BC pipeline under construction, zero about the related LAND THEFT..

    Yes yes & yes.. I am implying there is ONGOING COLLUSION, SECRECY, FIDUCIARY NEGLIGENCE .. and if anyone believes Jason Nixon is not in on this CONSPIRACY.. all 6’ 8” of him.. they are not getting THE REAL STORY about their oh so holy ELECTED PUBLIC SERVANT MLA’s .. With no RCMP in Alberta.. what will happen to all the existing related Communications between Kenney et al & the RCMP involved herein ? Would the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT have an opinion ??

  7. jerrymacgp says:

    Technically, Dr You was not “fired”, since that terminology connotes “dismissed for cause”. She was terminated without cause, which presumably entitles her to a year of severance as part of her contract with the AHS Board. This is fairly typical of employment contracts for senior executives at that level. Dismissal for cause does not entitle the fired employee to severance.

    That said, most observers have suggested that her departure was involuntary and at the behest of the Board, presumably at the direction of the Minister of Health to whom it reports, due to a perception or reality that she was not on board with government plans to further expand the level of privatization in Alberta health care. Those same observers have also cited opposition from rural government MLAs to her decisions on pandemic countermeasures in AHS as a workplace, such as the vaccine mandates for AHS employees and medical staff that have gradually been chipped away by government fiat.

    By the way, Ms Soapbox, those 10,000 physicians are not “direct employees” of AHS; “employees” has specific meaning under labour law, such as the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code. The vast majority of physicians are private practitioners with “privileges” at AHS facilities. The few exceptions would be medical residents, and those physicians practising under “Alternative Relationship Plans”, or ARPs, such as medical school faculty with cross-appointments with AHS.

    • jerrymacgp says:

      Oops: Dr Yiu … autocorrect kicked in.

    • Thanks Jerry. Dr Yiu’s employment agreement is similar to executive contracts I’ve seen in my time as general counsel, but for the fact that the provision for severance appears to be limited to 12 months of annual base pay. The contracts I’ve seen also provide for 12 months (or 18 or 24 months depending on the level of the executive) of the cash value of other benefits. Last year Dr Yiu’s noncash benefits were valued at $78,000.

      I understand where you’re coming from with respect to the word “fired”. I’m most familiar with terminations in the oil and gas sector where the word could mean any termination of the employment relationship that’s initiated by the employer, whether or not the termination is with or without cause. It didn’t matter how much the company dressed it up, eg. a “downsizing” or “rightsizing,” the employees simply referred to it as the next round of firings. It’s a brutal word for a brutal process.

      You’re absolutely right about physicians not being “employees” but independent contractors in the legal sense. I was trying to simplify the language used in the Annual Report where the reference to physicians is as follows: AHS is also supported by more than 10,900 licensed practising physicians, approximately 9,000 of whom are members of the AHS medical staff (including active, temporary and community appointments). I agree that using the word “direct” is confusing.
      Here’s the link to the report. The reference appears on page 12: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/about/publications/2020-21-annual-report-web-version.pdf

      • jerrymacgp says:

        Thank you for your courteous response, Ms Soapbox. Media tend to throw around the word “fired” willy-nilly, when “terminated their contract” would be more accurate — although it does take up more space in a headline. (I once had to go through a process related to the departure of one CEO and the recruitment of another as the chair of a governing board in a not- fr-profit body, which gave me a new perspective on such matters).

        Media — & many others — also tend to refer to AHS “hiring” — or not — physicians, when we know very few are “hired”.

        Any CPSA-registered physician can set up a practice anywhere in Alberta that they choose. AHS’ only authority over them is whether they are given “privileges” to practice in their facilities, and what the parameters of those privileges are; ditto Covenant Health. Alberta Health’s only authority is over their ability to bill AHCIP for patient services rendered.

      • Jerrymacgp: You’re very welcome. Thanks for the clarifications. 🙂

  8. Brent Calvert Mcfadyen says:

    It seems the RCMP and the DOJ in the USA are afraid to go after politicians in or out of office. Maybe it is time for an independent agency to look into the facts of both cases. I am sick and tired of 30% of voters making policy for the other 70%. Yes Kenney’s departure will not come soon enough. But let us beware Jason Kenney is very good at getting elected, he knows how to cheat.

  9. T.R.Duncan says:

    Kenney is not offering any more solutions to his current leadership dilemma – than he was able to think of good solutions to all the other problems Alberta has faced. He has got to go in exchange for someone able to think forward, collaboratively and positive.

  10. T.R.Duncan. I 100% agree.

  11. Beverly Mah says:

    I am so sad Dr Yiu has been fired along with many other good people who didn’t follow the little authoritarian. I can’t wait until he is gone gone gone.

    • Beverly: your use of the word “authoritarian” was bang on. Authoritarian leaders demand absolute obedience (Trump called it loyalty) from everyone around them. This puts tremendous pressure on the civil service charged with implementing the authoritarian’s bone-headed policies. Some speak up and get fired, others tell the politicians what they want to hear. None of this is good for democracy.

  12. Sharon says:

    Jason almighty has a vision for Alberta. He has decided that anyone with skill or rational thought is his enemy. This often happens when a person feels threatened. Logical thinking people do their jobs and it bothers him because it makes him look bad. There is lunacy in the Unhinged Clown Posse and it doesn’t start at the grassroots level. It starts at the top and filters down.

    • Sharon, this is what bothers me the most about Kenney’s rule–the utter lack of respect for objective intelligent thought. Kenney pretends he’s pushing back against the Trudeau/Notley ideologues when what he’s really doing is covering up the fact he has no rational reason to reject a policy proposed by the Libs or the NDP.
      I can’t wait to hear Kenney’s explanation for why there hasn’t been a boom in jobs in the energy sector. The old argument was the feds killed pipelines, this created a bottleneck in Alberta, this forced the price of oil down, hence layoffs. Well prices are through the roof, but the jobs haven’t come back. Who or what is he going to blame now?

  13. Dave says:

    There is an old saying about what to do when you find yourself in a deep hole – stop digging! Maybe Kenney never heard it, or like other good advise, he just ignores it because he thinks he knows better.

    Firing the head of AHS might help Kenney’s with his short term leadership revew problems, as it could go over well with some of the UCP base, but disrupting AHS further will not be helpful beyond that. Kenney and the UCP seem like addled monkeys who keep on touching the third rail of health care, despite getting repeated nasty shocks. They sure don’t learn.

    However, staying in power in the short term is not really about popularity for Kenney. If it was, he would have been long gone. It is about keeping control of key things (cabinet, the party executive), shifting tactics to keep his political opponents in his own party off guard and hoping that many of those dissatisfied with his leadership stay at home, or just leave the UCP.

    Of course, it is easier to manipulate or control a party vote than a general election, so Kenney needs to do something to improve his horrible poll numbers soon. Firing the head of AHS will not help with this. It will likely be counterproductive, like so many things Kenney has done over the last few year. How do you think he got in such a deep hole in the first place?

    • Excellent points Dave, I particularly liked your last paragraph where you point out it’s easier to manipulate/control a party vote than a general election.
      Interestingly many political commentators note that Kenney’s pitch to the UCP membership sounds more like an election campaign than a bid to stay in power as leader. He’s razzle dazzling them with the “old promise made, promise delivered” spiel he’s using on the general population because his promises to his party (servant-leader, grassroots guarantee) vapourized. It will be interesting to see whether the membership will be able to tell the difference.

  14. Linda says:

    I’d say Dr. Yiu was fired for 1) speaking the truth to Albertans; 2) being an effective leader despite the actions of Kenney & crew to undermine public health during Covid. It occurs to me that if the UCP wishes to privatize health care the easiest way to do that is to ‘prove’ to Albertans that public health care is less effective. Think about their actions during this pandemic. Tearing up the contract with physicians. Demanding wage rollbacks from health workers. Refusing to implement mandates or lockdowns until hospital capacity was at its limits, leading to postponements/cancellations of surgeries & treatments. Let’s not forget how ‘the other Jason’ oversaw the delisting of services during his tenure as Minister of Health. Yet despite all that under Dr. Yiu the AHS continued to function effectively. Darn it! Got to get rid of that one if we want the plan to succeed……

    • Linda, excellent points. Destroying publicly delivered healthcare and replacing it (for those who can afford the price tag) with privately delivered healthcare is a tried and true conservative tactic. Many physicians have urged the government to spend these privatization dollars on fixing what’s wrong with the publicly funded/delivered healthcare system. But I have yet to see any interest on the part of the Kenney government in having such a conversation.

  15. Linda says:

    My bad – should have said Tyler Shandro rather than ‘the other Jason’. Kind of difficult to keep track of who is doing what they shouldn’t under UCP rule!

  16. The Premonition – A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis is an astonishing revelation re Covid. It lets the reader like you or I ‘map’ the utter futility & failure of Jason Kenney or Doug Ford into the same ‘killing floor’ employed by Donald Trump et al. Without doing so overtly, Lewis takes no prisoners.. and lets the reader easily see where it all went so horribly wrong in North America. Not just by flawed & corrupt Government.. but also hidebound stubborn resistance within the Center For Disease Control and related governmental and protection agencies.. and moving right in were disaster capitalists

    • Diamondwalker: thanks for the recommendation. I just pulled up a book review in The Guardian which as you said, points to the culprits including the CDC which is described as an organization full of people so worried about getting fired for making the wrong decision that they held off making decisions until it was too late. Sounds like it’s well worth a read.

  17. Comment says:

    “It’s time to move forward with an ambitious agenda to improve and modernize the health system, and renewed leadership at [AHS] will support delivering those changes.”

    Those are chilling words.

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