Stop whinging, Mr. Duckett! Get yourself a Canadian passport!

For Albertans, Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett’s Australian origins are not a problem, but his lack of a Canadian passport may be.

Australian Stephen Duckett of Australia, the Australian president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, hails from Australia, home of the Australians.

Sorry about that. That was small of me. But, boy, did it ever feel good!

Mr. Duckett was whinging in a recent edition of his blog about how people – the media especially, and bloggers especially especially – just won’t leave him alone for being an Australian. (Whinging, by the way, is an Australianism that means moaning and complaining.)

“I am constantly surprised,” Mr. Duckett grizzled, “at the number of comments made in the media (especially by bloggers) about the fact that I am an Australian and that a Canadian should fill this job.” (Grizzled: another Australianism that apparently also means moaning and complaining.)

Mr. Duckett even went so far as to accuse us Albertans of “continuing xenophobia associated with my appointment.”

Xenophobia? Please!

Mr. Duckett tries to make it seem as if the quite proper concern his appointment has provoked in many corners of Alberta is a reflection of some kind of anti-Australian animus.

This accusation is plainly a furphy (which Mr. Duckett defined in his blog as “another Australianism, meaning an erroneous or improvable story”) designed to divert attention from the quite proper concern by Albertans at the appointment of a non-Canadian with little stake in our province or country to a post where he can do great damage to a popular and valuable institution.

Next thing you know, Mr. Duckett will be accusing us of anti-English prejudice as well. We can expect something like this as soon as word gets around about his latest appointment – one Alison Tonge of Britain’s heavily “marketised” National Health System – as “Executive Vice-President, Strategy and Performance.” (“Marketized is a Briticism meaning, as far as any Canadian can tell, “privatized.”)

More such announcements of Mr. Duckett’s handpicked team of executives from abroad and at home will no doubt be forthcoming shortly.

Ms. Tonge, Mr. Duckett explained in a memorandum to AHS staff last week, “will bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise and public sector experience from a different health care system. … Her extensive knowledge and experience in England will mean that she can challenge us from a totally different perspective and bring a fresh set of eyes and ideas to help us improve the access, quality and sustainability of our health system.”

What can we expect from this “totally different perspective”? Well, here’s what’s going in England, as Allyson Pollock of the Centre for International Public Health Policy at the University of Edinburgh described it last spring in the Guardian: “The government has marketised the NHS, replacing an integrated public service with a market run by ‘purchasers’ and commercially oriented providers under the same ‘light touch’ regulatory system we have become familiar with in the banking sector.”

For Ms. Tonge’s part, according to Mr. Duckett’s memo, she is “really looking forward to joining AHS and working with key leaders in driving forward this exciting agenda.” What exiting agenda would that be? The “opportunity to shape world class care for Alberta.”

This will come as news to those in the former Capital Health Region who thought they had already built a world-class system based on world-class institutions such as Alberta Hospital Edmonton.

Of course, given the ideology and modus operandi of Premier Ed Stelmach’s government, many Albertans naturally could be forgiven if they thought, “world-class privatization, more like!” It would be fair to say that many suspect Mr. Duckett has been brought here with the job of dismantling our health care system, the better to pave the way for wide-open privatization.

Mr. Duckett’s actions since his arrival from the antipodes have done little to comfort those who entertain such fears. So far, indeed, he seems to be sticking pretty close the international privatization playbook – starting with the engineered funding “crisis” that is traditionally followed by deep cuts to which “there is no alternative.”

Getting rid of local health executives experienced in the public system and replacing them with foreign “experts” imported from heavily privatized jurisdictions fits nicely into this pattern.

Indeed, who better to engage in an unpopular crusade to dismantle our public health care for the benefit of a privileged few than a person with a foreign passport and a comfortable homeland to return to once his or her pockets are filled with bonus money from Ed Stelmach’s grateful government?

Mr. Duckett certainly added to this concern by spending a significant portion the Sept. 7 blog cited above going on about “an obsession in the media with my salary, the nature of my contract, and the nature of my potential performance bonus.”

Of course, this issue is no mere obsession – an interpretation that trivializes what Albertans are really concerned about.

Knowledge of the bonus package paid to the CEO of Alberta Health Services and hence the behaviour it rewards helps us figure out what Mr. Duckett has really been brought here from abroad to do. Now that we have seen some the details of Mr. Duckett’s package, with its rewards for eliminating jobs and cutting costs willy-nilly, we cannot feel particularly reassured.

Where Mr. Duckett bought his ticket to Alberta, of course, is not relevant because Mr. Duckett hails from Australia – although stating that fact is a convenient and accurate shorthand for commentators wishing to make his status as an outsider clear.

It is relevant because he is not from here. As someone from away, he can do what he wishes and not have to live with the consequences.

For that reason, and with sincere respect to his undoubted qualifications, he was not an appropriate choice for his job.

If Mr. Duckett would like us Albertans to be “very open and welcoming to migrants,” as indeed we are, he could start by becoming one!

The process begins with an application for Canadian citizenship.

When we have some evidence he intends to stick around, perhaps we can have some more confidence in his intentions.

6 Comments on "Stop whinging, Mr. Duckett! Get yourself a Canadian passport!"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Very well written Dave and you bring up some interesting points. In terms of Mr Duckett’s complaints I consider that move as part of the political playbook by which, when you cannot alleviate the concerns of the masses so you then play to their values by claiming that you are getting “picked on” –expect more of it. The other interesting point is that those in position of power like Mr. Duckett, who has the power to change things that will dramatically affect all of us, then to an average joe like me, it is helpful to know that any impacts will be felt by those who made the change in the first place. I guess what I mean here is that if Mr. Duckett was a Canadian, and moreover a permanent resident of Alberta, then it could be assumed that he as a decision maker, and his family and friends would all have to feel the full brunt of whatever changes that are made (good or bad). In this case Mr. Duckett could simply fly back to Australia and not feel a thing –the distance from Alberta could not be any greater. The only other example of distancing oneself from deferred impact was the selling of mortgage debit into packaged securities to other people from around the world. Similar concept here with Mr. Duckett, insofar that the initial lender does not expect to be repaid back, but sells the right to be repaid back to a lot of other people in effect removing any due diligence on their part.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is the same fellow (Duckett) who has recently cast aspersions on nurses for taking coffee breaks, or as he calls them 'tea breaks'. Yet he was here but a few months when he took a vacation!!!
    Come on Stephen, get with the program (or should that be programme in Australian?)!!

    In Alberta, most people work for up to 12 months before qualifying for time off! Coffee breaks are allowed too.

    Oh but then, the plebs don't have a bonus payout at the end of our working days, so I guess 'anything goes' for him and his ilk, with their gold plated contracts, loaded with pay, bonus and benefits.

    -ema

  3. Shave Warne says:

    Really David, you're telling us that there was a possibility that the Tories could have appointed someone you would not have hated from the start? Leipert could have appointed a combination of the Ghosts of Tommy Douglas, Drs. Penfield and Banting and you would have condemned their work.
    Welcome to Alberta mate, where we will hate you from the start.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well said Mr. Climenhaga.
    I'd like to know if the large bonus Duckett was offered has anything to do with his fervor to slash the healtcare system. The healthcare wasn't in need of a Doctor until upper managemenat got hungry.
    What happened with the CEO that took a long vacation compliments of the Health system, to Phillipines, England, and Australia hiring RN's because there was a shortage. Most of these hired have already gone back minus all that was promised them, and another group soon to go back after they sold their homes there and gave up their jobs to come here in the first place. No jobs. Surgical beds are cut in the hospitals,and surgery wards are forced to run short of staff. Those working are over worked and stressed which is not safe for the nurses, nor the patients. How bad is it when a unit doesn't have enough staff to transfer a patient on c-spine precations? Thanks to Mr. Duckett.
    Him being Australian doesn't bother us; however being ignorant does!
    There is another large group of nurses from the Phillipines here. They have 5 years of University and training as RN's, however they get to work here for the duration of their contract, as LPN's and paid as a newly graduated LPN, while they are capable of so much more, and do so much more, often very skilled in initiating IV's, etc. They are promised everything under the sun and when they get here, the sun goes down.
    Added to that our own graduating students have a bleak future in this province.
    When they tried these cuts in the 90's, many graduates left for USA, and later on many were begged back due to a shortage. Some came back but others had lives in USA and chose to live there.
    The patients will be the ones to suffer the most, as well as nursing staff in this province.
    Mr. Duckett in his speeches has put forth nothing more than lies about nurses privileges. He knows nothing of what the Canadian nurses do. He may go back at any time, to Australia and perhaps he can take Mr. Stelmach with him.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Duckett's splice and dice regime to the Alberta healthcare system has many flaws. It is pretty well totally flawed and without regard to patients and the general public.
    Clients/patients who were at Alberta Hospital had reasons for being there. Suddenly those reasons do not exist anymore? Mr. Duckett's quick solution was to release a number into the general public. Remember that these people were in confines for some time and will also be finding it very difficult to suddenly have to make it on their own. From a recent ocurrance in Edmonton whereby a parent murdered his autistic child and then committed suicide we can be led to believe that community support is not sufficient to say the least.
    Furthermore and in a somewhat different direction, let me address Security at hospitals. Has Security also been cut in the effort to stop/minimize costs? There are several patients who will prop doors so they can sit outide and smoke several times a night. While doing so, many individuals who have no purpose being in the hospital get through and wander around. Recently one found a tray of untouched food somewhere in the hospital, brought it out to the parking lot and realized it was mushed food and left the mess there. What else was taken while they were inside the hospital? No one watches the unlocked doors which now remain unlocked at a lower main entrance and also one permanently unlocked in another pavillion, all night. This being done, as it was mentioned that if a patient goes into cardiac arrest and the doors are locked the hospital is responsible. These patients are non-compliant with care and rules, and so must the nurses and other patients feel unsafe so they can smoke most of the night when they should be sleeping if they want to heal?
    There will be a time when unknown persons wanting a quick fix will get into the hospital and possibly injure a nurse to get narcotics.
    To present there have been two cases of gang incidents coming through the doors looking for the ER and it's not there and staff were threatened to assist them. Thanks to Mr. Duckett and also one who seems to worship him, Mr. Stelmach for so little regard for the patients and all the staff who may face danger due to the cutbacks you propose and endorse.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Mr Duckett is getting a Canadian citizenship. To the people commenting: he told nurses to take coffee breaks.

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