United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership front runners are slamming Alberta’s provincial chief medical officer of health’s $227,911 Covid bonus.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw received the “cash benefits” in addition to her $363,634 salary, marking the largest cash benefit payout of any provincial civil servant since the Alberta government began posting records in 2016, as reported by CBC.
Leadership contender Danielle Smith says Albertans are “rightly stunned and outraged” by news of the Covid bonus.
“As Premier, not only will we not lockdown again or impose vaccine mandates, we will have a full review into the handling of the pandemic, including the role our CMOH (Chief Medical Officer) of health played in it,” Smith wrote on Twitter.
Under Hinshaw’s direction, Alberta underwent a series of lockdowns and implemented a vaccine passport. Alberta Health Services (AHS) fined a number of churches for staying open in breach of Covid restrictions and three Christian pastors were arrested.
Two weeks ago, the Alberta Court of Appeals ruled in favour of Pastor Artur Pawlowski who was arrested, fined, and jailed for continuing to preach amid lockdowns. The court ordered AHS to repay the fines.
Premier Jason Kenney’s popularity plummeted during the pandemic. After he narrowly passed a leadership review in May, Kenney cited lasting anger over his Covid policies as a key reason for his impending resignation.
Kenney will step down as UCP leader and Premier once party members elect a new one on October 6.
In campaign stops across the province, Smith has said AHS failed Kenney, because the department reduced ICU beds, after the Premier ordered it to increase capacity.
In a Leger poll released last week, Smith placed first among the seven candidates with backing from 22% of UCP supporters. Former federal Conservative MP and now UCP MLA Brian Jean ranked second, at 20%.
Jean said the bonus “is unsettling, to say the least.”
“While Albertans were losing businesses, while our health system was collapsing under mismanagement, the people on the Sky Palace balcony signed off on an all-time record bonus,” he wrote on Twitter.
UCP leadership contender Travis Toews is polling in third with 15% support from party supporters. Despite being finance minister at the time Hinshaw received the bonus, the Toews campaign told True North that Toews had no knowledge of Hinshaw’s bonus and did not authorize it.
The bonus is a response to the “extraordinary” additional work from Hinshaw during the pandemic, Ministry of Health spokesperson Mark Feldbusch told CBC News. The bonus covers her overtime hours, though the department did not reveal how much overtime she worked.
Hinshaw’s contract, which is posted online, does not specify the number of hours in her work week, nor does it include overtime provisions. The numbers were posted on the Alberta government’s salary and severance disclosure database.
Hinshaw is one of 107 employees in management positions who received extra pay for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic, the province told CBC. The total extra compensation cost Albertans more than $2.4 million.