Bill 66 will entrench dangerous new government powers in Alberta

 

John Carpay, Western Standard

First the good news.

The mandatory vaccinations section of the Public Health Act will be repealed after 37 years on the books. This is a victory for the right of every Albertan to determine what will – or will not – be injected into her or his body. This brings this section of the Public Health Act into line with the Nuremburg Code of 1947, which was developed in the context of the trial of Nazi war criminals. The Nuremburg Code’s principle of voluntary informed consent protects the right of the individual to control his or her own body. There should be no “force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion.”

Further, with Bill 66, the Alberta Government plans to repeal the worst feature of Bill 10, a law that was passed with great haste in April of 2020. Bill 10 empowered Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro and all cabinet ministers with the new power to write new laws unilaterally, without any input from elected Members of the Legislative Assembly. The Justice Centre challenged Bill 10 in court as a blatant violation of Canada’s constitution, which requires that laws be debated, scrutinized and voted on by elected representatives. Laws which citizens must obey – when made by the executive at the stroke of a cabinet minister’s pen, are an affront to democracy and to the separation of powers required by our constitution and centuries of parliamentary convention.

Rather than attempting to justify Bill 10 as necessary or beneficial, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney simply lied about it. He told Albertans that he was merely “clarifying existing powers in the Public Health Act,” when in fact Bill 10 gave new, sweeping, undemocratic powers to him and his ministers. Now, 12 months and one court action later, cabinet ministers stand to lose a power they should never have received in the first place.

Premier Kenney deserves credit for repealing mandatory vaccinations, and for removing from cabinet ministers their power to make unilateral laws on the fly.

Unfortunately, Bill 66 worsens the status quo, by entrenching the authoritarianism of the Chief Medical Office of Health to continue making laws for Albertans without input from the elected Members of the Legislative Assembly. Bill 66 places no checks on Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and instead expands her already undemocratic and authoritarian powers.

Here are eight worrisome steps backwards:

  1. Under Bill 66, Dr. Hinshaw is not required to provide regular reports to the Legislature containing the medical and scientific basis for her society-crippling and economy-destroying orders.
  2. Bill 66 continues to allow Dr. Hinshaw to issue orders outside of a declared public health emergency, including orders which have no expiration, effectively entrenching the authoritarian powers of the Chief Medical Office of Health.
  3. Bill 66 legally validates the existing Chief Medical Officer of Health Orders made over the past 13 months. This kind of retroactive law-making suggests the government itself is uncertain whether all the restrictions imposed on Albertans since March of 2020 were and are legally and constitutionally valid.
  4. Bill 66 extends the powers of health bureaucrats to order places to be closed down, based only on a “test” or “report” (neither term is defined), and without the need for an inspection. Existing law already allows extensive powers to inspect a public or private place, and to issue orders requiring a place to be vacated or closed, but an inspection is necessary.
  5. Bill 66 explicitly empowers health authorities to collect legal fees and expenses related to the enforcement of such orders from a health bureaucrat as mentioned above. If you don’t follow a CMOH order, then the place you own can be the subject of an order from a health bureaucrat based only on a “report” and not an inspection, which then forces the closure of your place. Associated legal fees and expenses can be billed to you.
  6. Bill 66 expands the statute of limitations so that it’s possible to prosecute someone for a “health offence” for up to three years, and allows the government to pursue the unfortunate citizen with collections for costs for much longer. Imagine the collection costs against pastors, small business owners, and protesters who peacefully exercised their Charter freedoms and refused to bow to the whim of Dr. Hinshaw and the premier.
  7. Bill 66 rejects recommendations of the Public Health Act Select Special Committee report from October 2020 as they pertain to safeguarding individual rights. If the recommendations in this report were implemented, public health restrictions would need to be “reasonably necessary,” and allow individuals to apply to court for a review of health orders on an urgent basis.
  8. Bill 66 retains the draconian penalties introduced by Bill 10 last year: up to $100,000 for a first offence and $500,000 for subsequent offenses, for violating the Public Health Act.

In short, Bill 66 further entrenches the already authoritarian and arbitrary rule of one unelected official at the expense of due process, fundamental justice and the civil liberties of Albertans.