‘Trust has been broken’: Hinshaw responds to leaked audio from COVID-19 discussions

CALGARY — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says “trust has been broken” in reacting to a story which included secretly-recorded audio of public health meetings throughout the pandemic. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the recordings, detailed in a report by CBC News on Thursday, are a “personal betrayal and a betrayal of the trust of our hardworking team.”

According to the news story, the recordings show tension and a disconnect between medical advice and political decision making. 

“These meetings should be a safe space for public servants have candid and ongoing conversations and debates. The safety and trust are now broken,” Dr. Hinshaw said during the province’s COVID-19 update.

Health policy experts say it’s disappointing to hear about decision makers not working closely in a manner that’s beneficial to Albertans.

“There really is some concern that the evidence-based approach is being overridden by political considerations. That’s not completely clear from the tapes, but you definitely get that sense,” said Timothy Caulfield, research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. 

“It looks like we have an erosion of trust within the decision-making apparatus and I’m worried we’re going to have an even greater erosion of trust amongst the Alberta population — and that’s terrible,” Caulfield said. 

Premier Jason Kenney did not attend Thursday’s provincial update, but faced questions from NDP Leader Rachel Notley in Question Period. 

“Mr. Speaker, I plead guilty. I have sought evidence and data to inform our challenging public health decisions to ensure they’re taken in a balanced way that maximized the positive health impact while minimizing the negative social and economic impact,” Kenney said. 

Health Minister Tyler Shandro called criticism that Alberta’s latest restrictions do too little, disingenuous.

“It’s assuming that there is one recommendation that comes to us when we say yes or no,” he said.

Shandro said he would not be breaching cabinet confidence by revealing what recommendations Dr. Hinshaw presented to government.

Dr. Hinshaw said a full investigation into the leaked tapes will be launched and there could be repercussions for those involved.

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