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Dr. Deena Hinshaw, then Alberta's chief medical officer, during a COVID-19 update in Edmonton, on Sept. 3, 2021.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

The Alberta Ethics Commissioner has determined that the province’s health authority followed the proper process when it revoked its job offer to Deena Hinshaw, the former chief medical officer of health.

Marguerite Trussler, in a letter dated Dec. 18, said she stopped her investigation into the role played by John Cowell, the former administrator of Alberta Health Services, in its decision to revoke Dr. Hinshaw’s job offer in June.

The letter, addressed to Health Minister Adriana LaGrange and released to media by the Premier’s Office, also said Ms. Trussler did not pursue an investigation into Danielle Smith’s involvement in the Hinshaw episode.

Ms. Trussler examined events around the dismissal under the Conflicts of Interest Act, which is designed to prevent elected politicians and senior government officials from taking action that financially benefits them or their family. The act’s narrow focus means Ms. Trussler’s decision not to investigate the Premier has failed to quell allegations that AHS ripped up Dr. Hinshaw’s contract after Ms. Smith interfered inappropriately.

The Globe and Mail first revealed the existence of Ms. Trussler’s investigation on Monday, when it also disclosed a former AHS vice-president who quit in June did so because he believed Ms. Smith influenced Dr. Cowell into ditching Dr. Hinshaw. Ms. Smith fired Dr. Hinshaw as Alberta’s chief medical officer of health in late 2022.

“Although he had input on the decision, I found no evidence that Dr. Cowell directed the termination of Dr. Hinshaw’s employment,” Ms. Trussler wrote in her letter. “The evidence shows that Dr. Hinshaw’s employment was terminated through proper process.”

Ms. Smith replaced Dr. Cowell as AHS’s administrator in November, when she unveiled its new board. Ms. Trussler, in her letter, said part of the reason she stopped her investigation is because Dr. Cowell is no longer a senior official under the Conflicts of Interest Act.

The commissioner noted she received complaints about Ms. Smith related to Dr. Hinshaw’s termination but did not launch an investigation because of the evidence that emerged in the Cowell probe.

Two physicians who resigned in June – Braden Manns, a former AHS vice-president, and Esther Tailfeathers, the former head of AHS’s Indigenous Wellness Core – told The Globe Ms. Trussler interviewed them in October. Dr. Tailfeathers spoke out against Dr. Hinshaw’s dismissal in June, saying she believed it was political. At the time, she did not outright accuse Ms. Smith of meddling. Dr. Manns’s June 11 resignation letter, however, explicitly blamed Ms. Smith and her office for AHS’s reversal.

Dr. Tailfeathers, in an interview Tuesday, said she does not believe Ms. Trussler’s letter absolves the government of overreach. “My sense is they were investigating a very, very narrow scope – and that was to identify if there was financial gain for the Premier or for John Cowell,” she said.

Dr. Tailfeathers does not believe direct financial gain played a role in Dr. Hinshaw’s dismissal but said: “There definitely was political interference.”

Dr. Tailfeathers chaired the search committee that selected Dr. Hinshaw as a public health and preventative medicine lead within the Indigenous Wellness Core. Dr. Manns said he informed Dr. Cowell of the winning candidate in March and the administrator approved the hiring, so long as it was not announced until after the provincial election on May 29.

AHS made the announcement on June 1, which sparked a backlash among Ms. Smith’s supporters on the right flank of the United Conservative Party. Dr. Manns alleged he was told to revoke the job offer the next day and blames Ms. Smith for the shift.

Ms. Smith has insisted AHS was responsible for the change. When asked Tuesday if it would be acceptable for Dr. Hinshaw to ever work in Alberta’s health care system, Ms. Smith said the government is in the midst of a major transformation at AHS and needs the right people in place.

“Alberta Health Services gets its mandate from us. It gets its money from us,” she told reporters. “We have an obligation to taxpayers to make sure that it is performing appropriately. And if it is not, we’ll make changes.”

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