Good morning! It’s James Keller in Calgary.
Health officials have been trying for years to boost organ donation rates, which remain far too low to meet demand and in some cases leave patients dying on the waiting list.
Earlier this year, Nova Scotia became the first province in Canada to adopt a controversial policy: presumed consent, which means people need to opt out if they don’t want their organs donated – rather than opting in through a donor card.
Alberta could adopt that next.
A private member’s bill by a backbencher with the governing United Conservative Party passed through a legislative committee and will how head to the full Legislature for debate and a vote. There are early signs of support.
Carrie Tait looked into the policy – where it could help, but also the potential pitfalls, with experts warning that it needs to be coupled with education and more resources in the health-care system to work.
For example, University of Alberta professor Timothy Caulfield says he believes Albertans would accept an opt-out system, but it needs to be well understood.
The province would need to make it clear that in some circumstances, family members would be able to overrule that presumed consent. He also worries that jurisdictions that adopt presumed consent will assume that the change alone will solve the organ shortage problem.
The government isn’t officially taking a position on the bill, with Health Minister Tyler Shandro saying there are no plans to introduce that model in Alberta.
At least in recent memory, it’s not unusual for private member’s bills to become law. Two other bills introduced by backbenchers have passed since the spring, when the UCP, which makes all private member’s bills free votes, took office.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
HPV VACCINES: A B.C. school board is asking the province to expand its publicly funded human papillomavirus vaccination program over criteria that exclude some school-age boys. As Andrea Woo reports, the New Westminster School Board outlined those concerns in a letter to the province after trustee Danielle Connelly learned of the unequal access through her own sons.
ELECTION COMMISSIONER: Alberta’s chief electoral officer says the provincial government’s decision to shift enforcement duties into his office and remove the election commissioner will have no impact on any continuing investigations. He told a legislative committee that there’s been no change yet to the operations of the election commissioner’s staff and that investigative work shouldn’t be affected.
VANCOUVER’S MAYOR: The next Vancouver election isn’t for another three years, but the city’s mayor is already announcing that he plans to run again. Mayor Kennedy Stewart tells Frances Bula that the city’s significant challenges with housing, drug overdoses and transit need a leader who is around for more than one term.
PRAYER IN THE LEGISLATURE: British Columbia’s Legislature has changed its rules to formally allow “reflections” to open proceedings each day, in addition to prayer, amid a debate about the place of religion in Canadian assemblies.
ENERGY REGULATOR: Alberta’s energy regulator is piloting a new system to cut approval times for oil and gas projects. Premier Jason Kenney mentioned the new system in a speech yesterday, but revealed scant details on what it looks like or how it works.
TRANSIT: Vancouver avoided a disruptive transit strike this past week, after the union representing bus and SeaBus workers reached a deal with their employer. But uncertainty still looms, as SkyTrain workers, who have a different contract, remain in strike position during negotiations.
ALBERTA NURSES: Critics are assailing Alberta’s UCP government after news broke that hundreds of nurses will be laid off. It’s the latest fallout from the recent provincial budget, which imposed cuts and restraint as the government attempts to balance the books.
AIRBNB: Edmonton’s hotel industry group has launched a provocative campaign calling for a crackdown on short-term rentals such as Airbnb. The “Too Much” campaign, which warns that short-term rentals increase crime and encourage tax evasion, is inviting users to share their horror stories. The city is studying how to regulate short-term rentals.
Kelly Cryderman on Jason Kenney’s climate pitch: “Article 6 of the climate deal opens the door to voluntary agreements where emissions-reduction measures in one country can be credited to another. There is, of course, a strong Alberta angle to Article 6. Mr. Kenney’s argument is that the export of Canadian natural gas to Asian countries will displace widely used, dirtier coal-fired power.”
Adam Radwanski on Alberta’s emissions plan and Ottawa: “Of the three [major issues facing the Trudeau government], industrial carbon pricing seems most assured of Alberta’s preferred outcome – acceptance that the province is sufficiently in line with national requirements to avoid the federal government imposing its own pricing regime – and least controversial.”
Adrienne Tanner on Vancouver’s downtown retail boom: “It’s hard not to read the [Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s] report and wonder, who does this retail serve? Is this further evidence that Vancouver has become a city only for the super-rich?”