The Public Health Amendment Act would reflect current and emerging public health challenges and best practices, help Alberta’s government respond quickly to public health issues, including chronic diseases, and protect the health and safety of Albertans.
“A modernized act will help Alberta’s government respond to public health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping the health and safety of all Albertans as a top priority. Introducing this bill will have no impact on the current public health measures in place and will not impact the ability of the government to respond to the pandemic.”
The proposed amendments are a result of extensive feedback from Albertans and recommendations from the Select Special Public Health Act Review Committee and Alberta Health. The amendments would also deliver on the commitment by the government to repeal sections in the Public Health Emergency Powers Amendment Act.
If passed, Bill 66 will provide greater transparency for Albertans who want protections for their individual rights and greater checks and balances within the act by:
- Removing all sections in the act that authorize a minister to modify legislation by order.
- Removing unnecessary powers to order mandatory immunization or conscription.
- Establishing that individuals must be immediately informed of the location if they are going to be detained.
- Establishing criteria that must be met before an individual can be treated or examined.
- Outlining how personal health information is collected or disclosed under the act.
- Requiring orders that apply to the public or groups are published online.
- Requiring a periodic review of the act every 10 years.
- Supporting a step-wise approach to escalating public health response.
Bill 66 would also modernize the act by reinforcing the province’s work to prevent chronic disease, updating outdated provisions and implementing lessons learned from public health responses, including the COVID-19 response. Some examples include:
- Updating provisions on absence from employment to reflect the possibility of working remotely.
- Establishing the qualifications of the chief medical officer of Health in legislation.
- Addressing chronic disease and preventable injuries in the act to strengthen the province’s work on prevention.
Additionally, to support the government’s red tape reduction initiative, the proposed amendments would repeal the intoxicating gas and vapour provisions and the Regulated Matter Regulation. These measures are unique to Alberta and are punitive for vulnerable Albertans. Alberta’s government has made recovery-oriented treatment for people who use substances a priority and removing these measures will support recovery rather than enforce fines and imprisonment.
- The Public Health Act, originally introduced in 1907, is one of Alberta’s oldest laws.
- On March 17, 2020, Alberta declared its first State of Public Health Emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Select Special Public Health Act Review Committee was appointed on June 15, 2020, with a mandate to review the act to determine if it can be improved in light of the experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.