BLOG: UCP cut public health spending on a per-person basis in 2022

Despite a 2019 election promise to “maintain or increase health spending”, the UCP government actually cut public health-care spending on a per-person basis, according to recently information released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

For years, Alberta was middle-of-the-pack when it came to public health funding on a per-person basis. That changed under UCP rule: Alberta’s spending is now second-last, only ahead of New Brunswick, according to the latest data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

(Source: CIHI, “National Health Expenditure Trends,” Nov. 2022,

Incredibly, the UCP cut per-person public health spending this year by $250 per person, from $3,425 in 2021 to $3,175 this year – 7.3 per cent cut – the largest cut of all provinces.

This spending is only for what the government spends on health care, not personal out-of-pocket expenses.

In 2015, when Rachel Notley became Premier of Alberta, Alberta ranked 6th out of the 10 provinces with spending slightly higher than the Canadian average of $2,818.

When Jason Kenney became Premier in 2019, Alberta’s per-capita public spending was $3,081 – again, 6th out of the 10 provinces and still slightly higher than the Canadian average of $2,938.

Kenney was fond of saying that Alberta’s health spending was amongst the top of all provinces, but he included Albertans’ out-of-pocket health care spending in that figure, not just what the government spends. Kenney’s spin was nothing more than an attempt to justify cuts we’ve now seen.

Danielle Smith and out-of-pocket spending

Premier Danielle Smith’s proposed $375-a-year health spending accounts. Unfortunately for Albertans, her proposal is aimed at convincing Albertans to spend more out-of-pocket on health care, and less spending from the government. Smith has suggested the “beauty” of her health spending account proposal is that it will convince people to put their own money into health care. She’s even suggested that people should fundraise for their own health care.

Despite Premier Smith’s motives, Albertans already pay, on average, $1,600 a year each for their own health care – things not covered by the public system like some medication, procedures, ancillary services (such as parking fees at hospitals), and visits to certain specialists.

The solution is not pre-election gimmicks to fund health care. The solution is to protect, strengthen and expand the public health-care umbrella.

(Source: CIHI, “National Health Expenditure Trends,” Nov. 2022,

Intensive Care Unit Beds down under UCP

Albertans may recall that former Premier Jason Kenney promised to increase the number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds up to over 1,000, but it is the UCP government itself that oversaw a decrease in the number of ICU beds. There were 405 ICU beds in Alberta in 2012. The number of beds stabilized and increased under the Alberta NDP government (2015 to 2019), then dropped under the UCP led by Jason Kenney.

Alberta ICU beds

Year ICU beds
2009–2010 332
2010–2011 405
2011–2012 405
2012–2013 350
2013–2014 368
2014–2015 360
2015–2016 371
2016–2017 371
2017–2018 379
2018–2019 385
2019–2020 382
2020–2021 374
(Source: CIHI, “Hospital Beds Staffed and In Operation, 2020-2021, Nov. 2022,

Our health care system is under increasing strain, yet the government is flush with cash. This year alone, it’s projected there will be a $12.3 billion surplus. The key to releasing the strain is to have a properly resourced and comprehensive system. That means individual Albertans paying less out-of-pocket for health care and government stepping up to support it, rather than slashing funding and deriding its workforce.