POLITICS

New Alberta Wildrose boss Brian Jean aims to fix health care, stop runaway taxes

03/30/2015 03:48 EDT | Updated 05/30/2015 05:59 EDT
EDMONTON - Brian Jean lost his adult son to cancer during the race to become leader of the Wildrose party and now he's determined to fix Alberta health care.

Jean says the system is fundamentally broken with patients sitting for weeks in $10,000-a-day hospital beds waiting days or months for tests that cost a fraction of that amount.

"It actually takes 30 days to get approval from a bureaucrat or from a committee for a $2,000 test," Jean said in an interview Monday.

"They would rather have you take up a hospital bed and treat you than to actually find out what is wrong with you and treat you. That is absolutely ridiculous.

"I hear these stories three or four times a day by people all over the province."

Jean's youngest son, 24-year-old Michael, died in hospital on March 20, just days after being diagnosed with lymphoma.

Just over a week later, on Saturday, Jean won the party vote to become the next Wildrose leader.

It marks his formal return to public life after 10 years as a federal Conservative backbench MP for Fort McMurray and the oilsands region.

The 52-year-old lawyer and businessman retired over a year ago to spend more time with his family.

Last year, while in political retirement, Jean believed Premier Jim Prentice was the answer and donated $10,000 to Prentice's Progressive Conservative leadership campaign.

But Jean has come to believe that Prentice has proven to be just another helpless helmsman on a broken ship of state.

He said the same ministers and deputy ministers who served previous Tory governments are still there.

"Anybody who thinks that one person, Jim Prentice, at the top of a pile that has been there for 44 years can change the pile, really needs to look a little closer at government and how it operates."

Jean announced Monday he will run for office where he lives — in the Fort McMurray-Conklin constituency currently held by Advanced Education Minister Don Scott.

Jean inherits a caucus and party that was knocked to the canvas late last year when then-leader Danielle Smith led a mass floor-crossing to Prentice and the PCs.

The floor-crossers have had mixed fates: some have won PC candidate nominations for the expected spring election, while others, including Smith, have been roundly rejected.

Smith was defeated in her home riding by Okotoks councillor Carrie Fischer for the Highwood PC nomination, despite high-profile support from Prentice and some of his cabinet ministers

Jean has called Smith nothing short of a "betrayer of family."

On Monday, the premier said Smith should be thanked for her contribution to the province.

"Danielle Smith is a very talented woman," Prentice said in Calgary. "She has changed Alberta politics in the time that she has been here.

"She's deserving of respect and I've been concerned about some of the piling on that's taken place, frankly. I am concerned about some of what I've read in social media and in the media about Danielle.

"I don't think it's fair and I think we should respect people in public life who have given a lot."

— With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary