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Alberta

Audit of supervised consumption site in Lethbridge uncovers $1.6 million unaccounted for

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6 minute read

From the Province of Alberta

ARCHES audit finds serious financial mismanagement

Senior executive made $342,943 in 2019

The province has released the audit of the ARCHES supervised consumption site in Lethbridge and as a result of its findings, will be ending its grant funding agreement with the organization.

The independent accounting firm Deloitte conducted a grant expenditure audit after the Alberta government learned of possible financial irregularities within the ARCHES organization.

The review substantiated allegations of asset and funding misappropriation, non-compliance with grant agreements, and inappropriate governance and organizational operations. The ARCHES organization was found to have seriously mismanaged taxpayer funds meant for the most vulnerable in our society.

“It is disturbing and extremely disappointing to me that taxpayer funds allocated to this organization in order to serve the most vulnerable in Lethbridge would be used for European conferences, expenses for retreats, entertainment and gift cards. Our government will not stand idly by while millions in taxpayer funds are missing or misappropriated.”

Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
Below is a summary of the audit’s findings:

$1,617,094 unaccounted for due to missing documentation for expenditures from 2017 to 2018.
$13,000 of interest off ARCHES bank accounts was used to fund parties, staff retreats, entertainment and gift cards.
A senior executive’s compensation totalled $342,943 for calendar year 2019. This includes $70,672 in overtime for fiscal year 2019-20. The grant agreement allows for a salary of $80,000.
The Everyone Comes Together (ECT) program staff salaries and benefits also exceeded the amount allocated by the grant agreement by $16,000.
The number of ARCHES employees is greater than allowed by the grant agreement. ARCHES maintained up to 126 employees. However, the exact number could not be verified.
$4,301 spent on European travel for management to attend a conference in Portugal.
Thousands of dollars in unverifiable travel expenses, including trips charged to company credit cards but not recorded in the ledger.
A senior executive’s family member was hired, earning $9,900. The auditors could not locate a resume or personnel file to verify any qualifications.
$7,557 for management retreats, including meals and mileage where documentation for spending was unclear.
The grant agreement requires the organization to maintain the funding received from Alberta Health within a separate bank account; however, the audit revealed that it was comingled with other funding sources. As a result of ARCHES comingling their accounts, the auditors could not verify thousands of dollars of expenses.
Proper personal conflict of interest declarations were not recorded when related individuals or vendors were hired or utilized.
Vendors were repeatedly secured in secrecy with a lack of transparency and accountability.
No petty cash reconciliations have been completed.
$1,129 was used to buy gift cards for board members for The Keg, iTunes, Boston Pizza, Earls, Gap, Shell, Chapters, Cineplex, Amazon, Starbuck’s, Tim Hortons, MasterCard, and Bath and Bodyworks. The expense was recorded as “Gift cards – Board Members.”
$2,100 was spent on gift cards to The Oil Changer – a business owned by a senior executive’s spouse.
$2,205 was spent on a television with no receipt documentation to support the purchase.
The auditors were unable to complete the grant expenditure review in respect to all allegations received or provide a complete financial value attributable to each allegation, due to the state of ARCHES’ records and the related outstanding documents.

Due to missing funds and unverifiable transactions, as well as allegations, which could not be investigated in the scope of this audit, government will consult with law enforcement to determine whether further investigation is warranted.

To ensure people struggling with addiction can continue to receive services, government has asked Alberta Health Services to set up a temporary mobile overdose prevention site in Lethbridge with the goal of seamlessly transitioning services. Government will also be adding three recovery coaches to the region to assist in expediting individuals into treatment.

Quick facts

ARCHES has received more than $14.4 million in taxpayer dollars over the past two years.
In June, government announced an additional $4 million over four years to expand access to the virtual opioid dependency program to allow Albertans to use telehealth technology to access treatment for opioid use disorder.
Also announced was the opioid agonist therapy gap coverage program to cover the costs of medications to treat opioid use disorder for Albertans waiting to receive coverage through a supplementary health benefit plan.
As part of the $140-million mental health and addiction commitment to create 4,000 spaces, government has announced additional treatment spaces at Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centres, Sunrise Healing Lodge, Fresh Start Recovery Centre, Thorpe Recovery Centre, and the Blood Tribe Bringing the Spirit Home detox centre.

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Alberta

Taxpayers applaud Alberta credit rating improvement

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Moody’s Ratings boosts Alberta’s outlook to positive. Balanced budget and spending restraint cited.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is applauding the provincial government for its latest credit rating outlook improvement.

“The province is getting this positive assessment from credit rating agencies because the government has a balanced budget and is restraining spending,” said Kris Sims, CTF Alberta Director. “Strengthening balanced budget legislation to curb spending was the right move.”

On Monday, Moody’s Ratings changed Alberta’s credit rating outlook to positive, up from stable and affirmed the province’s AA2 credit rating.

Moody’s cited the province’s balanced budget, spending restraint and debt payment rules as reasons for the improvement.

“The positive outlook reflects our view that if Alberta adheres to the governance controls as per its fiscal framework introduced in 2023, its debt and liquidity levels could be stronger than we currently project,” the report from Moody’s reads.

The CTF has been urging the Alberta government to keep spending increases below inflation plus population growth since the mid 1990s.

The Alberta government passed its balanced budget and spending restraint legislation last year.

The positive outlook from Moody’s follows a recent upgrade from the credit ratings agency, Fitch.

Interest charges on the provincial government’s debt will cost taxpayers $3.1 billion this year, according to government’s year-end report.

“Credit ratings matter because Albertans pay billions of dollars on debt interest charges every year,” Sims said. “Better credit ratings could make it less expensive to make payments on the debt, and the less money we waste on interest charges, the better.”

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Alberta

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith promises bill protecting rights to refuse vaccines is coming

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From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

The plan is to introduce an amended Bill of Rights this fall that includes protections for individuals’ personal medical decisions.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has promised that the province’s Bill of Rights will be amended this fall so that there are protections added for people’s personal medical decisions that most likely will include one having the right to refuse a vaccine.

Smith’s promise to add protections for personal choice on vaccinations comes because of the COVID jab mandates put in place for a time in Alberta under former Premier Jason Kenney.

Speaking to Albertans at a recent town hall in Bonnyville, Smith said that the COVID crisis resulted in many people being discriminated against for their own medical decisions and that “it shouldn’t have happened.”

Smith, who leads the United Conservative Party (UCP), said that she believes “every person has to be able to do their own assessment, their own health assessment, to be able to make those decisions.”

The original plan by Smith was to add protections for one’s vaccine status directly Alberta Human Rights Act (AHRA). However, this plan was nixed after she was advised by Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel chair Preston Manning that this was not the right legislation for an additional protection.

Instead, Smith promised that a better “law” dealing directly with vaccine status will be forthcoming.

On Monday, Smith confirmed on X that an updated version of the Bill of Rights is coming.

“It’s time. Let’s get this done,” she wrote.

Last year, Smith, as reported by LifeSiteNews, promised to enshrine into “law” protections for people in her province who choose not to be vaccinated as well as strengthen gun rights and safeguard free speech by beefing up the provincial Bill of Rights.

On Smith’s first day on the job and only minutes after being sworn in, she said that during the COVID years the “unvaccinated” were the “most discriminated against” group of people in her lifetime.

She took over from Kenney as leader of the UCP on October 11, 2022, after winning the party leadership. The UCP then won a general election in May 2023. Kenney was ousted due to low approval ratings and for reneging on promises not to lock Alberta down during COVID.

Smith promptly fired the province’s top doctor, Deena Hinshaw, and the entire Alberta Health Services board of directors, all of whom oversaw the implementation of COVID mandates.

Under Kenney, thousands of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare and government workers lost their jobs for choosing to not get the jabs.

While Smith has not said much regarding the COVID shots since taking office, she has allowed her caucus members to have broad views when it comes to known safety issues related to the jabs.

UCP MLA Eric Bouchard hosted a sold-out event titled “An Injection of Truth” that featured prominent doctors and experts speaking out against COVID vaccines and mandates.

“Injection of Truth” included well-known speakers critical of COVID mandates and the shots, including Dr. Byram BridleDr. William Makis, canceled doctor Mark Trozzi and pediatric neurologist Eric Payne.

The COVID shots were heavily promoted by the federal government and all provincial governments in Canada, with the Alberta government under Kenney being no exception.

The mRNA shots have been linked to a multitude of negative and often severe side effects in children.

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