Highwood MLA RJ Sigurdson is drawing the line after comments were made suggesting a conflict of interest following his appointment as co-chair of the province's new EMS Advisory Committee.
Sigurdson was announced as a co-chair of the committee — which aims to find solutions to Alberta's ongoing emergency services crisis — alongside Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard on Jan. 24.
A few days later, on Jan. 27, an article by independent Lethbridge reporter Kim Siever titled "New EMS committee chaired by son of private EMS company owner" began circulating on social media, raising questions about the ability of Sigurdson to serve in such a position.
"To be clear, the comments being made related to my involvement in this committee as a possible conflict is absurd," Sigurdson said in an email statement provided to The Western Wheel.
Sigurdson's father, Richard, was a part of the paramedic community for a good portion of his life, both as a graduate of the SAIT paramedic course and as an owner of a private ambulance service for many years.
Richard became a co-owner of Aaron Ambulance in 1969. That company was taken over by the City of Calgary in 1971 and he worked as a City employee for a period of time. In the late 1970s, Sigurdson's father started Aaron Paramedical, which offered out-of-town ambulance transfers, air ambulance repatriations and paramedical stand-by services for high-risk sporting events. He operated the business until 2004, at which point he divested from his holdings. He died in 2019.
Aaron Paramedical still exists today, though Sigurdson affirms he has no financial connection to private EMS operators in Alberta, including the one once owned by his dad.
"Any suggestion that my involvement in this committee as being biased, due to my father’s lifelong career, or a conflict is ridiculous and mean-spirited," he said.
Sigurdson added that his father's lifelong commitment to patient care and his contributions to the City of Calgary EMS, rodeo stand-by and oilfield and seismic safety is something he takes pride in.
"For those who knew my father knew that his commitment was always centred around patient care and service to the public," he said via statement. "My commitment will reflect the same."
The committee has only had one meeting thus far and will be handling conflict of interest as part of its initial administration, according to Sigurdson.
At this time, the group will be hearing from a wide range of stakeholders as both witnesses and committee members. This will include public EMS operators, private, for-profit operators and private non-profit operators, Sigurdson said.
Though discussions for both short-term and long-term solutions have just began, he said that at this time there are no considerations that involve privatization of the service,
"I am unaware of any discussions that are focusing on any privatization at this time," he said.