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Dismantling Myths About the NDP Government's Justification for Bill 31
(In response to this video of the Minister speaking in the Legislative Assembly)
Myth: Allowing fee advertising won't degrade veterinary services, they will provide clarity and transparency.
Fact: Veterinary medicine isn't a fixed template, applied in a one-size-fits-all manner. Veterinary medicine is built on patient knowledge and costs are patient-specific. Advertising fixed prices creates consumer confusion that scales with the complexity and scope of service and has no realistic or accurate application in the profession.
Myth: Veterinarians aren't getting consent from pet owners or disclosing prices for veterinary medical services. Overreaching into the self-regulation of the veterinary profession and legislating this requirement is necessary to protect consumers.
Fact: ABVMA guidelines already uphold a universal requirement for healthcare providers to obtain informed consent— a vital part of which is fee disclosure— before proceeding with any treatments or procedures. The government's amendment regarding consent and disclosure merely duplicates existing guidelines and, in fact, provide less consumer protection by removing the ABVMA's consent requirement for emergency procedures.
Myth: The amendments in Bill 31 only apply to household pets.
Fact: Bill 31 refers to domestic animals, which include cows, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, and all other animals that have been domesticated for commercial use or companionship. If the Minister of Service Alberta intends the bill only to apply to companion animals, it ought to be revised.
Myth: Albertans are scared to enter veterinary practices because they don't know the cost of veterinary care; this puts pets at risk because it can lead to negligence on the part of the pet owner.
Truth: Veterinarians routinely discuss price options with clients who call their practice or visit in person. Veterinarians also provide ample information on pet insurance policies that help pet owners manage the cost of care, and many practices prepare a percentage of their budget to accommodate pro bono services for circumstances where clients are unable to cover the cost of care.
Myth: the government has consulted and received support from a number of stakeholders regarding Bill 31.
Truth: while the government might very well have consulted other expert stakeholders, the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association was not consulted on this bill. The Minister, after citing experts in other industries outside the veterinary profession as a defense of her bill, suggests the veterinary profession take its own advice and accept the expert opinions on this important matter. We agree: the Minister should minimally consult veterinarians on Bill 31, since we are the experts in the practice and delivery of veterinary medicine. To date, there has been no consultation with our profession regarding the most significant overreach into our self-regulated profession in our exemplary 111-year history.
Myth: The Ministry of Service Alberta consulted with the ABVMA on three separate occasions: twice in person and once by phone. This was good and substantial consultation.
Truth: The Minister's staff spoke to the ABVMA once in person to provide the results of the survey and discuss next steps. The Minister committed to formal consultation if any legislative changes are determined to be necessary. There were two phone calls, the second the evening before the announcement of Bill 31 only to provide notice of the announcement. No consultation on the contents of the proposed amendments or copies of the drafts were provided.
Myth: It’s not insulting to target veterinarians alongside used car salespeople, loan sharks, and people who develop ticket bots.
Truth: Veterinarians have served our communities for as long as Alberta has been a province and we're advocates and guardians of animal welfare. This service constitutes a vast spectrum of highly specialized veterinary care that includes life-saving medicine. Additionally, veterinarians are part of 4 charitable initiatives working throughout the province that are intentionally designed to help Albertans manage the cost of veterinary care. Placing our rich and exemplary history of service to Albertans next to legitimate threats to consumer interests is, without question, a deep and perplexing insult.