The Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel (PHEGRP) submitted its final report to the Alberta government, which included more than 90 recommendations for consideration. “Alberta, like the rest of the world, had to make decisions quickly and with limited, changing and even conflicting information,” said PHEGRP Chair Preston Manning in a Wednesday press release.“It is my hope that by adopting these recommendations, the Government will be better equipped to cope with future emergencies and that the impacts on Albertans — their personal livelihoods, civil liberties and mental health — can be mitigated to the greatest extent possible.”Alberta Premier Danielle Smith established the panel in January to review the legislation and governance practices used by the government to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. READ MORE: Smith establishes panel led by Manning to review UCP COVID-19 governanceSmith would recommend changes necessary to improve the government response to future health emergencies.The budget allocated to it was $2 million. Manning would be paid $253,000 for his services.While the mandate of the panel was not to conduct an inquiry into the Alberta government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it said it would review statutes that provided the legal basis for its actions. It added the panel arrived at a series of conclusions and recommendations for it to consider after drawing upon the expertise and research of advisors and contractors commissioned for the study. The recommendations of the panel fall into three main categories. First is improving the focus and performance of the administrative and regulatory framework used to respond to provincial public emergencies. This includes measures such as strengthening the Alberta Emergency Management Agency through legislative amendments and budgetary provisions to make it the lead government agency responding to and coordinating the government’s response to future public emergencies; developing and maintaining the Inventory of Scientific Advice and Scientific Advisors that can be drawn upon during an emergency; and rejecting provincewide school closures as a policy option to respond to them, except in the most exceptional circumstances and for the shortest possible period of time.Second is balancing the protection of Albertans from the harms caused by emergencies while protecting rights and freedoms during an emergency period. This would involve amending the Alberta Bill of Rights, Employment Standards Code, and Health Professions Act to protect the rights and freedoms of all Albertans, including workers and healthcare professionals and freedom of expression during emergencies. Third is increasing the overall capacity of Alberta’s healthcare system to respond to surges caused by a public health emergency. The Alberta government acknowledged it has taken numerous incremental steps to increase the capacity of the healthcare system. Some of the measures the panel suggested were expanding the use of nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses, reducing and eliminating barriers to labour mobility for healthcare workers and exploring options for attracting more people into medical training. The panellists included Manning, former Montreal Economic Institute president Michel Kelly-Gagnon, former Supreme Court of Canada justice Jack Major, University of Calgary public policy fellow Jack Mintz, Canadian infectious disease specialist Dr. Martha Fulford and Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Robert Tanguay. For the credibility of the study and its final recommendations, Manning said he “felt it was important to select panelists and advisors with varied areas of expertise and perspectives on the key issues.”“For that reason, while there were certainly differences of opinion, I am thrilled that we were ultimately able to arrive at a consensus on the recommendations put forward,” he said.