November 17th, 2018

It’s time for new Alberta health cards

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on June 8, 2018.

Alberta’s new driver’s licences will boast our famous geographic locations, a dinosaur and have security features that put us on the cutting edge when it comes to protection against fraud.

“Our government takes identity fraud very seriously. We are the first jurisdiction in North America to integrate this combination of design and security to protect Albertans from ID theft and prevent fraud. We are using the latest technology available to safeguard people’s personal information and prevent scams,” said Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean in a press release.

To be one step ahead of criminals who turn counterfeiting into a business is to be applauded.

It is difficult to find information on how much of an issue counterfeiting of driver’s licences has been.

The government has assured us though that we will actually be saving money with the new improvements. Every year we will save $1 million by moving to these new and improved cards, they announced.

The savings is the result of “advances in technology,” making it cost less to manufacture these licence cards than the previous design. It would therefore imply that it would actually cost more if we stayed with the current design. Who can argue about that and the government says law enforcement agencies have been asking for this change.

One question remains: If we are capable of such cutting edge technology for driver’s licences, to protect us from fraud, why has the ball been dropped when it comes to Alberta’s health cards.

It has long been recognized that Alberta’s simple health cards printed on paper is a security risk.

At least two decades ago some provinces had already switched to credit card style health cards with security features to stop fraudulent use but Alberta does not budge. So far the government’s only recommendation is for Albertans to spend some money laminating the health card to improve durability without improving security.

The auditor general’s report in 2015 said the health cards were a fraud risk and noted they don’t even have an expiry date.

In a radio interview on Thursday, McLean said the reason the government has acted on driving licences and not health cards was quite simple. Albertans pay for renewing driving licences. Health cards and health care is “free.”

If only that were true.

Albertans pay more for health care than most other provinces through taxes. The government does not have its own money.

That sounds like the government sees security of driver’s licences as a bigger priority than health-care/card fraud. It could also indicate a battle behind the scenes about whether is should come out of the budget for Alberta Health Services or the health ministry.

If we really want to address fraud, identity theft and counterfeiting then the government needs to acknowledge new health cards as a priority.

Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to, email her at or call her at 403-528-8635.

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