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Alberta health minister ‘confrontational’ and ‘arrogant’ in phone call: Calgary city councillor

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a press conference in Calgary on Friday, May 29, 2020.
Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a press conference in Calgary on Friday, May 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A Calgary city councillor is speaking out about a recent phone call with Alberta’s health minister.

At the beginning of Monday’s strategic meeting of council, Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart said Minister Tyler Shandro was “confrontational” and “arrogant” during her followup conversation on the ministry’s move to consolidate EMS dispatch services.

She said the phone call took place on Friday.

Read more: ‘It will cost lives’: Alberta mayors continue fight against EMS dispatch changes

“I would say that Mr. Shandro was cross-examining me,” Colley-Urquhart told council.

“He was asking me questions and then saying that I really didn’t know what I was talking about, that I didn’t have my facts straight. And when I tried to respond, he would talk over me, indicating that I really didn’t know what I was talking about.”

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Colley-Urquhart has a five-decade career as a health-care professional and has been part of council for 20 years.

The city councillor felt there was “no opportunity really to be heard” during the phone call with the health minister.

“He was phoning to put me in my place,” she said. “There was no question about it.”

Colley-Urquhart likened the conversation to mansplaining.

In an emailed statement to Global News, Shandro’s press secretary Steve Buick said the phone call came after Colley-Urquhart commented publicly about the planned change, questioning it.

Buick said Shandro called Colley-Urquhart and noted the two knew each other during their time on the Calgary Police Commission.

Read more: Consolidating EMS 911 dispatch services will save money, improve patient care: Alberta Health Services

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“This was a normal conversation between two elected officials on opposite sides of an issue; it was not confrontational beyond the fact that they disagree,” Buick wrote.

“Minister Shandro offered her the chance to make her case and she did so, as politicians do every day. It’s not ‘dismissive’ to respectfully disagree.”

A pattern of behaviour

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was “very concerned” about the contentious phone call between Colley-Urquhart and Shandro.

“This is a pattern of behaviour — as we know with this minister — of calling or trying to intimidate people who disagree with him, particularly people he knows,” Nenshi said.

“That is beneath him. It was beneath him last week to write a letter that accused me of lying. I don’t lie.”

In that letter sent on Tuesday, Shandro included the rationale from chief paramedic Darren Sandbeck on consolidating EMS dispatch in cities including Calgary.

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In the letter, Shandro emphasized the point that “[t]here will be no delays in emergency response and Albertans who request EMS will notice no change.”

Nenshi said he and mayors from three other cities have been trying to schedule a meeting with the health minister over the changes. Calgary’s mayor was also due to travel to Edmonton on Thursday for a meeting with Shandro.

Buick said Shandro will be meeting with Nenshi and three other mayors “in a few weeks.”

Click to play video 'Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi discusses plans to consolidate 911 dispatch' Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi discusses plans to consolidate 911 dispatch
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi discusses plans to consolidate 911 dispatch – Sep 22, 2020