A makeshift graveyard could be seen outside Health Minister Tyler Shandro‘s Calgary constituency office Monday morning amid mounting pressure for the provincial government to take stronger action in Alberta’s fight against COVID-19.
The province recorded nearly 3,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus over the weekend, after weeks of intense scrutiny and pressure over the government’s response so far.
More than a dozen hand-made painted cardboard gravestones were set up in a grassy patch across from Shandro’s office, both criticizing the minister’s response to the COVID-19 health crisis as well as drawing attention to some of the hundreds of Albertans who have died from the illness.
“Here lies Shandro’s credibility — died denying Alberta’s COVID numbers,” read one tombstone sign.
“RIP 17 folks at Intercare Brentwood,” read another.
“RIP Aunt Sue — she had a good run.”
“RIP 471 Albertans and counting.”
There was no indication who put the signs out on the side of the roadway, or when they were put up.
When asked for thoughts or reaction to the display, Shandro’s press secretary Steve Buick said in an email that he had not seen the makeshift graveyard, nor any photos of it circulating online.
“I don’t need to see it anyway,” he said. “It sounds like a sad little stunt.”
Speaking at the legislature on Monday afternoon, Shandro said he was made aware of “some kind of stunt for the media outside my constituency office.”
“I guess it’s trying to say I don’t care about the people who’ve died; and I think that’s beneath contempt, to say such a thing,” Shandro said.
“We can disagree about how to respond to the pandemic without saying that anyone we disagree with is indifferent to human life.”
Alberta is expected to impose new health restrictions on Tuesday, though it’s not known what those measures will look like.
More than a week ago, Alberta introduced new restrictions on group fitness and sports, operating times at restaurants and bars as well as liquor sales at those establishments, in areas of the province under “enhanced” COVID-19 status.
However, coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions have only risen since then, with Sunday’s new case count coming in higher than both Ontario and Quebec.
Hundreds of health care professionals from around the province have signed another letter, written by Edmonton family physician Dr. Lana Myroniuk, addressing the premier, health minister and Hinshaw — pleading with the province to put more public health measures in place.
“Health care workers are a finite resource,” Myroniuk wrote. “We are shouldering a very heavy burden keeping the health-care system afloat right now. At the pace we are at, we cannot continue providing adequate care to Albertans.”
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is set to provide a COVID-19 provincial update on Monday at 2 p.m., which will be live streamed in this article.
When asked on Friday about the fact that both Shandro and Premier Jason Kenney — who have appeared at very few COVID-19 updates in recent weeks and months — were not with her Friday as Hinshaw pleaded once again for Albertans to head and follow the province’s health measures, Hinshaw said “there are different roles and responsibilities in responding to the pandemic.”
“I always do my best to provide Albertans with accurate information and with the benefit of the daily numbers of the occurrences that are happening,” she said.
“And with respect to the attendance of elected officials, their role typically has been to attend when there are announcements and changes that are being made. And so, again, everyone has very busy schedules, and that’s simply the way that that has been arranged at this time.”
— With files from Global News’ Jill Croteau