Law Society of Alberta to hold hearing over former health minister Tyler Shandro’s conduct

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro speaks in Calgary, Alta., Friday, May 29, 2020. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro will be speaking to reporters this afternoon on COVID-19 and expansion projects at Calgary's Rockyview Hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Update: Shandro’s hearing has since been scheduled for Jan. 24-26, 2023. The hearing is scheduled to be held virtually.

The Law Society of Alberta is set to hold a hearing to determine whether Labour and Immigration Minister Tyler Shandro breached the society’s code of conduct.

A notice posted on the society’s website details three allegations made against Shandro, who is a practicing lawyer and member of the Law Society of Alberta.

The society said it cannot comment on any complaints made against lawyers, but added citations were issued and the matter was directed to a hearing by a three-person panel on Jan. 28.

One citation alleges Shandro “attended the private residence of a member of the public, behaved inappropriately by engaging in conduct that brings the reputation of the profession into disrepute.”

Story continues below advertisement

The second alleges Shandro “used his position as minister of health to obtain personal cellphone numbers, contacted one or more members of the public outside of regular working hours using that information.”

The third alleges Shandro “responded to an email from a member of the public addressed to his wife by threatening to refer that individual to the authorities if they did not address future correspondence to his office as minister of health.”

In a statement Friday, Shandro’s press secretary said the minister “looks forward to resolving the matter through the Law Society of Alberta’s complaint process.

“Two years ago, an anonymous account on social media published a post that encouraged the public to file complaints with the Law Society of Alberta,” Joseph Dow said.

“The complaints that have been made are all matters that have been publicly reported.”

In March 2020, when Shandro was Alberta’s health minister, it came to light that he and his wife went to a Calgary doctor’s personal home and angrily confronted him over a meme.

Dr. Mukarram Zaidi said the confrontation came after he shared a meme on Facebook showing Shandro sitting at a desk with a thought bubble over his head that read: “So every Albertan that I can kick off health care is another client we can sign up for Vital Partners! We’re going to be RICH!” The meme also included an emoji of a surprised face.

Story continues below advertisement

Zaidi said he and Shandro have been acquaintances for many years, having previously served together in a constituency office. Zaidi said he agreed to take the meme down.

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

Vital Partners is the supplementary health-benefits company of which Shandro’s wife is part owner. Despite that being OKed by the ethics commissioner when Shandro became minister, some Albertans still viewed it as a conflict of interest.

At the time, Shandro said in a statement that when he saw a long-time political acquaintance of his was participating in the attacks against his wife, he felt the need to speak to him and “implore him to cease propagating this false information.”

He also said he personally responded to emails from people criticizing his wife because they disagree with his actions as minister of health.

“I fully expected to face attacks when I signed up to run for office — but my wife did not. That is true of any elected official’s family,” Shandro said in March 2020.

Click to play video: 'Alberta health minister under fire for confrontation with Calgary doctor'
Alberta health minister under fire for confrontation with Calgary doctor

On Friday, Zaidi said he did not file a complaint, but added he was interviewed by the law society a few months ago.

Story continues below advertisement

He said he is happy to hear about the hearing and hopes Shandro will be held accountable for his actions.

Zaidi also said he believes Shandro should be removed from cabinet while the investigation is being conducted.

“He should have been dismissed from the cabinet at that time,” Zaidi said.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley called for Shandro to be removed from his cabinet position at the time, and doubled down on that again Friday.

“It’s kind of a standing position for us that this minister is not really equipped to function in cabinet. You can’t behave that way and be in cabinet and certainly the fact that now he’s under investigation by the professional association should be enough for him to be asked to step aside,” Notley said.

Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, said while these aren’t new allegations, news of the law society’s hearing will bring them front of mind again to Albertans.

“It certainly is a difficult thing for the reputation of minister Shandro, and of course it’s been out there for some time now, but it’s being raised again in the context of a bigger sort of government pattern, or cabinet minister pattern.”

Williams believes this is likely to hurt the UCP government as a whole more than Shandro individually.

Story continues below advertisement

“This calls back to mind a series of events that happened that raised very serious questions about the conduct of the health minister at the time and now within the context of a series of resignations or suspensions within cabinet, questions about how this government is being run — whether ethics are a central component of this government’s leadership — I think that’s going to be a question that’s going to dog the government, and Jason Kenney, in particular, going into the leadership review.”

Shandro was originally sworn in as the minister of health in April 2019.

In September 2021, Premier Jason Kenney said Shandro offered his resignation as health minister. He was then sworn in as the minister of Labour and Immigration.

Jason Copping, who previously led the Labour and Immigration ministry, took the oath of minister of health at the same time.

The Law Society of Alberta states that as a self-governing profession, Alberta’s lawyers are expected to conduct themselves and their law practices in ways which are highly ethical and above reproach. The Code of Conduct defines the principles and high standards that are applied to every lawyer in Alberta.

A date for the hearing has not yet been set. The Law Society of Alberta said once citations are issued, the tribunal office manages the hearing process from that point forward. The society said it could not speculate on how long the hearing process might take.

Story continues below advertisement

Generally speaking, when a lawyer is found to have engaged in conduct deserving of sanction, they are subject to a reprimand, suspension or disbarment, according to the Law Society of Alberta.

The lawyer may also be ordered to pay a fine and/or costs.

Global News has reached out to the premier’s office for comment on the story.

Sponsored content