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Tyler Shandro asks law society to throw out conduct hearings, citing jurisdiction

Click to play video: 'Tyler Shandro asks law society to throw out conduct hearings, citing jurisdiction'
Tyler Shandro asks law society to throw out conduct hearings, citing jurisdiction
The Law Society of Alberta doesn't have the jurisdiction to address several complaints about former provincial cabinet minister Tyler Shandro, his lawyer suggested Monday. Saif Kaisar has more from Monday's hearing. – Jun 12, 2023

Tyler Shandro, Alberta’s former justice minister and former health minister, will have to wait to hear whether his application to have the Law Society of Alberta (LSA) throw out the conduct hearing over four incidents that occurred while he was in charge of the health ministry was successful.

Before Shandro’s cross-examination continued Monday morning, Grant Stapon, Shandro’s lawyer during the hearings, claimed the LSA does not have jurisdiction over the matters since the allegations “do not sufficiently touch upon practice of law or professional abilities.”

Stapon also said the allegations were brought to the law society for “collateral” or “improper” reasons.

Hearing chair Bud Melnyk said the hearing committee was not ready to hear Shandro’s application on Monday, instead suggesting to do so at the end of the hearing.

Click to play video: '‘I was definitely not yelling’: Shandro recounts driveway confrontation with Calgary doctor'
‘I was definitely not yelling’: Shandro recounts driveway confrontation with Calgary doctor

“The arguments you’ve raised are valid,” he said, noting the issue of a “nexus” between the evidence and Shandro’s practice in law raised by Stapon was appreciated but and better explored at a later time.

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“Jurisdiction is established by the fact that Mr. Shandro is a lawyer,” Melnyk added.

Shandro under cross-examination

Complaints to the professional governing body of the province’s lawyers allege Shandro brought the profession into disrepute when he visited a doctor’s home in response to a social media post, that he used a position of power – health minister – to get the personal cell phones of two doctors following confrontations at the Red Deer Regional Hospital, and that he threatened to refer a citizen to the authorities in response to a message sent to his wife.

The hearing regarding about those citations resumed after the first three days concluded in January and just two weeks after Shandro lost the election in Calgary-Acadia by 25 votes.

Shandro took the stand to complete his cross-examination that began on day 2 of the hearing.

When asked by Ken McEwan, the Vancouver-based counsel representing the law society, the former health minister disagreed with the testimony of Red Deer-area Dr. John Julyan-Gudgeon claiming that the after-hours call on the Red Deer-area doctor’s private cell phone was “intimidating.” He also did not directly answer whether he could appreciate a perceived power imbalance of a health minister calling a doctor.

Click to play video: 'Alberta minister Tyler Shandro takes stand at law society conduct hearing'
Alberta minister Tyler Shandro takes stand at law society conduct hearing

Shandro instead characterized the conversation with Julyan-Gudgeon as “positive” and that the doctor was “excited” to speak with him, even taking the topics into areas beyond what Julyan-Gudgeon initially brought up in the hallways of the Red Deer Regional Hospital.

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Shandro also said that he assumed the phone numbers of Julyan-Gudgeon and Dr. Lauralee Dukeshire were given to him by Alberta Health Services’ VP of communications Colleen Turner with the doctors’ expressed permission and request, and did not consider how she got the phone numbers.

On Jan. 25, Turner said she would not have provided the then-health minister with the doctors’ phone numbers if she believed there was any confidentiality issues.

“I believed that I was connecting two parties that wanted to have a conversation,” she said at the time.

On Monday, Shandro said he did not ask Turner if the doctors wanted to speak with him, instead assuming as much based on previous interactions with doctors and other constituents.

Click to play video: 'Doctors testify at law society hearing into past conduct by Tyler Shandro: ‘How did he track me down?’'
Doctors testify at law society hearing into past conduct by Tyler Shandro: ‘How did he track me down?’

Shandro also said he recalled replying to only one of the many, many emails and messages sent to his wife Andrea, the co-founder and principal at third-party health benefits broker Vital Partners.

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In March 2020, the ethics commissioner found Shandro held his 50 per cent of voting shares in Vital Partners in a blind trust and was in line with legislative requirements.

A sampling of the “large volume” of death threats and epithets made towards the Vital Partners co-founder was read out at the hearing, which the former minister characterized as “significant harassment.”

One of those messages, from Janice Fraser, was unique in that it included a mention of a “conflict of interest” and had authentic contact information from the sender. Fraser’s message was later determined by the government’s security team to not be a threat, a fact that Shandro did not know in 2020.

Shandro also had previous interactions with Fraser during his work as a lawyer and in politics.

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

He said Fraser’s message was the only one he recalled responding to directly during the onslaught of social media messages and emails.

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In that March 20, 2020, response he said “sending threatening emails to my wife is completely inappropriate and must stop.

“[You] can send your threatening emails to this office and this office only.

“Email her again and it will be referred to protective services.”

Shandro told the hearing he wrote that he would refer her email to protective services “as we were directed to.”

Click to play video: 'Dr. Alika Lafontaine: Top doctor on how to fix a health care system in crisis'
Dr. Alika Lafontaine: Top doctor on how to fix a health care system in crisis

“Obviously I was upset about my wife,” he said, adding he disagreed with that characterisation that he “lashed out” at Fraser and if he did, he would not have invited a response.

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Shandro and his lawyer added screenshots of tweets from Dr. Mukarram Zaidi that came after the March 21, 2020, interaction the two had on the doctor’s driveway after Shandro’s wife brought his attention to a meme reposted to Zaidi’s Twitter account with Shandro sitting at a table and an added thought bubble that purported his plan to getting “rich” from “every Albertan that I can kick off health care.”

Zaidi added “So Tyler Shandro your business (Vital Partners) seems in conflict with your position in the government, what say you?”

It was revealed between days 2 and 3 of the hearing that Zaidi had multiple Twitter accounts for his various political and humanitarian advocacy efforts, and posted the meme to the other accounts.

Stapon asked Shandro to read out multiple tweets that were posted starting in March 2020 and through to January 2021, asking for his opinion of Zaidi’s motives.

“It’s clear this was political advocacy to have the 2012 master agreement reinstated for the AMA (Alberta Medical Association),” Shandro said.

He also alleged it was “well-known among physicians” the effects his wife was suffering because of the harassment they were receiving.

The former justice minister said there didn’t appear to be much interaction with the meme and agreed there’s no direct connection between what the Calgary doctor posted and death threats his wife received.

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“What I had brought up with Mukarram was this idea that Vital Partners being a private health company – that’s the allegation that’s creating the harassment,” he said.

Shandro said Zaidi asked whether he should delete the post and the then-health minister said that was up to the doctor.

Shandro told the hearing he was told the meme was taken down but did not independently verify it was taken down or which account it was taken down from.

The hearing adjourned Monday afternoon, with the final testimonies to take place on Tuesday and closing arguments expected on Wednesday.

Ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler, then-superintendent of the Alberta Sheriff Executive Protection Unit Neil Lettis and Andrea Shandro are all expected to take the stand.

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