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'Not true': Alberta minister denies crying, yelling during doctor confrontation

Tyler Shandro answers questions at a news conference, in Calgary, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. Alberta's justice minister said he felt sad and disappointed when he discovered someone he considered to be a friend was behind a social media post targeting him and his wife. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

CALGARY — Alberta's justice minister says he felt sad and disappointed when he discovered someone he considered to be a friend was behind a social media post targeting him and his wife.

The Law Society of Alberta didn't complete its hearing Thursday into allegations that Tyler Shandro violated the profession's code of conduct. Three complaints date back to his time as the United Conservative Party government's health minister early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawyers for both sides are working to determine a date for the hearing to continue.

Dr. Mukarram Zaidi, who had posted a photo on social media of Shandro with a caption related to privatizing health care, told the hearing the minister and his wife visited his home in March 2020. He said it occurred during fractious negotiations between the government and the Alberta Medical Association over fees.

The photo of Shandro, with a thought bubble caption, said: "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." Shandro's wife, Andrea, is the co-founder of Vital Partners, a health insurance agency.

Shandro said Thursday his spouse alerted him to the post when there had been up to a thousand threats made against the couple.

"I recognized the account being someone I considered a friend and who lived around the corner," Shandro said under questioning by his lawyer.

"The irony is that this is a fellow who had often engaged with me to discuss the importance of being careful with words, with online posts and what that could result in."

Zaidi testified earlier this week that he went outside of his home to meet Shandro and described the minister as being highly upset. He said Shandro told him to remove the post immediately because his family was being subjected to death threats.

"I see Shandro and his wife standing at the sidewalk. He was crying, he was emotionally charged. His wife was holding him," Zaidi said.

"He said: 'You can't do this to us. We're getting death threats.' I think I asked him: 'What do you want me to do?' And he said: 'Delete your post.'''

Zaidi told the hearing Tuesday that he deleted the post but contacted law society lawyers to let them know he discovered he had a second Twitter account where it was still up.

Shandro's lawyer, Grant Stapon, filed an application to have all of the posts filed as evidence over the objections of law society counsel.

"Dr. Zaidi has testified that he in fact deleted the post in question after his discussion with Mr. and Mrs. Shandro. Not only did he not delete it from the website, another Twitter account, he continued to post detailed information thereafter," Stapon argued.

"And it is a credibility issue before this proceeding as to whether or not Dr. Zaidi was telling the truth and I will submit he has not been telling the truth."

Earlier in the day, Shandro testified he walked to Zaidi's home by himself and asked the doctors' children to send out their father. He said the conversation was over in a matter of minutes.

"I said: 'Mukarram, why wouldn't you have just asked me if you had questions? We know each other. You know me. You know Andrea. You know this isn't true.' And then I asked him: 'Do you know this conspiracy theory is resulting in Andrea getting death threats?'" Shandro said.

"He said softly: 'What do I do? Do I delete the post?' I specifically did not take him up on that offer. I said: 'Look, you have to decide that for yourself.'"

Shandro's lawyer asked his client about Zaidi's description of Shandro crying and yelling while being held by his wife during the discussion.

"It's not true. It isn't true at all. Andrea was not there and if she really was there, it doesn't benefit me to say she wasn't there. If anything, it would be helpful to have her be there to corroborate," Shandro replied.

"I definitely did not yell at him."

Shandro said his wife did show up at the end of the conversation.

"She was emotional. She did have red eyes. She was crying earlier. She said: 'Don't talk to him. He's not interested in us. He's only interested in money.'"

Shandro said at that point they returned home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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