Alberta Politics
Donna Kennedy-Glans last year at a hearing of the Kenney Government’s “Fair Deal” Panel (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Are cracks appearing in the wall of the Kenney Kremlin over Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s fight with Alberta’s docs?

Posted on April 28, 2020, 1:20 am
9 mins

Have the first hairline cracks started to appear in the Kenney Government’s hitherto solid front in its war with the province’s physicians, which is inexplicably being carried on in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic?

Is someone inside the Kenney Calgary Kremlin signalling it’s almost time for Health Minister Tyler Shandro to be replaced by a minister who can carry out the premier’s confusing and unpopular health care strategy with more finesse?

Ms. Kennedy-Glans in 2015, just after she was welcomed back into the Progressive Conservative Party (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Hard to say. Trying to figure out what the hermetic brain trust around Premier Jason Kenney is actually up to can be almost as difficult as guessing what’s going on in North Korea.

On Sunday, media reported the UCP Government had shocked rural doctors by stripping 141 communities of the rural designation that made them eligible for additional payments to physicians under the province’s Rural Remote Northern Program.

This was done without fanfare on Friday at the same time Mr. Shandro was publicly walking back controversial rollbacks to payments to rural physicians, which had been implemented with the stated goal of keeping docs in rural areas.

Within hours of the revelation, the government switched course again, making the excuse it was just an “oversight” — the wrong list had been included with a government bulletin sent to doctors and no one noticed.

Premier Alison Redford in 2012 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The government quietly issued an amended version of the bulletin yesterday.  Commentary by a rural family doc who read the document indicated all the rural sites except for the 141 communities originally removed have lost now their flat-fee RRNP, the measure that had been intended to keep doctors in rural areas.

“This is another underhanded move by @shandro and yet another strike to the attraction and retention of rural physicians,” tweeted Sundre family doctor Danielle Diaz. “This is the absolute definition of disrespect to rural doctors.”

Meanwhile, also on Sunday, a post attacking Mr. Shandro’s incoherent handling of the physician pay file appeared on a blog frequently used as a platform by former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Donna Kennedy-Glans.

Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Ms. Kennedy-Glans is not just any superannuated PC Era Tory. She ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in 2017 and obediently withdrew her candidacy to make way for Mr. Kenney, unlike some who didn’t and were never forgiven. She was rewarded with a spot on Mr. Kenney’s “Fair Deal” Panel, which will report soon.

So while she’s not an insider, she’s not exactly a complete outsider, either.

The post, co-written with former CBC journalist Don Hill, excoriated Mr. Shandro. The headline mocked him: “The smartest guy in the UCP room still doesn’t get it.”

Its analysis was unkind. “Health Minister Tyler Shandro thinks it’s about him, his wife, his interests outside of public life,” it said, referencing the health minister’s recent temper tantrum in the driveway of a neighbour who had posted an unkind meme on social media criticizing the too-close-for-comfort relationship between Mr. Shandro’s portfolio and his family business. He’s wrong.”

Health Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Government of Alberta).

“And Alberta’s rural physicians just reminded him who’s the boss in a pandemic,” the post continued, a reference to the uproar that led to Mr. Shandro restoring the payments to rural docs he’d been primed to take away. “The doctors have it exactly right. Resistance to their reasonable complaints is futile.”

Calling “the so-called ‘walk back’ by Minister Shandro … half-hearted and not at all reassuring,” and noting that backbench UCP MLAs should be “worried about pissing off their non-urban constituents even more than they already are,” the post concluded but saying, “God help us all if Minister Shandro still believes he’s on the right track.”

Matt Wolf, Premier Kenney’s “issues management” guy — shenanigans? (Photo: Twitter).

Ms. Kennedy-Glans has done this kind of thing before. Back in 2014, when PC Premier Alison Redford’s chaotic premiership was disintegrating, she resigned from cabinet and issued a public statement decrying the state of the government without actually mentioning the premier’s name. Her target was clear nevertheless.

Two days after that shove, Ms. Redford announced she would resign.

Not many weeks after that, newly elected leader Jim Prentice welcomed Ms. Kennedy-Glans back into the bosom of the PC Party.

If Ms. Kennedy-Glans is acting like a loose cannon and Sunday’s blog post was unauthorized, there will be hell to pay — and not just in the form of a driveway visit by an ill-tempered minister.

But this doesn’t sound like freelancing — it sounds like a message that has the imprimatur of someone near or at the top, possibly Dear Leader himself.

Then again, who knows?

And speaking of Dear Leader, the other one in North Korea, does anyone know how Kim Jong-Un is doing?

Thank goodness, no rules were broken!

Calgary-East MLA Peter Singh, at right (Photo: Facebook).

Unsurprisingly, Legislative Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler has found almost no rules were broken when the UCP Government fired Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson in the midst of his investigations into sketchy dealings during the party’s 2017 leadership contest. And those that were broken, apparently, don’t matter very much.

Calgary-East MLA Peter Singh, who was being questioned at the time about his election expenses, should really have recused himself from voting on the bill that fired Mr. Gibson, her report said. He should apologize. And Matt Wolf, now the premier’s “issues management” guy, “may have been involved in some questionable political shenanigans,” whatever that means, but there is no evidence Mr. Kenney knew anything about them. So no apology necessary.

Other than the RCMP investigation, which continues, the book is now closed on that unfortunate matter. Someone is bound to tweet momentarily they have all been exonerated and we should just get over it.

Meanwhile, out on the fringe

Vowing to “radically upset the stale two-party, federalist monopoly that governs Alberta,” the Freedom Conservative Party and Wexit Alberta, combined membership minuscule, announced yesterday they had reached an agreement in principle to unite the two right-wing fringe parties into something called the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta.

The Wexiters seem to have forgotten that Alberta’s two-party system isn’t all that stale. Indeed, before there 2015 election, there were five parties in the provincial Legislature. None of them were Alberta separatists, of course.

14 Comments to: Are cracks appearing in the wall of the Kenney Kremlin over Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s fight with Alberta’s docs?

  1. Joe Waldron

    April 28th, 2020

    Shandro is my MLA. I visited his office in Calgary to advise him not to mess around with doctors and nurses.
    One of his staff shut me down saying that I needed to contact the Health Ministry as this was the constituency
    Office! My impression is that Shandro is one of the “boys in short pants” (or girls in short socks) and has hired his clones-
    each of them possessing very little competence, but eager for their (or their family’s) turn at the trough.

  2. Dave

    April 28th, 2020

    Perhaps Ms. Kennedy-Glans should get some cards printed up saying political gun for hire. Yes, thar sounds a bit old fashioned in our e-commerce world, but perhaps appropriate for a part of the world that hangs on to its western frontier history.

    I don’t know if the dear leader whispered something in her ear, likely not. However, it seems she is inclined to say what she thinks and is a bit fearless, after all she helped bring the House of Redford down. In any event, I have a feeling however it happened, she also has a good idea which way the wind is blowing on this one.

    Mr. Shandro, has yet again messed things up and made it worse when he was supposed to be trying to fix things. Even if he is JK’s best bud, and the Premier doesn’t seem inclined to have many close friends, a guy only gets so many chances. He is now way past three strikes and has become a big political liability. I expect something quick and brutal soon. Normally Mr. Kenney prefers to be far away when this sort of thing happens, but sadly out of town travel options are quite limited these days. Perhaps Mr. Shandro better watch the Premier’s out of town travel schedule in the near future carefully. I hear Red Deer or Fort Mac is quite nice at this time of year.

    As for Ms. Kennedy-Glans, I suspect she will come out of this fine. She knows how to pick her battles well.

  3. e.a.f.

    April 28th, 2020

    what type of an idiot goes to war with the provinces doctors during a pandemic? Oh, right Jason kenny and his gang. Does Kenny not know there is a doctor shortage in Canada and they can move to any province and find employment? What does Kenny hope to gain by this war?

    Given Ford in Ontario seems to be doing a fairly decent job of dealing with the virus, that would leave kenny as the one idiot premier in Canada. Perhaps he is trying to distract from the horrible economic situation in the province. perhaps he things voters are under the impression doctors are over paid?

    if the doctors in Alberta are tired of dealing with kenny they’re welcome to move to B.C. We do need doctors and we’ve got great skiing and sailing.

  4. Murphy

    April 28th, 2020

    There is no such thing as “conflict of interest” in Alberta in matters pertaining to the edicts of Great Calgarians. Reform of Oklahoma North should begin with prohibiting shysters connected to oil and gas from holding positions in which their responsiblities entail arbitrating in any situation involving the public interest. A ten-second perusal of the Google gives a pretty clear picture of how Trussler rolls. A further perusal puts it all into perspective.

    • Athabascan

      April 29th, 2020

      Murphy, it sounds like you are advocating for a less corrupt government. Maybe, that will happen in three years eh?

      At this rate Alberta will be a ghost province when Kenney is finished pillaging the treasury.

  5. Abs

    April 28th, 2020

    Like North Korea’s leader, Jason Kenney is taking us on a one-way train ride. We won’t end up at a luxury resort, though. Our legacy will be scorched earth, flooded earth, and don’t expect anyone to send in the troops. Like the people of Fort McMurray, the only rescue will be the one we plan and carry out ourselves. Government of the government, by the government, for the government.

  6. alan

    April 28th, 2020

    I have long since come to the conclusion that the social problems (resulting/arising from complex interpersonal dynamics) that we face as a species are going to remain either intractable for an indefinite time, or remain simply unsolvable. Why would that be? No one thinks in the same way and no one experiences their lived reality in exactly the same way as any other individual; which, opens the door for great amusement on some occasions, but more often than not, it merely results in great frustration, consternation, and the withdrawal into the falsely perceived ‘safety’ of tribalism and/or authoritarianism in order to manage longstanding social issues. Or, from a different and far more rigorous analysis,

    “Although we are all immersed in a common environment, each of us interacts with it in a different way, from a different perspective. Therefore, we each gather different information about the environment, and so our respective dials may not always agree.”

  7. Bill Malcolm

    April 28th, 2020

    Amazing how the UCP picked such far right entitled hacks as Shandro to be the higher-ups in its government. He sounds like such a lovely empathetic person and doesn’t have any anger management issues at all. He’s entitled to his own perceived entitlements no matter what his wife’s career is. Kenney is of course to blame for it all — one can be sure he approved each and every one of “his UCP” candidates for the election, which was only a year ago.

    This morning out east, I was treated to kenney on CBC Radio telling me that I should be supporting Alberta monetarily. He had flown up to Fort McMurray to see the flood situation, which sounds fairly bad if not horrific. Send help immediately was the message. I was advised that my standard of living had been immeasurably enhanced by the oil and gas industry over the years, and now I should step up and send treasure to compensate for the good fortune I’ve enjoyed for the privilege Alberta has bestowed on Confederation, now that it is in its own hour of need. Did Albertans contribute special relief in the wake of far more serious and dangerous spring flooding in Eastern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick over the years?

    In 2016, I contributed a not inconsiderable sum to the Red Cross specifically for Fort McMurray fire relief as the evacuation ended. Felt motivated to do so. That was near enough hell on earth. My friends, mostly better off than me, wondered why I did it. Well, we’re Canadians and we help each other in times of misfortune if we can and are somewhat engaged in current events.

    This time, I’m afraid my heart has hardened. Following the disastrous fire, I experienced the constant badgering from Notley on the TMX pipeline issue following her foot-stamping and vituperative closing of the border to BC imports for the crime of opposing her pipeline. That was highly immature and put me off her completely. I really couldn’t care less if she was nominally NDP – she sure didn’t act like it, becoming yet another mouthpiece for the one horse petroleum industry (besides agriculture) that is all that Alberta can boast of. Her logic on environmental issues plumbed the depths of pure illogic, sorry to say – sell more dilbit to make money so that there’d be money to contribute to environmental action. This is approximately as bright as finding out that siiting on a chair and lifting mightily on the seat oneself will not elevate the chair off the floor, but promoting the idea anyway with TV ads.

    Canada bought the pipeline to cheers from Texas, paying a price which showed what rubes Trudeau and Morneau are. You wouldn’t ask them to negotiate a second-hand car purchase for you after that performance, now would you? Was Notley happy with the gift? Not really. She acted as if it were Alberta’s right, and why hadn’t the Feds cleared the construction through BC, anyway.

    Of course, the average Albertan figured that the NDP wasn’t getting anywhere and so put kenney’s gang of UCP misfits into power. Now, due to past lack of oversight on properly remediating the thousands of derelict wells by successive Alberta governments and letting oil companies large and small get away with walking away scot-free, the Feds, in all their glory, have nevertheless decided to begin to help in this make–work period of the CV-19 pandemic. And we are looking at an ultimate price tag of more than a quarter-trillion dollars to clean up the mess. How is this the rest of Canada’s problem? Did we gain that much from Alberta’s wealth during the good times for oil? Albertans themselves have benefited mightily by not ever having a provincial sales tax.

    Kenney, once in power, besides carrying on the same tarsands and pipeline bullsh!t, has in the course of a single year managed to ruin the provincial public service, purloin the pension funds of teachers and public servants, and advise Canada to step up and follow Alberta’s ruinous economic screed or he’ll Wexit and take his toys elsewhere — never has there been such constant wailing against Canada and equalization, whining, complaining and utter balderdash. Then we got lectures on how to handle the borders at the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic. And still Albertans enjoy no provincial sales tax. Now, this ridiculously amateurish yet sociopathic ideologue has decided to have a go at the local medical profession. It’s the very last straw for me.

    Sorry, I’ve had quite enough. Alberta can rescue Fort McMurray this time with no help for me. I wouldn’t put a penny kenney’s way to help his image out. And that’s no disrespect to Fort Mac denizens themselves, even if they likely voted UCP. Floods happen. Easterners have been officially advised not to build on flood plains, and insurance companies won’t insure anyway. Does the Fort Mac region operate on special rules?

    Leading a province is a task for a grown-up. Not someone now constantly rattling a tin cup for alms based on world events, while stabbing thousands of his fellow Albertans directly in the back by putting them on the unemployment rolls, and neglecting to put in a tax regime that reflects the actual situation. If it hasn’t been obvious to the political class in the province for some years that the tarsands was going nowhere, I don’t know what could finally persuade them from their confirmed cognitive dissonance than the cut in the world price of oil by the really big players. And now all the chickens have come home to roost. Albertans made their own political bed in choosing the current abject ideologue-in-charge and now have to lie in it.

    When and if kenney relents on his mindless unCanadian trashing of the province to his own personal ends, I’ll reconsider contributing to assist on natural disasters in Alberta. What’s the likelihood that this sly and cunning and mean and nasty twerp and personal gong-shiner will change, do you think?


  8. Mike in Edmonton

    April 28th, 2020

    The “wrong list.” Right. Sure. If you believe that, I have some ocean-front property in Arizona to sell you. Cash only, small bills.

    • Athabascan

      April 29th, 2020

      Ocean-front property in Arizona sounds good. Just don’t tell the fund managers at AIMCo. They might just invest in it with the blessing of Kenney.

      Are there any UPC donors in Arizona with typewriter repair shops who need a few billion?

  9. Anthony

    April 28th, 2020

    The unfortunate part of this, is that if an election was held as of April 12 ( the most recent poll I could find), the NDP would still virtually be shut out everywhere but the cities. This has to be a nightmarish scenario for the Centre Left, as it seems it does not matter what they do, the UCP will be golden in rural Alberta.

    • Kang

      April 29th, 2020

      It is a big “if” to say the UCP are golden in rural Alberta, especially post Shandro. But if so, I see three reasons: The first is Notley’s complete betrayal of farmers and ranchers by her failure to stop the theft and destruction of their property by the oil and gas drilling and energy industry. She also stabbed them in the back over the industry captured agricultural check-off groups that tax farm and ranch production and use much of the money to send their friends and families on international junkets while pretending all farmers are okay with GMO and want to pay more for it. So the NDP burned their bridges with farmers and ranchers.

      The third reason is that the vast majority of people living in rural Alberta worked in the oil and gas service sector and they want their jobs back. Kenney convinced them to join his cargo cult where pipelines will bring back their jobs. We also have a pile of UCP supporters in the cities. Case in point: who elected Alberta’s premier and health minister?

  10. jerrymacgp

    April 30th, 2020

    “ …Trying to figure out what the hermetic brain trust around Premier Jason Kenney is actually up to can be almost as difficult as guessing what’s going on in North Korea… “ How long before we see Mr Kenney conducting his COVID briefings from a rail car on a spur outside Nampa, or Bluesky, or Peoria — the one in Birch Hills County AB, not the one in Illinois?

  11. David Grant

    November 15th, 2020

    Donna is right about Tyler’s political ineptitude, but when I read many of the columns on her Beyond Polarity, she writes a lot stuff that isn’t that insightful and wacky(see her column about Trudeau and treason).


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