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

More than a month has passed since Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro promised the government would pay the province’s health care aides a $2-per-hour coronavirus-crisis top-up — and there’s still no sign of the money.

On April 20, Mr. Shandro announced the temporary raise for health care aides. He said $7.3 million per month had been allocated by the United Conservative Party Government to be paid to the aides to help them cope with pandemic rules that require them to work at only one site, as well as to ensure staffing shortages in long-term care didn’t get any worse.

AUPE Vice-President Susan Slade (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

There were a few grumbles that pandemic pay should have gone to additional health care workers who were taking the same risks and making the same sacrifices, but it was generally acknowledged that health care aides, as the worst paid workers on the front lines of the dangerous fight against COVID-19, deserved the boost. The announcement received favourable media coverage.

Most Albertans have certainly assumed ever since that the promise was kept and the aides are receiving the money.

Last week, though, the CBC reported “confusion, frustration,” about what had become of the money and revealed that instead of paying it directly to health care aides as promised, or at least as implied in the April 20 announcement, the government was giving it to their employers.

Steve Buick, press secretary to the health minister (Photo: Star Metro).

“Operators received $12.4 million last week from our government via Alberta Health Services to cover the wage top-up retroactive to April 20, and increase staff levels by the equivalent of 1,000 additional positions,” Mr. Shandro’s Press Secretary told the CBC.

Don’t worry, though, Steve Buick assured the CBC reporter, the health care aides would see the money on their next pay cheques.

He took an aggressive stance on social media with critics of the delay who suggested the money was being pocketed by care home operators and would never be seen by the aides.

“Funding for the $2/hr top-up for Aides went via employers bc that’s how funding flows,” Mr. Buick responded telegraphically to one Twitter critic on Friday. “Full amount promised went last week, Aides will see in next pay period, retro- to April 20.”

Was there any requirement the money must in fact be paid to the employees, he was asked. “Absolutely,” Mr. Buick said, “the funding is tied to the specified purposes incl the wage top-up, and we’ll monitor compliance.”

Yesterday was payday for most of the workers. There was no sign of the top-up in their pay.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, both of which represent large numbers of health care aides, published news releases yesterday noting that more than a month had passed and asking where the heck their members’ money was.

“For Minister Shandro to make this announcement and then one month later have no follow through to ensure some of our health care workforce are actually receiving the promised raise is disappointing to say the least,” said AUPE Vice-President Susan Slade. “It appears we cannot expect the government to hold these providers accountable.”

That’s one way to put it.

CUPE’s statement, by comparison, was blistering. “This minister is incompetent,” said CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill. “Even with Ottawa providing funding for wage increases, they can’t figure out how to deliver the money.”

“The government is either lying or misinformed about wage top-ups,” Mr. Gill continued in CUPE’s news release. “It took B.C. two weeks to organize a provincial wage grid to deal with COVID-19. Two months on, Tyler Shandro is still sputtering. He truly is the worst health minister in Alberta history.”

What’s going on? It’s now a certainty the Kenney Government has given the money to care home operators.

Will the operators ever pass it on to the workers for whom it was supposedly intended? That is far less certain. Some of them likely will. Some of them may try to pocket it.

It’s up to this government to ensure it gets to the people it promised to support. Whether it tries very hard, or tries at all, will tell us a lot.

One thing’s for sure, Mr. Shandro owns this problem now. He created it by the way he did what should have been a simple task. It’s up to him to fix it. If he can’t, or won’t, Mr. Gill’s judgment stands.

Join the Conversation


  1. Tyler Shandro — how is this guy still health minister? How is he even still an MLA?

    It looks like it’s back to more UCP bozo eruptions from the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Jason Kenney needs to grow a pair and axe this poor excuse for a health minister. Don’t hold your breath though — Jason Kenney is not known for decisive leadership these days.

    1. I’m sure Jason Kenney is just using him as a fall guy. Then he can just blame everything on him

    2. It’s quite possible that Shandro is doing exactly what the UCP wants him to do. Remember, it’s a shibboleth among the neo-Right that “government doesn’t work”. By demonstrating so comprehensively that it doesn’t, at least while the UCP is in power, they hope to prepare the way for privatization, smaller government and lower taxes.

    3. I disagree. I think Shandro gets told to do directly by Kenney. This is all Kenney’s idea, Shandro is the fall guy. Just to be clear, Shandro is incompetent and corrupt as they come. However, Kenney is in charge of all this, and it’s all Kenney’s plan. Kenney caters to big business, not workers.

      1. The greatest gift the Conservative Party of Canada could give to the opposition parties east of the Manitoba border would be to select Jason Kenney as their leader.

  2. Thumbing through today’s Postmedia rag, I happened on David Staples’ latest missive. Trumpeting the “overwhelming success” of the UCP’s pandemic response, Staples went on to declare that Alberta achievement in overpowering COVID-19 was an enormous collective effort that proved that Albertans are “extraordinarily disciplined” in meeting the opening of the economy with success that will tower over all others’ efforts.

    Wow. I had to give my head a shake, because I thought I was in North Korea for a moment. And then I realized I was not too far off from being in a place where reality was managed not unlike that in North Korea.

    Of course, Staples continued and paid enormous tribute to Tyler Shandro. Apparently, without Shadro’s firm hand at the tiller, Alberta would have plunged into a Brazil-like pandemic holocaust.

    The best thing about Postmedia publications these days is that they are filled with hilariously half-baked partisan hackery. I am betting that Staples’ next column will be an account of how Jason Kenney single-handedly defeated a blue whale and pulled the Moon into a closer orbit so everyone can enjoy a better view.

    1. I’m afraid I didn’t get the memo. I’m #BlockedByStaples. DJC

    2. The only real difference in governance from the DPRK is that in Alberta we are unlike to see a Kenney Dynasty … dynasties require descendants, & Mr Kenney doesn’t have any.

  3. really, it needs to be said again and again
    don’t like this kind of BS government ?
    unaccountable, and able to implement bad legislation that few want with impunity and almost dictatorial powers
    most MLA’s dumber than a sack of hammers to boot

    agitate and vote for proportional representation !

    could go long ways Federally to help address the inherited, baked in imbalances in our national polity
    eg. not shutting out the west so hard from Ottawa when the Liberals are in power

    1. There is nothing wrong with the “national polity” in the rest of the country. Proportional representation will not solve the problem of Alberta voters giving in to their fear and hoping a strong man (yeah, that’s gender specific in this case) will somehow save them like they always (supposedly) did in the past.

      The arrogance and stupidity displayed by this government would not be tolerated by voters in other provinces who would be on the phone and sending emails to their local reps on a daily if not hourly basis. What needs to change is not the system but for Albertans to grow up, accept that the world economy is evolving, the old boom days are gone, and that Alberta can compete in the 21st century. Jason Kenney should be worried about voter reaction every time he or a minister opens his/her mouth; he’s not, and that’s on Albertans, not the system.

  4. In addition to the Kenney UCP’s and Minister Shandro’s woes, and while realizing that the total amount of the $2/hour top-up for Health Care Aide wages is a significant amount of money, the actual benefit for a days work for one HCA on an 8 hour shift would be $16, and really not worth it on a day’s pay. On one HCA’s work week at 30 hours would be $60 extra and at 40 hours would be $80….not even $100 bucks. It has been said that fair pay for an HCA and to keep and attract folks to this type of very hard and demanding work, the pay should be at least $30/hour. The average is $19.69/hour in Alberta. So, in blunt words, $2/hour extra really is peanuts. Health care aides in long term care are required to know many policies and procedures let alone knowing, and accomodating every resident’s preferences. It is no small thing. This is why, when all of this is not done because of not enough staff for the workload,, that folks who require long term care and who either do not have their needs met, or, have to wait too long to have thier needs met, is why it becomes an unconscionable situation…..and why the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the already existing staffing problems with long term care.
    This, and other Kenney UCP daily foibles including changing restrictions on open pit coal mining to ease development in sensitive areas of hills of southwestern Alberta, is yet another daily thing with these UCP clowns. Coal? The biggest global fossil fuel polluter? Unreal……more indication that the Kenney UCP are simply, not ‘reading the room,’ or, choosing not to. They need the boot in 2023.

  5. There is almost nothing lower than jerking workers around like this.

    Can the UCP government not help but go diametrically the wrong way on almost everything it does?

  6. The money should never have gone directly to the operators. But this is how the UCP rolls: cash for corporations. It will trickle down. It never does.

    Please, Government of Canada, stop giving these clowns money that will never reach its intended recipients. And for the love of all that is sane, do not let them take our CPP. It, too, will vanish into thin air. Albertans are cash cows to these people, taken to the slaughterhouse when the milk dries up.

  7. would not be surprised if there was an up tick in donations to Jason’s party from care home owners. its a nice way to increase your party’s sources of funding. Don’t expect any of the workers to receive the $2 an hr. the money was always intended for the employers, in my opinion. Its one of those things you see the republicans do in the u.s.a. Jason, just another trump in training.

  8. It seems that Shandro (to date anyway) has been untouchable. However, if there is any sense of ethics from the Law Society of Alberta they will review this allegation below (and others) and boot him. His being awarded a QC designation was an affront to the legal profession, as his work to date is/was far below the normal threshold of having an exemplary career over decades.

  9. I am reminded of Potemkin villages – there is a facade (the announcement) and nothing behind it (no money following the announcement)? Sort of like it was with “Immediate relief for Albertans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic”. By the time people were able to get through with all the technical glitches, the deadline has passed and people were turned away…..

    Is this going to be the same charade?

  10. I saw the attached story on CBC a couple of days ago, and I am wondering if this is what has become of the money that was supposed to go to the workers, given how politicians like to announce the same gifting more than once. The seniors’ care centres have been given a truckload of money to help with their covid expenses, which could be given to staff, or just be used to cover other expenses. I wonder how well scrutinized the care facilities claims will be; will expenses like cleaning and laundry be compared to pre-covid times to see that they are in fact an extra expense, or will they just be accepted at face value? At least the federal government support payments come with conditions on executive salary, dividends and share buy-backs.

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