Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, speaking recently with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: Justin Trudeau/Flickr).

Obviously, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu didn’t expect to get a serious answer from Tyler Shandro, her Alberta counterpart, when she wrote the irascible minister to warn him the Kenney Government’s “unnecessary and risky gamble” to drop COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and mandatory isolation will put children at risk.

In her letter to Mr. Shandro, revealed by the Globe and Mail last night, Ms. Hajdu asked the Alberta health minister, as the Globe’s reporter put it, “to explain the evidence and rationale behind the province’s changes” in the face of the rampaging Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Ms. Hajdu and her advisors have to know that raising the evidence issue is like waving a red flag in front of the proverbial bull, since most of the evidence points to the likelihood there wasn’t much evidence at all behind the changes announced last week by Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

As for the rationale, that’s a question even likelier to pique Mr. Shandro’s well-known temper. Surely even in Ottawa they understand the Kenney Government’s rationale boils down to the desire to be able to say they opened first – fingers crossed that it doesn’t kill too many Albertans and make the United Conservative Party’s re-election chances even dimmer than they appear right now.

In other words, it’s another desperate bet by a government on the ropes as a result of its own missteps – brought to you by the gamblers who lost $1.3-billion by taking a flyer on the notion Donald Trump would win the U.S. presidential election last November.

And since someone went to the trouble of making sure the letter found its way to the media, and the respectable national newspaper of record at that, it’s pretty clear the federal Liberals don’t mind getting up Mr. Shandro’s nose, or that of his boss Jason Kenney either.

Why might that be? Well, the fact Mr. Shandro is more wrong and Ms. Hajdu is more right in this particular argument would be good enough for more of us to poke a stick at the Kenney Government if we were in Ms. Hajdu’s shoes.

But obviously there’s some political calculation here, too. If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau really is going to call an election sooner than later, as is widely expected, it’s not a bad thing from a strategic standpoint to vividly connect the policy dots between Mr. Kenney’s unpopular government and the kind of things federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole might do if he became prime minister.

After all, it’s hard to believe Messrs. Kenney, Shandro and their “issues management” minions will be able to restrain themselves and not respond to this mild provocation with childish abuse, even if doing so further reduces Mr. O’Toole’s already slim chances of victory.

Edmonton Strathcona NDP Member of Parliament Heather McPherson (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If whatever happens next can translate into more Liberal seats in other provinces where voters are horrified by the risks being taken with the health of Alberta children too young to be vaccinated – who will be going back to school, unmasked, as per Dr. Hinshaw’s policy, which is the same as Mr. Shandro’s policy – that will certainly work for the Liberals.

If they can pick up a few more seats than expected in Alberta, so much the better.

If they feel the need to provoke the Kenney Government further, Ms. Hajdu could always take a look at the letter she and the PM will by now have received from Alberta’s only non-Conservative Member of Parliament, New Democrat Heather McPherson.

In her letter Tuesday, Ms. McPherson urged Ms. Hajdu and Mr. Trudeau for to provide federal support “to protect Albertans and mitigate the health consequences of the provincial United Conservative Government’s decisions regarding COVID-19 public health restrictions, testing, and contact tracing.”

Ms. McPherson noted that 600,000 unvaccinated children under the age of 12 are scheduled to return to school next month while the Delta variant runs wild. Since Alberta has the most active cases of COVID in the country while it drops testing, tracing and isolation, she said “I fear this return to in-person learning will spark a deadly fourth wave of COVID-19 in Alberta with obvious implications for other provinces and territories within Canada.

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“As Jason Kenney has demonstrated a complete disregard for the health and wellbeing of Albertans, I am calling on the federal government to intervene in Alberta to help prevent a fourth wave and protect vulnerable Albertans.”

Ms. McPherson, the MP for Edmonton Strathcona, suggested renewing Ottawa’s Safe-Return-to-School program and providing money to Alberta’s intentionally under-funded colleges and universities to upgrades their ventilation systems.

Citing the Kenney Government’s efforts to cut the wages of Alberta nurses and other health care workers, she also entreated Ms. Hajdu and Mr. Trudeau to work directly with Alberta’s health care unions “to identify and support their needs.”

Well, that might risk making NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh even more popular than some polls say he already is in Alberta, but if more outbursts from the Kenney crowd are required, it would certainly do the job.

Join the Conversation


  1. It seems that the prefered entertainment these days is to pick on the UCP and make fun of their ministers.

    Shandro is a particularly fun target, because he is infamous for very thin skin and his indignant screeching in the driveways of his victims. Minister Hajdu knows this, and she is in a location somewhere in Canada that Shandro cannot hope to find. Score one for Hajdu. I rarely read the Mop & Pail, but the column is gold and worth checking out. Ottawa cares about Alberta? Say it isn’t so.

    Since the entire Alberta reopening plan is based on Premier Crying & Screaming Midget’s desire to be the first at everything and a hero to all, Hajdu was hoping to determine what empirical rationale was behind the reopening. Since everyone knows that Kenney is a gambler who lives by what his gut tells him, as well as he very-Catholic inner voice, it can be inferred that Shandro was put on the spot and panicked. If he said that the matter should be deferred to Dr. Hinshaw, then who all know that he has decided to back the bus up before taking another run at her. (Hinshaw)

    Everyone knows that the reopening is based on very questionable ethics and heightened emotionalism, not to be mention the fast coming federal election. Erin O’Toole needs all the help he can get, selling that battered pick-up truck he’s pushing.

    With case counts rising, and no testing available, and quarantine a matter of “personal responsibility” confusion reigns over Alberta’s pandemic response. But should anyone be surprised? Think to last fall, when Kenney was yammering that COVID-19 was barely a pandemic and no worse than a seasonal flu. Lockdowns were a betrayal of Alberta’s principles to defend FreeDUMBs, and Kenney was going to be the designated ‘defender of the faith’. That is, until reality wrecked his GOP-inspired fantasy land, and forced him to govern like an adult for a change.

  2. Smart move. Highlights the difference in the quality of senior political advisors that exist in the Federal Liberal Party vs the crews in O’Tooles office and in Kenney’s office.

    Apart from Shandro’s comments (my guess is that he will not be polite enough to respond) it will be interesting to see what O’Toole does with this. He is in a no win box on this.

    I believe many Albertans have been asking themselves the exact same question that Patty Hajdu asked. I know we have been. Now….they would like some sort of an answer.

    1. I am very pleased that Ms. McPherson, the MP for Edmonton-Strathcona, has stepped up and said what others, including Jagmeet Singh, are slow to admit: the UCP government are determined to carry out policies that are an existential threat to the rest of Canada.

      I cannot say if Kenney wants to be considered a quasi-Bond villain in this situation, but causing a provincial public health crisis that could spread into other provinces is not the Captain Canada approach. Worse, if the lifting of restrictions, testing and isolation protocols are grounded in Alberta’s exhausted financial resources, did this happen because Kenney refused to accept any aid from Ottawa? If Ottawa offered financial support right now, would Kenney accept it and leave the restrictions in place?

      What is being witnessed in the depths of Kenney’s sociopathy, where he would rather harm his own province and others for the sake of his own career and, perhaps, personal gratification. There can be no doubt that Alberta is governed by a man-child who lives in a ‘Sky Palace’.

  3. Yeah, Minister Hadju seems to be trying to provoke or get a response from Shandro and/or boss Kenney, which would be a bonus. Of course, few outside of Alberta know or care much who Shandro is, so either way the response quite likely will be referred to as from the Kenney government. Although, given Shandro’s past inclination to pop up infront of critics homes, perhaps Hadju should also talk to colleague McKenna about how to deal with harassment from such people.

    I suppose the impending federal election presents a dilemma for Kenney. He doesn’t want to get blamed any poor performance by the Federal Conservatives. Although, it might be too late to totally avoid it as he does seem to already be dragging down Federal Conservative support here in Alberta and those ads linking O’Toole with Kenney are likely to keep playing for the time being.

    I suppose, Kenney may try resist the urge to take the bait this time, but in this case and more broadly, it is Kenney’s actions that are hurting the Conservatives, as much as if not more, than any sniping with the Federal government. I suppose Kenney can always try the Doug Ford approach – go into hiding for the next couple of months and avoid saying or doing anything controversial. However, Kenney has an ideological agenda he wants to implement that was already considerably delayed by COVID, so time is running out. I doubt he has the patience to wait longer, he doesn’t owe O’Toole anything and has probably already concluded the Federal Conservatives are unlikely to win the election likely happening soon regardless.

    However, as for those few seats in Alberta that might switch – the polls show the Federal Liberals very close to a majority, so it might be worthwhile to spend a bit more time and effort on Edmonton and Calgary. Provoking or attacking Shandro and Kenney a bit will probably not hurt in these seats, nor elsewhere in Canada.

  4. You know? I know what they’re trying to do. Because I grew from generations of pig and cow farmers. I just don’t know why. They round up the cattle and charge toward the abattoir! For money! Pieces of paper or notional power! Why would anyone do that? Why do we turn our worst acts into metaphors? Why can’t we evolve? https://youtu.be/QOYELKKTEow

  5. As if this province needed more political entertainment we now have a new series – ‘I can get more outrageous than you’
    Deena Hinshaw came up with something I was not really able to understand maybe because of course I do not reach the levels of intelligence now on display in the provincial level Duma. They are all very special indeed.
    Moreover Deena said that she also has 2 kids to justify her reasons. Seriously? Well either these kids have a nanny and in that case are isolated from the rest of us or they were unlucky with the parents they got.
    Of course the Liberal party does not miss the opportunity for a pre-election blitz on robot Shandro but hey that is our glorious democratic system. It works like a charm. I think we should change and make elections every year because it is the only time it seems to bring politicians out of their aloofness and care about something other than their pension plans.
    This all makes me think that we do have more than climate change to deal with. Air, water and food pollution is already affecting our intelligence levels. The rising levels of autism and other nervous systems diseases may just be the initial stages of a much more serious pandemic that will make us all useless. I guess we no longer have to worry too much about over population. Our Planet system is already preparing us for a 5th extinction and we do not even see it coming.

  6. Naturally, Tyler Shandro turned to Twitter today with one of his angry rants. One of the things he seems most angry about is that the PM, as minority governments do, is likely to call an election at any time.

    This is going to throw a money wrench in Kenney’s plans to take a run for PM, and take his most trusted cabinet ministers with him.

    It’s not cool to sacrifice children to Covid-19.
    Kenney & Co. just don’t get it. They never will. They didn’t bet on thousands of Albertans protesting in the streets, sending emails to Ottawa and phoning politicians at all levels of government up to voice opposition to Alberta’s intolerable recklessness. They’ve gotten worldwide media attention now, for all the wrong reasons. They’re the most unpopular and irresponsibly reckless government in Canadian history. What now? It’s the pinnacle of their achievement. Worst of the worst. Gold medal for ineptitude.

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