Former Alberta health minister Tyler Shandro has been a member of the board of Covenant Health since December 2023. 

Mr. Shandro as he now appears on the Covenant Health board of directors webpage (Photo: Covenant Health).

Who knew?

Almost no one, it would appear, outside the upper levels of the Roman Catholic Church owned, publicly financed health care organization, Alberta’s second largest provider of health services. 

There has been no press release from Covenant Health announcing the appointment, which given Mr. Shandro’s performance in office is bound to be highly controversial. 

Likewise, no kind words from Covenant Health CEO Patrick Dumelie welcoming the former senior cabinet minister to the board have been published anywhere the public can see them.

Similarly, there have been no news stories in media, not that Google can find, anyway. 

Covenant Health CEO Patrick Dumelie (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

There hasn’t even been any chatter on social media – until yesterday when someone noticed Mr. Shandro’s photograph and the potted biography extolling his virtues on Covenant Health’s website and sent a direct message via the social media platform known as X to The Breakdown, an account that publishes video commentaries on Alberta politics. So to The Breakdown goes the scoop!

It turns out, Mr. Shandro’s biography also went live on the Covenant Health site yesterday, the Wayback Machine web archive shows. His mugshot appears to have been loaded to the site in April but not posted to a public page. 

Since Covenant Health’s board, chaired by former Progressive Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach, selects and appoints its own members, the UCP Government would have had no official role in the appointment. But given Premier Danielle Smith’s intense interest in health care, it seems likely the UCP gave its imprimatur to the appointment. 

Why Covenant Health chose to appoint Mr. Shadro to the board and then not announce it for at least five months is unstated, although the obvious inference is the controversy his appointment is bound to arouse and Covenant Health’s desire to put off having to deal with it as long as possible.

Elected as MLA for the Calgary-Acadia Riding in the 2019 general election, Mr. Shandro was given the health portfolio by then UCP premier Jason Kenney with a mandate that included cutting human resources costs. 

Early in his tenure he attracted international attention for his ham-handed effort to dodge reporters’ questions about the future of a working group on banning conversion therapy. 

Calgary-Acadia NDP MLA Diana Batten, who defeated Mr. Shandro in the May 2023 provincial election (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Things then went downhill. Mr. Shandro’s missteps and controversies as health minister became notorious. They included:

  • Unilaterally pulling a plug on an agreement with the Alberta Medical Association, starting a “war on doctors” that prompted a lawsuit by the AMA and led many physicians to leave the province.
  • A no-confidence vote in his performance by 98 per cent of the province’s physicians.
  • Promotion of the Babylon virtual medicine smartphone app as a replacement for seeing a physician, followed by privacy concerns about the app. The company that first promoted the app has since gone broke
  • Use of a blind trust for a family business run by his wife that was criticized for being legally able to open and close like a Venetian blind.
  • Being photographed among the guests at Mr. Kenney’s boozy mid-pandemic patio party.
  • Most famously, throwing an epic tantrum in a neighbour’s driveway over a critical post on social media that mentioned the family business. That meltdown resulted in a hearing into whether Mr. Shandro violated the Law Society of Alberta’s code of conduct. The hearing concluded last fall, but no decision has been announced

In September 2021, the heat was intense enough that Mr. Kenney shuffled his cabinet, switching Mr. Shandro to labour and labour minister Jason Copping to health. Mr. Copping enjoyed some success pouring oil on the troubled waters in health. 

Former UCP premier Jason Kenney, who gave Mr. Shandro the health portfolio after the 2019 general election (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

In February 2022, Mr. Shandro was shuffled again to the Justice portfolio, after the justice minister, Kaycee Madu, got into hot water for talking about a distracted driving ticket with Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee. 

Mr. Shandro remained in that portfolio until the May 29, 2023, general election, when he was defeated in his riding by the NDP’s Diana Batten, a Registered Nurse who is now the Opposition critic for childcare, child and family services. Ms. Batten won by 25 votes. 

Mr. Copping, by the way, was defeated in the Calgary-Varsity riding by Calgary physician and university professor Luanne Metz, who is now the Opposition health critic.

Covenant Health operates facilities at 17 sites in 12 communities throughout Alberta, employing about 11,000 people. Major hospitals include the Grey Nuns Community Hospital and Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton. Covenant Health’s board is appointed by and accountable to the Catholic bishops of Alberta. 

Since the creation of Alberta Health Services in 2009, Covenant operations have been closely integrated with AHS. It is not clear, however, if that level of coordination will survive the policies of the Smith Government. 

NOTE: This story has been updated with information about when Mr. Shandro’s biography and image were posted. Thanks to a reader and commenter, “Dave,” for using the Wayback Machine to unearth this important detail. DJC

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  1. Ed Stelmach once sicced his lawyer, one Tyler Shandro, after a well-known blogger over the registration of the domain.

  2. Grift never ends with the UCP. If their candidates or MLAs get defeated in provincial elections, they are given a great paying position by the UCP. Much like Ralph Klein’s foolish healthcare policy failures cost people their lives, the same thing will happen under the UCP. Watch the lawsuits commence. Conflicts of interest being a thing of concern with the UCP? Forget about that. If I also recall, Tyler Shandro was Ed Stelmach’s lawyer. The stupidity never stops with the UCP.

    1. Common “cents” Con-servatives…. are all bad pennies that keep turning up.
      Prime example— 3 new Con-servative candidates have been turfed already on the Island due to lax/ nonexistent vetting, and I’m pretty sure that Mr Rustad &Co have all the other candidates on heavy duty laundry scrubbing of their social media accounts.

  3. Don’t know how and don’t know why but turds can show up anywhere. They are always turds. They will always be turds.

    1. I agree turds can show up anywhere, but some are more ‘polite’ in that they remain in distinct piles that can easily be avoided or scooped up. Others make themselves ubiquitous by smearing themselves over everything they come in contact with so they become a visual and olfactory stain that is very difficult to completely remove. I see and smell Mr Shandro being more ubiquitous by nature.

  4. The Covenant Health Board seems to have become where former conservative politicians go to … Well I’m not sure exactly what they do there, but I feel it might be a bit like purgatory for less stellar politicians, a chance to rehabilitate themselves and their reputations. I never thought of Stelmach as a political trend setter, but he seems to have started a home for wayward former conservative politicians.

    However, maybe Stelmach is on to something. Premier Smith seemed to a bit surprisingly have a soft spot for Shandro, which although unfortunately for him, did not help him get reelected. So this might help get or keep Covenant in Smith’s good graces.

    I just wonder who the next Covenant board member will be. The biggest fallen wayward conservative remaining is Kenney. However, that would probably be too much for Smith.

  5. Well, as the UCP and TBA dismantle AHS and sell off it’s assets, perhaps they need the services of a real estate lawyer with connections?

  6. Selling off the assets, that ought to be fun. The UPC may find out they may not be able to sell off Catholic hospitals or the land they sit on. The Government may not own it, various Catholic organizations do. Some hospitals were established back in the day by Orders of Nuns and they belong to the Order. Some hospitals are owned by the Achdiocese. If some politician thinks they can just expropriate the land and building, good luck with that. Its did happen in B.C. and some nice lawyer took one case to court, free of charge, and paid costs, and won. One small Catholic hospital had a very nice fund, donated over the years by people from the Asian community. The nuns had built the hospital back in the day when there was no health care for people who came from China. The decendants of those who were cared for by the Nuns, donated funds to the hospital. After a hundred years or so, that can become a lot of momey. Then a CEO of a larger hospital who was CEO for the Catholic hospitals decided the money ought to be accessed by the much larger hospital. That didn’t turn out well for the CEO. A member of the board at the small hospital, took it to court, won and the large hospital had to give the money back.
    So if the UPC decides to sell hospitals or give them away, Albertans may want to check who actually started those hospitals, who put the money into it, etc. Its always fun to watch some official “over reach” and some one who they never paid attention to, takes them to court
    and they win!
    When the Socreds/B.C. Lieberals decided to force school boards to sell of some of the schools and land they sat on, they were able to get away with it in our area except for one school. Some one whose family was around back in the day, caught wind of it and wrote a letter to the editor, advising the government could not sell that land. It was donated by a farmer in the area and it was for the purposes of building a school. If you don’t want to use it, the land goes back to the original owner of the land’s descendants. Next thing we read in the letters to the editor was a letter from the pioneering family who donated the land. They explained if the government was going to try to sell the land, they would be taking it back. End of story. It is still used for education purposes to this day. That land is worth a few dollars these days.
    So if the UPC decides to sell hospitals, check who actually owns the land, who paid for the hospital to be built and if it were Nuns, the land most likely still belongs to the Order.

  7. Typical of the UCP to see that their friends and unelected MLA’s get plumb positions while making sure our former chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw gets blacklisted for providing fantastic service to her province, especially during the covid pandemic. It’s interesting to note how Dr. Bonnie Henry got the OBC for leading her province through the pandemic but the UCP continues to spend millions of taxpayer dollars by hiring anti- vaxxer, anti-masker Drs. so they can give us “alternative facts.” As the old saying goes: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (or should I say Alberta).

  8. Mr. Shandro wears many hats.

    “NDP calling for youth centre investigation
    By Gwendolyn Richards
    The Calgary Herald
    The provincial NDP’s children and youth services critic is calling for an investigation into an addictions recovery centre in Calgary following reports some teens were victims of abuse.
    Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley made the call for the investigation following question period Tuesday, where the issue was raised…
    Notley said the government has an obligation to examine the allegations.
    Also troubling, said Notley, is that peers are serving as counsellors in the facility despite having no training and without supervision.”

    I guess the investigation turned out okay.

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