Alberta’s justice minister began a three-day Law Society of Alberta hearing Tuesday to answer allegations he broke the lawyers’ code of conduct.
Three complaints against Tyler Shandro stem from his time as health minister early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Mukarram Zaidi told the hearing he had posted a photo on social media of Shandro with a caption related to privatizing health care. He said the minister and his wife visited his home in March 2020 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.
Zaidi said he went outside of his home to meet Shandro, whom he described as being highly upset. He said Shandro demanded that the doctor remove the post immediately because his family was being subjected to death threats.
“As I stepped out into the driveway 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 said he complied and felt that Shandro was visiting in his capacity as a government minister and not as a private citizen.
He said he has been a member of the United Conservative Party, was an activist and had known Shandro for some time.
Zaidi told the panel that he put the matter behind him but was contacted by a CBC journalist.
Under examination from Shandro’s lawyer, Zaidi said he didn’t plan the original post or his media interview as a strategy to discredit the minister during fee negotiations.
“I wanted to get attention that this is a conflict of interest, of a sitting minister of health, whose business would benefit in turn for what his actions were,” he said.
After the story emerged, Shandro issued a statement confirming the meeting took place.
“The attacks on someone I love and the mother of my children upset me deeply. As any husband would do, I responded passionately to defend my wife,” the minister wrote.
Shandro said he visited Zaidi, who he had known to be a decent and honourable man.
“When I saw that a longtime political acquaintance and neighbour had posted something to social media that was contributing to attacks against my wife, I went to speak to him and implore him to cease propagating this false information.”
Shandro’s lawyer, Grant Stapon, said the conversation with Zaidi was a private matter.
“Those communications should be judged on the basis of Minister Shandro’s actions as a non-lawyer, in his personal capacity,” said Stapon.
“He was not practising law. He was not acting as a politician. He was acting in his personal capacity.”
Zaidi said he found the encounter unsettling.
“I don’t really get intimidated. This was a very intimidating situation.”