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Health minister refutes calls for resignation over confrontation with doctor
CALGARY -- Health Minister Tyler Shandro has issued a statement refuting calls for his resignation after a verbal altercation with a Calgary doctor over the weekend.
That comes after opposition MLAs, and several physicians, called for Shandro to be removed by Premier Jason Kenney following an incident over the weekend.
On Saturday, family physician Dr. Mukarram Zaidi, said he was confronted by Shandro and his wife while at home because of a Facebook post he made.
The post in question drew attention to Shandro’s role as health minister and his wife’s career dealing in private health insurance.
That issue has been cleared by Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner, who ruled Shandro was not in a conflict of interest.
Despite that ruling, Shandro says he and his wife have been the victims of online attacks. He told CTV News on Thursday both he and his wife had been receiving “relentless” criticism and even death threats.
The meme posted by Zaidi caught Shandro’s attention because the two men have a previous working relationship.
They also live in the same neighbourhood — but Zaidi said he was still shocked when the couple showed up on his driveway Saturday night.
He tells CTV News Shandro and his wife told the Zaidi kids to go inside the house.
“I went outside and I see Tyler and his wife on the sidewalk,” said Zaidi. “Both very angry, emotional. He was heated. I was surprised ... and embarrassed.”
Zaidi said Shandro told him to remove the post, something he immediately agreed to do. But he says the criticism didn’t stop.
“They’re yelling in front of everybody,” he said. “It’s a neighbourhood at seven o’clock, [and] the whole neighbourhood is home.”
Zaidi said he believes some of the online hatred went too far, but he thinks public officials should have “thicker skin.”
Alberta’s opposition party agrees.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley told reporters on Friday that Kenney should remove Shandro from his post.
But that move doesn’t appear likely.
Kenney said he gave Shandro advice — not walking papers.
“I told Tyler he should stay away from social media and not be distracted by the trolls,” Kenney said.
Shandro would not comment on camera, but on Friday afternoon the health minister sent out a statement. The letter reads, in part, “of course 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.”
“On Saturday, when I saw that a long-time 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," read the letter.
Shandro also discussed the timing of the event, saying “I fully recognize the enormity of what our province and country is going through right now, and regret that this episode has become a distraction. For that, I am sincerely sorry.”
For many, including the NDP, that isn’t enough.
“We are in the middle of the most pressing public health emergency perhaps in history,” Notley said. “Whatever issues the minister may have, the person in charge of this emergency cannot be engaging in this kind of bizarre, reckless, intimidating behaviour.”
Zaidi said he’s more willing to forgive.
“These are difficult times they are going through,” he said. “I think their emotions took the best of them so I have forgiven them.”