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Tyler Shandro law society hearing to continue after minister faces hours of questioning

Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro was questioned at a Law Society of Alberta conduct hearing on Jan. 26, 2023.   (Government of Alberta - image credit)
Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro was questioned at a Law Society of Alberta conduct hearing on Jan. 26, 2023. (Government of Alberta - image credit)

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro answered questions for hours Thursday, during a hearing punctuated by several interruptions for in-camera hearings.

Shandro is in the midst of a conduct proceeding before the Law Society of Alberta.

It was supposed to wrap up Thursday, but additional dates will need to be scheduled to finish testimony.

Shandro faces three complaints of unprofessional conduct that date back to his dealings with doctors and a member of the public when he was health minister in 2020.

The hearing began Tuesday, and has included testimony from three doctors and a Calgary woman who all testified to being unsettled and in some cases intimidated during interactions with the minister.

Under questioning by his own lawyer Grant Stapon that began Wednesday, Shandro testified that he doesn't believe he behaved inappropriately in any of the interactions.

He testified that the period of time when the complaints originated was fraught, as people reacted to changes he'd made to the health-care system, including a heated conflict with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) over an agreement with the province's doctors.

He said he and his family were enduring an onslaught of threats, which he believes were stirred up through online posts by AMA members.

Responding to Stapon, shandro suggested the complaints against him may have been politically motivated, and that he believed the AMA was behind a media story about his interaction with Dr. Mukarram Zaidi.

Both Zaidi and the minister have testified about what happened on March 21, 2020 when Tyler Shandro went to the physician's home to talk to him about a meme he'd posted that implied the minister was embroiled in a conflict of interest because of his wife's operation of a private health insurance company.

Zaidi testified that Shandro's wife was holding him, and that the minister was crying and yelling. Zaidi said he asked the minister what he could do, and that Shandro told him to delete the post.

Shandro denies that's what happened. He testified Thursday that he was frustrated Zaidi, who he was friendly with, hadn't spoken to him directly about his concerns and had instead made the post.

Shandro said his wife was not with him and that he was not yelling or crying.

"No, definitely not crying at that time or any time," Shandro said.

He added that his wife did arrive and join him at some point during the short interaction, and that she was upset.

The minister also said he did not tell Zaidi to delete the post, but instead told him he wanted him to know that his post was contributing to threats targeting his wife.

Cross-examination by law society

That point was challenged by Law Society counsel Ken McEwan, who spent hours peppering the minister with questions about his account of the allegations against him.

McEwan pointed to a  March 27, 2020 story in which it's reported that Shandro's spokesperson at the time made a statement that said Shandro had asked Zaidi to remove the post.

"That's not correct, he was not asked to remove it," Shandro responded.

McEwan also pushed back on Shandro's characterization of the public criticism about his involvement with his wife's company as a "conspiracy theory," and questioned his assertion that the AMA was responsible for tipping off media about his interaction with Zaidi.

A significant part of Thursdays proceedings were spent in-camera as the panel overseeing the hearing and other parties discussed issues privately.

Cross-examination was interrupted when concerns were raised about a new social media post by Zaidi on Thursday, stating that Shandro's account wasn't truthful.

After an in-camera meeting, the panel announced it had made an order to allow Shandro to respond to anything Zaidi says without being found in contempt of the hearing.

Stapon also made an application to enter a tweet from a different, possibly defunct Twitter account that Zaidi also shared the meme from, but a decision wasn't reached Thursday.

Additional dates for the cross-examination of the minister to continue have not been announced yet. His wife, Andrea Shandro, is also still expected to be called to give evidence.