There it was Oct. 9, tweeted out in the morning and the MLA for Calgary-Acadia showed one more time why he is that one guy on your team that just can’t help himself but get into trouble. 

Of course Alberta Health minister Tyler Shandro has been in so much political hot water you wonder how his career hasn’t been totally cooked by now. 

But there he is, paying no attention to the invisible, steely-eyed stares from much of the physicians and nurses in the health community, patients of all ages who live in small towns who are angry at all the changes and the stress caused. 

Besides the government, the only other person going public is Conservative supporter Rick Bell of the Calgary Sun., equally as smug, Shandro and Bell both announced with glee, an increase in the number of doctors in Alberta during the third quarter from July to September of this year. 

“For the first time in Alberta’s history, more than 11,000 doctors have registered to practise in Alberta. 

This represents a net gain of 247 doctors over 2019 – a 2.3% increase,” said Shandro and added in a quick fact file that nine returned to Alberta; 142 are newly licensed who were trained in Alberta, plus 139 are newly licensed in Alberta but were trained elsewhere. “This report shows that doctors continue to choose to live and practise in Alberta in impressive numbers – and for good reason. Alberta pays more than any other province, has lower taxes, and now has the most attractive compensation package available for rural and remote doctors in Canada… The CPSA report puts to shame the claim that there's an exodus of physicians, a falsehood backed by nothing more than a few NDP news releases, thin reporting, and social media disinformation.”

Maybe with a lot of governments or ministers, one would think, maybe there’s some truth in there, but with the social media attacks by such heat seeking missiles like Kenney right hand man Matt Wolf who attack, ridicule or belittle people who discredit their policies, all of this sounds like the political version of a receiver in football spiking the ball at the feet of a defensive back after scoring a touchdown. A hockey player doing a victory dance right in from t of the goalie he just scored on… you get the idea. 

That’s the trouble when you come across arrogant, you will never get the benefit of the doubt. Right-wing, large and small “c” political parties and unions don’t get along. But in the 40 years of PC rule in Alberta has there ever been this kind of battle and this kind of angry and sad outcry from physicians. As much as Shandro can point to these stats, Samantha Myhr said that it takes time for a doctor to actually pick up and move out of a practice. 

When the government passed Bill 21 late last year, it basically cancelled the working agreement with physicians leading to a lawsuit. Not exactly a trustful situation. Or how about the June survey of 400 University of Alberta and University of Calgary medical students which indicated that 79 per cent of those students were unlikely to pursue further medical training in Alberta; 91 per cent of those were unwilling to continue to practise in Alberta upon completion 87 per cent of current family medicine residents who are set to practise in the next one or two years, feel the same way regarding practising in Alberta.

So while Shandro’s stats look good now, what with the fourth quarter look like now that the Bill has been in full affect and doctors have had time to process the ramifications? Merry Christmas rural Alberta, try to find a new doctor because yours has left.

Consider other signs like the late July survey of the 13,000 members of the Alberta Medical Association said that 98 per cent of the 8,900 members who responded have no confidence with Shandro as health minister.

When the fairly right wing conservative PostMedia editorial board pens an editorial last week entitled: “Time for a new health minister”, you know you have issues.

However, this seems like of no consequence to Premier Jason Kenney. Why? Because Shandro is doing exactly as he is being told. If one thinks that Shandro is the one completely masterminding all of these policies, strategies and changes to health care, they would be mistaken. Sure there are advisors, bureaucrats and lawyers fine tuning the language but ultimately, the luck(s) start and stop with Kenney.

And as far as Shandro’s patient bedside manner or the perceived lack thereof, again, look no further than Kenney.

Much of Kenney’s cabinet is outwardly bold, maybe even brash which does three things. First, it dissuades anyone who has complaints about policy or wants to negotiate. Being in the union or in municipal government, one can see there is no room for negotiation. So you don’t even try. The UCP have an agenda and they are going to follow it and there is no time or room for negotiation. For them, having no opposition makes life much easier. 

Second, when you have that perceived arrogance, one tends not to care about what anyone thinks, tales of difficult times make no difference to them because they can’t hear it. See: holding up hands to ears and half yelling “la-la-la-a-la-la-la-la, can’t hear youuuu!”

However, the third thing that this incessant, non-stop of bully style of politics does is that after a while voters just give up trying to understand or reason with them. Basically, if the government doesn’t come through and Alberta health care quality decline and the economy doesn’t improve, people still don’t have jobs, medical professional buildings are empty other than the ones who have U.S. style pay-for type of physicians, then Kenney may have a hard time convincing voters to give him and his team a second chance. After all, Albertans proved they can voted in a NDP government after four decades of non-stop Conservative rule. 

However, Kenney isn’t too worried. He has until between March 1, 2023, and May 31, 2023 before the next election is scheduled to be called. Sure, Albertans are angry and upset now, but they will forget and come to love Tyler and the rest of the UCP right?

(Editor note: This was written prior to the Oct. 13 announcement of 11,000 layoffs in Alberta Health Services)

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