A photo of Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.
Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro. Credit: Alberta Newsroom

There’s a certain irony, I suppose, to Alberta’s justice minister piously insisting “the commissioner of the RCMP must be held to the highest of standards” while he himself faces an investigation into whether he breached the Law Society’s code of conduct. 

But the frequently irascible Shandro’s performative handwringing about RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki Werdnesday was all part of the United Conservative Party (UCP)’s campaign to replace the Mounties as Alberta’s provincial police with a more expensive but presumably more pliable provincially run force. 

This recycled policy proposal from Stephen Harper’s sovereignist 2001 manifesto, the notorious Firewall Letter, is broadly unpopular with rural and urban Albertans alike, a point of frustration to the UCP under former premier Jason Kenney and even more so now under Premier Danielle Smith, the Sovereignty Queen of Wild Rose Country. 

Given the UCP’s history and attitudes about policing, it’s hard to believe Shandro’s first complaint in his opportunistic news release yesterday that the RCMP Commissioner “has failed to deal with the RCMP’s history of systemic racism in a forthright and public manner” is really a priority of the current Alberta government. 

Demanding that federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino fire Lucki, Shandro also cranked up some faux outrage that the commissioner “risked the integrity” of the inquiry into the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia. This is a harder case to make unless you’re an aggrieved gun nut.

Alert readers will understand that Shandro is not complaining about the RCMP’s appalling handling of the Nova Scotia shootings while that tragedy was unfolding, but about Lucki’s entirely legitimate decision to describe the kind of weapons being used – a revelation verboten in right-wing cancel culture. 

In addition, he complained that she “failed to inform the federal cabinet of all law enforcement options available prior to the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act,” a tendentious claim that should be left to the the statutory commission into that crisis, which may reach a different conclusion given what we’ve heard to date. 

Mendicino “stood idly by while Lucki has failed to meet even the most meagre of standards for the past two years,” Shandro opined huffily.

“This is an abrogation of the minister’s core responsibility to Canadians and must be rectified before the RCMP’s reputation as Canada’s federal police service is further damaged,” he continued, doing his best to impugn the reputation of the RCMP, the better to replace it with something even worse.

A closely related aspect of the Smith Government’s anti-Ottawa strategy was found not far away, literally three new releases later in Wednesday’s stream of pre-election campaign announcements on the province’s Alberta.ca website. 

Amendments introduced Tuesday to the federal government’s latest firearms control legislation had the UCP in a frenzy, presumably in hopes of keeping Alberta’s sizeable community of fans of firearms, particularly ones that look like assault rifles, on side. They are, after all, a key component of the party’s increasingly radicalized base.

Shandro’s statement alleged, falsely, that the Ottawa’s Bill C-21 “will lead to the most sweeping and arbitrary ban in Canadian history” that “will not only be unenforceable but will criminalize hundreds of thousands of Canadians.”

Whether or not it’s unenforceable remains to be seen, but it will only criminalize those gun owners who choose not to obey the law. 

The statement then moved on to its real point, to wit: We’re here for you, gun people! 

“The federal government is clearly seeking to ban legal firearm ownership altogether,” Shandro’s statement concluded, also falsely. “In the coming weeks, Alberta will explore all available options to take action.”

That’s probably a reference to Smith’s still unseen Sovereignty (But Actually Proudly Canadian or Something) Act, which will allow Alberta to unconstitutionally ignore federal laws without violating the Canadian Constitution … or whatever. 

We await the appearance of this miraculous piece of legislation for further analysis.

It is important to note that as mass shootings continue with metronomic regularity in the United States, evidence keeps piling up with the bodies that the principal difference between the U.S. and other countries is the number of guns in circulation. As the New York Times reported in 2017, “the only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.”

Finding co-operation with the gun lobby political expedient, the UCP, apparently, is willing to risk the same fate for Alberta. 

In the meantime, back in Ottawa, Mendicino told reporters: “I have confidence, and the government has confidence, in Commissioner Lucki.” In other words, Get lost, Shandro! 

Shandro’s Law Society hearing is scheduled to take place from January 24 to 26 in Calgary. It will look into three controversial incidents in 2020 when he was minister of health. 

In one, the Law Society’s summary of the case says, it’s alleged went to a neighbour’s home and “behaved inappropriately by engaging in conduct that brings the reputation of the profession into disrepute.”

Another allegation says Shandro “used his position as Minister of Health to obtain personal cell phone numbers” and “contacted one or more members of the public outside of regular working hours using that information.”

The third says he “responded to an email from a member of the public addressed to his wife by threatening to refer that individual to the authorities if they did not address future correspondence to his office as Minister of Health.”

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...