Tyler Shandro is out as Alberta’s health minister and Jason Copping is taking over the key cabinet position.
Premier Jason Kenney shuffled his cabinet Tuesday in a short swearing-in ceremony at Government House.
Shandro and Copping are swapping portfolios.
Shandro takes over as the minister of labour and immigration.
At a news conference later in the day, Kenney said Shandro had offered his resignation.
“He and I both came to the conclusion that it would be best to get a fresh pair of eyes and a fresh start at the health ministry,” Kenney said.
He noted the role was particularly difficult during the pandemic and referenced an incident where protesters threatened Shandro over the UCP government’s COVID-19 restrictions.
“It has been a gruelling two-plus years for Tyler,” Kenney said. “I was there myself and saw he and his family being chased and assaulted by anti-vaccine protesters and all of that I know has taken a real toll on Minister Shandro.”
Copping also spoke for the first time as health minister.
“I am deeply committed to helping steer the province through this current crisis and on to better days,” Copping said.
He outlined three key priorities: increasing hospital capacity, educating vaccine-hesitant Albertans to get more people immunized and preparing the health system to response to potential future waves of COVID-19.
“I will be stepping into this vital role and executing on these priorities.”
The shuffle comes as Alberta is struggling with a devastating fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and Kenney faces turmoil within his own caucus.
The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the province’s health-care system, bringing it to the brink of collapse.
Also Tuesday, Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver issued a letter to the federal government asking for help dealing with the crush of patients.
However, Kenney insisted his government asked federal agencies for backup measures as a precaution.
“We do not currently need the support and we do not have an imminent need of it, but it’s prudent to plan for things in case we reach a worst-case scenario.”
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 29 people died of COVID-19 in the past day.
Some were double vaccinated and had pre-existing conditions, Hinshaw said, but most were not vaccinated.
Alberta reported more than 1,500 new cases of COVID-19 with 996 in hospital and 222 in intensive care units.
There were 20,917 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta as of Tuesday — more than twice as many as any other province or territory.