Donors to Tory MLA Janice Morley-Lecomte have split opinions on whether the Seine River MLA should explain her reasoning to not get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"MLAs are still people," said former city councillor John Prystanski.
"They're members of our community, and we need to respect their own decisions."
The Free Press reached out to a dozen donors to Morley-Lecomte’s 2019 re-election campaign in the Seine River district, after a survey revealed she and Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler have not received a second dose.
The PC caucus said two of its members had not had two shots, and the remaining 34 PC MLAs all confirmed doing so. Both have refused to explain why, or whether they’ve had a first dose.
"My personal health is something I keep very strictly between me and my doctor. But thank you for your concern," Morley-Lecomte said last week.
University of Manitoba political scientist Christopher Adams said neither Schuler or Morley-Lecomte are likely to pay a price at the polls over not being fully immunized.
That’s because the Progressive Conservatives are already facing an unhappy electorate on both sides of the Perimeter Highway over the state of the health-care system and the planned overhaul of Manitoba's education system.
"If there's a backlash to Schuler on the vaccination issue, I think it's part of a whole constellation of issues that are surfacing in non-urban, southern Manitoba that weren't there three or four years ago," Adams said.
The opposition NDP has urged any MLA with a medical reason for not being vaccinated to step forward publicly to make clear the importance of everyone else rolling up their sleeves.
Adams noted that Canadians rank personal health among the most private of topics.
Members of the local media respected that line at a press conference with Health Minister Heather Stefanson; no one asked for details on the surgery that led to her recent medical leave.
"We respect her privacy, whether it's a broken leg or something more personal," Adams said.
Adams, who is rector of St. Paul's College, is fully vaccinated, but said that as a person who manages employees, he’s sympathetic to Schuler and Morley-Lecomte.
"I don't think it's anybody's business that the MLAs disclose their vaccination, and the reasons for not having a vaccination," he said. "If someone has a health condition, they have the right not to report that."
Marissa Freed, president of Winnipeg-based garment manufacturer Freed and Freed International, disagreed.
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"I think everybody would be concerned about (Morley-Lecomte) not getting vaccinated, considering it’s a worldwide pandemic," said Freed, adding her father Stephen, a campaign donor, agrees.
A handful of other donors offered mixed views but only on the condition they not be named, especially those who run large businesses.
Morley-Lecomte has lived in south Winnipeg for three decades, according to her PC party biography. It says she was a small-business owner who volunteered in foster care and as a counsellor at Willow Place, a domestic-violence shelter.
First elected in 2016, she was appointed as legislative assistant to the minister of families.
Morley-Lecomte is an infrequent user of social media, and hard to reach. The Free Press phoned her constituency office five times in the past two weeks. Each time, the phone rang for five minutes until the line disconnected, with no option to leave a voicemail.
Schuler not outside the cabinet line: Adams
Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler is contradicting his own government's push for all eligible Manitobans to get vaccinated, but that's no reason to remove him from cabinet.
The Pallister government has allowed only Manitobans who are fully immunized to dine indoors, go to the cinema or attend a Blue Bombers game. That would exempt Schuler.
University of Manitoba political scientist Christopher Adams noted that in Westminster parliaments, all cabinet ministers have a duty to reflect the government’s priorities.
But Adams said Schuler would only be breaching that obligation if he was spreading falsehoods, or encouraging people to not get a shot.
“I don't see these politicians doing this type of low-brow activity,” he said, noting some Alberta government MLAs have spread false rumours about COVID-19.
“You can be in cabinet and disagree with decisions in cabinet, as long as you aren't working against the cabinet.”