A Manitoba cabinet minister can’t attend a Winnipeg Blue Bombers game, eat at an indoor restaurant or watch a movie in a theatre.

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A Manitoba cabinet minister can’t attend a Winnipeg Blue Bombers game, eat at an indoor restaurant or watch a movie in a theatre.

Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler hasn't been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and neither has Seine River MLA Janice Morley-Lecomte, the Free Press has learned.

"I consider that my private health care is not a public matter; it's private," Schuler said Thursday.

Premier Brian Pallister has continually called on all eligible Manitobans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and all adults have been able to book shots as of 10 weeks ago.

A survey of the 57 members of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly yielded answers from all but Schuler and Morley-Lecomte, both of whom cited personal reasons for not revealing their immunization status.

Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler hasn't been fully vaccinated. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler hasn't been fully vaccinated. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

Alan Lagimodiere, minister of Indigenous reconciliation and northern relations, had not answered until Thursday, when he said he’s had both doses.

By process of elimination, Schuler and Morley-Lecomte are the only MLAs without two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and neither would say if they've had one shot.

Schuler dismissed multiple questions Thursday, including if he's had any shots; how he'll move around the legislature and his constituency; what he says to people who find this hypocritical; and whether he's in breach of cabinet rules.

He also refused to answer if he had a medical reason to not be vaccinated.

"I do not discuss my personal health information publicly," Schuler said. "I fundamentally believe that my private health care issues are private."

Rubin Spletzer, who donated to Schuler’s 2019 re-election campaign, found the lack of explanation baffling.

"I think we all should be responsible to our neighbours, and I would suggest he should just put all his other concerns aside and do what he should," Spletzer said. "I will make an effort and give him a call, to see what his reasoning is."

Last week, Morley-Lecomte also refused to answer three questions about whether she had been vaccinated.

"My personal health is something I keep very strictly between me and my doctor. But thank you for your concern," she said on July 16.

Janice Morley-Lecomte is one of two MLAs that hasn't been vaccinated. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Janice Morley-Lecomte is one of two MLAs that hasn't been vaccinated. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The opposition NDP has urged any MLA with a medical reason to not be vaccinated to make that fact public, to illustrate the importance of everyone else getting their shots.

This week, the medical head of Manitoba’s vaccine rollout said there are few reasons to not get a shot.

"I want to be very clear that there are very few people who shouldn't be vaccinated for health reasons," said Dr. Joss Reimer, adding that nobody as of Wednesday had been told to not get a shot due to allergies.

The privacy explanation doesn’t hold water, says NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara.

"It's important for leaders in our communities, and for elected officials, to reflect what it is that we're asking Manitobans to do, in order to get through COVID," said the MLA for Union Station.

Schuler mum on Pallister’s colonizer remarks

Another member of Premier Brian Pallister’s cabinet has refused to say whether he agrees with the premier’s contention that colonizers had good motives.

Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler refused twice Thursday to provide a yes or no answer to whether he agrees with remarks Pallister made on July 7, that “the people who came here to this country before it was a country, and since, didn't come here to destroy anything.”

Schuler instead read out a prepared statement about being “committed to advancing reconciliation that builds on meaningful engagement” with Indigenous people.

Pallister’s remarks have been widely panned by Indigenous leaders and even members of his caucus.

MLA Eileen Clarke cited those remarks in her decision to step down as the minister handling reconciliation files, while Families Minister Rochelle Squires said she is “deeply troubled by recent events and comments.”

Mental Health Minister Audrey Gordon last week refused to say if she stood by the premier’s comments, but that she supports him.

Another member of Premier Brian Pallister’s cabinet has refused to say whether he agrees with the premier’s contention that colonizers had good motives. 

Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler refused twice Thursday to provide a yes or no answer to whether he agrees with remarks Pallister made on July 7, that “the people who came here to this country before it was a country, and since, didn't come here to destroy anything.” 

Schuler instead read out a prepared statement about being “committed to advancing reconciliation that builds on meaningful engagement” with Indigenous people. 

Pallister’s remarks have been widely panned by Indigenous leaders and even members of his caucus.

MLA Eileen Clarke cited those remarks in her decision to step down as the minister handling reconciliation files, while Families Minister Rochelle Squires said she is “deeply troubled by recent events and comments.” 

Mental Health Minister Audrey Gordon last week refused to say if she stood by the premier’s comments, but that she supports him.

Elsewhere, a PC backbencher is sending mixed signals about his support for the government.

McPhillips MLA Shannon Martin posted a tweet Wednesday that suggested education reform Bill 64 could punish the PCs at the polls.

"Governments that only see accountability as a once every four year issue, tend to regret that position every five years," he wrote with a Bill 64 hashtag.

Martin previously posted support for Clarke, saying her resignation was “understandable.”

His constituency office did not respond to interview requests Thursday, nor a week prior.

— Dylan Robertson

Asagwara is among NDP and Liberal MLAs who have expressed concern about having people walk about the legislature without being vaccinated and interacting with support staff, especially whenever masking rules are loosened.

MLAs were not required to wear masks inside the legislative chamber while seated in the late spring, even as Delta cases were spreading in Winnipeg.

"As an elected representative, I don't hold myself to the same standard; I hold myself to a higher standard," said Asagwara, who wasn’t convinced by the privacy argument.

"I certainly respect anyone's health decision, and I made the decision to get vaccinated."

Earlier this month, Pallister said MLAs have no obligation to inform the public of their vaccination status.

"I’m not going to be talking about personal health details with anyone; that’s the choice of every Manitoban," the premier said.

Last week, University of Alberta health Prof. Timothy Caulfield said it’s unhelpful to have MLAs dodge the question.

"Vaccination status is one specific bit of information that has relevance to public health. Privacy fear-mongering can feed vaccine hesitancy," he wrote.

Provinces are seeing a slowing demand for vaccines, and officials say they need more shots in arms to prevent a fourth wave.

"This is crunch time. We need leaders to step up," Caulfield wrote.

The provincial government has cited the need to boost doses in restricting Manitobans’ access to services and venues, such as allowing sports leagues to bar visitors without shots, despite warnings from the Manitoba Human Rights Commission that those rules could be discriminatory.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca