Two days after Brian Pallister announced that government appointees would be fired from boards and commissions if they flouted provincial health travel advice, the repercussions are starting to be felt.
Sources say some Progressive Conservative appointees who are out of the country or travelled abroad over the holidays have tendered their resignations.
They say there is growing concern within government that the trickle of departures could turn into a flood, which would impair the ability of some arms-length government entities to achieve a quorum for decision making.
There's also anger among some Tory loyalists at the premier's threat, which was accompanied by the announcement that Winnipeg Regional Health Authority board chairman Wayne McWhirter would step down after he travelled to Arizona last month.
One longtime party supporter who serves as a government appointee now and who is out of the province at the moment, said the threat against political appointees will hasten demands within the party for Pallister to resign.
"After this mess, he needs to take a nice, long walk in the snow and make the decision to get out of the way. If he decides to stay on much longer, we'll get annihilated in the next election."
Another senior Tory who toils within government said the premier's edict was issued without any planning or consideration about how it would affect the entire process of finding people to serve on government boards.
"There was absolutely no planning with this edict," the source said. "I don't think anybody has any idea of what the impact of this is going to be in government or in the party."
Late Monday, Pallister issued a statement saying that all Manitoba government order-in-council (cabinet) appointees, including those serving on approximately 150 agencies, boards and commissions, "may not travel for leisure purposes outside permitted travel areas, effective immediately."
Should they do so, "their appointment will be terminated," the premier said.
About 1,400 people are affected by the directive overall, including 1,025 order-in-council appointed board members and about 375 staff, government spokesman Blake Robert said Wednesday in response to questions from the Free Press.
The affected staff include deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers, senior legal officers, medical officers, the chief veterinary officer and senior government officers, as well as political staff in ministerial offices, Executive Council, and the priorities and planning secretariat.
The directive applies to any international or out-of-province leisure travel, with the exception of permitted travel areas (i.e. communities near the border that are exempt under the current public-health orders), and applies to any departures on or after Feb. 1, Robert said in an email.
He said the government is in the process of providing additional information to affected individuals.
Responding to COVID-19 has required swift action to protect Manitobans and, in light of the recent travel-related changes to Manitoba’s health orders, the directive for board appointees and staff "reinforces those orders and (chief provincial public health officer) Dr. (Brent) Roussin’s clear message that now is not the time for non-essential travel," Robert said.
The government is also concerned about the spread of highly contagious mutant strains of COVID-19 emerging elsewhere, Pallister said in announcing the warning to appointees this week.
Aside from McWhirter, the government has not been formally notified of any appointees who were out of the province for leisure purposes, and it has not received any formal notification of any other resignations, Robert said.
Sources say the edict is expected to make it difficult to recruit new people to fill vacancies caused by the resignations. It was already hard to get people to agree to serve in some positions, they said.
— With files from Dan Lett
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.