Premier Brian Pallister will not discipline a Progressive Conservative MLA who travelled over the holidays, and urged the public to have "compassion" for the province's top civil servant who visited family in Ontario — against the recommendations of public health officials.
Answering questions for the first time Tuesday about the out-of-province travel of Radisson MLA James Teitsma and two senior advisers, Pallister said he was "clearly not pleased" his caucus member had chosen to take a road trip Dec. 21-30 to Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia while the government was urging Manitobans to stay home.
"His decision to leave the province isn't something I support, but he's not a cabinet member," the premier told a news conference. "And I'm not going to be taking any disciplinary action against him. I can't remove him from a cabinet he's not a member of."
When asked about the province's chief bureaucrat, David McLaughlin, Pallister first deflected a reporter's question, noting no cabinet minister from Manitoba, unlike other provinces, had travelled abroad during the holiday season.
McLaughlin spent the final two weeks of 2020 working from his family home in Ottawa.
He also attempted to portray McLaughlin, and political staffer Logan-Theanna Ross, who travelled to eastern Canada during the Christmas break, as two of thousands of public servants who have chosen to work from "home."
"His decision to leave the province isn't something I support, but he's not a cabinet member. And I'm not going to be taking any disciplinary action against him. I can't remove him from a cabinet he's not a member of." — Premier Brian Pallister on the out-of-province travel of Radisson MLA James Teitsma
When pressed on McLaughlin's decision to travel, Pallister urged Manitobans to have "compassion and generosity" for his former political campaign manager's personal circumstances.
"When we talk of someone who lives in Winnipeg whose wife and children live in another part of the country and they can work from home for a few days in isolation, carefully, I don't know that we should be judging them harshly," he said.
McLaughlin, because of his government position, is exempt from having to self-isolate for two weeks upon his return from eastern Canada. As such, he has met with the premier face-to-face since returning to Winnipeg and participated in Tuesday's cabinet swearing-in ceremony.
Ross, the PC government's director of strategic communications and marketing, will be required to self-isolate for two weeks.
Manitoba's opposition parties were disappointed with Pallister's reaction to the travels of his MLA and senior staff.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said while Teitsma is not in cabinet, there were ways of disciplining the MLA, such as removing him from certain committees.
"I think a lot of Manitobans who stayed in during the holidays, who abided by public health advice, are rightfully upset by what they've seen from the PC insiders who did travel." — NDP leader Wab Kinew
"I think a lot of Manitobans who stayed in during the holidays, who abided by public health advice, are rightfully upset by what they've seen from the PC insiders who did travel," he said.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the "big lesson from this is that nobody's going to be held accountable for anything."
"It's clear that there's a completely different standard when it comes to the people who work for (Pallister) and his own caucus," he said.
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.