'Clearly not pleased' doesn't translate into consequences when it comes to a holiday-travelling member of Premier Brian Pallister's caucus.
In fact, Pallister rewarded Radisson MLA James Teitsma — who took a December road trip to British Columbia even though the province was pleading with Manitobans to stay home due to code-red pandemic measures — with his reappointment to the province's powerful Treasury Board Tuesday.
During a news conference Tuesday morning, the premier responded to a question about Teitsma's travels.
"His decision to leave the province isn't something I support but he's not a cabinet member," Pallister told reporters, explaining that he would not be taking any disciplinary action.
An order in council dated Tuesday lists Teitsma as a member of the cabinet committee that controls the province's purse-strings "effective immediately."
"The Treasury Board is the committee that decides every single dollar spent by government," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Wednesday. "If (Teitsma) showed such poor judgment over the holidays, I've got to think that Mr. Pallister should remove him from that committee that has such an important role."
Pallister was asked Wednesday about disciplining Teitsma by removing him from Treasury Board or seats on two legislative standing committees and chose to dodge the question, saying three NDP MLAs and Kinew have all been out of the province.
Kinew has stated that neither he nor anyone from his caucus has been out of the province since the code-red restrictions were imposed. Pallister questioned the fairness of again raising the issue of Teitsma's holiday.
"I said clearly yesterday I wasn't pleased with Mr. Teitsma's decision. I know he regrets it," the premier said.
Kinew noted Pallister urged Manitobans to have "compassion and generosity" for the personal circumstances of top civil servant David McLaughlin, clerk of the executive council, who travelled to his family home in Ontario for two weeks in December.
That's a far cry from how Pallister responded to Peguis First Nation for relaxing COVID-19 restrictions and allowing visitors during the holidays, he said.
"Let's think back to the comments that Mr. Pallister made about Chief (Glenn) Hudson before the holidays." – NDP Leader Wab Kinew
"Let's think back to the comments that Mr. Pallister made about Chief (Glenn) Hudson before the holidays," Kinew said. Pallister publicly called out the First Nation a number of times for making its own rules, calling it a "massive mistake."
"He certainly was able to talk tough to a First Nation leader he didn't agree with," Kinew said. "Why can't he take the same approach with his own backbencher?" Kinew said the December absence of McLaughlin, who oversees the vaccine-implementation task force, likely had an impact on the rollout in Manitoba that got off to the slowest start in the country.
"Everyone who's observed the Pallister government throughout the pandemic knows that they always meet in person," said Kinew. "The fact that Mr. McLaughlin was not here in person tells you that he was not actively engaged with the business of government."
"The preparatory work led by Mr. McLaughlin and managed by our health leadership team and in partnership with Indigenous leaders and private–sector partners is remarkable and I'm truly impressed with the work that's been done." – Premier Brian Pallister
Pallister said the vaccination team's work is "indisputably remarkable," putting Manitoba in a position where it could administer the vaccine to every Manitoban by the end of March if it enough doses were available.
"The preparatory work led by Mr. McLaughlin and managed by our health leadership team and in partnership with Indigenous leaders and private-sector partners is remarkable and I'm truly impressed with the work that's been done," Pallister said. "I think the story is a positive one — some choose to focus on the negative instead of the positive."
More attention should be paid to the fact that cabinet ministers in Manitoba — unlike their counterparts in many other provinces — didn't travel internationally over the holidays, he said.
"I think, in fairness, it would be fair to observe that our cabinet members have been demonstrating their responsible behaviour and that we are effectively doing our very, very best to fight COVID," Pallister said.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.