Potential resignations don’t concern Pallister Out-of-province leisure travel edict prompts Brandon U governor to step down; premier says directive adds clarity to what was 'eminently clear'

Premier Brian Pallister said he's not worried about a possible rash of resignations by government appointees in light of Monday's edict forbidding out-of-province travel.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/02/2021 (603 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Premier Brian Pallister said he’s not worried about a possible rash of resignations by government appointees in light of Monday’s edict forbidding out-of-province travel.

At a news conference Thursday, Pallister called travel for pleasure by senior government officials, political staff and appointees to provincial agencies, boards and commissions “a career-limiting move.”

Responding to a question at a news conference as to why he failed to take action immediately when he learned that Winnipeg Regional Health Authority board chairman Wayne McWhirter travelled to Arizona last month, the premier suggested he needed time to consider his decision.

“I tend to think about things… before I act,” he said. “I think that’s the appropriate way to lead and to govern.”

Pallister said he and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin have made their opposition to unnecessary travel “eminently clear” for some time.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Premier Brian Pallister speaks to the media about possible COVID-19 measure loosening at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. For Larry Kusch story. Winnipeg Free Press 2021

“The directive I put out this week was designed to give additional clarity to that, and that there would be consequences for people who do travel beyond the restrictions,” he said.

Pallister initially urged leniency for McWhirter because of his largely “volunteer” position with the WRHA, but by Monday evening he announced that the health board chair would be stepping down. At the same time, he announced that all those appointed to their positions by cabinet would be terminated if they flouted provincial health advice by travelling out of province.

The directive angered some Progressive Conservative board appointees, and a few who were out of the country or had travelled abroad over their holidays have tendered their resignations, sources said.

One longtime PC supporter who serves as a government appointee and was out of province this week said the premier’s threat against board members will hasten demands within the party that Pallister resign.

On Tuesday, a member of the Brandon University board of governors announced he would be stepping down because of the edict.

Kerry Auriat

Kerry Auriat told the Brandon Sun he travels frequently and didn’t want to bring “embarrassment or dishonour” to his alma mater by being removed from his position if he travels in the future.

Monday’s directive came after reports that the province’s top bureaucrat worked from his Ottawa home over the Christmas holidays, a senior political staffer vacationed in Eastern Canada over the same period and a backbench government MLA and his family took a holiday driving trip to British Columbia.

MLA James Teitsma was removed from one legislative committee, but that was the extent of the consequences for those in government who disregarded health advice.

“The fact that the premier is unwilling to hold accountable those who work most closely with him shows you that this is more about spin and damage control than actually asking his insiders to live up to the same standards that every Manitoban has been abiding by,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said of the premier’s directive.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the directive was a ploy by Pallister to get himself out of a political mess created by the WRHA board chairman’s travels.

“He tried to cook up an excuse to get rid of a political embarrassment… without having to do anything to punish his staff, who did exactly the same thing but worse,” he said of the premier.

Meanwhile, Pallister suggested Thursday that his travel directive was government-wide, although he did not spell out what consequences there may be for unionized civil servants who travel out of province for leisure.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Pallister said he and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin have made their opposition to unnecessary travel "eminently clear" for some time.

“This directive went out to everyone in government — top to bottom, everybody, all of us,” he said at one point in his news conference.

Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union, said she agreed that public health rules and penalties should apply to everyone.

“Instead of singling out and threatening particular groups of workers, the province should focus on providing clear rules and penalties that apply to all Manitobans, regardless of where they work. We are all in this together,” she said in a statement.


Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

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.

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