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Manitoba politicians vexed by mandatory vaccines

Making shots mandatory a prickly issue

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COVID-19 vaccinations have become a key political issue at all levels of government in Manitoba, as other jurisdictions make shots mandatory for everyone from nurses to politicians.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/08/2021 (475 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

COVID-19 vaccinations have become a key political issue at all levels of government in Manitoba, as other jurisdictions make shots mandatory for everyone from nurses to politicians.

Point Douglas Coun. Vivian Santos, the only Winnipeg city councillor who hasn’t been vaccinated, said getting the shot is a personal choice.

“At the end of the day, I encourage everybody to get all the information, as much as possible, so that they can make an informed decision,” she said.

Point Douglas Coun. Vivian Santos, the only Winnipeg city councillor who hasn’t been vaccinated, said getting the shot is a personal choice. (Alex Lupul / Winnipeg Free Press)

This week, Ontario announced it would compel staff in universities, schools and personal care homes to get vaccinated, provide proof of a medical reason not to do so, or undergo a “COVID-19 vaccination educational session.”

The University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg and Red River College are also requiring those who visit their campuses this fall to be fully immunized. The three largest post-secondary institutes in the province sent out releases on the subject simultaneously Thursday morning.

On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford pledged to remove MPPs from his PC caucus if they didn’t get their first shot by this evening.

The Manitoba NDP called on the PCs to follow suit Wednesday, and asked the Speaker to limit house proceedings to MLAs who are fully vaccinated.

“It’s time for the government to step up,” wrote NDP house leader Nahanni Fontaine.

“Getting the vaccine is the most important thing Manitobans can do to protect our communities and end the pandemic.”

In Manitoba, the two MLAs who have not been fully vaccinated, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler and Seine River MLA Janice Morley-Lecomte, both declined to comment on the idea that Manitoba would follow a similar path.

“Everything is up to an individual and their personal choice, and I’ll respect people’s personal choices,” Morley-Lecomte said.

Schuler was at an event relating to building trades. “I’m going to focus on this today,” he said in response to three questions about vaccines.

Both stood behind MLA Heather Stefanson as she announced her run for PC leader.

Stefanson said she did not intend to compel MLAs to get vaccinated.

“I would rather encourage people to get vaccinated; that’s where I’m at,” said Stefanson, although she said Premier Brian Pallister is mulling a requirement for certain front-line government employees to get a shot.

“There are things that we will be looking at over the course of the next little while, to make sure we have the greatest protection for Manitobans,” she said.

“That’s something that is being probably discussed and contemplated right now.”

Separately, ministers Cathy Cox, Alan Lagimodiere and Jon Reyes refused to comment on the idea of their unvaccinated colleagues being turfed from caucus.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS PC MLA Heather Stefanson, who announced her candidacy for the leadership of the Manitoba PC party Wednesday, said she did not intend to compel MLAs to get vaccinated.

“We know that vaccines are the way to really emerge from this virus. So, that’s my comment,” Cox said, while Lagimodiere said, “It’s important that we follow the lead of our medical team in Manitoba here, and follow the recommendation that they make moving forward.”

Federally, the NDP and Liberals have demanded all candidates be fully vaccinated, while Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said candidates without shots will have to do daily COVID-19 rapid tests.

Provencher MP Ted Falk is the only Manitoba MP who has refused to say whether he’s vaccinated, and his office didn’t reply to the Free Press Wednesday.

Falk told a podcast in April that he was “not completely sold on this vaccination,” saying the shots were created quickly and “may be fine,” but he downplayed the consequences of COVID-19 on people’s health.

Winnipeg Conservative MP Raquel Dancho, who is currently knocking on doors as she seeks re-election in Kildonan-St. Paul, will be using rapid tests.

Dancho is due for her second shot in late August, meaning she won’t be fully immune until mid-September.

“We continue to follow all public health measures to help keep our community safe during Justin Trudeau’s unnecessary fourth-wave election,” her office wrote. “The local campaign supports this measure and is engaging a vendor to secure rapid tests.”

Santos has said she has a medical reason that prevents her from getting vaccinated, but she refused to say if a doctor advised her against getting a shot.

Manitoba public health officials say there are exceedingly rare cases where someone should not get a COVID-19 vaccine, and that no one as of July 21 had been told not to get a shot due to allergies.

Santos was also mum at the prospect of the city requiring vaccines for its staff, or for the public to access services. “I’m going to make no comment at this time,” she said.

— with files from Temur Durrani

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, August 19, 2021 9:00 AM CDT: Adds photo

Updated on Thursday, August 19, 2021 11:00 AM CDT: Adds update on university/college vaccine mandate

Updated on Thursday, August 19, 2021 1:02 PM CDT: Adds thumbnail, changes photo order

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