Tory MLA reportedly reveals vax status at private meeting

A Tory MLA who has refused to publicly reveal her COVID-19 vaccination status claimed in a private meeting this week that she's fully immunized against the virus, a source told the Free Press.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/10/2021 (417 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Tory MLA who has refused to publicly reveal her COVID-19 vaccination status claimed in a private meeting this week that she’s fully immunized against the virus, a source told the Free Press.

Seine River representative Janice Morley-Lecomte made the revelation Tuesday at a Legislative Assembly Management Commission meeting, which was held behind closed doors. The source said the MLA claimed she’s fully immunized — but doesn’t want that information made public — after attendees questioned her for removing her mask.

The representative for Seine River has maintained that her vaccination status is a private matter, even though she’s an elected member of the Progressive Conservative government, which has been calling on Manitobans to get immunized so hospitals aren’t overrun by the fourth wave of the pandemic. On Thursday, Manitoba recorded its highest daily COVID-19 case count in more than three months, with132 new cases.

Morley-Lecomte and Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler are the only two MLAs who have refused to publicly disclose their vaccination status.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / FREE PRESS LOCAL FILES Janice Morley-Lecomte has maintained that her vaccination status is a private matter.

Premier Kelvin Goertzen told reporters Wednesday that most members of his caucus have made no secret of their status, posting photos of themselves getting COVID-19 shots on social media.

“Our vaccination experience should be our testimony,” Health Minister Audrey Gordon said when asked if Manitobans should share that vaccination information.

“It should encourage and inspire other individuals to get the facts and to get accurate information — that the vaccination saves lives,” Gordon told reporters in a scrum Thursday. “It keeps you from ending up in hospital in ICU, so you need to get vaccinated. The more people that share their story, I think the better it will be for all of us.”

When asked Thursday to explain why Morley-Lecomte isn’t being urged to share her vaccination status, Goertzen’s press secretary did not respond to a request for comment.

“Our vaccination experience should be our testimony.” – Health Minister Audrey Gordon

The PC caucus also refused to comment, citing personal health information and arguing it would be inappropriate to comment on discussions held during in-camera committee meetings.

Morley-Lecomte has participated in house proceedings remotely since members returned to the chamber this week. All MLAs in the chamber must be fully vaccinated or produce a negative COVID-19 test result.

The vaccination requirement doesn’t apply to other meetings or attendance in the legislature, where masks are mandatory outside of offices.

In question period Thursday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew asked Goertzen why Manitobans who go to a restaurant or a sporting event are required to provide proof of vaccination, but not those attending cabinet, caucus or other meetings in the legislature.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Premier Kelvin Goertzen told reporters Wednesday that most members of his caucus have made no secret of their status.

Goertzen dismissed the question as “foolish” and instead trumpeted the province’s successful vaccine rollout.

The day before, NDP house leader Nahanni Fontaine called on the premier to eject Schuler, the minister responsible for emergency measures, from cabinet. With the province in a state of emergency because of the pandemic, it’s “hypocritical” for the government not to demand all MLAs be vaccinated — especially the person in charge of emergencies, she said during question period Wednesday.

“The minister responsible for emergency measures should be helping to lead the fight, not undermining it,” Fontaine said.

In an interview Thursday, Fontaine said she doesn’t know if Morley-Lecomte is vaccinated but that “all MLAs should be held to a higher standard, and we should be role models of the behaviour we’re asking the public to undertake.

“Vaccination is the only way we’re going to get out of this and save lives,” she said.

Fontaine questioned the motives of MLAs refusing to reveal their vaccination status, unless it is to “capitulate to a base that is anti-vax and anti-mask.”

The government needs to show stronger leadership, said Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont.

“This is the worst public health emergency in a century and these are public figures,” he said of Morley-Lecomte and Schuler.

“Because the PCs won’t do anything about it, it makes it look like they’re perfectly fine with people not getting vaccinated. It could not be a worse message to send.” – Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont

Their refusal to publicly reveal if they’ve been vaccinated “undermines the public health response because it gives people the impression — rightly or wrongly — that they’re not vaccinated, and that they’re resisting vaccination and there’s some justified reason for doing it,” Lamont said.

“Because the PCs won’t do anything about it, it makes it look like they’re perfectly fine with people not getting vaccinated. It could not be a worse message to send,” the MLA for St. Boniface said.

With hundreds of thousand of Manitobans being required to get vaccinated to keep people safe, “it’s a terrible double standard,” Lamont said.

With the Progressive Conservatives in the middle of a leadership race, in which dismissed anti-vaccine candidate Ken Lee reportedly signed up thousands of new members, not showing what they believe in may be “politically convenient” for the Tories right now, Lamont said.

Elections Manitoba records show that Lee, the PC party’s former chief financial officer, was Morley-Lecomte’s official agent in the 2019 election.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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