Blinders, bad timing, behind blunder: Stefanson Premier explains she was distracted by desire to share son’s hockey success when she ignored opposition leader’s question in legislature

Manitoba’s premier, who has been roundly criticized this week for being callous and out of touch, acknowledged Friday she was preoccupied with her son’s success when she made the offending remarks in the legislature.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/03/2022 (267 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s premier, who has been roundly criticized this week for being callous and out of touch, acknowledged Friday she was preoccupied with her son’s success when she made the offending remarks in the legislature.

After issuing a two-sentence statement late Thursday in which she apologized for her “misplaced” timing, Heather Stefanson again tried to explain herself.

“I guess I was just very proud of my son and I was just thinking of that at the time,” she said after an unrelated news conference in the Exchange District. “It was not the right time for it and I apologize for that.”

During question period Tuesday NDP Leader Wab Kinew asked the premier about the death of Krystal Mousseau, a 31-year-old mother, last May in a failed attempt to airlift her out of the province as COVID-19 overwhelmed critical-care resources. Stefanson was Manitoba’s health minister at the time.

Kinew wanted to know if the premier agreed a probe into the circumstances of the death is necessary.

Instead of responding to Kinew’s question, the premier congratulated her son and his championship hockey team.

“In the first question and answer in the chamber, it’s often then that we get up and talk about other things” before answering the question, she said Friday. “I’m never going to apologize for celebrating my son and my family… but the timing of it was off and, obviously, I apologize for that.”

Although her response to the NDP leader’s question was heard by members of the legislature and is in the permanent record of its daily proceedings, the premier said there was no need to apologize formally in the house, which is adjourned until Monday.

“I think I’ve already apologized,” she said, referring to Thursday’s statement sent to media by her press secretary. “It’s out there in public… I’m apologizing right now, again, today.”

Meanwhile, Stefanson said Kinew’s concerns about equipment and training related to Mousseau’s transfer have been addressed. However, she said she would consider a provincial inquiry into the province’s overall pandemic response.

Instead of responding to a question Tuesday about a woman who died while in the process of being transferred to another province, the premier congratulated her son and his championship hockey team. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“I’m not ruling anything like that out,” she said. “I always want to look at what we can learn and how we can do things better. We’ll explore those options to see what kind of review that would look like.”

Kinew said questions remain and there needs to be accountability.

“In conjunction with the family we will keep pushing for answers for Krystal Mousseau and her children, and we will pursue those through any venues that are available and appropriate, and I think it’s in the public interest of Manitobans to have answers to these questions, but also have accountability,” he told reporters.

Earlier in the day, a glimmer of positive news appeared for a premier who spent much of the week under fire. Stefanson’s approval rating increased by four points among Manitobans, according to a recurring Angus-Reid Institute survey of Canadians.

The survey, conducted March 10-15, showed her approval rose to 25 per cent.

“It doesn’t change anything that I’m going to do,” she said about the results. “I’m going to continue to work each and every day as hard as I can, to the best of my ability, on behalf of Manitobans. That doesn’t change.”

Although her response to Wab Kinew's question was heard by members of the legislature and is in the permanent record of its daily proceedings, the premier said there was no need to apologize formally in the house. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Even with that bump, she remains at the back of the pack among Canadian premiers, trailing Alberta’s Jason Kenney, whose approval also rose four points, to 30 per cent. Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston enjoys the highest approval rating at 73 per cent, the survey said.

— With files from Danielle DaSilva

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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