Vocal COVID-measure contrarians on October ballots Public-health order scofflaws, anti-vaxxer among those running for election
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Some of Manitoba’s most vehement opponents of COVID-19 public health orders or vaccine mandates are running for council or school board seats in the Oct. 26 municipal elections.
Winkler’s outgoing mayor, Martin Harder, believes some candidates were motivated by the notoriety they received while speaking out against rules intended to protect Manitobans.
“There are people who are definitely there because of the elevation of their profile (during the pandemic),” said Harder, who decided not to seek re-election after four terms.
One-issue candidates give him cause for concern.
“I have always said somebody who is cause-focused is the worst council or school board rep you can get,” he said.
Public-health orders caused division in Winkler, the fourth-largest city in Manitoba by population.
Next month’s election is being counted on as a step toward healing.
The two mayoral candidates are longtime councillor Henry Siemens, who is backed by Harder, and Karl Krebs, a vocal anti-vaxxer who unsuccessfully tried to convince council to make Winkler a so-called sanctuary city to dodge COVID-19 mandates.
“It’s going to be an interesting month,” said Harder. “Personally, I think our community of Winkler is smart enough to know the difference, and will make the right choice.”
Krebs could not be reached for comment.
Two school board candidates in Winnipeg were among five people fined a total of almost $100,000 last month for repeatedly violating public-health orders aimed at reducing the spread of coronavirus.
Patrick Allard, 40, and Todd McDougall, 37 — both of whom plan to appeal their convictions with claims the public-health orders infringed on their charter rights — insist they aren’t one-issue candidates.
As for how his opposition to COVID-19 public-health orders will play out at the ballot box, Allard has no regrets.
He knows voters will search his name on the internet before casting their ballots.
“I haven’t hidden who I am and what I believe, and I welcome people to Google my name,” said Allard, who said he felt no remorse after a judge imposed a penalty of nearly $35,000 for the 14 violation tickets he received.
As an independent, he finished a distant fourth out of five candidates in the March 22 provincial Fort Whyte byelection, which was won by Progressive Conservative candidate Obby Khan.
Allard is running to become the Ward 8 trustee in the Winnipeg School Division. The other candidates are incumbent Betty Edel and Laurie Kozak.
Allard said he is running, in part, because the school board lacks “opposing voices.”
As for whether she has any concerns about candidates who protested against public-health orders, Edel said people have a right to express their opinion and run for public office.
“I realize this is a very divisive issue, but I believe in following public-health orders,” she said. “It’s a democracy, right? People have the right to choose who they feel reflects their views.”
McDougall is one of four candidates in Ward 2 for Pembina Trails School Division’s board of trustees. The others are incumbents David Johnson and Tim Johnson, and Christine Jolly.
Three will be elected.
Before deciding to run on the “spur of the moment,” McDougall considered how voters may react to his opposition to COVID-19 mandates.
He expects some support because of it, and “plenty” of people to disagree.
“I think it will be interesting to see the kind of response to that thing,” he said. “I’m not frightened by that. I’m aware that there’s going to be nasty stuff said on the internet.”
He noted the province lifted its public-health orders in March.
“It’s not like I’m going to be bringing that (opposition) up as a big stance of mine. I’m not running because of what I was involved in,” he said.
“It’s not like I’m going to be bringing that (opposition) up as a big stance of mine. I’m not running because of what I was involved in.”–Todd McDougall
Aaron Moore, chair and associate professor of the University of Winnipeg’s political science department, said people who become involved in issues as activists are more likely to run for public office.
He said he finds it interesting people who were opposed to mandates are running in the municipal elections, given most of the rules they opposed were imposed by the provincial or federal governments.
“I think some of them are doing it because they generally feel the government was overreaching,” he said. “It’s not something they can significantly address at the municipal level.”
He expects Manitobans who gained notoriety for being anti-mask mandate or anti-vaccine to seek nominations in the next provincial and federal elections.
“I think some of them are doing it because they generally feel the government was overreaching… It’s not something they can significantly address at the municipal level.”–Aaron Moore
Some could join fringe parties when the next federal vote is held on or before Oct. 20, 2025, said Moore.
Criticism or anger toward provincial or federal mandates was wrongly directed toward some elected municipal officials during the height of the pandemic, said Harder.
Some municipalities did enforce their own mandates, which required staff to become vaccinated or undergo regular testing.
Harder said some members of the public don’t understand the boundaries of the municipal politics and mix them up with provincial or federal issues.
He noted a lot of heads of council have decided not to seek re-election.
“People are sick and tired of the harassment they have received and, therefore, are reluctant (to run),” said Harder.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
Updated on Thursday, September 22, 2022 8:06 PM CDT: Removes incorrect information about Patrick Allard breaching bail conditions and unclear reference to family in school division.