One thing politicians can agree on: taking a snow day

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Manitoba politicians will take a snow day for the first time in recent memory.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/04/2022 (231 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba politicians will take a snow day for the first time in recent memory.

With a blizzard and up 50 centimetres of snow expected, members of the house agreed not to sit on Thursday, the last regular sitting day of the week.

Although MLAs can participate in the legislature virtually, there are concerns that the clerk of the legislative assembly and staff who run the proceedings won’t be able to get from home to the legislative building Thursday because of the storm. The session was adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Golden Boy statue stands tall, but barely visible atop the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg, Wednesday, during a spring snowstorm. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Sudoma

“We’re doing this out of an abundance of caution and in agreement with the Opposition, as well,” Premier Heather Stefanson said following question period Wednesday.

“I want to ensure that everyone is safe,” she said, noting that the clerk of the legislative assembly recommended the pause in proceedings.

The house won’t sit but the premier said she and her Progressive Conservative government will be at work. The premier said she’ll be in her office at the the legislative building if she can get there safely.

The last time a blizzard of this magnitude hit Manitoba, it was business as usual at the legislature.

“All I remember was being angry that they didn’t cancel the session (that day) and wait a day or two,” said Gary Kowalski who was a Liberal MLA at the time. “I thought it was ridiculous,” he said Wednesday.

The worst storm in Manitoba history virtually shut down Winnipeg from April 5 to 7, 1997, closing the airport, shopping centres, all surrounding highways and knocking out hydro and phone service in some areas.

It didn’t shut down the legislative assembly, to Kowalski’s chagrin.

On Monday, April 7, 1997, he put on a snowmobile suit and cross-country skis and made his way from his home in the Maples to McPhillips Street. There, the former police officer hitched a ride to the legislature with a stranger who was plowing through the snow-blocked streets in a four-wheel-drive truck.

When Kowalski arrived at the legislative building in his snowsuit on that Monday 25 years ago, his violation of the dress code was the first order of business.

He explained he wasn’t wearing the required suit jacket and tie because of storm conditions and asked the house to let him sit in the chamber without complying with the dress code. His request was granted.

With the blizzard walloping Manitoba right now, everyone who can stay inside, should, Kowalski said.

“Every person that’s out on the road or travelling around is a danger to themselves or a danger to the people who have to rescue them,” the 69-year-old said. “So the advice in that situation is to stay at home, right?”

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said that holding question period virtually with the current infrastructure requires that legislature staff be in the building.

“The decision was just made amongst house leadership out of caution and concern for the well-being of those who work behind the scenes and who support us as legislators, that we would adjourn after (Wednesday’s) question period,” Kinew told reporters.

The premier offered encouragement.

“Manitobans are resilient,” she said. “We’ve been through storms before. We’re going to get through this one as well. We will be there every step of the way to help them through this.”

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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