On the same day Ottawa warned the Omicron variant was spreading like wildfire and for Canadians to avoid international travel, the MLA in charge of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba caucus flew to Mexico.

On the same day Ottawa warned the Omicron variant was spreading like wildfire and for Canadians to avoid international travel, the MLA in charge of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba caucus flew to Mexico.

Greg Nesbitt (Riding Mountain) travelled to Puerto Vallarta, the Free Press has learned. Nesbitt left Dec. 15 — the day federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos advised against all non-essential international travel.

Premier Heather Stefanson followed suit Dec. 17, advising members of her cabinet and caucus not to leave the country.

She did not mention PC caucus chairman Nesbitt and MLA Doyle Piwniuk (Turtle Mountain) — who she would soon promote to transportation and infrastructure minister — had already left the country.

On Monday, the premier’s press secretary defended Nesbitt’s travel abroad, as she did last week when asked about Piwniuk’s Florida vacation.

"Mr. Nesbitt left the province before the federal advisory and premier’s directive were issued," Olivia Billson said in a statement late Monday. "All public health orders were followed."

Nesbitt, who was not made available for an interview Monday, said in a prepared statement the warning not to travel came hours after he left the country.

"The trip was booked well in advance," the statement said. "I had left very early that morning, and the federal travel advisory was not issued until later that afternoon. Upon my return, I followed all safety protocols and isolation requirements."

Nesbitt, a longtime Shoal Lake business owner, community leader and former village councillor, was first elected to the legislature in 2016. The PC caucus chairman previously served as the legislative assistant to the minister of health, seniors and active living.

Piwniuk drove to Florida on Dec. 11. The Tory MLA said last week he would’ve cancelled the trip to the United States had the international travel advisory been issued before he left.

On Monday, the NDP public affairs critic said everyone — including Nesbitt and Piwniuk — would’ve known the Omicron variant wave was about to slam into Manitoba.

"We saw that in other jurisdictions and neighbouring provinces," said Malaya Marcelino.

Overwhelmed health-care providers urged Manitobans to do all they could to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, and yet Tory MLAs took off anyway to sun destinations, the MLA for Notre Dame said.

"It’s just showing that the rules only apply to others, and that’s not right," Marcelino said, asking if there are more elected PC members who went abroad the premier failed to mention.

"As an MLA, you’re supposed to be a role model," she said.

Or at least be seen as someone who supports Manitobans on the front lines of the pandemic, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont added.

"The PCs have created a two-tier pandemic response. There is absolutely no sense of shared sacrifice from this government," the MLA for St. Boniface said Monday.

"Nurses and doctors are burned out, people are begging for masks and tests, and PC MLAs are sitting on a beach somewhere, while teachers and (child care) workers are just trying to keep children safe."

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.