On the day Premier Brian Pallister announced a 14-day self-isolation rule for travellers to Manitoba, he revealed one of his MLAs had been disciplined for violating public health advice by travelling in Western Canada over the holidays.
Radisson MLA James Teitsma took his family on a road trip to Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. from Dec. 21 to 30, during the time the government had urged Manitobans to stay home.
"His decision to leave the province isn't something I support, but he's not a cabinet member," the premier told a Jan. 5 news conference. "And I'm not going to be taking any disciplinary action against him. I can't remove him from a cabinet he's not a member of," he said on the day he shuffled his cabinet. Although Teitsma didn't get named to cabinet that day, he did get reappointed to the powerful Treasury Board and another legislature committee.
At the time, Pallister said he wasn't pleased with Teitsma's decision to disobey public health advice, but that he respected the backbencher.
"He's a loving father. He has, I think, more kids than there are weeks in the year, and he has to spend some time with his family periodically."
On Tuesday, after warning Manitobans about the deadly threat posed by COVID-19 variants that could arrive here via infected travellers from out of province, Pallister indicated he'd changed his mind about punishing Teitsma.
"Yes, he has faced disciplinary action," the premier said at a press conference, without explaining what action was taken regarding Teitsma.
A spokeswoman for Pallister later confirmed that "an additional committee appointment (in conjunction with the cabinet shuffle) was revoked once the premier was made aware of MLA Teitsma's non-essential, out-of-province travel." Teitsma will, however, remain on Treasury Board, she said.
"Not only was he not disciplined by Mr. Pallister, but Mr. Pallister actually reappointed him on the same day they had their cabinet shuffle," NDP Leader Wab Kinew told reporters Tuesday. "He reappointed Mr. Teitsma to one of the most powerful cabinet committees in the entire government," Kinew said.
"Not only did he not get disciplined, this guy got a reward. It seems to me there should be some accountability, particularly on a day when you are asking Manitobans to make a greater sacrifice around travel restrictions," Kinew said.
"You should demonstrate that by holding your caucus member who broke the rules accountable," he said.
On Tuesday, the premier said Teitsma wasn't the only MLA guilty of travelling out of the province.
"Yes, he did — as did three NDP MLAs — which has yet to be reported by your paper."
On two occasions in the past month, the Free Press has reported that no NDP MLA had travelled out of the province over the holidays or since code-red restrictions took effect on Nov. 12. More than once, the premier has accused the NDP of out-of-province travel, but he has never provided details to back up the accusation.
"What the premier said is a lie about the NDP," Kinew said Tuesday.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.