A byelection is on the horizon in Fort Whyte after former MLA Brian Pallister vacated the seat early last week.
The former premier resigned from Manitoba’s legislative assembly effective Oct. 4, ending a near decade-long stint in provincial politics.
Pallister announced he would not be seeking re-election in early August. The decision to resign as MLA comes a month after formally stepping down as premier and Progressive Conservative Party leader on Sept. 1.
A byelection to fill Pallister’s Fort Whyte seat must be held within six months of the seat being vacated.
The outcome of the upcoming PC leadership race will play a significant role in determining who will be nominated to run in byelection. Given the PC’s margins in Fort Whyte for the past decade, the leadership decision will likely determine the electoral division’s next MLA.
Manitoba PC caucus director Keith Stewart confirmed the party is taking things one step at a time.
“There is no rush to call the [byelection] before the leadership election on October 30,” he wrote.
St. Boniface MLA and Manitoba Liberal Party leader Dougald Lamont suspects PC leadership candidate Shelly Glover might run should she win her leadership bid.
“Who gets to run in that seat will be determined partly by the leader,” Lamont said.
“So, Shelly Glover could run there because she doesn’t have a seat if she wins. She’s unlikely to run there, I think, if she loses.”
“If the current premier were to call a byelection right now, it would make it very hard for [Glover]. There would be a nomination battle over who is actually going to run there because Shelly Glover might want to run there, Heather Stefanson might want somebody else to run there.”
Beyond the byelection, the leadership race will likely decide the direction of Manitoba’s COVID-19 policies. That possibility has Lamont and the Liberals worried.
In a press release last Friday, the Manitoba Liberals described comments Glover made regarding vaccines for pregnant people as reckless and disqualifying.
In an interview with La Liberté, Glover expressed concern over the possibility health-care workers could be fired or subjected to reduced hours due to mandatory COVID-19 testing. She brought up an unnamed pregnant nurse whose doctor allegedly advised against vaccination out of concern it could harm the baby.
“Take the example of a nurse who is pregnant. Her doctor tells her she shouldn’t take the vaccine because it could cause complications with her baby.”
Lamont weighed in on the comments in an interview Friday.
“She seemed to imply that it was dangerous for pregnant women to get the vaccine, which is a really shocking thing to suggest because it’s the opposite of the truth,” he said.
“In fact, women who are pregnant are at […] higher risk of severe COVID. It was a completely reckless and irresponsible thing for her to say.”
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada released a statement back in April calling for pregnant people to be prioritized for vaccination because of the risks and complications posed by COVID-19. The organization continues to assert that the vaccine is safe for all pregnant people.
Pregnant people who contract COVID-19 are more difficult to put on ventilators, are more likely to require intensive care, are more likely to require caesarean delivery or give birth prematurely and their baby is more likely to require admission to a neonatal intensive care unit.
“Some of these things, it’s a matter of degree. It is much worse than anything Stefanson has said to this point. Both of them oppose vaccine mandates,” Lamont said.
“Glover, when pressed on why she opposed the vaccine mandate, gave the example of a nurse who was pregnant whose baby could be endangered by the vaccine when that’s an absolutely reckless thing to say because there are ICUs with pregnant women on ventilators and pregnant women who died from COVID.”
“It’s a shocking thing for her to say and totally inappropriate.”