Manitoba’s PC leadership candidates differ on vaccine mandates as deadline nears

Manitoba will begin testing non-vaccinated provincial staff Oct. 18. Getty Images

Front-line public employees in Manitoba will soon need to be vaccinated or tested regularly for COVID-19, but the two candidates vying to become the next premier have very different opinions on the policy.

Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Heather Stefanson supports the province’s current public health orders.

“I certainly don’t want people to lose their jobs as a result of this but I think that’s why there’s choice there, so people can get vaccinated or they can get tested,” Stefanson told 680 CJOB on Saturday.

However, a Winkler-area care home is preparing for a worst-case staff shortage scenario.

Salem Home put out a call out to families of residents to potentially help out at the facility should the staff situation become a problem.

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As of Friday, Shared Health said it was waiting for 25 per cent of its staff to disclose their vaccination status.

Employees who refuse to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing will be placed on unpaid leave.

Shelly Glover, the second of the two PC leadership candidates, has previously said she does not agree with vaccine mandates and stood by her comments when asked on Saturday.

“I don’t believe that we should be, at this point and time, with the fourth wave upon us, doing anything that would reduce the number of people who would be caring for our patients,” she said. “We’ve got to find other options.”

Christopher Adams, an adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, believes the issue of vaccine mandates is top of mind among the PC membership.

Although Stefanson appears to be the favourite, he isn’t ruling out Glover winning the leadership race on Oct. 30.

“Among political observers, there is a sense that Heather Stefanson is very much in the lead, that she has most of her caucus behind her,” Adams said. “But Shelly Glover might be pulling in members that we don’t know about and outside of the party establishment, she might be doing very well.”

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Adams said it would be a “dangerous policy” to reverse vaccine directives in places like Winnipeg, where they have strong support.

However, Glover’s strategy could be similar to those seen in the U.S., where politicians start out campaigning to left or right during the leadership convention and then move closer to the centre as the election nears, according to Adams.

“She’s speaking to hardcore members who might be very strong on certain issues, but that might be different than the Winnipeg or Manitoba electorate when we get close to an election,” he said.

Adams said no matter who becomes Manitoba’s next premier, there will be a lot of work to do to repair any damage done during the leadership race.

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