Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard booted from legislative chamber after refusing to apologize for outburst
River Heights MLA chastised government for treatment of residents in personal care home
A Manitoba Liberal MLA was kicked out of the legislative chamber on Thursday afternoon when he refused to apologize for an outburst over the government's treatment of senior citizens.
Speaker Myrna Driedger asked three separate times for River Heights MLA Jon Gerrard to apologize. But each time he stood up, addressed the Speaker and refused to back down.
The veteran MLA was later asked to leave the chamber for the rest of the day. His Liberal colleagues — party leader Dougald Lamont and Tyndall Park MLA Cindy Lamoureux — followed him out in protest.
That followed an accusation from Gerrard that the government is not doing enough to ensure quality care for residents in personal care homes.
"I've heard from relatives of personal care home residents that they were told over and over again that their loved ones just came here to die. Relatives are regularly angry, frustrated, disappointed and shocked at the care their loved ones now receive in personal care homes, in too many places in Manitoba," Gerrard said during question period.
Watch as Jon Gerrard is ejected from the chamber:
"Does the minister believe that personal care homes are just places for seniors to die, or is this government willing to invest to make sure that residents have the best possible quality of life in their last few days, months and years?"
Health Minister Cameron Friesen responded that the "member's style is regrettable" and said Gerrard's comments were insulting to people who work hard every day at personal care homes.
"That member should apologize," Friesen said, as his Progressive Conservative colleagues applauded.
Once the cheers let up, Gerrard lashed out.
"You're the one who should apologize," he shouted, pointing his finger at Friesen. A hush soon fell over the chamber.
Driedger said Gerrard's outburst was "rude" and "inappropriate," and she offered him three opportunities to withdraw his comments.
On her first request, Gerrard stood up and crossed his arms.
"Madam Speaker, I will not apologize after what the minister said."
Won't back down: Gerrard
After walking out of the chamber with his two other Liberal colleagues, Gerrard, who has never been ejected in his 20-year legislative career, said he will always stand up for senior citizens.
"People who have built our province need to be looked after well when they are in a personal care home. They should not be left there to die," he told reporters.
"The minister may have trouble facing the reality of what's happening, but it's time that he knew better."
Friesen said he couldn't speak to the specific allegation about personal care homes, which Gerrard was raising on behalf of a resident. He told reporters after question period that Manitoba's personal care homes are fully staffed, with nurses, health-care aides and other professionals providing the best care they can.
Insult to workers: Friesen
Friesen said that Gerrard's comments about inadequate care were offensive to the staff.
"He had chosen to personally insult and call out all of the people who provide care and work in personal care homes across Manitoba. That was regrettable," Friesen said.
"It was my opinion that the member was reflecting on their work, on their professionalism, on the level of care," he said.
Dolores Minkus-Hofley was watching question period from the gallery, at the invitation of the Liberals. Her husband has been living in a personal care home and says its staff are overwhelmed looking after 21 residents.
"It's not because the staff aren't doing the best they can, but because they have been given a job that is way beyond their training," said Minkus-Hofley, who declined to name the facility because she believes the problem isn't the fault of staff.
She argued seniors are being shuffled into personal care homes when they should be in a hospital.
Gerrard's accusation comes only hours after Friesen was in Steinbach for a sod-turning ceremony for a new 143-bed personal care home, opening in 2021.
It is part of a provincial commitment to build 1,200 personal care home beds in Manitoba by 2025.