Pallister 'not pleased' with Manitoba MLA's holiday travel but no disciplinary action coming

James Teitsma's decision to leave the province "isn't something I support," Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday, but he said he won't take any disciplinary action against the backbench MLA.

Radisson MLA James Teitsma travelled to Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. from Dec. 21-30

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said MLA James Teitsma is not a cabinet minister, so he can't remove him from cabinet as a response to travel over the break. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba's premier says no disciplinary action will be taken against an MLA in his government who travelled outside the province over the holidays.

Radisson MLA James Teitsma drove to Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia with members of his household from Dec. 21-30, the Progressive Conservative caucus confirmed this week.

"I'm clearly not pleased with James's decision, but I respect James," Premier Brian Pallister said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference, during which he discussed details of a cabinet shuffle.

"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."

Current public health orders permit Manitobans to travel outside the province, but Pallister's government and public health officials have strongly advised against doing so.

Teitsma's office has said the trip was a family vacation involving only members of his household, and they stayed in rental accommodations while travelling.

"His decision to leave the province isn't something I support, but … he's not a cabinet member and I'm not going to be taking any disciplinary actions against him," Pallister said Tuesday.

"I can't remove him from a cabinet he's not a member of."

Progressive Conservative MLA James Teitsma travelled to three western provinces during the winter break. (Travis Golby/CBC)

On Tuesday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Teitsma should be removed from the cabinet committees he's currently on.

"I think a lot of Manitobans who stayed in during the holidays, who abided by the public health advice, are rightfully upset by what they've seen from the PC insiders who did travel," he said.

The government also confirmed Monday that its top civil servant, David McLaughlin, travelled to Ontario over the holidays to spend time with his family.

Premier asks for 'generosity of spirit'

Fallout from travel during the pandemic, while citizens are being urged to stay home, has already led to resignations of cabinet ministers in Alberta and Ontario. Manitoba member of Parliament Niki Ashton was stripped of her critic roles with the federal NDP after she went to Greece to see a sick relative.

Pallister said Tuesday none of Manitoba's provincial cabinet ministers have travelled internationally. The Progressive Conservative caucus has said Teitsma was its only MLA who left the province during the present partial lockdown.

A government spokesperson said Monday that McLaughlin, Manitoba's clerk of the executive council, worked remotely from his immediate family's home in Ottawa for the last two weeks of December.

David McLaughlin, Manitoba's clerk of the executive council, travelled to Ottawa over the holidays. (CBC)

On Tuesday, Pallister suggested McLaughlin, as head of the civil service, was similar to the thousands of other civil servants being encouraged to work from home.

"If a civil servant wants to work from home, and they feel that that's beneficial and they can do their job there, then I don't think we should be discouraging that," he said.

Pallister asked for compassion for McLaughlin, whose wife and children live in Ottawa.

"I just would ask people to have some generosity of spirit here, and to understand that we're all doing our very, very best — and to keep doing our very, very best, I think, is the key."

Pallister also accused three NDP MLAs of travelling outside the province over the winter holidays, although he did not say who specifically he was referring to.

The provincial NDP and Liberals have both said none of their MLAs travelled outside the province during this time.


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