Manitoba

Premier apologizes for boasting of son's hockey success when asked about patient's death

Premier Heather Stefanson is apologizing for congratulating her son's high school hockey team in the legislature chamber after being asked to answer to a woman's death.

Social media reaction swift after Heather Stefanson's remark

Premier Heather Stefanson has apologized for responding to a question regarding a woman's death by speaking about her son's exploits in hockey. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press)

Premier Heather Stefanson is apologizing for congratulating her son's high school hockey team in the legislature chamber after being asked to answer to a woman's death.

Her remark during Tuesday's question period was "misplaced, and for that I sincerely apologize," Stefanson said in a statement Thursday.

The Opposition NDP pressed Stefanson this week to call for an inquest into the death of Krystal Mousseau, a COVID-19 patient who died last May following a failed attempt to airlift her to a hospital in Ottawa from Manitoba.

Stefanson said she would get to answering the NDP's question, but first had a "proud parent moment" to boast about: her son's high school team, the St. Paul's Crusaders, won the provincial AAAA hockey championship the night before in Selkirk.

"Sometimes, we need to remember that we need to take time to celebrate our kids," she said.

WATCH | Premier responds to question by talking about hockey game: 

Premier Heather Stefanson responds to question about patient's death with comment about son's hockey team

9 months ago
Duration 2:18
When asked about the death of Krystal Mousseau by the Opposition NDP, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson began her response by congratulating her son's high school hockey team on their provincial championship.

Afterwards, Stefanson started to answer NDP Leader Wab Kinew's question, but she was quickly cut off as her allotted speaking time had expired. 

Not the time for hockey talk: NDP

Kinew responded by saying Mousseau's children won't be able to have their mother at the important moments in their life.

"That's why we're bringing these questions forward. This is new information that I'm sharing with the house today," Kinew said.

A video of the exchange was shared on social media, and the reaction was swift.

Among them, former Liberal MP Doug Eyolfson described it as "cruel and unforgivable," and Dr. Jillian Horton, an internist, called it "absolutely unbelievable."

On Thursday, Stefanson issued her apology in a short statement. She began by extending her condolences to Mousseau's family.

Stefanson initially defended herself on Tuesday. In her second opportunity to speak, the premier said that she has the liberty to address other matters in question period. 

"Of course, we will address these very important issues, as I am right now," the premier said, before speaking to Kinew's questions about Mousseau.

On May 24, 2021, Mousseau, a member of Ebb and Flow First Nation in Manitoba, suffered what the province described as "serious and undesired" unintended consequences as she was being transferred from a ground ambulance to an airplane at the Brandon airport during the height of the third wave of COVID-19.

She never got on the plane. She died the next day.

The NDP asked for an inquest on Tuesday, after revealing that a summary of the critical incident report found that the transport team did not have the right equipment to consistently monitor Mousseau's blood pressure and she was not receiving the right amount of at least one medication. 

Improved training for transport company

The report summary also said the transport company has undergone additional training and education in the use of IV infusion pump equipment after Mousseau's death, but the letter did not indicate the standards at the time of her death.

Given the seriousness of the NDP's line of questioning, a political scientist said Stefanson shouldn't have used the moment to boast about her family, no matter how brief.

"She completely misjudged the situation," said Félix Mathieu, an assistant professor in political science at the University of Winnipeg. "It was no room here for her to talk about her family, her son. She's talking about something that happened to a family that will never be able to see their daughter again, so the connection wasn't there,"

He added Stefanson was likely trying to make herself more relatable to other Manitobans by speaking about her son's accomplishments, but the timing was inappropriate. 

On occasion, politicians in question period, particularly party leaders, bring up other subjects, be it a personal comment, a message of condolence or celebrating an accomplishment. There is no law governing what can be said in question period. 

Social media reaction swift after Heather Stefanson's remark

9 months ago
Duration 2:34
A politician dodging a question is not a big surprise.. no matter what party's in power. Manitoba's premier is taking a lot of heat for how she sidestepped a question earlier this week.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. He previously reported on a bit of everything for newspapers. You can reach him at ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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