Shelly Glover says she won't support mandatory vaccines as she makes case to become Manitoba's next premier
New leader for governing Progressive Conservatives will be decided Oct. 30
One person vying to become Manitoba's next premier may turn mandatory vaccinations into a wedge issue.
Former Conservative member of Parliament Shelly Glover, speaking at her campaign launch Friday, said she opposes the upcoming requirement for some front-line workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested regularly.
Her stance is at odds with public health officials and the other two candidates — MLAs Heather Stefanson and Shannon Martin — who say they're seeking the leadership of the governing Progressive Conservatives.
Whoever wins the race will become the province's 24th premier.
Glover is fully vaccinated but doesn't think the province should compel that.
"If we mandate people to be vaccinated, we're actually telling them that they have to put something in their bodies that they may be afraid of, that their own doctors may have told them might harm them, and that I'm firm on — I will not support mandated vaccines" she said.
Glover repeatedly said the province shouldn't fire health-care workers who are vaccine reluctant, but that is not part of the province's plan, which will instead require workers who refuse vaccination to undergo regular testing for COVID-19, beginning Oct. 31.
Promise to 'renew, refresh and restore' party
At her campaign launch, Glover — a retired Winnipeg police officer and former federal cabinet minister — vowed to rejuvenate a PC party that she says has lost its way, evidenced by sinking poll numbers. The party will vote on its next leader on Oct. 30.
"I want to renew, refresh and restore the party," she said Friday, outside what she described as a fitting location for her announcement — the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Archibald Street in Winnipeg.
Though Glover is adamant vaccine mandates go too far, she said she needed more information before deciding whether restricting things like restaurant dining and sporting events to the fully vaccinated is a fitting response to the pandemic.
"I was never at that table, so I don't know exactly what decisions were made based on what information."
If chosen as leader, Glover said she'd meet with experts and health representatives.
"I have some concerns about some of the things that have happened in the past, and I want to make sure we get it right for Manitobans," she said.
Although she cast doubt on pandemic restrictions, the self-described "law-and-order candidate" called on all Manitobans to follow the orders.
By picking a side in the debate over vaccine requirements, Glover is taking a gamble that will divide PC members, said Mamadou Ka, a Université de Saint-Boniface political scientist who ran for the Tories in the 2016 election and a 2018 byelection.
"I think this is a risk that she's taking, but it's a calculated risk. She knows exactly what she's doing."
Stefanson said in a statement that she's supportive of the current health orders requiring vaccinations or regular testing, while Martin said in his own statement that public health officials have his full support.
At her announcement, Glover confidently declared she will be the next leader of the PC party and fend off the NDP in the scheduled 2023 election.
"I have the experience that it takes and I will ensure that we don't revisit those 17 years that we saw under the NDP" before the PCs returned to power under Brian Pallister in 2016.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Friday Manitobans should avoid repeating the mistake of choosing a member of Stephen Harper's federal government to be premier. Pallister ended his federal political career in Harper's government.
Apologizing to Indigenous peoples
Glover, who worked as an uncertified health-care aide during the pandemic and said she saw a personal care home understaffed and a workforce overwhelmed, also took aim at the current PC government Friday, accusing it of failing seniors.
"I observed things in the personal care homes that I never knew was happening, and I will never ever be able to wash the images from my mind," she said.
She pledged to establish a seniors advocate office and build a COVID-19 field hospital to ensure patients are not sent out of province again.
Glover also said she has become the first candidate to officially enter the race, after signing up the necessary 1,000 members and paying the $25,000 entry fee.
She plans to focus on teamwork, if elected as leader, and promised to apologize on behalf of the government for insensitive statements made about Indigenous peoples.
She told the crowd she has the support of Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.
In an interview, Dumas said he isn't endorsing any candidate in the PC race but spoke positively of Glover, whom he called a "great candidate."
"On a personal level, I had an incredibly productive and healthy working relationship with Ms. Glover in her past capacities," Dumas said.
Glover added she isn't intimidated by Heather Stefanson and the two-thirds of the Tory caucus backing her run.
When asked why many MLAs, whom she described as friends, are not endorsing her, Glover said some of them didn't know she was running.
"Stay tuned," she said. "I don't know if we're going to see any changes, but they have told me they didn't realize I was going to run."
With files from The Canadian Press