Vivian Santos removed as Winnipeg's acting deputy mayor as Bowman seeks 'better fit' on vaccination push
'This is about our public role and a better fit for the public task at hand,' mayor says
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says he respects the right of Coun. Vivian Santos to keep her personal health information private, but has removed the Point Douglas councillor as the city's acting deputy mayor.
Bowman said Thursday he was looking for someone who was a "better fit" for the task of fighting a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and tapped Coun. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River) for the position of acting deputy mayor.
The Winnipeg Free Press has previously reported that Santos is the only member of city council who has not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, citing an unspecified medical condition as her reason for not getting vaccinated.
The mayor says he makes many appointments and changes are made "based on what the need is and the task is."
"We are entering this fourth wave. You can expect to hear more from me about the importance of vaccines and I am going to be tasking the deputy mayor and acting deputy mayor to be even more proactive and public in their promotion of vaccines, and for that reason thought the change made sense," Bowman said on Thursday.
"This is about our public role and a better fit for the public task at hand. And for that reason, I just felt Coun. Chambers would be a better fit for that task at this time."
Santos released a statement offering congratulations to Chambers, but criticizing Bowman for the city's previous budget, saying there are "pressing social and economic realities that are not being addressed."
"As always, I seek solutions that benefit all Winnipeggers regardless of your gender, political views or class," Santos said in her statement.
"At the same time, with the fourth wave of the pandemic upon us, it is clear to me now that I must advocate more openly and voice the concerns of the community who face daily systemic barriers."
Santos's statement made no mention of her vaccination status or encouraging residents to get vaccinated, though she acknowledged the looming increases in COVID-19 case rates predicted by scientists and government.
Bowman told reporters on Thursday he believes in Santos's right to keep her health information private.
"Any member of council — any Winnipegger — I respect the fact that personal health information decisions that are made about one's personal health are just that. They are an individual's decision to make and what they disclose or [do] not disclose is really up to them, " Bowman said.
City managers are still working on a possible vaccine mandate for staff, Bowman said.
Asked if there would be any problem working and going to meetings with a councillor who was unvaccinated, Bowman responded that city hall has developed a system where politicians, staff and delegations can attend remotely.
- An earlier version of this story said Coun. Vivian Santos declined to say whether she is vaccinated against COVID-19. In fact, the Winnipeg Free Press has previously reported that Santos has said she has not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 due to an unspecified medical condition.Sep 10, 2021 2:15 PM CT