The Southern Health Region’s huge spike in COVID-19 cases, puts Manitoba in jeopardy of being in a full lockdown heading into the Christmas holidays.
Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon is under scrutiny for failing to have a sound plan how her P.C Government will contain the spread of COVID-19 in the Southern Health Region. Gordon’s elevation from backbencher to Health Minister in January of this year came after former Premier Pallister’s final Cabinet shuffle. The shuffle saw Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen moved out of the position to become Justice Minister and Attorney General.
Moving Friesen out of the position of Health Minister was significant because, under his watch, the COVID-19 cases in the Southern Health Region were the highest in the province and now account for a staggering 14.5%.
The Southern Health Region also has some of the lowest vaccination rates in Manitoba, with some of the most vocal critics about vaccinations and mask mandates. Manitobans have been saying Fresien’s judgement was severely clouded; being the MLA for the Southern Health Region affected his ability to impose stricter COVID-19 restrictions faster.
The hesitancy of Friesen to act quickly addressing the Southern Health Region’s COVID-19 crisis has continued by current Health Minister Gordon. Her inability to address the situation head-on puts the rest of the province in Jeopardy of entering another undesired lockdown.
If Winnipeg had the high test positivity numbers as the Southern Health Region, it would be in lockdown. So why is there a double standard? It clearly can not be about appeasing voters, being as the Southern Health Region religiously votes Conservative.
The short answer is the Manitoba Conservatives do not understand health care. Their history of cuts, hallway medicine and combative nature with healthcare professionals is par for the course. This inability to understand the health care system goes back to the Filmon days when Manitobans saw cuts to social programs and his government put in measures to limit the powers of the nurses’ unions.
Manitoba’s newly elected Premier Stefanson had a chance to make a great first impression as she indicated things are going to be different. However, hiring past Filmon staffers for key roles in her administration does concern many Manitobans.
It’s important to note, that Stefanson also shared the responsibilities as Minister of Health, in which the public called for her resignation. In her first scrum as Premier, the media asked will she govern differently from Premier Pallister? Instead of a simple yes, she gave a long-winded answer of what you would expect from a 20-year politician.
Stefanson’s leadership is facing her biggest test right out of the gate. That is how she plans to address the spike in COVID-19 cases within the Southern Health Region.
She must convince Manitobans that their perceived bias towards limiting stricter COVID-19 restrictions in the Southern Health Region is incorrect. Then she must further convince Manitobans that they should remain confident the current Minister of Health, Audrey Gordon, will do what is needed to prevent another full-scale provincial lockdown.