Manitoba sees changes in security as threats to politicians appear to be on the rise

Being a politician or public health worker seems to pose a much greater security risk lately – from online threats, to angry crowds at public events, to protests outside the family home.

In Manitoba, some changes have been made – and more are being proposed – to try to ensure that service in public office does not mean jeopardizing one’s personal safety. One idea is to make people’s home addresses less accessible online.

“Social media has tended to change the discourse around life and politics, and so I think this has been a growing concern for a while, exacerbated by the pandemic, but not specifically because of it,” Kelvin Goertzen , a veteran member of the Manitoba Legislature who serves as Minister of Legislation and Public Affairs, said in an interview.

Manitoba’s three main political parties are discussing a few amendments to the election law, including abolishing a requirement that each candidate’s home address be made public online. Candidates currently have the option of requesting a waiver, but the default position is to make the addresses publicly available.

The opposition’s new Democrats have put forward a private bill in the Legislative Assembly that would establish buffer zones around hospitals, schools, day care centers and the homes of many kinds of health professionals.

The bill, which would require the support of the progressive Conservative government to pass, would ban any protest against COVID-19 restrictions within the buffer zones.

At the Legislative Assembly, the latest security measures include a reduction in the number of entrances and exits at the state building.

Premier Heather Stefanson is considering more security for officials at public events.

“I feel safe, but … lately there has been some security that we have brought on board. And so we try to see what it looks like and make sure we do not go overboard, but that we “look at the safety of all.”

The most visible sign of security changes took place outside the home of then-Prime Minister Brian Pallister earlier this year.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said there were often people right on his private property who came up to the house. (Mike Sudoma / The Canadian Press)

The 9,000-square-foot mansion had been in the public spotlight in 2012 when some local media reported Pallister buying the property for $ 2 million.

The number of protests outside the property increased during the pandemic. At one point, people could be seen on the premiere driveway. A security car began to be stationed at the scene. In 2021, a large fence was erected around the perimeter.

Pallister said there were often people right on the property who came up to the house.

“I would rather not give you examples that are too many … I just want to say that no family should be exposed to it,” Pallister said in an interview with The Canadian Press in August.

“If it was just me … I’m a combative guy, so I would confront that. But when you involve my wife and our daughters, it’s when it’s immediately completely unacceptable things.”

Pallister did not want to talk in detail. He said he was concerned that highlighting threats and personal security issues could deter people from running.

“My wife is not a shrinking violet. She still has it [University of Manitoba women’s basketball] rebound record. You will not get it unless your elbows are quite sharp. But when you get a mother to see her daughters being exposed to something like that, then you do not fool around with mother bear, let’s just say it like that. “

Pallister sold the house shortly after leaving politics, and the fence fell.

NDP leader Wab Kinew said he has been on the receiving end of threats but did not want to discuss details.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, told reporters last summer that he had received threats, and at one point, police called him because of suspicious activity near his property.

On a Facebook page involving people who were saddened by the results of the progressive conservative leadership election in which Stefanson beat Shelly Glover in the race to succeed Pallister, a person posted a reference to the violent riots at the US Capitol building in January last year.

“Shelly just has to give the floor and her people will pull a January 6 and inaugurate her as prime minister,” read the announcement, released in mid-December.

It had received two likes.

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