Prime Minister Heather Stefanson has removed MLA Ron Schuler from his post as the province’s infrastructure minister.
The Springfield-Richot MLA has been Secretary of State for more than six years. Reg Helwer, who is already Minister of Central Services, will add the Infrastructure and Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization to his portfolio.
The move is not surprising, as Schuler has been under pressure for the past several months and has refused to disclose his COVID-19 vaccination status.
Schuler, a veteran member of the Legislative Assembly who ran for the Tory leadership 15 years ago, is the only provincial politician who has refused to say whether he has been vaccinated. The other 56 members have said that they are.
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Schuler has also been noticeably absent from places where vaccines are mandatory, such as the recent Tory Management Convention and Legislative Assembly. He has participated in chamber debates virtually.
Stefanson said earlier this year that if MLAs were not fully vaccinated by December 15, they would be removed from both the cabinet and the caucus.
He did not seem to take the step in stiff arm.
“Freedom has its price, today I have paid for mine,” he tweeted after the announcement was made late in the day Thursday.
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Schuler’s riding contains a large percentage of the population who refuse to be vaccinated.
The move also comes as COVID-19 cases rise in the province due to the Omicron variant.
“I am convinced of Minister Helwer’s ability, dedication and leadership skills to take on the new role as Manitoba faces an increase in COVID-19 cases and Manitobans are asked to take every possible step to help limit the spread of this virus, including getting fully vaccinated, limits their close contacts and follows the basic rules and public health orders, ”Stefanson said.
Helwer called the new position an “honor.”
Stefanson thanked Schuler for his work and noted that a cabinet mix will still take place in the new year.
– with files from Shane Gibson
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