Lindsey catches stray insult from Premier in legislative session

Tom Lindsey represents Flin Flon in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba – and if a recent exchange in legislature is any clue, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister thinks he “has no friends.”

Lindsey caught a stray insult from the head of Manitoba’s government in Pallister’s response to a question from Liberal Party of Manitoba leader Dougald Lamont during the May 18 session of legislature. Lamont had asked Pallister about violations and enforcement of provincial public health orders, specifically relating to a series of anti-restriction protests taking place on the Legislature grounds. Video of the exchange is accessible through the provincial government’s website and a transcript is available on the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba hansard.

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“The government is defending its public health orders in court. If our orders are so tough, why are we allowing pro-COVID activists to stage superspreader events on the front lawn of the Legislature?” asked Lamont.

Pallister responded to Lamont’s question by saying health orders and restrictions put in place during COVID-19 had been difficult for Manitobans to deal with and that residents would need to stay the course.

“Well, this is a global pandemic and it's been a difficult time for all, to put it mildly. And having public health orders that stop people from doing things that they've been accustomed to do all their lives is a difficult thing to impose, but it's necessary. And so we're forced to defend, of course, ourselves in court, as the member had alluded to, in doing this. It's not an easy thing to tell people they can't socialize with their family,” said Pallister.

During the answer, a voice is audible from elsewhere in the chamber, though whose voice it was is unknown. Whatever the anonymous member said was not recorded in provincial Hansard and is unintelligible on the province’s online video archive.

“It’s not an easy thing, except for the member for Flin Flon (Mr. Lindsey), who has no friends... it’s not easy...” Pallister said.

Following the remark, other MLAs quickly called the Premier out. Deputy Speaker Doyle Piwniuk – himself a PC MLA – called for order immediately after Pallister’s remark, while other voices were audible immediately afterward.

“Come on!”, said one MLA, unseen on camera.

In his response to Lamont’s question, Pallister did not provide a direct answer to Lamont’s original question, but did sneak in a shot at Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew, mentioning “...it is difficult for members, like the member for St. Johns [Nahanni Fontaine] for example, to understand why her leader would break public health orders.” Kinew was lambasted by government figures last March for organizing a rally of about 100 striking Manitoba Hydro workers – provincial health orders at the time forbade outdoor public gatherings of 10 or more people. Kinew apologized for holding the rally and was issued a warning from public health.

Lindsey’s election results may disprove Pallister’s notion. Lindsey was first elected in a tight three-way race in 2016, then was reelected in 2019, receiving 2,435 votes – more than twice as many as he received in 2016 and over half of all total votes cast.

Lindsey had spoken on record only once during the session, regarding Indigenous consultation on Manitoba Hydro projects and the issuing of final licences for Hydro’s Churchill River diversion and Lake Winnipeg projects. In his remarks, Lindsey said that the Crown corporation’s decision was done with little consultation of northern and Indigenous affected people.

“The Pallister government had an opportunity to advance reconciliation, but they instead did what they always do: they ignored their constitutional obligations, went over the heads of concerned Manitobans and made the wrong decision,” said Lindsey in his remarks.

“The minister can withdraw the final licence and do the right thing by engaging in meaningful consultation, and she should do so today.”

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