Premier Heather Stefanson is apologizing for congratulating her son's high school hockey team in the legislature chamber after being asked to answer to a woman's death.
Her remark during Tuesday's question period was "misplaced, and for that I sincerely apologize," Stefanson said in a statement Thursday.
The Opposition NDP pressed Stefanson this week to call for an inquest into the death of Krystal Mousseau, a COVID-19 patient who died last May following a failed attempt to airlift her to a hospital in Ottawa from Manitoba.
Stefanson said she would get to answering the NDP's question, but first had a "proud parent moment" to boast about: her son's high school team, the St. Paul's Crusaders, won the provincial AAAA hockey championship the night before in Selkirk.
"Sometimes, we need to remember that we need to take time to celebrate our kids," she said.
Afterwards, Stefanson started to answer Kinew's question, but she was quickly cut off as her allotted speaking time had expired.
Not the time for hockey talk: NDP
Kinew responded by saying Mousseau's children won't be able to have their mother at the important moments in their life.
"That's why we're bringing these questions forward. This is new information that I'm sharing with the house today," Kinew said.
A video of the exchange was shared on social media, and the reaction was swift.
Among them, former Liberal MP Doug Eyolfson described it as "cruel and unforgivable," and Dr. Jillian Horton, an internist, called it "absolutely unbelievable."
On Thursday, Stefanson issued her apology in a short statement. She began by extending her condolences to Mousseau's family.
Stefanson initially defended herself on Tuesday. In her second opportunity to speak, the premier said that she has the liberty to address other matters in question period.
"Of course, we will address these very important issues, as I am right now," the premier said, before speaking to Kinew's questions about Mousseau.
On May 24, 2021, Mousseau, a member of Ebb and Flow First Nation in Manitoba, suffered what the province described as "serious and undesired" unintended consequences as she was being transferred from a ground ambulance to an airplane at the Brandon airport during the height of the third wave of COVID-19.
She never got on the plane. She died the next day.
The NDP asked for an inquest on Tuesday, after revealing that a summary of the critical incident report found that the transport team did not have the right equipment to consistently monitor Mousseau's blood pressure and she was not receiving the right amount of at least one medication.
Improved training for transport company
The report summary also said the transport company has undergone additional training and education in the use of IV infusion pump equipment after Mousseau's death, but the letter did not indicate the standards at the time of her death.
Given the seriousness of the NDP's line of questioning, a political scientist said Stefanson shouldn't have used the moment to boast about her family, no matter how brief.
"She completely misjudged the situation," said Félix Mathieu, an assistant professor in political science at the University of Winnipeg. "It was no room here for her to talk about her family, her son. She's talking about something that happened to a family that will never be able to see their daughter again, so the connection wasn't there,"
He added Stefanson was likely trying to make herself more relatable to other Manitobans by speaking about her son's accomplishments, but the timing was inappropriate.
On occasion, politicians in question period, particularly party leaders, bring up other subjects, be it a personal comment, a message of condolence or celebrating an accomplishment. There is no law governing what can be said in question period.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: email@example.com.
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