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‘Listening to Manitobans:’ A profile of Manitoba’s next premier Heather Stefanson

WINNIPEG –


Heather Stefanson’s profitable bid to steer the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives and take the premier’s chair follows a lifetime in and round politics that began as a younger lady.


She was the institution candidate within the contest to switch former premier Brian Pallister, who stepped down from the highest job final month. In outcomes introduced Saturday, Stefanson edged former member of Parliament Shelly Glover.


Stefanson was within the place of getting to distance herself from her personal occasion’s selections and clarify why the COVID-19 pandemic hit Manitoba particularly laborious throughout her temporary time as well being minister.


“Have we at all times gotten it proper? No,” she stated in a current interview.


“And I feel once we do not get it proper, it is time to take a step again and say, ‘You understand, wait a minute. We have to be out listening to Manitobans.”‘


Stefanson, 51, was seven years outdated when she acquired her first style of politics. Her father ran for a seat within the legislature, ending second to Liberal Lloyd Axworthy.


She studied political science at college and later labored for Mila Mulroney when Brian Mulroney was prime minister.


“It was actually a possibility to learn the way authorities works and capabilities, as a result of we had been coping with all of the totally different authorities departments on the correspondence facet of issues,” she recalled.


Whereas in Ottawa, Stefanson met her future husband, Jason, a nephew of a former Manitoba cupboard minister.


She labored for the federal agriculture minister and, after the Tories misplaced the 1993 federal election, grew to become an funding adviser. She was suspended at one level when she was discovered to have made trades throughout a interval by which she had not saved up her credentials.


Stefanson was on then-premier Gary Filmon’s constituency government when the provincial Tories misplaced in 1999. Filmon stepped down the next yr. Stefanson ran for his seat and received. She has held the Tuxedo constituency in Winnipeg ever since.


After years in opposition, the Tories underneath Pallister received an enormous majority in 2016. Since then, Stefanson has served in a number of roles, together with deputy premier, well being minister, justice minister and minister of households.


Her temporary time within the well being portfolio coincided with Manitoba’s worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The federal government didn’t heed pleas from some docs to impose tighter public well being restrictions because the third wave began final spring. Intensive care models quickly grew to become so overtaxed, dozens of sufferers needed to be flown to different provinces for care. Some died there.


When requested how she would keep away from an analogous state of affairs as premier, Stefanson pointed to ongoing efforts to increase intensive care capability and a current collective settlement signed with the Manitoba Nurses’ Union.


“That may assist in the direction of the recruitment and retention of nurses.”


Stefanson, with out mentioning Pallister by identify, can be promising a authorities that can hear and collaborate extra. The day she launched her management bid, she promised to scrap laws that will eradicate elected college boards. The invoice, staunchly defended by Pallister, had run into widespread opposition. It was withdrawn by interim Tory chief and Premier Kelvin Goertzen earlier this month.


She believes the Tories, low in opinion polls, can rebound in time for the 2023 election.


“I am going to spend my time listening and dealing with Manitobans,” she stated. “If we’re listening to Manitobans and we’re transferring in a route they need, it needs to be winnable once more.”


Stefanson had been touted as a attainable management candidate in earlier races, however she stated she didn’t soar in as a result of her youngsters had been younger. They’re now grown and Stefanson felt good about saying sure to individuals who requested her to run this time.


“Was I essentially searching for this? Not likely. However the alternative form of introduced itself … and I had lots of my colleagues coming and asking me if I might take into account doing it. So I took a while with household and made that closing choice.”


Stefanson will develop into Manitoba’s first-ever feminine premier as soon as she is sworn in, and the one feminine premier among the many provinces.


“I’ve labored in different areas in my life the place I have been the one girl across the desk, in order that’s nothing new to me,” Stefanson stated moments after her victory.


This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Oct. 30, 2021.

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