Progressive Conservative MP Janice Morley-Lecomte said her failure to provide staff at an Osborne Street bistro with proof of proper vaccination last week was just a misunderstanding.
The Seine River MP, who until Sunday had refused to publicly disclose her COVID-19 vaccination status, said she believed a printed copy of her vaccination record – a copy that did not include the code Mandatory QR issued by the government – was sufficient to prove that it is dubbed vaxxed.
Ms Morley-Lecomte told staff they were wrong when they informed her that the piece of paper she presented did not comply with the provincial government’s public health orders.
“I’m a member of Parliament,” she told an Oakwood Cafe server, as if her status as a member of the Legislature gave her special consideration.
We do not know what type of document Ms. Morley-Lecomte had in hand. But surely she knew, or should have known, that a printed copy of her vaccination history without the required QR code is not enough.
Manitoba’s public health orders clearly state that in public places where proof of vaccination is required, people over the age of 12 must present their provincially issued digital or physical vaccination card. The card includes a scannable QR code to verify authenticity. Government-issued ID is also required to corroborate the person’s name.
It is difficult to understand how an elected official could not have been aware of this rule. Not only is it common knowledge that QR codes are required to enter restaurants, licensed establishments and many other indoor public places; it is a regulation enacted by the very government where Ms. Morley-Lecomte sits. Provincial policy has been in place since the summer. It was widely publicized and is the subject of regular public discourse.
Elected officials have a particular duty to be aware of public health orders and to follow them without reservation, especially during a pandemic. Failure to present proper proof of vaccination when required (and insist that staff make mistakes when they ask) is the exact opposite of how an elected official should behave.
It is difficult enough for frontline workers in the hospitality industry to have to verify vaccination cards. The last thing they need are customers giving them a hard time. Ms Morley-Lecomte was not rude or obnoxious when she refused to produce proper proof of vaccination, said Wendy May, owner of Oakwood Café. But it was disrespectful (and wrong) of him to tell the server that a QR code is not required.
Rather than offer a wholehearted apology, Morley-Lecomte said in a statement “if there was a misunderstanding, I apologize”. It was not a misunderstanding. Either the Conservative MP knowingly tried to circumvent the province’s public health orders or she was ignoring the law. Neither is acceptable.
Equally disappointing was Premier Heather Stefanson’s response to the incident. Instead of addressing the problem directly, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister issued a generic statement on Sunday saying that all Manitobans, including elected officials, must follow the rules.
On Monday, the Prime Minister added that Ms Morley-Lecomte had now downloaded the necessary QR code and that “the problem has been resolved to my satisfaction”.
There is, however, a bigger problem to be solved. While Stefanson and her government expect Manitobans to obey public health orders, it is incumbent on all members of her caucus to show leadership in actively following and promoting those orders.