Manitoba’s premier says the appointed chair of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s board of directors is stepping down after he reportedly travelled to the southern United States during COVID-19.
Last week, the Winnipeg Free Press first reported Wayne McWhirter left for Arizona last month, where he said he told the paper he was working remotely.
The reported trip came as provincial health officials pleaded with Manitobans to stay at home and not travel outside the province for non-essential purposes.
In a statement sent to media late Monday, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said McWhirter is leaving his role with the WRHA.
“After discussion with my office, Wayne McWhirter will be stepping down as chair of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority,” Pallister said in the brief statement.
The move comes after Health Minister Heather Stefanson said last Wednesday the government had no plans to rescind McWhirter’s role.
Pallister’s statement announcing the resignation also laid out rules prohibiting all Manitoba government Order-in-Council appointees from travelling for leisure outside permitted travel areas.
Pallister said last week he was disappointed McWhirter disregarded a strong recommendation from health officials that Manitobans avoid unnecessary travel, but noted McWhirter ought to be cut some slack because he worked mainly as a volunteer.
The Opposition NDP and Liberals had called for Pallister to remove McWhirter from his post.
Pallister says he’s implementing the travel rules for appointees due to concerns about COVID-19 variants now emerging, and he says it applies to those serving on agencies, boards, and commissions.
Last week Manitoba health officials introduced travel restrictions requiring anyone who enters Manitoba to self-isolate for 14 days.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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