Heather Stefanson sworn in as Manitoba's 1st female premier

·3 min read
Heather Stefanson is sworn in as Manitoba's 24th premier alongside Lt.-Gov. of Manitoba Janice Filmon, left, on Tuesday. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Heather Stefanson is sworn in as Manitoba's 24th premier alongside Lt.-Gov. of Manitoba Janice Filmon, left, on Tuesday. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Heather Stefanson addressed the public for the first time after being sworn in as Manitoba's 24th premier — making her the first female premier in the province's history.

"This was something that was once unthinkable. I reflect on the many people who have paved the way to make this possible, and I promise that our governments will embrace their values of equality, inclusivity and understanding," she said at her swearing-in ceremony in Winnipeg on Tuesday afternoon.

"I am proud to stand on their shoulders. And while I may be the first woman to hold this office, I take this oath confident in the knowledge that I will not be the last."

Stefanson's address came just hours after Shelly Glover, her opponent in the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba leadership race, filed a challenge at the Court of Queen's Bench, seeking to have the results of the election declared invalid and to have a new election ordered.

"I am the premier. Not her," Glover said in a phone call with CBC News on Tuesday.

David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press
David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press

In the court application, Glover's legal counsel, David Hill, claims the election was rife with "substantial irregularities … calculated to affect the result."

Stefanson, at a news conference following her swearing-in, called the move "really disappointing."

"But I'm not going to [be] focused on that moving forward," she said.

"Our focus absolutely has to be on governing, not getting involved in these other situations that are happening out there."

The premier said she'll devote her energy to reducing the surgery and diagnostic backlog in Manitoba health-care facilities and work toward rebuilding the economy, which has been hurt by the pandemic.

She said she will also work to increase the number of intensive care beds and actively work to recruit health-care staff to Manitoba.

"These are the priorities that Manitobans want us to focus on."

John Woods/The Canadian Press
John Woods/The Canadian Press

Stefanson — the favourite of the governing party's establishment — was named the party's next leader on Saturday, but by a slim margin.

She won by 363 votes over Glover, with 8,405 votes of the votes cast — 51 per cent — to Glover's 8,042 votes.

There is still controversy around allegations of missing ballots. At least 1,200 people had not received their mail-in ballots days before the votes were counted, but the party said those concerns had been addressed by election day.

George Orle, chair of the PC leadership election committee, told attendees at Saturday's leadership announcement the party had issued replacement ballots for every member who said they did not receive one.

Marouane Refak/Radio-Canada
Marouane Refak/Radio-Canada

Stefanson said she knows there were a large number of people rooting for her opponent.

"We're going to find some common ground in all of this so that we can move forward and unite our party," she said.

"I'm going to work very closely with my colleagues to ensure that we're reaching out to people in all areas of this province to ensure we are listening to people, bringing people together and uniting them.

"I will work everyday to gain and maintain your trust. This is my mission, and together we will accomplish great things for this great province of ours."

David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press
David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press

Opposition parties want more from Stefanson

Manitoba's NDP and Liberal leaders congratulated Stefanson on her new role, but want more from her than her predecessor, Brian Pallister.

"I urge Premier Stefanson to acknowledge that her government's cuts to health care and consolidation plans were wrong. Their cuts led to devastating outcomes in Manitoba during the pandemic," NDP leader Wab Kinew said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

Liberal leader Dougald Lamont previously said the interim premier Kelvin Goertzen was good at putting out fires, but was responsible for setting some.

"That's still the case," Lamont said at a news conference after Stefanson's swearing in. "The biggest challenge they face is undoing so much of what they did."

WATCH | Premier Heather Stefanson takes question from the media:

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