WINNIPEG — A Manitoba cabinet minister who refused to discuss his COVID-19 vaccination status has been dropped from cabinet.
Ron Schuler is being replaced in the infrastructure and emergency measures portfolios by Reg Helwer, who is also minister for central services, Premier Heather Stefanson announced Thursday.
"The premier thanks Ron Schuler ... for over five years of service as a cabinet minister in various portfolios," a news release from Stefanson's office read. It provided no reason for the change.
Schuler did not respond to interview requests but hinted on social media that he was being punished.
"Liberty has its price, today I paid for mine," a message on his Twitter account said.
Schuler was the only member of the Progressive Conservative caucus to refuse to disclose his vaccination status. Stefanson ordered all her caucus members to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15 and mentioned Schuler specifically at the time.
One day before the deadline, Stefanson announced all her caucus members had complied.
Schuler also held a news conference in the legislature the day after a requirement took effect to be vaccinated to enter the building. He continued to say his personal health information was private.
He was asked whether he supported the government's messaging about the importance of getting vaccinated. He said he is not against vaccines, that people should listen to their doctor, and that the decision comes down to individual rights.
"You should make your health care choices for yourself, and those should be kept private," he said at the time.
Schuler's departure from cabinet came before a shuffle that Stefanson has promised for January. That cabinet shuffle is still coming, the premier's office said Thursday.
When pressed for details on Schuler's departure, the premier's office remained vague.
"While we have not seen eye-to-eye on everything, I want to thank Ron Schuler for his over five years of service as a cabinet minister for various portfolios," a prepared statement from Stefanson read.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Stefanson should go further than dumping Schuler from cabinet.
"Will (Stefanson) now remove him from caucus as well?" Kinew posted on Twitter.
Schuler has been a legislature member since 1999. He ran for the Tory leadership in 2006 and finished a distant second.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 30, 2021
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press