Heather Stefanson will be Manitoba’s first female premiere

WINNIPEG –

Manitoba’s new premieres were sworn in on Tuesday as her opponent challenged her leadership victory in court.

“It’s disappointing,” Heather Stefanson said. “But I will not let this get (us) away from our game, our focus.”

In his first speech as prime minister, Stefanson promised to strengthen health care and the economy. The government is also committed to listening to and learning from indigenous peoples to promote reconciliation, she said.

“I will always listen to you, the people of Manitoba,” she said.

Stefanson added that she expects the legislature to return later this month with a throne speech. She did not say whether there would be significant changes in the cabinet, but suggested that it is not unusual for roles to change under new leadership.

Stefanson, 51, became the first woman to become prime minister in the province after members of the Progressive Conservative Party elected her as their new leader over the weekend.

“Although I may be the first woman to hold this office, I take this oath in the confidence that I will not be the last,” she said.

She is also the only female premier in the 10 provinces.

Shelly Glover, who narrowly lost to Stefanson when the ballot papers were counted up on Saturday, challenges the result. She claimed that the wrong person has been sworn in.

“I feel like I’m the first female Metis premier in Manitoba,” Glover said.

In court documents filed Tuesday, Glover claimed that Stefansson’s victory is invalid and that the prime minister’s office remains vacant. She said in a statement that she was given a different number of how many votes would be counted than what was eventually given.

Stefanson won by 363 votes.

Glover, a former Conservative member of parliament, had complained throughout the leadership race that many party members did not receive their ballots on time.

Through her lawyer, Glover wrote to Manitoba’s lieutenant governor on Monday, asking for the oath to be delayed so she could challenge the outcome of the leadership vote in court.

The head of the Tory management committee said over the weekend that every effort was made to allow people to vote and that no one was deliberately denied a ballot.

Stefanson was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2000 and has since held the Winnipeg tuxedo.

She has promised a different tone than her predecessor, Brian Pallister, who resigned in September after a marked drop in opinion polls following controversial remarks about indigenous peoples’ history. He was also criticized for his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stefanson did not escape criticism during the province’s worst wave of the pandemic. She was health minister last spring when dozens of patients in the intensive care unit had to be flown to other provinces due to lack of beds.

She also served as deputy prime minister, justice minister and family minister since the progressive conservatives won a large majority in 2016.

Stefanson said she understands it will be a significant challenge to regain confidence from the Manitobans, but it is one she is ready to face as prime minister.

“We begin on earth immediately.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 2, 2021

– With files from Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg

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