Heather Stefanson Stepping Down As Manitoba PC Party Leader | CBC News


Heather Stefanson has announced she will step down as leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives on Monday.

PCs ‘are now going to go through a very healthy leadership race,’ says Stefanson, who will stay on as MLA

Ian Froese · CBC News

· Posted: Jan 13, 2024 12:17 PM EST | Last Updated: 9 hours ago

Heather Stefanson has announced she’s stepping down as of Monday as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)Heather Stefanson says she will step down as leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives on Monday, months after her party was defeated in a divisive election campaign.

Stefanson, who has been the leader of the Official Opposition since last October’s election, made the announcement Saturday afternoon to party delegates, who were drawing up the rules for the party’s next leadership race.

“I’m very proud of our time in government and some of the things that we were able to achieve,” she told reporters immediately afterwards.

“I wish we had four more years to keep that momentum going, but that’s OK, we respect the people of Manitoba — they have spoken and we will continue to be a very strong opposition to this NDP government.”

The former premier of Manitoba said she will retain her Tuxedo seat for the time being, but didn’t commit to remaining MLA for the duration of her term.

She said the upcoming leadership race, which may lead to the selection of someone who isn’t elected, may prompt her to step aside.

WATCH | Heather Stefanson says serving as Manitoba’s premier an honour:

‘I feel very blessed and honoured’: Stefanson steps down as PC leader’I feel very blessed and honoured’: Stefanson steps down as PC leader

Stefanson, who has held the Tuxedo riding in Winnipeg for the PCs since 2000, went on to roles in cabinet, including the justice and health portfolios, when the Tories came to power in 2016.

She was chosen as the party’s leader in 2021, as its fortunes under then-premier Brian Pallister began to sag.

The PCs moved away from an austerity-minded approach under Stefanson, but were unable to earn a third consecutive election victory on Oct. 3, when the NDP won a majority.

“I think we came a long way in a short period of time, but you know, it just wasn’t far enough to earn government again,” she said Saturday.

The PC’s election campaign was denounced by several high-ranking Tories for campaign ads touting the government’s opposition to a landfill search for the remains of First Nations women. Stefanson later apologized for the ads, saying they “hurt Manitobans.”

“I think as a party we are now going to go through a very healthy leadership race, and I look forward to seeing whoever will be taking over.”

Changes recommended to leader selectionStefanson announced after losing the Oct. 3 election that she would step down, but had not set a date to do so until Saturday.

The Tory delegates meeting in Winnipeg approved new leadership rules that capped the influence of constituencies with large membership numbers. A constituency with 100 voting members would get 100 points in a leadership vote. One with 400 member votes would get 200 points, and no constituency would get more than 500 points.

PC deputy leader Kelvin Goertzen said he appreciates the next leader will need broad support across the province.

“It’s really important that our leader have a connection and an understanding of every part of Manitoba,” said Goertzen, who’ll serve as acting leader until the caucus selects an interim leader in the coming days.

The PCs are trying to avoid a repeat of the 2021 leadership race, when many people did not receive ballots in time to vote by mail.

Shelly Glover, who lost the race by a narrow margin, challenged the results in court, but a judge ruled Glover failed to show there were any irregularities that would have affected the outcome.

The party was using the traditional “one member, one vote” system.

Stefanson told reporters she didn’t take part in the debate around the leadership rules because she didn’t want to be seen as interfering in the process for choosing her successor.

The PCs haven’t set a date for the next leadership convention.

WATCH | Stefanson recalls her proudest moment as Premier:

Heather Stefanson’s proudest moment as PremierHeather Stefanson announced Saturday she’s stepping down as of Monday as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba.

Looking back at her tenure as premier, Stefanson said the province encountered a number of challenges, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine.

“But I can say I’ve learned so much over the course of the last 23 years, both in opposition and in government,” she said.

“I feel very blessed and honoured to have been given the roles of the minister of justice and families and health, and then of course the premier of Manitoba — and I’m just so incredibly honoured to have been given that opportunity.”

She was also the first female premier in Manitoba’s history.

“The best part of that is that I know I won’t be the last,” she said.

Stefanson wrote on social media that serving as premier of Manitoba and Tory party leader has been “the honour of a lifetime.”

Thank you, Manitoba. pic.twitter.com/HeEV2yU4YC

—@HStefansonMBAlleged ethics breach ‘didn’t happen’: StefansonStefanson is stepping down as her party faces accusations it tried to push through a controversial mining proposal in the days after it lost the election.

Premier Wab Kinew, former PC environment minister Kevin Klein and former acting environment minister Rochelle Squires have all alleged the former government tried to breach the caretaker convention, which states outgoing governments shouldn’t make any major decisions before the next government is sworn in.

On Friday, the NDP’s caucus leader filed ethics complaints against Stefanson and former cabinet minister Jeff Wharton as a result.

Wharton is accused of trying to pressure Klein and Squires to approve the mining project in separate phone calls.

Speaking for the first time about the allegations on Saturday, Stefanson insisted she never tried to push the project and has no conflict of interest. 

“We respected the caretaker convention and it didn’t happen, so I don’t know what the issue is here,” she said. 

“It didn’t happen. End of story.”

She said she wasn’t privy to Wharton’s conversations with the departing cabinet ministers.


Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. You can reach him at ian.froese@cbc.ca.

Twitter: @ianfroeseWith files from The Canadian Press

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