Council members file formal complaint over La Broquerie reeve’s participation in Steinbach rally

A formal complaint has been filed with the province against La Broquerie Reeve Lewis Weiss, following his participation in a Steinbach rally protesting heightened public health restrictions due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Weiss attended the rally, which drew roughly 100 people on Nov. 14, despite public health restrictions prohibiting gatherings of more than five people in Manitoba.

Protesters were observed not practising physical distancing or wearing masks. 

“[I’m] just disappointed,” Ivan Normandeau, deputy reeve of La Broquerie, told CBC News.

“By him going … and not following the guidelines of Manitoba Health, he breached our code of conduct policy.” 

Normandeau said he and four other councillors filed the complaint, ahead of a virtual council meeting Wednesday night.

At the meeting, councillors noted Weiss was implored to follow public health orders by Rochelle Squires, the province’s municipal relations minister, in a written letter to him last Friday. 

In the letter, Squires warned Weiss he could face fines or suspension if he contravened the municipal code of conduct.

Still, Weiss attended and was one of the protesters fined $1,296 by enforcement officers.

La Broquerie Reeve Lewis Weiss watches as he gets written a fine for nearly $1,300 for disregarding a public health order at a Steinbach rally against COVID-19 government restrictions on Saturday. The provincial health order limits group sizes to five people, which was violated at the rally that was attended by over 100. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

At Wednesday’s meeting, Coun. Paul Gauthier told members he has heard from multiple constituents concerned about the situation, including some calling on the reeve to resign.

Two letters from constituents were also read at the meeting condemning Weiss’s participation as an elected official at the rally. 

In one letter, a resident called the reeve’s actions “deplorable” and an abuse of his platform.

Calls for reeve to resign

During the virtual meeting, Gauthier asked Weiss if he would resign as reeve. 

Weiss said he will not resign and defended his views and participation at the event. He maintained he attended the rally on behalf of himself and his views, not any constituents.    

Normandeau said the province will review the code of conduct complaint and provide recommendations, which could include fines or a suspension from council. 

Those recommendations would then be voted on by council, he added.

Normandeau also brought forward a motion, which was supported by six of seven council members including Weiss, to put out a public statement indicating they respect the front-line workers and public health orders and Weiss’s actions do not reflect the views of council members, staff and residents of La Broquerie.

“Hospitals are packed with people, people are dying, I know three people personally that have died from COVID,” Normandeau said. “I think we’ve got to take this seriously and I hope it opens people’s eyes, if Manitoba gives you guidelines you have to follow those guidelines.”     

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