Investigation launched against Manitoba reeve who spoke at Steinbach anti-mask rally
WINNIPEG -- The actions of a Manitoba reeve are under investigation after he publicly defied COVID-19 health orders.
Despite pleas from the residents in his community and the Premier of Manitoba, this reeve's defiance is unwavering.
On Wednesday, Premier Brian Pallister urged Lewis Weiss, the outspoken Reeve of La Broquerie, to follow widespread health orders.
"To the Reeve of La Broquerie, I have to say, sir we live in the Red River Valley. It is flat between you and I, but the world is not flat," Pallister said.
"You need to understand there is a real epidemic out there. It's a pandemic and people in your area are getting COVID too, so please sir, it's not a myth, it's a reality."
Weiss has been publicly opposed to the health orders in Manitoba and made headlines after speaking out against them at an anti-mask rally in Steinbach in November.
As a result, Weiss was handed a $1,296 ticket.
During a council meeting on Wednesday, the reeve questioned the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and said he believes it has been blown out of proportion.
It's an opinion that has landed him in hot water with his fellow councillors, who earlier in December voted to launch an investigation into his actions at an anti-mask rally, as well as his open defiance of health orders.
"We'll hire a third-party investigator to find out if any punishment could happen to our reeve," Ivan Normandeau, the deputy reeve of La Broquerie, told CTV News.
Normandeau would not comment on specific comments Weiss has made. He said there is no timeline on the investigation, and said Weiss will continue his duties as reeve in the interim.
"They are definitely free to do it, I guess they felt I've done something wrong," Weiss told CTV News on Thursday.
He said he plans to fight the ticket he was handed at the Steinbach rally, and will appeal the investigation if it finds him at fault.
Shaun Sturby, a resident of La Broquerie, is one of many people in the area that has written a letter to the reeve, calling out his actions.
He said while a small group may support Weiss, the majority of people in La Broquerie want him to follow orders.
"Do your job and work for the people," Sturby said. "Do what the province has asked and echo it. This is what they want. This is what they need. They need their leaders to support them."
The messages from residents of La Broquerie, along with the premier, haven't wavered Weiss's views.
"Personally, I obviously feel that they are uneducated," Weiss said. "They don't really know what is going on, on the world stage and it is unfortunate."
Weiss’ actions are also not finding support among other municipal leaders in the region.
Brandon Burley, the Mayor of Morden, was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month. In a letter sent to CTV News, Burley said he is concerned by the comments made by Weiss.
“As a municipal leader you have a duty to act in the best interest of your constituents, and certainly not to imperil them through reckless and self-seeking behaviour,” Burley wrote.
Burley said he is still feeling the effects of COVID-19 after recovering and urged Weiss to tone down the rhetoric he is using.
“This baseless rhetoric (and indeed a substantial amount of discord, antagonism, and hatred) has been emboldened in your region and mine by this misinformation, replacing the charity, good-will (sic) and fidelity, which were some of the few lights in the darkness at the outset of the pandemic declaration,” Burley wrote. “Consequently, I am publicly requesting that you lend your efforts to those of the rest of the Province, and work towards our mutual goal of ensuring the public health of our constituents.
“We all know that the only way past this pandemic is through it and your example and leadership, like those of other Public Servants, will have a major impact on how we survive this health crisis, and how quickly we can get back to the life and well-being we are all accustomed to.”
The full letter can be read below.