WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Manitoba’s ruling Progressive Conservative party voted in Heather Stefanson as its new leader on Saturday, making her the first woman to be elected premier of the Canadian province going back 151 years.
She will also be Canada’s only current female provincial premier.
Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative party scheduled the vote after Brian Pallister resigned as premier in September under criticism for his handling of the pandemic and strained relations with indigenous groups.
Stefanson, 51, worked as an investment advisor prior to winning election as a member of Manitoba’s legislative assembly in 2000. She will replace interim leader and Premier, Kelvin Goertzen.
Stefanson promised during the campaign to uphold requirements that provincial employees who work with vulnerable people be vaccinated for COVID-19, and that people must show proof of immunization to enter restaurants and certain other businesses.
Her other priorities include improving relations with indigenous people, who disproportionately suffer from poverty and illness in Canada.
Stefanson was Manitoba’s health minister during the province’s deadly spring 2021 wave of COVID-19, when the influx of patients overwhelmed hospitals and forced the government to airlift some to other provinces.
Stefanson becomes Canada’s first female provincial premier since Alberta’s Rachel Notley, whose New Democratic Party lost that province’s 2019 election.
Roughly a dozen women have served as premier of Canadian provinces and territories.
(Reporting by Denny Thomas and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)