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A Manitoba politician has been punished for meeting with and supporting truckers protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Josh Guenter posted on social media Saturday that he had met with “freedom-loving” Canadians in a convoy on the highway between Winnipeg and the United States border.

He said the truckers were inspiring a return to civil liberties.

Truckers have been slowing traffic at the border crossing in Emerson, a town in Guenter’s constituency.

Premier Heather Stefanson says she has removed Guenter from his recent appointment as a legislative assistant to the minister of health.

In December, Stefanson removed Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler from cabinet, saying his messaging on vaccines was not consistent with the government’s.

Both Schuler and Guenter remain in the Progressive Conservative caucus.

“As I have stated before, I expect all representatives of the government, whether ministers or their legislative assistants, to support efforts to get all Manitobans vaccinated,” Stefanson said in a prepared statement Monday.

“The recent events involving protests from Canadian truckers raised significant concerns.”

Guenter, who could not immediately be reached for comment, was first elected in 2019 in Borderland constituency, a Tory stronghold.

Stefanson said truckers have legitimate issues, but vaccines are needed and some of the protests have gone too far.

“Concerns with the border mandate for truckers do have merit and should be examined further by our federal government to find better solutions. Manitoba has had success implementing (rapid) testing as an alternative to vaccination mandates, and using this method, we can mitigate further supply chain disruptions,” Stefanson’ said.

“Our government believes in the right to peacefully protest; however, we do not condone the use of anti-Semitic, racist imagery and desecration of war memorials or statues.”

The Opposition New Democrats said Guenter should be removed from the governing Tory caucus.

“He’s got no place, I would suggest, in the P.C. caucus,” NDP justice critic Nahanni Fontaine said.

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