Ad campaign ignores current COVID-19 reality

Timing, they say — in love, sports, comedy, politics and life in general — is everything.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/08/2020 (1030 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Timing, they say — in love, sports, comedy, politics and life in general — is everything.

Based on his appearance Wednesday at a media availability in Brandon, one might be inclined to conclude Premier Brian Pallister agrees.

Standing at a podium in front of banners festooned with the provincial government’s new pandemic-reopening slogan — “Ready. Safe. Grow. #RestartMB” — the premier chose not to wax enthusiastic about the newly launched public-relations campaign, as had been expected, and opted instead to let the promotional posters speak for themselves.

“No opening remarks,” Mr. Pallister intoned, moving straight to fielding questions from assembled media.

The timing of an effusive endorsement of the ready-safe-grow campaign would have been questionable at best, on a day on which the provincial COVID-19 update revealed 16 new cases — 10 in Winnipeg — and in a western Manitoba locale that has been the epicentre of the province’s recent upsurge in positive coronavirus cases.

But then there’s the timing of the campaign itself to consider. The province is barely one month removed from having a single active COVID-19 case, so “ready” and “safe” are likely not what most Manitobans are feeling as the active-case total eclipses 200 for the first time. And “grow” is what the caseloads have been doing with each passing day in August. (There’s no small irony in the fact the “#RestartMB” portion of the new slogan is topped by a stylized arrow that points sharply upward in a manner reminiscent of the lines on recent case-count graphs.)

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister
RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

Mr. Pallister rightly pointed out that despite the recent upsurge, Manitoba’s rate of infection still compares favourably against those of other Canadian jurisdictions. And since the numbers here really had nowhere to go but up, he advised, the public here should not allow the current case trends to inject fear into their daily lives.

Still … timing. One can’t help wondering whether the province’s wisest plan of action was to unleash “Ready. Safe. Grow.” while Manitoba seems headed toward larger and more unsettling COVID-19 case totals. And one might be inclined to believe Mr. Pallister’s oft-displayed competitive determination to never take a step back, and to declare regularly that Manitoba “leads the country” in various pandemic-reopening categories, contributed to the decision to barge ahead with a government-funded P.R. campaign that seems ill-timed at the moment and might appear downright tone-deaf in the coming weeks if the COVID-19 caseload trends continue their upward trajectory.

“I’m not running a victory lap here,” Mr. Pallister said of the campaign, insisting instead that the promotional push is aimed at boosting Manitobans’ confidence, which will in turn encourage them to get back to work and get out to support their local economies.

With back-to-school anxieties rising for parents around the province, small businesses struggling and/or closing as a result of pandemic-induced losses and inadequate government supports, and advocates for both daycares and care homes bemoaning the province’s refusal to increase funding to address urgent needs, the premier is absolutely correct about one thing: Manitoba is on the verge of a crisis of confidence that could hamper its ability to rebound from the pandemic’s impact.

And a slogan, regardless of how clever it might be, isn’t the solution.

Timing accounts for a lot, but it isn’t everything. Doing the right thing when the right time arrives is actually what matters most.

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