Premier Brian Pallister has hinted code red restrictions in Manitoba could be extended beyond the initial one-month period ending Dec. 11.

On Tuesday, Pallister said while he would defer to chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin, his "gut feeling" is COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on retail operations and the size of gatherings could continue for some time.

"I don’t think (it’s) going to be a short-term undertaking. People are talking about a vaccine with hope; I’m with them, I’m hopeful, too. But let’s understand something: it’s not here yet," he said.

"My gut feeling is that as we get into winter, it’s going to be critical that we continue with a high level of restrictions for some time, and I would encourage Manitobans to understand that."

Even when a vaccine does arrive, it will be distributed gradually, Pallister said, so Manitobans need to keep their guard up.

At a news conference Tuesday, the premier released the province’s latest COVID-19 enforcement data.

A total of 202 warnings and 100 tickets for violations of public health orders were issued Nov. 23-29, including:

• 22 $5,000 tickets to businesses for various offences;

• 48 $1,296 tickets to individuals for various offences;

• 23 $298 tickets for failure to wear a mask in indoor public places;

• seven band bylaw tickets were issued by Manitoba First Nations Police Service.

Springs Church received four $5,000 tickets while the Canadian Superstore in Brandon received a $5,000 fine.

A total of $181,574 in fines were issued last week, up from $126,082 the week prior.

"It is noteworthy that approximately 20 per cent of those tickets issued last week related to gathering sizes, including one gathering in rural Manitoba that police described as having more than 15 people involved," Pallister said.

Since enforcement efforts began in April, a total of 663 warnings and 353 tickets have been issued, resulting in more than $549,846 in fines to businesses and individuals.

Opposition Leader Wab Kinew said Pallister should be more preoccupied with the health of Manitobans than enforcement matters.

"He’s coming out weekly to give us an update on how many tickets are handed out. I don’t think that’s the No. 1 issue in Manitoba right now," he said. "The amount of people contracting COVID, the amount of people passing away, the situation in our hospitals. That’s the issue that Manitobans want to see resolved."

According to a new survey by the Angus Reid Institute, Pallister now has the lowest approval rating among Canada’s premiers, at 32 per cent.

Premiers John Horgan of British Columbia and François Legault of Quebec lead the country’s first ministers, each with a 64 per cent approval rating, followed by New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs (63 per cent). Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s approval rating stands at 61 per cent.

Apart from Pallister, only Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (40 per cent) has an approval rating below 50 per cent.

Asked Tuesday why his approval rating is so low, Pallister said: "I think people don’t like COVID, and that’s fine. I’m fighting COVID and I’ll continue to stay focused on fighting COVID."

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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