Premier Brian Pallister defended his government's handling of the raging COVID-19 pandemic and urged Manitobans "not to give in to fear."
Speaking Saturday to the Manitoba Progressive Conservative party's annual general meeting, held virtually, Pallister urged people to remain calm and said his administration is focused on the challenges ahead.
"What we don’t need to do is panic. Panic is not a plan. Panic is a recipe for defeat in sport, for bankruptcy in business and for death in the midst of COVID," he said. "What we need is sober and responsible action and planning and that is what we’re demonstrating we have the capability to do as a government."
In recent weeks, Manitoba has become one of the hot spots in Canada for the coronavirus.
On Friday, the province announced 438 new cases of the virus and a five-day test positivity rate of 13.7 per cent. In Steinbach, the 10-day test positivity rate was a distressing 40 per cent. A total of 281 Manitobans were in hospital, with 43 in intensive care.
Pallister told party members that every jurisdiction in the western world is facing the challenges of COVID-19 right now.
"The second wave is upon us. Every province west of Nova Scotia has had its highest numbers in the last few days, including Manitoba. And so trying to make the political argument that Manitoba’s government missed the boat when everybody in the western world is under attack right now is not a fruitful thing – even if it was right, and it isn’t," he said in a 45-minute speech.
Organizers couldn't immediately say how many party members and observers tuned in to the premier's remarks.
The PC party convention kicked off Friday evening and concludes this afternoon. Federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole addresses the meeting this afternoon. Various cabinet ministers, grouped in panels, are also addressing the convention.
Pallister accused the Opposition NDP of trying to "gain partisan advantage" from the pandemic.
"This is not a time when the Opposition should be using this experience that we’re all going through as a self-promotional opportunity. But that’s apparently what they want to do," he told the Tory faithful.
The premier also took a swing at those behind an anti-mask rally a week ago in Steinbach -- calling the organizer of that event a "blockhead" -- and those rumoured to be organizing a similar event today.
"When (maskless protesters are) killing each other and other people through their stupidity, then there have to be consequences," he said, referring to recent efforts to beef up enforcement of public health orders.
Pallister defended his government's record of support to small businesses, saying "thousands" have already applied to the province's new Manitoba Bridge grant program. It provides $5,000 to eligible businesses and organizations that are required to close due to public health orders that went into effect Nov. 12.
Businesses are also eligible for another $5,000 grant should restrictions continue into the new year. Along with the $6,000 provided under the Manitoba GAP program, that could mean a total of $16,000 in total support, the premier said.
"I’m not pretending that this is going to solve everybody’s problem, but the fact is it’s going to help to address some of them," he said.
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.