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Pamphlets in hand, Brian Mayes knocked on doors in his ward Wednesday, a summer tradition for the St. Vital city councillor.
But it's a tradition that has taken on a different look and feel this year. With his nose and mouth covered by a mask, Mayes quickly backed about two metres away from each door in the Sage Creek neighbourhood before a resident could answer.
"I’m being responsible… If (I) didn’t have the mask, people would be upset," he said.
The politician said he decided to start door-knocking in late July, after seeking advice from city emergency management officials on how to do it safely.
Mayes said it’s valuable to connect with constituents face-to-face, even during a pandemic.
"It’s a sounding board, you (hear) what people are thinking," he said.
Mayes said the reception at doorsteps has largely been welcoming, though there are some residents who quickly shut their doors.
“I’m being responsible… If (I) didn’t have the mask, people would be upset.” — St. Vital city councillor, Brian Mayes
About a third of the councillor’s knocks weren’t answered Wednesday and another third were over as soon as a pamphlet changed hands. The rest took a few minutes to ask questions or chat.
Resident Cheryl Lashek said she felt the political visit was unusual during the pandemic.
"I think most people that come to your door are people that you are expecting," she said, adding that as long as public health recommendations are followed, it's not much different than a home delivery.
"Wearing masks, (keeping) the (physical) distance is important. If that’s being respected, it’s good," she said.
“Wearing masks, (keeping) the (physical) distance is important. If that’s being respected, it’s good.” — Sage Creek resident Cheryl Lashek on door knocking during a pandemic
Lisa Puddifant, another resident, agreed.
"It’s crazy (times) but life has to go on and… we all have a job to do and a responsibility to the community. As long as you’re doing the safety precautions, you do what you need to do," Puddifant said.
Manitoba NDP MLA Jamie Moses also started door-knocking in July.
Moses, who represents the provincial riding of St. Vital, said constituents have welcomed the visits.
"I think that it’s always really important to connect with your constituents, the people in your neighbourhood, to hear what they’re saying, especially now when things are changing so rapidly (due to the pandemic.… You want to be able to have that connection with people that (you) represent," he said.
Moses said he’s careful to wear a mask, keep his distance and check that people are comfortable to chat.
But opinions vary on whether door-knocking is safe. New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs announced his Progressive Conservative team won’t go door-to-door or leave election materials in mailboxes before a Sept. 14 provincial election.
“I think that it’s always really important to connect with your constituents, the people in your neighbourhood, to hear what they’re saying." — Manitoba NDP MLA Jamie Moses who started door knocking in July
And in the United States, the Democratic party has discouraged door-knocking, but Republicans continue to visit voters’ doorsteps.
Manitoba’s Liberal MLAs recently cancelled their plans to knock on doors for now. Leader Dougald Lamont said that decision was made after provincial COVID-19 case numbers began to rise.
"We want to make sure that the people whose door we’re knocking on stay safe. That’s the main thing," he said.
On July 13 the number of active COVID-19 cases in the province was one. It was 223 Wednesday morning.
In an emailed statement, a Manitoba Progressive Conservative party spokesperson said the Tories have also "temporarily halted" door-to-door visits and large public gatherings, such as fundraisers, since the pandemic began.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
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