"If you don’t know where you are going," said baseball Hall-of-Famer and noted manufacturer of malapropisms Yogi Berra, "you’ll end up someplace else."
In other words, you’ve got to have a plan.
Questions about planning — or, more pointedly, the perceived lack thereof — were directed toward the Manitoba government this week after neighbouring Saskatchewan unveiled its detailed and guardedly optimistic Reopen Saskatchewan document, laying out strategies and proposed timelines for lifting pandemic-related restrictions.
Stating that the "finish line (is) in sight", Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on Monday described his province’s plan — which depends on significant vaccination uptake and continuing adherence to pandemic-related health orders — as a "very cautious and measured" approach that "provide(s) a very clear path on how we can achieve that finish line together."
Step One of the plan, which relaxes restrictions on restaurants, bars and other gathering sizes, will take effect three weeks after 70 per cent of adults aged 40 and older have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Step Two, which further relaxes restrictions but keeps a province-wide mask mandate in place, kicks in three weeks after 70 per cent of adults 30 and older have received a first vaccine dose; Step Three, which would lift most remaining restrictions, takes effect after 70 per cent of people over 18 have had their first vaccine shot.
Saskatchewan estimates the three steps could come into effect around the last week of May, the third week of June and the second week of July, respectively.
In Manitoba, clarity on pandemic-related planning, modelling, vaccination strategy and economic recovery remains elusive, prompting one business leader to observe that throughout the COVID-19 crisis "no one has had any idea or opportunity to prepare for what comes next."
It’s well beyond time for the provincial government and health officials to release their white-knuckled grip on information that the public has a right — and a need — to know. The various and uniformly unsatisfactory rationales offered for keeping Manitobans in the dark about the government’s COVID-19 strategy have worn very thin, indeed.
What’s particularly galling is that in addition to its apparent belief that the public doesn’t deserve detailed pandemic-policy information, the Pallister government also seems to think Manitobans have short memories.
When pressed this week about the absence of a reopening plan to rival what Saskatchewan has offered, the province responded curtly that "In August of 2020, Manitoba launched the #RestartMB Pandemic Response System — the first of its kind in Canada — an online public health toolkit to provide detailed, timely and localized information ... to reduce (COVID-19) spread and protect Manitobans" — a reply that conveniently ignores the reality that "#RestartMB" was accompanied by the ill-considered "Ready. Safe. Grow." slogan that arrogantly ignored predictions of a looming second-wave COVID-19 outburst that would slam Manitoba in the weeks that followed.
Rather than focusing on snippy rejoinders and continuing obfuscation, the province might be better served by producing and publicly outlining a well-researched and reasonable gameplan that reassures pandemic-weary Manitobans that there really is a path out of this soul-crushing predicament.
The Saskatchewan plan, according to another of this province’s business leaders, is "a solid document which gives people a sense of control that cannot be overstated when so much fatigue and mental-health burnout is happening right now."
The finish line is where Manitobans desperately want to go. And they want to be guided there by a well-articulated and publicly accessible plan that ensures they don’t end up someplace else.