September 28, 2020

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Face mask misstep puts Pallister itinerary in spotlight

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Premier Brian Pallister spent several days of personal time in a region of Canada that has been hit far harder by COVID-19 than Manitoba, before cramming meetings with six organizations Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Pallister left for Ottawa on July 1; he returned to Winnipeg late Tuesday afternoon.

His trip made the news when bystanders at Toronto's Pearson International Airport photographed him without a face mask, speaking with federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who was also bare-faced.

The airport has required the wearing of face coverings inside its terminals since June 1.

Premier Brian Pallister and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer were photographed at Toronto's Pearson airport with their masks down. (The Canadian Press handout)

Premier Brian Pallister and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer were photographed at Toronto's Pearson airport with their masks down. (The Canadian Press handout)

The Manitoba capital has been a safer place regarding COVID-19 than the nation's capital throughout the pandemic.

On Monday and Tuesday, the premier met with representatives of the Parliamentary Budget Office, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Business Council of Canada, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa, and Conference Board of Canada before returning home wearing a mask. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

On Monday and Tuesday, the premier met with representatives of the Parliamentary Budget Office, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Business Council of Canada, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa, and Conference Board of Canada before returning home wearing a mask. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Ottawa Public Health reports, as of Tuesday, the city had recorded 2,124 cases and 263 deaths. It appears the city has already faced the worst, though, as there were only 47 active cases.

Manitoba, by contrast, has reported 325 cases of the novel coronavirus and seven deaths, with only six cases still active.

On Monday and Tuesday, the premier met with representatives of the Parliamentary Budget Office, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Business Council of Canada, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa, and Conference Board of Canada.

Pallister's staff said last week the premier had also sought a meeting with deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland, but was ultimately unable to arrange one.

Manitoba public health orders exempt elected officials — and several other types of individuals who provide vital services — from self-isolation orders when travelling outside Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

A spokeswoman for Manitoba Health said elected officials and their staff can travel for business or vacation or a combination of both, and they do not have to self-isolate when they return to Manitoba if they are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19, as they are engaged in providing a vital service.

Olivia Billson, the premier's press secretary, provided no itinerary Wednesday for Pallister between July 1 and July 5.

She would only say the premier told reporters June 30 he would be "self-monitoring for a few days" during the early part of his eastern trip.

Billson said Manitoba's clerk of the executive council, David McLaughlin, accompanied Pallister at his meetings with the six organizations in Ottawa.

She would not say whether any other staff travelled with the premier nor whether he was accompanied by his wife.

In a statement, Billson said Pallister will provide "a full briefing to media next week."

She said Pallister was at home Wednesday.

In response to photos of he and Scheer conversing without appropriate face coverings circulating Tuesday, Pallister issued a statement late in the day to say he had "lifted" his mask to join some friends in conversation at the Toronto airport.

"It was an error on my part, it won't happen again," he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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.

Read full biography

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