Premier Brian Pallister brought a message that he hoped would steady frayed nerves and assure vulnerable Manitobans the province is putting measures in place to help them.
In his March 24 message, he said Manitoba is equipped to meet the COVID-19 crisis, with a sound economy.
His government has moved to freeze rental rates and postpone all but the most urgent rent eviction cases until May.
He also announced the launch of a neighbourhood help service: Help Next Door MB (www.helpnextdoormb.ca/). It’s an online tool is designed to help connect volunteers in the province with those who need assistance.
The elderly, the ill and those who need to self-isolate can receive grocery and prescriptions, etc. from volunteers.
He was optimistic, noting Manitoba’s COVID-19 cases are low, but said, “I'm not wanting our case numbers right now to be used as an excuse by anyone to ignore the physical distancing advice.”
He said Manitoba’s tools for testing “are the third highest per capita in the country and we're stepping up the call waiting times for people trying to get information.”
He spoke of “beefing up the staff… to ensure that we're addressing effectively, the high levels of stress and concern that Manitobans have.”
With dental offices and clinics announcing a suspension of all but urgent/emergent services, Pallister was asked why Manitoba was allowing hair salons to continue to operate.
He noted that no COVID-19 cases had been traced to hair salons.
“We are looking to take a balanced approach and not make those economic consequences worse by forcing people out of work unnecessarily. It's a balancing act,” he said.
Pallister said Manitoba is planning to partner with municipalities, adding details would be released later in the week.
The premier also commented on the province’s economic health, saying, “I think Manitobans deserve a little positive news.”
He said Bank of Montreal analysis showed, “Manitoba is among the best positioned provinces because of our diverse economy, because of the actions we've taken to reduce taxes and to raise our rainy-day fund levels, one of the best position provinces to emerge from this pandemic on an upside.”
He read from the day’s bond rating report: “We expect Manitobans’ credit metrics to deteriorate in the near term, but that the deterioration will be more modest than for most other Canadian provinces.”
Pallister admonished everyone to participate in the health directives, particularly young people who are in the low risk category. He held the strong contribution in the Second World War by Manitoba’s youth as an example to inspire participation in the province’s mandated distancing and travel bans.