‘We can’t continue to live in fear’: Premier backs campaign urging Canadians to visit Manitoba

WINNIPEG — A new marketing campaign urging western Canadians and others to visit Manitoba is raising concerns, but Premier Brian Pallister has backed the campaign, saying Manitobans can’t continue to live in fear.

The new tourism campaign from Travel Manitoba invites Manitobans to explore their province as the economy continues to reopen.

“This is a great opportunity to get out and explore your own backyard,” Colin Ferguson, president and CEO of Travel Manitoba, said at a press conference.

The campaign also rolls out the welcome wagon for visitors from other provinces.

Travel Manitoba launched the $2 million campaign Monday, encouraging people in western Canada, northwestern Ontario and the Territories to see what Manitoba has to offer.

One day later, the province announced five new cases of COVID-19. At least one of the cases involves a person who recently travelled to and from Calgary.

While some people say it is not yet time to open Manitoba’s borders to outside travellers, Premier Brian Pallister said now is the time.

“We have the benefit in western Canada of having some of the safest jurisdictions in the world,” Pallister said. “Promoting Manitoba is the right thing to do.”

Pallister said Manitoba can’t allow a continued shutdown of every aspect of the economy, calling the tourism strategy a ‘balancing act’.

“We know that we can’t continue to live in fear – that being said we have to exercise responsible relaxing of the past rules,” he said.

Pallister added while COVID-19 case numbers are increasing in parts of western Canada, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, the important number is the percentage of positive tests and not the total number of positive cases.

He said we still need to adhere to the fundamentals, but that doesn’t mean a continued shutdown of the economy.

“Manitoba offers the safest site for you to visit in the country and one of the safest in the world,” he said. “The reality is that we are diligent here and we know we can’t continue to live in fear. That being said, we have to exercise responsible relaxing of the past rules.”

The Manitoba Hotel Association told CTV News the hotel sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, and the additional business from outside travellers would be welcome.

“If they think it’s safe, then we’re more than happy to accommodate that business that may come,” said Scott Jocelyn, president and CEO of the Manitoba Hotel Association.

-with files from CTV’s Devon McKendrick