Premier Brian Pallister is defending his government’s decision to ask Manitobans to help decide if a curfew is needed to curb rising COVID-19 numbers.
On Monday — as Winnipeg moved into the red zone on Manitoba’s pandemic response scale and the rest of the province was elevated to orange — Pallister said the province is considering a instituting a curfew after hearing about large get-togethers being promoted on social media on the weekend.
An online survey looking for opinions on the idea went live on the province’s website Tuesday morning.
But the plan to wait for feedback faced criticism from some social media who wondered why the government wouldn’t just follow advice from public health experts and put a curfew in place if it’s needed.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman was among those urging the province to implement the curfew quickly.
“If the province feels this is the right thing to do, I would encourage them to just do it and not wait another day for a survey,” Bowman said Monday.
“The virus doesn’t take a night off. It’s in our community right now, and if the epidemiology and the evidence would support a curfew, then I think the province should simply introduce that measure in a timely fashion and not wait for a survey.”
On Tuesday Pallister argued the plan won’t work without buy-in from the public.
“I think it’s important, when you’re restricting people’s freedom of movement — as we’ll be doing with this — that we make sure that we ask the public for their view on this first and then we’ll implement it if the public feels they can support it,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is this is a societal challenge that is best addressed by having people buy into the proposals that we make.”
The nine-question survey includes questions on what time in the evening a curfew should start, where in the province it should be imposed, and who should be exempt (first responders, Winnipeg Transit drivers, essential service workers, etc.)
While the survey says government is considering the curfew “in order to limit the movement of people later in the evening and overnight” it doesn’t say what time a possible curfew order would be lifted in the morning or how long it may be needed.
Pallister has said the province will announce later this week if they will go ahead with the curfew.
“On this one we’re simply asking Manitobans for their feedback,” Pallister said Tuesday when asked about the validity of results obtained by an online survey.
“It might be criticized for being less scientific than some methods, but I think it’s an important part of the process to get the public involved and give the public the chance to get their view heard whether they’re scientists or not.”
Pallister said the survey is part of the province’s broader public engagement strategy during COVID-19 that will see telephone town halls, stakeholder roundtables and further online surveys offered in the coming weeks.
–With files from Elisha Dacey
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