Manitoba premier approves push to bring tourists to province, despite coronavirus concerns

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is giving the thumbs up to a new travel campaign designed to attract tourists to the province, despite an increase in COVID-19 cases to the west of Manitoba.

The new $2-million Travel Manitoba campaign targets visitors from Western Canada and Northwest Ontario who don’t have to self-isolate when they come to Manitoba.

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Provincial and Winnipeg tourism and economic development agencies released a video this week asking residents to promote the city as a place open for business and visitors.

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The announcement was criticized by some on social media who noted that COVID-19 numbers are much higher in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“We appreciate these concerns. Our marketing continues to align with current government travel restrictions and safety protocols and takes into consideration the advice of the public health officer,” Travel Manitoba said in a social media post.

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A matter of balance

In Saskatchewan and Alberta COVID-19 numbers remain stubbornly high, with Saskatchewan counting 56 new cases over the weekend and Alberta recording 230.

Manitoba initially required anyone entering from other provinces to self-isolate for 14 days, but lifted that requirement last month for people coming from northern Ontario, the northern territories and provinces to the west.

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Pallister said it’s a matter of balance when asked about the ad campaign Tuesday.

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“None of us here in government or anywhere else, I don’t think, are advocating that we stop being conscious of the (rules), and following them is really critical,” Pallister said.

“We have to stick to the fundamentals here, but we can’t allow a continued shutdown of every aspect of our economy to threaten the very future of our quality of life.”

Opposition appears onside

The Opposition New Democrats appeared to support the idea of boosting visitors.

“By using the balanced approach where we prioritize the health and safety of Manitobans, as well as opening up our economy to tourists, (it) will allow us to be successful in Manitoba,” New Democrat legislature member Jamie Moses said.

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Health officials announced five new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba Tuesday after the province went 13-straight days without identifying any new cases.

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Even with the new cases, Manitoba remains among the provinces with the lowest infection rates, with 330 confirmed and probable cases. No one was in hospital with the virus as of Tuesday and five cases were active.

The Progressive Conservative government has relied on the low numbers to reopen most businesses and relax many restrictions on public gatherings in recent weeks.

— With files from Steve Lambert at The Canadian Press

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