Mayor disputes need for metro region restrictions in Selkirk

By | September 29, 2020

SELKIRK, MAN. — The mayor of the City of Selkirk, Man., is urging people to follow tighter pandemic measures even though he doesn’t agree with the decision to put the community under heightened restrictions.

A public health order limiting gathering sizes to 10 people and making masks mandatory in indoor public places applies to the entire Winnipeg Metropolitan Region, including Selkirk where there’s only been one case of COVID-19 identified.

“I just don’t think that’s right, it’s not right for the City of Selkirk,” said mayor Larry Johannson.

The city of around 10,000 people is in a different health region and is located about 35 kilometres north of Winnipeg, where public health officials are trying to curb a rise in cases.

The province’s chief public health officer included neighbouring communities so people wouldn’t be able to easily move large gatherings outside the Perimeter. The decision was also made because people in surrounding communities commute to Winnipeg for work and shopping.

Johannson understands that thinking but said he feels the rules go too far and worries about the impact on business.

“I completely support anything the provincial government puts out there and we’ll do it,“ said Johannson. “I just don’t think we should be blanketed with the metro region.”

He said Selkirk has around the same percentage of people who stay in the community for work as Steinbach, which isn’t included in the restrictions because of its distance from Winnipeg.

Not everyone agrees with the mayor’s position on the issue.

“I’m all game. If they want to restrict us, it’s good,” said Lockport resident Anne Leveque, who shops in Selkirk. “I don’t want to get the virus and nobody else wants it either.”

People in Selkirk said they are adjusting to the new rules.

Those teeing it up at the Selkirk Golf and Country Club can still play their rounds without a mask. If they want to grab a bite to eat inside the clubhouse restaurant, they’re now required by law to put one on until they’re seated.

“Since Friday, things have definitely slowed down,” said golf course food and beverage manager Diane Thomas. “I think people are a little apprehensive about coming out.

“It’s not great but we can’t really do anything about it.”

Thomas thinks the spike in cases in Winnipeg and the new pandemic rules are behind the slowdown.

Thomas said mandatory mask enforcement hasn’t been a problem, though restrictions on gathering sizes are taking a bite out of the wedding and banquet side of the restaurant’s business. 

Even though it’s causing challenges, she feels Selkirk’s too connected with Winnipeg to be excluded from the restrictions.

“There’s so many people that work in the city,” said Thomas. “Not that I like it, but I think it’s a smart move.”

Selkirk’s mayor planned to share his concerns in a meeting with Rochelle Squires, Manitoba’s Minister of Municipal Relations.

A spokesperson for Squires said in part that the government takes the advice of the chief public health officer seriously, adding there’s a considerable amount of connectivity between the communities in the region.

“We understand that the move to orange on the Pandemic Response System affects the daily lives of all residents in the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region,” said the spokesperson. “We all need to do our part in the fight against COVID-19. These temporary measures will help ensure the health and safety of everyone within the region.“ 

Manitoba public health told CTV News the way the restrictions were implemented for the metro region is similar to the situation that occurred in August in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

A much larger geographic area was affected to deal with an outbreak in Brandon, Man. 

The heightened restrictions in that region have since been lifted. 

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