Premier Brian Pallister is defending the province’s ad campaign to promote the loosening of pandemic restrictions in Manitoba, saying it directs people to public-health messaging so they can feel more confident going back to work and contributing to the economy.
The province is paying for billboards, social media and broadcast media ads to promote its pandemic reopening plan, as part of a campaign branded “Restart Manitoba.”
Billboards promoting the brand and the slogan “ready, safe, grow” began to appear in Winnipeg last week.
At a news conference in Brandon Wednesday afternoon, Pallister said the campaign is not a “victory lap,” but meant to help Manitobans live with COVID-19 and get back to work.
“We know that the two things go hand in hand — that if we have a safer society, we’re going to have people more confident to go to work, to shop, and create more job opportunities for those who deserve a chance to get back to work,” he said.
“They’re symbiotic things — the safer we are as people, the more confident we can be and the more ready we will be to help our neighbours get back to work.”
A spokesperson for Pallister said the provincial government has spent $250,000 on the ad campaign to date.
Manitoba’s opposition party leaders have criticized the campaign, saying the money could be better spent elsewhere.
“If I’m a small business owner struggling to pay the rent and I see this blue billboard that says ‘ready, safe, grow,’ how does that help me?” Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said at a news conference earlier Wednesday morning.
“Does that mean anything to me? We’re in a public health emergency, right? The state of emergency is still in place, and I don’t see how branding our economic recovery before the province has even really invested in getting that recovery going … helps anybody.”
Pallister shot back, saying he’s been criticized for not spending money during the pandemic and now he’s being criticized for doing something that will help.
“Promoting health and wellness through a wellness campaign in the middle of pandemic — surely to goodness people can find a better thing to criticize me about.”
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