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Provincial leaders forced into difficult decisions around holiday gatherings

Last Updated Dec 4, 2020 at 8:22 am PST

Farm decorated with Christmas lights. (iStock Photo)

Provincial leaders are making tough decisions as the threat of COVID-19 looms and the holidays approach

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister made an emotional plea to people, urging them to 'do the right thing'

WINNIPEG – Some provincial and territorial leaders are being forced into making difficult decisions around the holidays as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make its mark across the country.

The prairie provinces have become Canada’s pandemic epicentre in recent weeks.

“I will do what I believe is right. And right now I need to save lives,” Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said in an emotional plea to residents, Thursday. “If you don’t think that COVID is real, right now, you’re an idiot. You need to understand that we’re all in this together, you cannot fail to understand this.”

While speaking about the need to impose restrictions, Pallister admitted he may not be popular but is the one in the unenviable position of telling Manitobans they cannot gather over the holidays.

“So I’m the guy who has to tell you to stay apart at Christmas and in the holiday season you celebrate , with your faith or without your faith, that you celebrate, normally, with friends and with family, where you share memories and build memories. I’m that guy.

“I’m the guy who is stealing Christmas to keep you safe, because you need to do this now,” a tearful Pallister continued. “You need to do the right thing, because next year we’ll have lots to celebrate…if we do the right thing this year.”

Opposition parties have been critical of Pallister’s pandemic response. He has been accused of not taking enough measure to prevent the recent spike in cases in Manitoba.

In B.C., Premier John Horgan has said people need to be focused on staying home, with Hanukkah and Christmas around the corner.

“This is a critical, dangerous time for British Columbia with respect to COVID 19,” Horgan said. “It’s absolutely essential we reduce interactions with people. There will be difficult times ahead for family gatherings.”

He said people shouldn’t be travelling if they don’t need to be, and stressed the importance of staying in “tight, confined bubbles” for the time being.

It’s a message B.C.’s provincial health officer has echoed.

“What I want for Christmas is for everyone to stay home and stay safe so we can get through to next year,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Meanwhile, Alberta currently has the highest per-capita rate of COVID-19 in the country. The province saw a single-day record of new cases on Thursday, reporting 1,854.

Despite the current situation, Premier Jason Kenney and his government have been hesitant to put tough restrictions into effect in the province.

Indoor gatherings of any kind are currently banned. The current restrictions were put into effect on Nov. 24 and “will be in place for at least three weeks.”

In Quebec, Premier Francois Legault is now saying that Quebecers will not be allowed to gather over the holidays either.

The province was originally planning on allowing groups of up to 10 to get together over Christmas in regions where gatherings of any kind are currently banned. New numbers have forced Legault to backtrack on that promise.

“With the numbers we have it’s unrealistic to think that we’ll be able to change the situation in time for Christmas,” said Legault. “We need to protect our nurses and out elderly.”

Legault noted one exception, whereby residents will be allowed to visit anyone that lives alone.

In Ontario, the Toronto and Peel regions will be in lockdown until at least Dec. 21. However, Premier Doug Ford has gone on record urging residents to limit holiday gatherings to members of their own households.