COVID-19 cases in Northern Manitoba have reached record levels in recent days, with the total active cases currently at over 400. We have seen outbreaks in Cross Lake and now The Pas. While we have been fortunate so far in Flin Flon, there have been cases reported in Snow Lake, South Indian Lake and Tadoule Lake. Getting test results back takes an inordinate amount of time and contact tracing is falling further behind every day.
This government has failed to help northern communities cover COVID costs. Northern Affairs communities have asked for assistance, as have I, and we are told to keep track of the expenses and fund them from within existing budgets. Of course there is not enough in the existing budgets. It is time for this government to offer real assistance to communities in the north.
The government has recently announced a Manitoba Bridge Program, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the financial supports our small businesses need to survive a second wave. A $5,000 grant often barely covers a fraction of the rent or electricity bills that are due for small businesses. I hope the criteria is not so restrictive, like all of Premier Birian Pallister’s government’s programs so far, that few can qualify for this assistance. We have not seen much in the way of assistance to workers from the Pallister government.
The Pallister government has also failed to protect Northern Manitobans from outside travellers, despite the travel restrictions in place. There has been no meaningful advertising signifying the travel restrictions or checkpoints put in place. Instead communities have implemented their own community lockdowns. With the alarming rise in cases numbers in the north it is time for meaningful travel restrictions. Keep in mind there are no ICU beds in the north and the hospitals in the south are already reaching capacity.
One of the troubling things to come to light in recent days is out-of-date and unusable personal protective equipment (PPE). The government should be doing everything possible to protect frontline workers. They need the right PPE, not out-of-date masks. This goes for workers in hospitals but also schools, childcare centres and homecare.
I know that we in the North have made sacrifices during this pandemic. People have stayed home, they’ve been temporarily laid off, have had to work from home, they’ve been unable to visit family members, unable to socialize and more, but this virus is not done with us yet. Now more than ever, we need a government that will match Manitobans’ level of commitment, which Premier Pallister and his Progressive Conservative government are failing to do. The NDP and I as your MLA will continue to stand up for Northern Manitobans and will continue fighting for all Manitobans.
While we have closed the constituency office again we can still be reached by phone at 204-687-3246 or by email at Tom.Lindsey@yourmanitoba.ca.