A group of Manitobans concerned about the growing number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths in the province erected a macabre Halloween display outside of the premier’s house on Wellington Crescent to draw attention to the severity of the situation.
About 20 cardboard tombstones were put up on the boulevard outside Brian Pallister’s house on Friday night, with messages about the province’s handling of the pandemic, and denouncing its August Restart Manitoba campaign and austerity measures.
Among the tombstones was a figure dressed as the Grim Reaper, with a photo of Pallister pasted to the head.
“We’ve seen over the past couple days and weeks that the situation is only getting worse and worse. And quite honestly, the response has been minimal, if not totally absent,” said Daniel Friesen, one of about a dozen community members involved in the display.
The tipping point that triggered the action was the massive jump in the province’s case count on Friday, Friesen said. The province also announced it was tightening pandemic restrictions that day, including moving the Winnipeg region to the highest level on the provincial pandemic response system.
Pallister did not speak at the news conference announcing the new measures on Friday, and instead issued a news release after the public health update.
Friesen said the premier wasn’t making himself accountable to the public.
“It’s a scary time in the world right now, and [the Halloween display] is kind of an outlet for our fear about the direction that our government is taking our province, and as a way of hopefully communicating to the premier that his actions are having real-world consequences, and people are suffering,” he said.
The community members involved in the display are concerned about health-care cuts the provincial government has made in the past, including converting three of Winnipeg’s emergency rooms to urgent care centres.
He also denounced the premier’s cabinet for “bullying” Uzoma Asagwara, the Opposition NDP MLA for Union Station, when they recently brought forward concerns in question period.
“They’re making jokes of it, making light of that and trying to silence someone who’s trying to ask real questions and hold the government to account for their inaction,” Friesen said.
Asked for comment on the Halloween display, a spokesperson for the premier sent a written response Saturday afternoon.
“I respect the right of any Manitoban to peacefully protest and encourage all who choose to do so, to do so safely to protect their health and safety and that of others as well,” Pallister’s statement said.
Friesen said he hopes the signs will raise public awareness, and spur further action from the government.
“Hopefully [the government will] take that to heart and choose to reverse course and invest and invest in safety protocols for schools and for health-care workers,” Friesen said.
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