POLITICS
12/03/2020 15:41 EST | Updated 12/03/2020 16:18 EST

Manitoba Premier Says ‘This Year, You Don’t Need To Like Me’ Amid Sliding Approval Rating

Brian Pallister begged Manitobans to follow the rules, even if they don’t like him.

Canada’s least-liked premier has an emotional plea for Manitobans as lockdowns continue amidst the COVID-19 pandemic’s surge: 

“This year, you don’t need to like me.”

In an emotional speech Thursday, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister called on residents to listen to public health guidance and follow the rules, even if they “don’t care for” him personally.

“If you don’t care for me I understand, I totally do,” Pallister said. “I’m the guy who has told you that you cannot shop. I am the person who has come forward here in front of you 75 times, and has asked you to do things you’ve never done before, and has asked you to do that every day.”

John Woods/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks to media in Winnipeg on Oct. 7, 2020.

Manitoba is currently under some of the strictest lockdown measures in Canada, with non-essential business closed, and social gatherings limited to just the immediate household. For most of November, the province held the highest per capita rate of active COVID-19 infections, but has recently been surpassed by Alberta.

According to Angus Reid polling released last week, Pallister is the lowest rated premier in Canada, with only 32 per cent of respondents approving of him. He’s followed by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who holds a 40 per cent approval rating. Canada’s most popular premier is B.C.’s John Horgan, with 65 per cent. 

“This year, you don’t need to like me.”Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

In Thursday’s speech, Pallister attributed that dislike to his recent implementation of strict COVID-19 measures. 

“I’m the guy who has to tell you to stay apart at Christmas and in the holiday season,” he said. “I’m that guy. And I’ll say that because it will keep you safe. I’m the guy who’s stealing Christmas to keep you safe.”

Pallister called anyone who doesn’t believe COVID-19 is a real threat “idiots.” 

“If you don’t think that COVID is real, right now, you’re an idiot,” he said. “You need to understand that we’re all in this together, you cannot fail to understand this.”

However, other controversies have rocked the premier beyond opposition to COVID-19 restrictions. 

The premier notably vacationed in Costa Rica during the early stages of pandemic planning, even after the World Health Organization first declared COVID-19 a global emergency. 

He was also criticized for “rushing” to reopen Manitoba’s economy ahead of any other Canadian jurisdiction. On Halloween, Winnipegers set up a series of cardboard tombstones outside Pallister’s home, drawing attention to the province’s COVID-19 deaths. 

Pallister was recently criticized for an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton, where he repeatedly asked the journalist if she had a better plan for Manitoba and criticized her for not proposing ideas to fix the situation during the interview.