Pallister's emotional plea to stay apart during the holidays resonates — but less so in Manitoba

American cable news anchors, the frontman of Kiss and a former NBA player all fawned over Premier Brian Pallister's impassioned plea to stay apart over the holidays, but his message wasn't celebrated so much in his own province.

'It is an act of love,' MSNBC host says of Pallister's orders, but some Manitobans say praise is misguided

An emotional appeal for adherence to COVID-19 restrictions has gone viral, but some Manitobans don't feel fondly about the recognition for Premier Brian Pallister. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

What do American cable news anchors, the frontman of Kiss and a former NBA player have in common? 

They all fawned over Premier Brian Pallister's impassioned plea this week for Manitobans to stay apart during the holidays.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was among the television personalities and celebrities to effusively praise the premier for trying to contain the spread of COVID-19.

"It is an act of responsibility," Scarborough said on Morning Joe Friday of Pallister's address, "and yes, I will say it, it is an act of love."

Yet many Manitobans feel that celebrating Pallister's statement is misguided.

In fact, a viral tweet from former basketball player Rex Chapman was deleted Thursday night, perhaps a result of the Manitobans who told him the recognition wasn't warranted.

WATCH | 'I'm the guy who's stealing Christmas to keep you safe':

Don’t gather for holidays, Pallister urges

2 years ago
Duration 1:24
“If you don’t think that COVID’s real, right now you’re an idiot,” Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said as he asked people to avoid holiday gatherings. COVID-19 numbers remain high in the province even after heightened pandemic restrictions were introduced last month.

The newfound attention for Pallister stems from his media briefing on Thursday. In a clip which later circulated online, the premier acknowledged the near-lockdown he's imposed to get COVID-19 numbers under control.

"I will do what I believe is right, and right now we need to save lives," Pallister said.

"If you don't think that COVID's real right now, you're an idiot. You need to understand that we're all in this together. You cannot fail to understand this,"

He said he recognizes the decisions he makes are preventing Manitobans from enjoying the holidays.

Then he got choked up and said, "I'm the guy who's stealing Christmas to keep you safe. Because you need to do this now."

Pallister's message has now been watched millions of times. 

In addition to Chapman, Kiss frontman Paul Stanley and musician Richard Marx were among those who shared Pallister's emotional message on social media.

Meanwhile, CNN anchor Brianna Keilar described Pallister's tone as being in stark contrast to U.S. President Donald Trump, who she said has ignored the rising death toll from COVID-19.

At first blush, there is a lot to like in Pallister's statement, said Samanta Krishnapillai, the founder of the On COVID-19 Project to reach young Canadians with public health messaging.

"I think it's because we often don't see politicians being that candid and raw," she said from Markham, Ont.

Krishnapillai, a master's student in health information science at Western University in London, Ont., said it was refreshing to hear a political leader demand his constituents step up and acknowledge the sacrifices needed from them.

"It was like exactly what needed to be said."

But as she has learned, many Manitobans disapprove of the Pallister government's response to the pandemic.

5 minutes of emotion not enough: Saunders

"I think we can appreciate that emotion," said Kelly Saunders, associate professor of political science at Brandon University, of the viral moment.

"On the other hand, as I said, five minutes of emotion does not make up for nine months of inadequate planning."

Critics have panned the government for trying to restart the economy in the summer at the expense of preparing for the second wave of the pandemic.

This week, an Angus Reid poll suggests Pallister ranks last among Canadian provincial leaders in popularity, with only 32 per cent of survey respondents approving of his job.

"He seems to be presuming that Manitobans are upset because, you know, we can't go shopping or we somehow feel that he's stealing Christmas or that we're mad at him for having to impose these restrictions," Saunders said.

Rather, she said, Manitobans feel the government didn't move fast enough. The province implemented a near-lockdown last month while it already faced the country's worst infection rate.

Krystl Keffer, a pharmacy employee in Winnipeg, said Pallister doesn't deserve kudos for getting emotional on camera.

"People who don't live here and haven't seen first-hand sort of what's happening, they're all cheering him as an example," Keffer said. "It just feels really fake and kind of offensive."

Critics have said the Manitoba government was slow to add necessary testing sites in the first wave of the pandemic. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Some Manitobans, however, feel his message resonated.

"He touched a nerve with me yesterday because I felt that he honestly, for a brief moment, showed his true self," said Phyllis England, a former federal government employee in Brandon. 

"To see him cry on the video was very moving," added Adrienne Bomback, a retired bank employee in Winnipeg.

"That made me realize, he really feels this," she said. "He really feels that he has to deliver this message, and it's not a good one."

Bomback said she hopes Manitobans follow Pallister's message and take the virus seriously.

WATCH | Pallister's plea goes viral:

Pallister plea goes viral

2 years ago
Duration 2:16
An impassioned plea by Premier Brian Pallister has gone viral and is getting the attention of some American celebrities and US news outlets.


Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. He previously reported on a bit of everything for newspapers. You can reach him at


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