Pallister admits error, says it won't happen again, after being seen without mask at Toronto airport
Twitter pics show him with federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, also maskless
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister admits he made a mistake after he was photographed Tuesday without a mask at Toronto's Pearson airport.
He was breaking an airport rule mandating face coverings for travellers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"I lifted my mask to join some friends in conversation at the Toronto airport this afternoon. It was an error on my part, it won't happen again," Pallister said in an email Tuesday.
Pallister appeared to be waiting at a departure gate, according to two photos that surfaced on Twitter.
He was in the company of several travellers, including federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who also wasn't wearing a mask.
Pallister told media last week he was concerned about flying during the COVID-19 pandemic, since he's a senior with asthma.
Since June 1, the airport has required masks for "all passengers and airport employees" in public spaces "at all times."
"This includes the pre- and post-security screening areas of the terminals, parking facilities, people mover train, sidewalks/curbs outside the terminals and other outdoor public areas," the Pearson website says.
Breaking rules 'shameful': NDP
There are exceptions for people under the age of two, as well as those unable to remove a face covering without help or who have trouble breathing. Individuals can also put away their masks while in food and beverage locations.
The photos of Pallister and Scheer were taken the same day masks became mandatory in public indoor spaces in Toronto.
NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara said it's disappointing that Pallister wasn't obeying the rules.
"When citizens across the country continue to make sacrifices to fight the spread of this virus, it's shameful the premier doesn't follow the rules that govern the rest of us," Asagwara said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Scheer said the Conservative leader was only without his mask for a moment.
"Mr. Scheer wore a face mask while travelling to Ottawa today. He removed it to make a phone call. This picture must have been taken before he put it back on," said Kelsie Chiasson, acting director of communications.
They are! All travelers and employees inside the terminal must wear a mask or face covering.—@TorontoPearson
Pallister said last week he would be travelling to Ottawa for conversations with business groups and associations. He said at the time he was "working on meeting" with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Flying during COVID-19 worrisome: Pallister
When asked if he's concerned about flying during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pallister said, "of course I'm concerned, I'm a high-risk person, right? I'm a senior with asthma.
"Not too many things intimidate me, COVID is one of the things that does."
He said he'd follow all necessary protocols, but "I do think we have to continue with the work that government must do, and we can't do all of that by phone and we can't do all of that by Skype."
Pallister said he is exempt from self-isolation requirements due to the nature of his job, but said he would monitor himself for symptoms for four or five days, as per recommendations from Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer.
"That's why I'm going down a little earlier than my first meeting, just to make sure I'm not giving somebody there COVID, and the same when I come home," he said.
Travellers without an exemption must self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to Manitoba, if they visited an area east of Terrace Bay. Ont.
With files from Kristin Annable, David Cochrane, John Paul Tasker