The extension of Manitoba's tough COVID-19 health restrictions for another two weeks on January 8th angered many Brandon residents, because unlike Winnipeg, we weren't seeing triple digit case numbers.
Mayor Rick Chrest says he understands our frustration. "I know that everyone was very disappointed last Friday that some of the restrictions were not relaxed, and that we haven't quite got to the numbers that (Chief Public Health Officer) Dr. Roussin would see warrant lifting the restrictions, but our community has been fabulous, valiant and courageous going through this and (have been) really doing their part."
He says "Our own numbers in Prairie Mountain Health, and Brandon in particular, have certainly been a hallmark of the province. We do have days when we have little spikes - obviously the virus has not left us yet - so we have to keep our noses to the grindstone a little longer."
Chrest says the local business community is also looking forward to getting some relief from restrictions. "There's no question many had to be shutdown completely, so that (makes it) very difficult to weather the storm. We're so hopeful that some of the measures in place from both senior levels of government that are assisting, are enough to let them weather the storm and come out the other side, but there's no doubt most will not be able to withstand this much longer," says Chrest. "Happily the numbers are starting to improve, and then hopefully we can start to see some reopening measures in place that allow these businesses to get some cash flow coming through the door again and be able to carry on."
The pandemic has also increased the city's costs and affected revenues, issues that Chrest says will be examined at budget deliberations set for the end of the month. "We're in pretty good shape. We did take some measures very early on in the pandemic with our focus on providing the essential services our community relies on, and we've been able to do that seeemlessly. At the same time, we had to tighten our belt on many other things. We're not allowed to post a deficit and our administration did a great job of keeping that in line with the support of council."
Chrest says "Budgets are always a challenge, but I view this one as maybe one of the most important that we've ever turned in. A lot of our community, the business community and individuals will be relying on us to keep any tax increases in line because lots and lots are suffering and we need to do our part in keeping costs in line."
And like many of us Chrest says if some COVID-19 health orders are lifted on January 22nd, he knows where he might be heading immediately, "In the short term, I'd be happy to get a haircut."
And once more of the population is vaccinated, Chrest says it would be great to "gather a little more, go to events and just interact with people more readily - have a little sense of normalcy. We need to find a way to do that."