Manitoba premier defends potential 'golden opportunity' to make Winnipeg CFL hub city
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s premier said health and safety will take priority after it was announced Winnipeg will be the CFL hub city for a shortened 2020 season.
“We are one of the safest jurisdictions in the world and we plan to keep it that way,” Premier Brian Pallister said at a news conference on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, it was announced the CFL chose Winnipeg over bids from Calgary and Saskatchewan.
The deal still needs approval from Manitoba’s public health and safety authorities. The CFL also requires a new collective bargaining agreement with the CFL Players’ Association, as well as support from the federal government to start the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Pallister confirmed the Manitoba government is not involved with the discussions around federal funding.
When asked about public safety concerns about making Winnipeg the CFL hub city, the premier said it’s a balancing act. He said Manitoba can stay in a safety bubble, but then 50,000 people will be out of work.
“We also need to seize opportunities when we have them and this is a golden opportunity for Manitoba,” Pallister said.
The premier said safety remains top-of-mind for the government, and that he wouldn’t put Manitobans in danger.
“I would not take any excessive risk with their health ever,” he said.
This announcement comes at the same time that Manitoba has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Pallister said the province’s test rate was so low, it had nowhere to go up.
He added Manitoba plans to continue to lead the country in the protection of its people.
CTV previously reported the Manitoba government put in a $2.5 million bid to have Winnipeg as the hub city, as part of its $8 million Event Attraction Strategy. The plan calls for a 60-game schedule and a Grey Cup in Winnipeg.
The province estimated its hub city plan would bring about 800 people into Winnipeg, resulting in 55,000 hotel rooms and $3.8 million for the economy. The province also estimated that it would create $45 million in business sales.
On Monday, NDP MLA Matt Wiebe said the government has failed to address the concerns of Manitobans, citing how bringing in players from the United States could increase the spread of COVID-19.
“Manitobans are eager to cheer on our Grey Cup Champions once again, but a return to the field has to be done responsibly and the province has to put the immediate needs of families first,” Wiebe said in a statement.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said he has been “cautiously supportive” of the bid to make Winnipeg the CFL hub city, due to the calculations of the “supposed economic benefits.”
"There is a long history of over-the-top promises from the PCs involving the Bombers,” he said in statement.
“We heard similar promises about the stadium, which Pallister just bailed out with $200-million in public money. So while we want to see the Bombers succeed, we have to ask why, when so many Manitoba businesses are being ignored and public institutions are being cut, that a private professional sports team is once again at the top of the list for millions in public money.”
- With files from CTV’s Devon McKendrick and The Canadian Press’ Dan Ralph.