'Smiling all day': Churches and businesses celebrate Manitoba's reversal on drive-in events
WINNIPEG -- Tens of thousands of dollars in fines and a lost court battle later, Manitoba churches and other businesses can soon hold drive-in events.
Springs Church, which held multiple services in Winnipeg last month and was fined more than $32,000, was found to be breaking public health orders by a judge on Saturday.
But during the daily COVID-19 news conference on Tuesday, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, detailed some new exemptions to public health orders.
While the drive-in services will be allowed to go ahead as of Saturday, people will only be allowed to go with members of their household and will have to stay inside their vehicles.
"If we find that drive-in events are not being restricted to households within the same vehicle, or people are getting out of their vehicles at these events – the orders will be subject to change," said Roussin.
While the churches who were fined might call it a win, Reverend Erik Parker from Sherwood Park Lutheran Church said there shouldn't have been any fuss in the first place.
"Complying with public health orders is most important and not fighting against any small inconveniences because ultimately it was only a few weeks these drive-in services were banned," he said.
The change in health orders doesn't just affect churches. It means drive-in events like the Red River Ex's Winter Wonderland can take place.
"I've been broadly smiling all day because that's great news for us," said Garth Rogerson, CEO of the Red River Ex. "We are very excited."
The large Christmas Light display was set up months ago, but code red restrictions stopped it from opening.
"It's very, very safe," said Rogerson. "We are encouraging people to just make sure to come with just your immediate family and your household in your car."
Unlike other years, there will not be skating, photo-ops or horse rides to ensure people stay in their vehicles.
Rogerson believes drive-in events like Winter Wonderland can boost holiday cheer and improve mental health.
"You know mental health is a big thing and just having some place to enjoy, and yes we have to be restricted, but there are certain things we can do that gets us out of the house and just embraces the season," he said.
With provincial approval, the Red River Ex would like the light display to open on Saturday night.