Satirical sticker campaign pokes fun at Premier Pallister and Manitoba’s response to COVID-19

WINNIPEG — A group of Manitobans is trying to help out businesses and health care workers directly impacted by the pandemic through a social media campaign that has a distinctly humorous twist.

Calling themselves “The Real Team Manitoba,” a tongue-in-cheek name pulled straight from Premier Brian Pallister’s lips, the group is selling stickers that satirize the province’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Even though we do get some laughs from them it does allow us to kind of deal with how dark things can be, and are right now,” said Chantale Garand, one of the community organizers part of The Real Team Manitoba. 

Locally-made in Winnipeg, the stickers are like real-world memes that poke fun at the province’s “RestartMB” pandemic response system. One sticker reads ‘#ReinfectMB,’ another is ‘#BlockedByGoertzen’ bumper sticker made to look like an alert one would see when being blocked on Twitter. 

The group said all proceeds from the stickers are going back into the community. Sales of the Goertzen sticker, for example, will go towards purchasing items for educators. Gift cards will also be purchased from local restaurants and businesses, which will then be donated to frontline health-care workers. 

The stickers, which are sold online and the website launched less than two weeks ago, have already brought in about $7,000 in sales, Garand said. 

“Every day when we’re waking up and seeing these (rising COVID-19) numbers, it’s nice to know that other people out there have these exact same feelings and want to do the same thing but feel a little bit helpless,” said Garand.

In a request for comment from CTV News Winnipeg, the province did not directly address the stickers or the website.

“Our government’s number one priority in the face of this pandemic is to protect our most vulnerable Manitobans and ensure our health care system is there for Manitobans when they need it,” said a spokesperson for Premier Pallister in a written statement to CTV News.

Local businesses, on the other hand, are more than happy to get the support. 

“The fact that they’ve come up with this initiative is so kind,” said Talia Syrie, who owns and operates The Tallest Poppy, a restaurant The Real Team Manitoba will be purchasing gift cards from. “It just makes you feel good to know that they value the contribution your business is bringing to the community.”

Alana Fiks, co-owner of Black Market Provisions, another business the group will be supporting, feels much the same. 

“Things are fine over here but they’re nowhere near as busy as they would typically be in a pre-Christmas month,” said Fiks. “Any extra sales, including a gift card initiative, is super beneficial for us and any small business.”

Activism is also an intrinsic element to the campaign and, despite its humorous slant, one expert says it has the potential to bring about change.

“A tactic like this is really great because it simultaneously puts pressure on elected officials to do better while also thinking and taking seriously the need to support local business and support front-line workers in small and large ways,” says Joe Curnow, an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba who studies social movements.

Beyond the politics, however, Garand hopes their efforts will simply help those most in need.

“As much as a sticker is not going to prevent COVID or change any type of policy,” said Garand, “We do hope that the people who get the gift card and the local businesses feel as though they are supported a lot more by fellow residents than what they’re currently getting.” 

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