The classic definition of a narcissist is someone who is incapable of learning from past mistakes because, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, they are convinced they don't make mistakes.
You can use whatever single word you want to describe Premier Brian Pallister's approach to governing in general — and his approach to pandemic management in general — but the term narcissist certainly fits the bill.
On Monday, while introducing a new array of utterly inadequate social and economic restrictions, Pallister demonstrated both a chronic inability to learn from past mistakes in large part because he seems unaware that he has made any.
Pallister started his Monday news conference by claiming that, in comparison, Manitoba has been an "oasis, it's been a refuge" against the novel coronavirus as it ravages other provinces.
It was an absurd claim to make. It's only April, but Pallister already seems to have forgotten that, for all of last fall and most of the first month of the year, we suffered one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. An outbreak that was, in large part, triggered by a reckless decision by this government to roll back restrictions without epidemiological justification.
Pallister also demonstrated very clearly Monday he has learned nothing from those previous errors in judgment that put us in that deadly second wave by announcing he was going to repeat them now in the early stages of a third wave.
Last summer, Pallister moved urgently to reopen the Manitoba economy even though epidemiological warning signs told us to hold firm. He also refused to adopt a broad mask mandate until well into the fall season. The result was nothing short of tragic.
Fast forward to today and you can see Pallister once again throwing caution to the wind on behalf of 1.3 million Manitobans.
And against all scientific evidence and common sense, faith–based services are still allowed to host up to 50 people (down from 100) with no requirements to wear masks as long as they are seated in household groups.
Although capacities for indoor activities like shopping and faith-based services have been reduced, and additional limits have been placed on household socializing, Pallister maintained several freedoms that really have no epidemiological explanation.
We're still allowed to have up to 10 people to our backyards for social gatherings. Restaurants are still allowed to seat maskless people from the same household at indoor tables, and on patios we can gather maskless with people from different households.
And against all scientific evidence and common sense, faith-based services are still allowed to host up to 50 people (down from 100) with no requirements to wear masks as long as they are seated in household groups.
Pallister tried as best he could to position these new restrictions as tough but necessary. The reality is they are not nearly tough enough and fall well short of what is necessary.
Monday was also one of the clearest indications to date of the degree to which Pallister is imposing his political concerns on the best advice he is getting from public health officials.
As he often does for announcements like this, Pallister was accompanied by Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief public health officer.
Roussin is an excellent wing man for the premier, who uses Roussin's mere presence as an endorsement for whatever reckless political decisions he has made.
Except that every once in a while, Roussin breaks free from his role as Pallister's chew toy and lets his true feelings be known. Monday provided such a moment.
Roussin was asked why, after several weeks of increasingly alarming language about the threat posed by the COVID-19 variants, he could still justify allowing Manitobans at faith-based services to go maskless.
After a vague prelude, Roussin made it clear that he, too, thought this was a bad idea. "Public health advice is that if you're indoors, wear a mask. But the orders do allow for that exemption. My advice is to wear a mask at all times when you're indoors."
"Public health advice is that if you're indoors, wear a mask. But the orders to allow for that exemption. My advice is to wear a mask at all times when you're indoors." — Dr. Brent Roussin
That response is hardly surprising. If you study his comments over the past several weeks, there is little doubt what Roussin thinks we should be doing.
On April 7, Roussin raised the possibility of ordering Manitobans to wear masks anytime they come into contact with people outside their households, even if it's outdoors. Roussin was reflecting growing epidemiological evidence that the more contagious variants can be transmitted outdoors.
How can we square those statements with Pallister's decision to allow people to continue to go maskless when they eat indoors in restaurants, worship in churches and host outdoor gatherings in their backyards? We can't, because it doesn't make any sense.
All common sense and scientific evidence suggest that we need to demand people wear masks whenever they are outside their homes, indoors or out. And that all activities that require us to be maskless — like eating in a restaurant — be stopped.
Given his propensity to continue making the same mistakes without any hint of accountability, we can assume that Pallister is also suffering from a lack of self-awareness. He simply does not understand that Manitobans have figured out when he is trumping public health advice with political consideration.
Unfortunately, along with an inability to learn from their mistakes, narcissists are cursed by an absence of self-awareness.
And that means for as long as the pandemic continues, Manitoba is destined to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past.
Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.