Manitoba may limit what big-box stores can sell in partial lockdown, Pallister says

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The Manitoba government is thinking of going after big-box stores, whom Premier Brian Pallister argues may be flouting the spirit of the province's lockdown orders. 

Many large retailers can legally stay open because they sell products considered essential by Manitoba's public-health orders, but Pallister said it is unfair to force small businesses to close while their big competitors sell the same products as them, and then some.

"The reality of this situation is that some are abusing this," the premier said.

"And for the danger of other people, some are abusing it to gain business advantage. That's not a situation we can maintain."

He said preventing big-box stores from selling products that aren't considered essential is clearly "one element that has to be looked at," Pallister said.

The premier said Ralph Eichler, his economic development minister, is speaking with small business groups to hear their concerns, and Pallister expects to have more to share on the topic in a few days.

Some defying spirit of public health order: Pallister

The latest restrictions, which came into effect last Thursday, require all non-essential retail stores to close to in-person shopping. Essential products include groceries, personal hygiene items, hardware and household appliances.

Pallister said the purpose of the public-health order was "to make sure that people to get essential goods, I don't think it was so they could get non-essential goods. I'm concerned about that."

Big-box stores can sell a wide swath of non-essential products, ranging from clothing to jewellery and toys.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman asked the province to clamp down on non-essential sales in a letter to the premier on Monday. He wants businesses to only be able to sell essential products and services in-person.