Sask. auditor's report says it's time to start using enforcement on non-compliant cannabis stores

Saskatchewan's provincial auditor says it’s time to start enforcing regulations on the distribution and sale of recreational cannabis.

Improvements also needed to help preschool-aged and kindergarten-aged kids succeed

The latest provincial auditor general's reports says the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority has been focusing on educating retail and wholesale permittees, rather than on enforcing rules. (CBC)

Saskatchewan's provincial auditor says it's time to start enforcing regulations on the distribution and sale of recreational cannabis.

Judy Ferguson's latest report, her last one before she steps down at the end of the month, said the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) has so far been focusing on educating retail and wholesale permittees about operating requirements. 

The report says it's time for the SLGA to shift its focus "to taking enforcement actions on non-compliance."

Ferguson said investigators have found infractions at retail stores such as employees not asking for identification, selling non-related cannabis items and doing unlawful marketing.

Investigators would write up the infractions and suggest sanctions, but those sanctions were never followed through, she said.

"So the communication didn't get up to those permittees in terms of what they needed to do different," Ferguson said "We were finding delays up to two to three months in getting those letters out the door. So what we're saying is you need to move to that enforcement action to make sure that you are properly regulated in this area."

At the time of the audit investigation, no fines had been given to any stores for non-compliance of regulations.

The report said that having effective regulatory processes will help prevent the sale of legal cannabis to youth, keep profits away from criminals and protect public health. 

The report highlighted how some provincial ministries are improving processes, but also focused on needed improvements.

Saskatchewan's Auditor Judy Ferguson will step down on June 30. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)

Health incidents under-reported

The report also concluded that critical health incidents are being under-reported.

Ferguson said the health ministry isn't sending out alerts about these incidents that could help prevent patient harm or even death.

The four most common critical incidents are falls that cause death, suicides while in care, medication errors and pressure ulcers from lying in bed in one position too long.

"Patient alerts are communications to the health-care sectors that should raise the profile and focus their attention on those areas, and to set out what they should do differently," Ferguson said. "We found the ministry weren't issuing patient alerts in those four areas."

Ferguson also said the ministry wasn't asking the health authority what had caused these critical incidents or even what facilities they had happened in.

Ferguson said that in her view, the ministry could do a much better job in overseeing this area and that not sending out alerts increases the likelihood the same errors could keep happening.

Provincial auditor Judy Ferguson latest report says critical health incidents are being under-reported and the health ministry isn't sending out alerts about these incidents that could help prevent patient harm or even death. ( Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Early learning improvements

Ferguson's report also said improvements are needed when it comes to helping preschool-aged and kindergarten-aged children develop academically.

The audit looked at the Saskatoon Public School Division No. 13's processes for monitoring success in readying kindergarten students for learning in the primary grades. 

It said the readiness of Saskatoon's more than 1,500 kindergarten students was 77 per cent, which is similar to the provincial average of 79 per cent but below the provincial goal of 90 per cent. 

The audit said positive steps have been taken, such as having a well-designed evaluation plan, and generally collecting and analyzing data. 

But it also said the ministry was not collecting data about the progress of each child in the program. 

"Without collecting such data, the ministry cannot determine whether individual children participating in the program receive sufficient support to learn and develop," said the report.It also found kindergarten teachers did not always assess students at least twice a year as expected, or use suitable numeracy assessment tools. 

The school division could not explain why some kindergarten students did not participate in required reassessments. 

"Not collecting sufficient data about a student's progress means teachers may not make appropriate changes to their instructional practices or seek alternate resources to help individual students succeed," the report said.

About two-thirds of individuals admitted into custody in Saskatchewan are individuals held on remand, the report said. (Matthew Garand/CBC)

Reducing short-term remand 

Ferguson's report said the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General and the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety need to better track whether their strategies are helping reduce the number of people on short-term remand in Saskatoon and the surrounding area.

More than 40 per cent of the annual average daily counts of people in custody in Saskatchewan are on remand, the report said.

While the ministries have tried to reduce the short-term remand population in Saskatoon and the surrounding area by employing early case resolution, rapid remand response and community alternatives to remand, they are not measuring whether these strategies are working.

"Having set measurable targets, and collecting and analyzing key information from key external partners (e.g., policing services), would help them determine whether their strategies contribute to reducing the remand population," the report said.

Tara Clemett will replace Ferguson as acting provincial auditor effective July 1.

Clemett has more than 20 years of experience in financial, performance and IT auditing. She currently is a deputy provincial auditor who leads the health division.