Saskatchewan

Cabinet grilled on why it took so long for premier to rule out spring election

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says there will not be a spring election.

There will be no spring election amid COVID-19 concerns, Sask. premier says

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said there will be no spring election. (Matthew Garand/CBC)

Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter fended off questions Thursday morning about why it took until then for Premier Scott Moe to rule out a spring election.

The set date for the next provincial election is Oct. 26, but Moe has the option to call an election earlier.

Reiter said that while there has been plenty of speculation about a spring election, Moe never said he would call one.

"[But] he felt it was appropriate to put all the alarm aside and just let people know that he didn't think this was an appropriate time and he wouldn't be exercising the window."

Moe put out a statement Thursday morning saying there will be no spring election amid concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We will remain focused on providing a strong, stable government and addressing the health and economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," Moe said in a statement.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter said Premier Scott Moe never called a spring election. (CBC News)

The statement came shortly before the first presumptive positive case of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Saskatchewan was confirmed.

The health ministry said in a statement that the confirmed case is a person in their 60s that recently travelled to Egypt.

Reiter said a lot has happened over the last days, including the World Health Organization calling COVID-19 a pandemic. 

"Lots of events were cancelled and yet people were still talking about, 'Are we going to have an election?' And I would assume by then that he probably felt that we weren't (having an election)."

Reiter said its impossible to predict when the safest time will be to have an election.

"We've had our first case today. We don't know how many cases we're going to have three or four months from now or six months from now," Reiter said "So that's one of the issues [Moe has] had to grapple with. We have a timeframe the election needs to be called in. When would be the safest time to do it? Brilliant medical minds are telling us it's impossible to know."

Budget will be tabled

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said that despite COVID-19, crashing stock markets and oil prices plummeting, next week's provincial budget is still going to be tabled and will be balanced, for now.

"Whether or not that can remain will depend on how long the downturn remains," Harpauer said.

"However our expenditures that we will have in our budget are a stimulus for the economy. So now more than ever I think we need to have that."

Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer still says the 2020 provincial budget will be balanced. (The Canadian Press)

Harpauer said a lower dollar and more federal funding will offset some of the losses.

"There will be changes and we'll just track that throughout the year which is why we do quarterly reporting."

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili had previously called on the government to delay next week's budget because of the economic turmoil and health crisis caused by the coronavirus.

Speaking to delegates at the annual Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) convention on Thursday, Meili said it's not a time to panic, but we all have to work together.

"We can't make this go away, but we can get ahead of it," he said. "We can slow it down and that will make all the difference."

Meili said that If there is a spike in cases it will lead to higher mortality rates and health-care services being overwhelmed.

First Ministers' meeting cancelled

The planned First Ministers' meeting in Ottawa has also been cancelled, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in self isolation. 

Premier Moe and other members of the Saskatchewan delegation are currently in Ottawa and will return to Saskatchewan today.

Moe will take part in a conference call of Canada's First Ministers on Friday to discuss the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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