Saskatchewan

Sask. NDP Leader calls for public inquiry into province's COVID-19 response

Saskatchewan's Opposition Leader wants a public inquiry into the province's COVID-19 response.

Ryan Meili wants further legislative scrutiny of decision-making

Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili and Deputy Leader Nicole Sarauer said the government is not allowing proper oversight of its pandemic decisions. (Matt Duiguid/CBC)

Saskatchewan's Opposition Leader wants a public inquiry into the province's COVID-19 response.

Sask. NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the province's decision-making throughout the last 12 months should be examined.

"I think a public inquiry into the COVID-19 response would be very appropriate to get to the bottom of exactly what happened," Meili said Wednesday.

Meili said if Premier Scott Moe and the government are confident in his government's pandemic response, they should be able to answer questions.

"The government would like us to just say we're past this and let's not look back and see what mistakes were made. But the fact is, we need to look. This government made serious mistakes."

Meili pointed to the second wave of cases in the province, which over the last two months has at times led other provinces in per capita COVID-19 cases.

"We lead the nation in the number of cases, daily new cases, death rates, things we should not be leading in. We should be leading an economic recovery," Meili said.

"I wonder if Mr. Moe continues to believe that he wouldn't change a thing. If he does, he should certainly be willing to answer some questions."

Meili also requested a special meeting of the province's human services committee, which considers matters relating to health, education, social services and labour. He said if the committee is recalled, the NDP member would focus on issues including:

  • Government response to the second wave in 2021.
  • Testing capacity.
  • Vaccination plan.
  • Measures taken to protect people in long-term care.

Meili said the committee has met only once since the spring budget, to establish membership following the election.

In January, the provincial government asked Saskatchewan's ombudsman to investigate the outbreak and subsequent deaths of residents at Regina's Parkside Extendicare.

Meili calls budget promise 'a lie'

This week, Saskatchewan's Finance Minister Donna Harpauer told the Canadian Press the province's plan to reach a balanced budget by 2024 would be "very, very difficult."

The 2021-22 budget will be introduced on April 6.

On Tuesday, Moe said budget details would be announced on budget day.

Meili said Moe misled voters last October.

"Every day in the campaign the premier stood up and said he was going to balance the budget by 2024. He was lying," Meili said on Wednesday.

"He knew very well that wasn't something he was going to be able to do, but he sold people a lie."

NDP request rapid testing for Saskatoon-based food plant

On Tuesday, the NDP and the union representing workers at Saskatoon-based Prairie Pride Natural Foods called for the province to set up rapid testing at the facility. A COVID-19 outbreak was declared there last month after nine cases were found.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1400 said a further 50 employees of the 260 who work at the facility had to self-isolate.

Last week, the province announced plans to distribute 700,000 rapid tests to places like care facilities, schools and first responders.

"The workers [at Prairie Pride] are really fearful of returning to work, and they're doing it in spite of it, only because they have to put food on the table," said UFCW Local 1400 President Norm Neault.

Neault said the employer has done its part to protect employees, but due to the outbreak and the nature of the work, rapid testing would be welcomed by the workers.

On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said it was interested in working with the employer to offer testing.

with files from The Canadian Press

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