Sask. NDP says Emergencies Act should not have been applied in province
Premier Moe says revoking Emergencies Act 'right thing to do'
Saskatchewan NDP justice critic Nicole Sarauer said the federal Emergencies Act, which was invoked Feb. 14 after more than two weeks of protests in Canada against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions, should not have been applied in the province.
"We have not seen the need for the use of this legislation within our province," Sarauer said at a media conference on Wednesday morning.
A few hours after Sarauer spoke, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government was revoking the act.
"Whether the federal government met the threshold required pursuant to the Emergencies Act may ultimately be determined through the courts," Sarauer said.
Sarauer said the federal government should have used a clause in the act to make it apply more regionally, as opposed to nationally.
Moe calls revocation 'right thing to do'
Premier Scott Moe responded to the federal government's announcement in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
"The federal government revoking the Emergencies Act is the right thing to do, because it should not have been invoked in the first place," Moe said.
The act was not needed because law enforcement "had all the tools they needed to stop illegal activity," he said.
Moe also called on the federal government to lay out a plan to end COVID-19 mandates.
"It is time for a clear end to mandates and restrictions. It is past time for the Trudeau government to detail a return to normal for all Canadians," Moe said.
One of the largest protest sites in the country, outside of Parliament in Ottawa, was cleared for the most part on the weekend of Feb. 19.
"Section 19 sub-two of the Emergencies Act would have allowed it to be applied in specific regions of Canada, and we feel that the federal government should have explored that as an option," Sarauer said.
On Monday night, a motion to affirm the act was passed in the House of Commons on a vote of 185 to 151.
In response to the NDP's position, Saskatchewan Attorney General Gordon Wyant said: "we welcome the support of the province's position."
Wyant said the party should reach out and share their position with the federal NDP, who he said is "single-handedly responsible for this act being applied in Saskatchewan."
The NDP "agreed to pass it in the House of Commons without proposing any amendments that would exempt our province. To be clear, this act would never have been passed without the support of the NDP," Wyant wrote in a statement.
Sarauer said the provincial NDP and federal NDP are different.
"We're the Saskatchewan NDP. We often take positions that are different than our federal counterparts. And this is one of them."
On Wednesday afternoon, the provincial government was still evaluating its legal options to challenge the act, Wyant said.
Last week, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said his government would launch a legal challenge of the act.
While the two parties agree on where the act should not be applied, they do not necessarily agree on its usefulness.
Premier Scott Moe called it unnecessary and an overreach.
Sarauer said Wednesday, it was "necessary to deal with the crisis in Ottawa."
Time to unite
Sarauer also criticized Moe for sowing division while saying it was time for people to unite.
"What we're suggesting and what we're calling on the premier to do is to turn down the temperature, turn down the rhetoric and work to unite this province because we have much more in common than we do apart."
Moe has said in recent weeks with the end of COVID-19 health measures that it is "time to heal divisions."
Sarauer said she does not perceive as many divisions as the premier suggests.
"The overwhelming majority of Saskatchewan residents pulled together over the last two years to keep each other safe."
Sarauer said the divisions "being pushed are by some political leaders trying to divide us for political gain. It's important to remember that we all have a lot more in common than we do apart."
While Wyant said the provincial NDP should try to influence the federal NDP, Sarauer said the Saskatchewan government was "taking political marching orders from their federal counterparts."
Sarauer said when given the opportunity to oppose blockades at the border and the Ottawa protests, Moe "appeased illegal blockades" rather than standing up for the rule of law.
In regards to ongoing protests, Moe told CBC's David Cochrane on Feb. 9: "I am going to stay out of telling them [protesters] what to do. It certainly is going to get everyone's attention... and it isn't for me to judge ultimately whether they should or not."
The following day Moe released a statement saying protests should be "done within the law."
"I would call on all the protesters to continue to advance their valid concerns about the federal vaccine mandates without engaging in unlawful activity and obstructing the rights of their fellow Canadians," Moe said Feb. 10.
Senate debates Emergencies Act
Before the act was revoked, the Senate debated it.
In a speech Tuesday night, Saskatchewan Conservative Senator Denise Batters called the protestors "friendly" and "patriotic."
"I can say that in the last two years, I never felt safer walking home from my office at night. The protesters I met very much reminded me of the people I know in Saskatchewan — friendly, hard-working, patriotic Canadians," she said.
Batters and several Saskatchewan Conservative MPs posed in front of trucks involved in the Ottawa convoy.
"I do not tolerate harassment, intimidation, or destruction ever, but I can honestly say that I personally did not see any of that behaviour exhibited by the protesters," she said. "What is the national emergency this time? Dance parties and loud horns?"
Not all senators shared Batters' position.
Independent Alberta Senator Paula Simons called it "an organized grift, a giant con" that had to be cleared by police.
"It was a veritable carnival of hate, endorsed and condoned and even cheered on by some Canadian politicians — craven cowards, people who knew better but chose to exploit this volatile and dangerous moment for their strategic advantage and to exploit these damaged and deluded people for petty personal political gain," Simons said.
With files from John Paul Tasker