'We need some way to have oversight': Sask. NDP wants legislative sitting resumed in some form
Government focused on COVID-19 response: spokesperson
Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili has called on the provincial government to resume the legislative sitting, either virtually or in-person.
On March 18, the legislative sitting was suspended indefinitely by mutual agreement of the two parties.
At the time the government said any additional provincial money needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects in Saskatchewan will be issued through special warrants, which allow governments to obtain money when the legislative assembly is not in session.
"If emergency legislation needs to be passed, the government can ask the Speaker to recall the House," said a government spokesperson on March 19.
Meili said Monday that it's time for a scaled-back sitting.
"It is really important work. It shouldn't stop entirely. But we also need to respect the public health measures and model them for the public as well," he said.
"We need some way to have oversight and to dig into what's going on."
Meili suggested committees or a modified version of the assembly, either in-person with physical distancing or virtually over video conference.
"I understand that in order to do anything virtual we would have to have at the very least a short sitting to change some rules, but I'm absolutely open to using the kind of technology we're using right now and having virtual means of posing questions," Meili said on his daily Zoom media conference.
Meili had previously asked Premier Scott Moe for a non-partisan committee to work through COVID-19, but his offer was never accepted.
Premier Moe is expected to announce the details of the province's reopening plan this week, but it does not appear the provincial government is entertaining a resumption of the sitting anytime soon.
"No decisions have been made at this point about when or under what parameters the assembly may resume sitting. Our government remains focused on our province's response to the COVID-19 pandemic," a spokesperson for Premier Moe said Monday.
Federal parties debate in-person sittings
For the first time since March 13, MPs sat in the House of Commons on Monday, for a session that included a question period.
Between 35 and 40 MPs were in Ottawa and passed a motion to hold both in-person and virtual meetings to question and debate the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The House of Commons will adjourn until May 25. A special committee — with every MP a member — will meet once weekly in person. Virtual meetings will occur online twice a week.
Over the weekend, the Liberal government reached a tentative deal with the NDP and Bloc Québécois to have one in-person sitting per week. The Conservatives rejected the idea, insisting on more regular meetings each week.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he wanted two in-person sittings per week on Tuesday and Thursday.
Meili critical of government relief measures
Meili said Monday that the provincial government is not spending enough money to help those affected by COVID-19.
"They have failed to provide meaningful support for the most vulnerable, including refusing to provide even modest support to food banks to ensure no one in our province goes hungry during this crisis," he said.
Meili said that — excluding tax deferrals — the Saskatchewan government trails other western provinces in providing support per person.
"It has committed a total of an additional $73 million in response to the crisis, or $61 per person, significantly lagging what is offered by other provinces. British Columbia has committed to spending an additional $2.8 billion, or $548 per person; Alberta $2.1 billion, or $481 per person."
Meili said Friday's financial revenue forecast did not update the province's spending amid COVID-19. He called using the old spending plan "citing outdated numbers."
With files from CBC's Kathleen Harris