Saskatchewan premier doesn't see need for Emergencies Act in COVID-19 fight

Moe said he doesn't see how the never-before-used legislation would do anything the provinces aren't already doing to respond to the spread of COVID-19.

Moe says he doesn't see how the legislation would do anything the provinces aren't already doing

Scott Moe, premier of Saskatchewan, and Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer, arrive to a COVID-19 news update at the Legislative Building in Regina on Wednesday March 18, 2020. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he doesn't see a need for Ottawa to use the sweeping Emergencies Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moe said Thursday that he has had discussions with the federal government on the issue and recently received a letter about it. Letters were also sent out to other premiers.

The Emergencies Act would give Ottawa power to override the provinces and restrict the flow of people and goods.

Moe said he doesn't see how the never-before-used legislation would do anything the provinces aren't already doing to respond to the spread of the virus.

He said he's on weekly calls with premiers about how they can work together and believes provincial laws allow leaders the flexibility to address the needs of their jurisdictions.

Moe said he hopes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will take Saskatchewan's stance seriously.

"Saskatchewan would remain steadfast — has been to this point in time — not specifically against the use of the Act, but we do not see the reason for the use," he said.

Premier Scott Moe says he doesn't know what the legislation would do that provinces wouldn't already be doing (Michael Bell/Canadian Press)

"I have every reason to believe that as myself and potentially other premiers communicate, that they feel that the use of this Act at this point in time would at the very least be premature."

The provinces must be consulted before the legislation is invoked. Moe was to take a call with Trudeau later Thursday.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Prime Minister said sending letters to the premiers about the Emergencies Act was "purely a procedural step."

"We are no more likely to invoke this today than we were a few days ago, as the deputy prime minister said today at the press conference," said Ann-Clara Vaillancourt.

Last month, Trudeau resisted the idea of turning to the legislation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a press conference about COVID-19 in front of his residence at Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Federal officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said Trudeau has consulted the premiers about invoking the Emergencies Act during their weekly teleconference calls, including one Thursday evening, but that there has always been a consensus among premiers that it's not needed.

Thursday's letter was part of those consultations, simply putting in writing the explanations Trudeau has given premiers verbally about what invoking the Act could entail, the officials said.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has said that he is in favour of the measure, calling it a move that would "unify our approach as a nation."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, however, has said the provinces need to be able to act unilaterally.


Stephanie Taylor

Reporter/The Canadian Press

Stephanie Taylor is a Canadian Press reporter based in Saskatchewan.


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