Sask. premier says lockdowns are a 'stopgap,' won't end pandemic
Scott Moe announced more funding for improvements on many busy urban highways
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says some of the people urging his government to introduce tougher COVID-19 restrictions are people who have the ability to work from home.
Moe told a virtual convention of mayors and municipal councillors that his Saskatchewan Party government has been able to keep the most businesses open out of any jurisdiction.
Only bingo halls and casinos have been closed since daily case numbers began rising last fall.
Sports teams aren't allowed to play games but businesses are allowed to see customers at reduced capacity and with other restrictions in place.
Moe said he's heard from some who want his government to tighten up public health orders and from others who believe the rules should be loosened.
He said many employees working for businesses that remain open to customers can't do their jobs elsewhere.
"It's easy for some to stand up and say, 'We need to lock everything down,' when they have the opportunity to work from home," Moe told delegates in Monday's online speech.
"The reality is this: No matter how severe lockdowns and public health measures are, they are not going to end this pandemic."
He called business closures and other public health measures a "stopgap" in the fight to end the pandemic. Moe said that will only happen once there is widespread access to vaccines, which there currently isn't because of supply delays.
Moe announced more funding for improvements on many of Saskatchewan's busiest urban highways on Monday.
He said the Sask. government is making an additional $3 million in capital funding available to improve conditions on highways in the province's smaller cities.
Moe said the additional funding will boost capital dollars in the province's urban highways program to $10 million over two years.
The program was created in 2008 and provides financial assistance to urban municipalities for the maintenance, operation and rehabilitation of roadways, according to the province.
So far, the highways program funded rehabilitation projects in Regina, Estevan, and Yorkton in the 2020-21 budget year, along with lighting upgrades in Lloydminster and starting a regional planning project in the Swift Current area, according to the province.
Rehabilitation projects in Prince Albert, Estevan, Meadow Lake, Lloydminster, Humboldt, North Battleford, Moose Jaw and Yorkton are priorities in the program's multi-year plan.
The Ministry of Highways is assuming 100 per cent of the maintenance and rehabilitation costs for urban connectors in Saskatchewan towns as of April 1, according to the province.
Moe said this will reduce the number of municipalities competing for the highways program dollars each year.
Changes are also being made to how funding is allocated to Regina and Saskatoon.
The province said it is meeting its target of improving more than 1,000 km of provincial highways this year, the first of its 10-year growth plan goal to build and upgrade 10,000 km of highways.
Moe also announced Saskatchewan municipalities will get more than $275 million in the 2021-22 year under the province's municipal revenue sharing program.
The province said that $1.5 million will be invested in the targeted sector support initiative, which supports municipal projects that focus on good governance, regional planning and inter-community collaboration.
With files by Laura Sciarpelletti