Saskatoon

Sask. NDP leader blasts health minister as 'invisible and incompetent' over absence at COVID-19 briefings

It's been a month since Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter has attended a COVID-19 news conference, prompting Reiter's main opponent in the legislature to question the minister's leadership. 

Cabinet office says Jim Reiter has been working 'diligently' behind the scenes to address pandemic challenges

Health Minister Jim Reiter hasn't co-hosted a pandemic briefing with the province's chief medical health officer since July 13, when the Ministry of Health announced it would shift to a universal COVID-19 testing model. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

It's been a month since Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter has attended a COVID-19 news conference, prompting Reiter's main opponent in the legislature to question the minister's leadership. 

The last time Reiter co-hosted a pandemic briefing with Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab was July 13, the day the Ministry of Health announced it would shift to a universal COVID-19 testing model. 

Matthew Glover, a cabinet spokesperson, said the government has sought to limit the number of government representatives who attend the in-person Regina media briefings to promote physical distancing. 

The government also picks an appropriate spokesperson based on that day's announcement, he said. 

"Since [July 13], the focus of the press conferences has been around outbreaks in several rural communities and the safe schools plan," Glover said. 

"As a result, the press conferences have been led by those respective ministers, Rural and Remote Health Minister Warren Kaeding and Education Minister Gordon Wyant."

Ryan Meili, the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP, took to Twitter to express his disappointment with the government's explanation.

"Seems to me a health minister should be active and visible during a pandemic, not invisible and incompetent like Jim Reiter," the Opposition leader wrote. "But when ministers do a bad job, @PremierScottMoe doesn't demand better or replace them, he just keeps them hidden. SK people deserve better."

Glover said Reiter will be at more press conferences in the future and that he's working "diligently" behind the scenes to address the challenges of the pandemic. 

"[He] has been directly involved with planning for all of the COVID-19 press conferences and policy decisions," Glover said, adding that Reiter has made himself available to media outside of press conferences.

The government once held COVID-19 press conferences every weekday but now holds them sporadically, typically when there is a large increase in cases, a COVID-related death or a significant policy announcement.

The last press briefing was held on Tuesday, when Wyant addressed the province's much-debated back-to-school plan for the third time in about a week. 

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

All-platform journalist for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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