'He's in over his head'; NDP criticizes Sask. premier's doubling down on lockdown stance

·4 min read

Sask. Premier Scott Moe stood his ground on the topic of locking down the province in a radio interview yesterday, even after the province announced a record 439 new cases of COVID-19.

Moe was on CORUS Entertainment's The Roy Green Show to discuss his strategy around COVID-19 and how to prevent a "disastrous" circuit-breaker lockdown in Saskatchewan.

Shutting down would dramatically impact small businesses in Saskatchewan and in Canada, he told Green.

"That's why we are looking at every other lever that we have to control the spread of this virus … and minimize the impact on our small businesses," Moe said.

His comments on The Roy Green Show were made shortly after Moe's press secretary released a statement, expressing concerns about Saturday's record high COVID-19 cases totals on his behalf.

On Sunday NDP Leader Ryan Meili said Moe's interview showed the premier was gambling with the lives of Saskatchewan people and taking huge risks with the provincial economy by preventing a short-term lockdown.

To Meili, Moe's comments showed he was ignoring what experts have said, what health professionals have said and what's happening in other provinces.

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses criticized the government's measures as not enough earlier this month, adding the organization to a growing list of health professionals and advocates calling on the government to do more.

In Manitoba wide-scale lockdowns were enacted once that province's health-care system was overwhelmed by a second wave of COVID-19, something Meili warned could happen here soon.

"[Moe is] stuck with his own ideas and the fact of the matter is, is that his ideas on this are dumb," Meili said.

"He doesn't have a good understanding of what's going on. He's in over his head and he's making the wrong choices and we're all going to pay for it."

NDP continues calls for circuit-breaker lockdown

Last Tuesday, when asked why the government wasn't introducing measures to shutter non-essential businesses — and could be seen as choosing jobs over minimizing spread of the COVID-19 — Moe said it wasn't the time for a lockdown and maintained new measures announced that day would be effective.

"One: it reduces the spread temporarily. Two: we are not sacrificing one for the other. We've always said that's not the choice that needs to be made," he said.

"We feel that we are at a stage here where a slowdown will work. We may get to a lockdown in the days ahead."

Moe added thousands of Saskatchewan residents and families were still recovering from the economic burden of the first lockdown.

A day after Moe made his comments, the NDP called on the government to enact a three-week-long circuit-breaker lockdown to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.

On Sunday Meili reiterated his party's call for a temporary shutdown and said while such a move would have a negative impact on the provincial economy, it would hurt businesses less than a full-scale, indefinite lockdown would.

"Having the circuit breaker is about making sure that we have the least possible damage," Meili said.

"You need to do two things: One, you need to do it early and briefly, so you actually get the cases under control — and then allow the economy to restart again — and then you have to have the financial support in place."

Following the NDP's initial call for a circuit-breaker lockdown Merriman's office issued a statement rejecting the idea and said it would continue consultations with the hospitality, faith, recreation and athletic communities on further measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Justin Tang/Canadian Press
Justin Tang/Canadian Press

Meili said in acting without seriousness, Moe's actions will be damaging to the provincial economy and human life in Saskatchewan and it's frustrating to see this approach from a person who's supposed to be in charge.

The statement issued by Moe's press secretary on Saturday said the Premier and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab would have more to say about COVID-19 early in the coming week.

Meili said he and his party hope the government introduces measures that show it is taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously when more information is provided next week.

"It's hard to watch this being so badly handled and all we can do is push," he said.