4th wave hangs over province as Sask. legislative sitting resumes

The fall sitting of the Saskatchewan legislative assembly begins Wednesday afternoon with the speech from the throne.

Lt.-Gov. Russell Mirasty will deliver the speech inside the chamber at 2 p.m. CST.

Premier Scott Moe provided a preview of the speech and the government’s focus for the upcoming 25-day sitting in a speech to the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce on Monday afternoon.

Moe said the province “had been hit hard by the fourth wave.”

He said the province’s case counts remain high and attributed that to unvaccinated people.

Moe also said the government has “resisted” introducing further measures because more than 75 per cent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

“It doesn’t make sense to restrict everyone’s activities and ultimately their personal freedoms.”

During the speech, Moe transitioned to discussing Saskatchewan’s path to economic recovery, speaking about jobs, exports and manufacturing sales figures.

“The strongest indicator of confidence in our province is the unprecedented surge in investment we have seen arrive here in the last number of months.”

Moe highlighted recently announced multi-million dollar projects in the potash, agriculture, and oil and gas sectors. He said these projects would create “thousands of jobs” in both construction and operational phases.

He said these projects were announced in one of the province’s “most difficult years.”

Moe said the government will focus on “building a stronger, safer, healthier, better educated, and much more independent Saskatchewan.”

He said the throne speech would include “enhanced law enforcement measures to address crime particularly in the areas of drug, repeat offender and property crime.” 

He said the government knows addictions can fuel crime and that it will increase treatment and detox spaces. He also said the government will launch three new community wellness buses mental health and addictions supports.

Opposition to focus on pandemic response

In a news conference on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said his party will “be spending every day of this session prosecuting the failures of this government.”

Meili said the opposition will be focused on the government’s COVID-19 response.

October has been Saskatchewan’s second-deadliest month of the entire pandemic. ICU capacity issues led the government to transfer ill patients to Ontario, with the total expected to reach 19 by Wednesday night.

Meili said Moe “chose politics over people” and ignored experts and COVID-19 modelling and acted too late to prevent the fourth wave.

“We have experienced the worst fourth wave in the country,” Meili said.

Meili disputed Moe’s claim that it would be unfair to impose further restrictions.

“It’s not fair for kids to have their therapy cancelled. It’s not fair for surgeries to be cancelled,” Meili said.

Meili also pointed to the encampment, known as Camp Marjorie, recently created in a core neighbourhood park in Regina.

Earlier this month, more than 30 tents were put up in the park. Those living there and anti-poverty advocates have said changes to the province’s social assistance program have played a role in the camp’s existence.

New deputy speaker to be elected

On Thursday morning, MLAs will elect a new deputy speaker. Nadine Wilson was the deputy speaker during the previous sitting.

Wilson resigned from the Saskatchewan Party caucus in Sept. after misrepresenting her vaccination status. The Saskatchewan Rivers MLA will sit as an independent in the legislature.

The opposition will also have one fewer member. In August, the longest-serving MLA Buckley Belanger stepped down to run federally for the Liberal Party. Incumbent federal Conservative MP Gary Vidal handily won re-election in the Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River riding.

Belanger’s seat in Athabasca will be vacant until there is a by-election.

Wednesday will mark the third time members have sat during the pandemic and unlike the most recent spring sitting, visitors will be allowed back to watch question period from the gallery.

Visitors must be fully vaccinated or provide proof of a recent negative COVID test.