SASKATOON — Opposition leader Ryan Meili likened Premier Scott Moe’s handling of the pandemic to that of Donald Trump, the former U.S. president who downplayed COVID-19 and the health protocols needed to control the spread of the deadly virus.
As cases in the United States started to increase two years ago, Trump was consistent in denying that the virus is deadly and that it would go away as the weather became warm. He has also mocked the wearing of masks for months, endorsed unproven medications like the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the antiparasitic ivermectin, and suggested injecting bleach as prevention or protection from the virus.
Moe announced Tuesday changes to public health measures like the scrapping of the proof of vaccination or negative test policy starting next week. He says the province needs to move on and become united again after divisions that manifested during the pandemic.
“Today, with Omicron the benefits of the proof of vaccination policy no longer outweigh the costs. This policy most certainly has run its course. So, it's time for us to take a step back and live with COVID and to make every effort to get our lives back to normal. It's time for us also to heal the divisions in our communities over vaccination,” said Moe.
“Those divisions are in our families, they're in our communities, but they are across our province and they're across this nation. It's time for us to come together as families as friends as communities and as a province and as a nation and it's time for us to reach out and support one another. Let's not judge our neighbour, because they may be vaccinated or because they may not be vaccinated.”
Meili, the Sask. NDP leader, said Moe is taking a risk within the Saskatchewan Party with his decision similar to Trump appeasing his base of far-right voters.
“[Moe] is moving in a Donald Trump direction. We saw [the premier] last week saying if you do more tests, you catch more cases. Very similar language to Donald Trump; lying directly to Saskatchewan people about the efficacy of vaccines, and preventing infection and transmissions,” Meili said in a press briefing Tuesday afternoon outside his Saskatoon office.
“This is someone who is seeing the risk in his party of a split between the hard right and the centre-right, and he’s decided to take a hard right turn, go down the path of Donald Trump and that is very disturbing for the future of Saskatchewan.”
Meili added that Moe’s decision on lifting some of the public health restrictions is wrong and won’t be beneficial for the residents in the province.
“That is not what’s good for Saskatchewan people. We deserve leadership that is listening to the evidence, that is listening to Saskatchewan people, that is not feeding into the lies and propaganda that we’re seeing in far-right movements in the United States or what we’re seeing on the streets of Ottawa right now,” Meili said.
Moe, in his announcement, said the proof of vaccination mandate will be lifted in the province effective Feb. 14 at 12:01 a.m.
“All provincial proof of vaccination requirements will end in Saskatchewan businesses and venues and provincially regulated workplaces. This means that the proof of vaccination or the negative test option that we provided will no longer be a provincial requirement,” said Moe.
He added that Saskatchewan residents should try to continue treating everyone equally during the pandemic.
“Let's not judge our neighbour if they should choose to wear a mask or not to choose to wear a mask in the weeks ahead.
"Whenever someone is doing their risk assessment, which we have asked them to do in this province for some time now, they're doing that assessment for themselves, possibly for their family, and they may come back with a different decision than what you might arrive at and not a different conclusion, or be it maybe different from where you have landed, should not be judged. It should be respected, and it should be accepted,” said Moe.