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Moe denounces opposition 'smear' tactics, calls them 'same old NDP'

Daily Leg Update: Premier compares opposition leader Ryan Meili to Dwain Lingenfelter during exchange.
regina legislature building budget
It was a heated exchange during Question Period Wednesday in Regina.

REGINA — It was a testy exchange in the legislature Wednesday as Premier Scott Moe lambasted the opposition New Democrats over their continued attacks on the government’s record on health care.

Moe referred to the opposition as "the same old NDP" in the exchange in Question Period. During that debate Opposition Leader Ryan Meili resumed his attack on the Sask. Party government for, as he put it, an “I don’t care attitude" that pervades the government's response.

Meili pointed to record levels of Saskatchewan people in hospital with COVID-19, and accused Moe of saying “nothing at all … people are dying and the premier of the province doesn’t care.”

“When did the premier decide that the health of Saskatchewan people just wasn’t his problem?”

Moe replied that he and the minister of Health had been communicating with Saskatchewan people over the last couple of years with respect to COVID-19 and other issues. He then blasted Meili’s repeated use of the words “I don’t care.”

“What we’re seeing here Mr. Speaker, and I thought it was gone but it came back today ... we're seeing an NDP leader who came into office and he was promising to do politics differently. Now what we see is an NDP leader that is leaving office and, really, he's reverting to the same old smear tactics that his predecessor Dwain Lingenfelter utilized, Mr. Speaker, in splicing together different statements, different quotes to fabricate something that was actually never said.

“Mr. Speaker, the NDP keep doing the same thing over and over and continue to wonder why they get the same results … Although they may be changing leaders, it’s the same old NDP.”

Meili responded by again using the words “I don’t care" to point to the issues seen in health care.

“The premier may not care, but there is a group that does. It’s right in their name — health care workers. They care, but they’re burnt out.”

Meili pointed to a Saskatchewan Medical Association member survey released that day. He said survey showed 74 per cent of physicians described their practises as less satisfying, and 65 per cent reported their mental health is getting worse. It rises to 85 per cent among doctors in regional centres, Meili noted.

Meili also accused the government of "chasing the people who care" away and making it harder for Saskatchewan people to get the care they need.

“What we have seen on this side of the house is action,” Moe responded, pointing to "action" in investing in health care facilities, recruiting, adding 4,200 nurses and additional incentives in the budget. Moe also pointed to the province’s four-point plan “to recruit, to retain, to train and to incentivize nurses into our facilities across the province.”

In response, Meili characterized the government’s four-point plan as “downplay, deflect, disparage and deny.”

Meili then attacked the government for a reduction in services in rural health care. Moe countered by pointing out that “under the NDP one of those three doctors wasn’t even here … our government’s record on health care is solid.”

“There you see it again, deflect and deny, take no responsibility for the seriousness of the situation,” Meili said. 

The Opposition leader then called for the premier to commit to going to the front lines to see and hear from doctors and nurses about what was happening.

In response, Minister of Health Paul Merriman stood up to say “nobody on this side of the house or within our government disrespects anything that those frontline health care workers are doing. They are continuously working. We are supporting them. We meet with them."

Merriman said they have “created a robust compensation package for doctors and nurses,” and added they regularly meet with the SMA. He also said they were attending the SMA convention next week.

“We are listening to doctors. We’re certainly not listening to that one,” he added, referring to Meili.