REGINA — In their first Question Period back in the Legislature after the Easter break, the Sask. Party front bench spent much of its time having to fend off opposition attacks on their COVID-19 response.
Opposition leader Ryan Meili, fresh off of his own positive COVID-19 test last week, hammered Premier Scott Moe repeatedly on the issue Monday by using the words “I don’t care” — referring to a response from Moe to media questions about carbon emissions where he said he “doesn’t care that the province has the highest carbon emissions per capita.”
“‘I don’t care.’ That’s what the premier said about climate change, and it’s what his attitude shows about so much that Saskatchewan people are facing right now,” said Meili.
Meili went on to hammer the government over the number of COVID-19 deaths reported and the number of hospitalizations.
“More people have died from COVID-19 this year than at the same point in 2021. The highest death rate in the entire country is among Saskatchewan people. Thousands are getting sick, missing work, missing school, facing potential long-term complications. And every day, Mr. Speaker, multiple Saskatchewan families are saying goodbye forever to someone who is dying from a preventable illness. Mr. Speaker, what has the premier got to say about it? Nothing at all.”
In response, Premier Moe slammed Meili for the tone of the question.
“Time after time after time in the preamble of the question, you see the leader of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, misportraying the words that were spoken by me, Mr. Speaker, taking those into many other contexts. When the leader of the Opposition is going to get up and ask a legitimate question in this House, I’ll get up and answer it.”
Health Minister Paul Merriman also responded to Meili’s questions, acknowledging there were about 150 to 160 individuals “who were presenting with COVID-19.”
Merriman referred to words quoted in the media from Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, who had said: “At the same time, I think as individuals and communities, COVID[-19] can’t be the overriding thing influencing everything.” Merriman also pointed to the distribution of rapid test kits.
When Meili then launched an attack on the government on a shortage of doctors and on wait times, Merriman responded the government was addressing what was happening in the system with the provincial budget that was just brought down.
Merriman pointed to an increase of 11 ICU beds and plans to recruit across Canada and in the Philippines, and plans to add 150 extra nursing seats, as well as other points in the budget. He also criticized the NDP for voting against the budget.
Merriman ended the exchange with Meili with an impassioned response to Meili’s repeated use of the words “I don’t care,” after Meili accused the government of refusing to meet with frontline health workers.
“I can tell you this, I certainly do care. I meet with patients. Our members over here meet with patients. We continue to talk to people in the health care system, whether they’re our neighbours or whether we’re seeing them in person …. It is absolutely ridiculous that that member over there says we don’t care. We do, Mr. Speaker.”