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Sask. opposition calling for public inquiry into government’s COVID response

Sask. opposition says the provincial government's conduct during the fourth wave needs investigating.
ndp Ryan Meili
Sask NDP leader Ryan Meili is calling for an independent inquiry into the Sask. Party's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic this fall.

REGINA — The Saskatchewan NDP are calling for a full, independent public inquiry into the provincial government’s COVID-19 response, citing multiple concerns about the Saskatchewan Party’s conduct.

A statement from the opposition shared on Dec. 8 said that Premier Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party “put political considerations ahead of a public health response that would have protected Saskatchewan’s health system and saved lives.”

Opposition leader Ryan Meili has been publicly critical of the premier and health minister Paul Merriman over the summer, claiming both officials stepped away from their duties in the preface of a fourth wave of COVID-19 in the province.

"The Premier acted like the pandemic was over in July, ignored the experts and the modelling in late summer and then dragged his feet on masking and vaccine measures,” said Meili. “We’re hearing from frontline workers across our healthcare system who feel unsupported, underappreciated, and fed up with this government’s failed pandemic response.”

Meili said that a non-partisan investigation into whether the government’s pandemic response was adequate and properly executed during the fourth wave of COVID transmission this fall.

“The people of this province deserve answers on the medical advice and recommendations that were provided to this Premier and his government,” said Meili.

If initiated, the NDP would want a public inquiry to seek answers to questions regarding numerous government actions and how they were informed, including an inquest into whether health officials ignored advice in favour of lifting restrictions.

The NDP had previously pressured the government to release the specific recommendations made by chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab to the public, with no success.

Meili also accused the health minister of ignoring modelling compiled by the Saskatchewan Health Authority predicting the deadly fourth wave, as well as advice from a local coalition of medical health officers.

“We started this session knowing the Premier had ignored Dr. Shahab’s recommendations, buried the modelling, and had ignored doctors and other medical experts,” said Meili. “What’s become clear since, is that Saskatchewan’s health system has been driven to the brink of collapse, SHA leaders are jumping ship, but this government refuses to answer why.”

Saskatchewan reached a critical point in September and October, with ICUs in the province exceeding mass capacity and the most recorded deaths per month in October, noted the NDP.

The province recorded the highest death rate in Canada at this time, and COVID-19 in critical condition were air-lifted out of province to receive adequate care.
Meili and the NDP also want to determine if Moe and Merriman’s “rhetoric regarding ‘personal’ rights’ sow[ed] confusion and hesitancy” that slowed vaccination uptake in the province.

A public inquiry would determine if the provincial government can be held at fault for any potential consequences of their decisions, said the NDP, including the shutdown of surgeries and other health services and the pressure that allegedly caused the recent exodus of high-ranking leaders in the SHA.

“We need a non-partisan, independent inquiry to get to the bottom of what led Saskatchewan to have the worst pandemic response of all provinces,” said Meili.