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Potential for early Saskatchewan election faces scrutiny as coronavirus spreads

A COVID-19 information letter is shown at a coronavirus evaluation clinic in Montreal, Tuesday, March 10, 2020.
A COVID-19 information letter is shown at a coronavirus evaluation clinic in Montreal, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press

Premier Scott Moe says his government is weighing Saskatchewan’s election date “very, very seriously” as the spread of coronavirus continues throughout Canada.

“There are a number of things that potentially could happen with COVID-19 across the nation and how it will eventually come across,” Moe said. “No one knows what’s going to happen over the course of the next month or two, or over the course of the next 10 to 12 months. Hindsight will be 20-20 in respect to this.”

Saskatchewan’s 29th general election is scheduled for Oct. 26, but the premier has hinted that it could come sooner.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says coronavirus not a factor in election call

This is of concern to Saskatchewan doctor Anne Huang who has penned an open letter to both the premier and NDP leader Ryan Meili asking them to reconsider an early election.

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“Candidates and volunteers knock on doors and shake hands, people attend rallies, and on Election Day we send hundreds of thousands of people to polling stations, where they wait in line together and come in contact with shared pens, papers and door handles,” Huang wrote in her open letter, which was published on Twitter.

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“Many of those who vote will be seniors, the group at highest risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes.”

Huang said an early election “has the potential to expose a lot of people to the virus and will make a coordinated response in Saskatchewan more difficult.”

Neither the Saskatchewan Party nor the NDP has a plan on how they would adjust their campaigns in light of an early election.

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However, Meili — who is also a doctor — shared similar concerns with Huang.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan NDP leader says they’re ready for an early election

The NDP leader said it would be irresponsible to “send people to the polls during [a possible] pandemic.”

“In a time where this is evolving quickly … these cases are going to come to Saskatchewan,” Meili said. “This is no time to do something as disruptive as having an election.

“Even if this infection did stick around, we’d be in a much better place when things are put into place and we have more understanding around it.”

Health Minister Jim Reiter said he is confident the government would be able to handle its response should the coronavirus arrive in Saskatchewan during campaigning.

“There are provisions in place. If it does occur, provincial response to emergency still carries on,” Reiter said.

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