Saskatchewan premier, health minister accuse NDP of politicizing coronavirus, ‘fearmongering’

On Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe accused the Saskatchewan NDP of politicizing coronavirus .
On Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe accused the Saskatchewan NDP of politicizing coronavirus . File / Global News

Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Jim Reiter accused the Saskatchewan NDP of “fearmongering” over COVID-19 and politicizing the issue for political gain as an early election looms.

“This is not a political issue. This is an issue where most certainly people in governance positions need to provide that stable environment so that we can make what are very serious decisions,” said Moe on Tuesday.

“This should not be politicized. The NDP are attempting to do that, they are fearmongering in respect to questions in the House and media and they simply shouldn’t do it.”

READ MORE: Potential for early Saskatchewan election faces scrutiny as coronavirus spreads

Their comments came after NDP Leader Ryan Meili asked the Saskatchewan Party to postpone the budget by a few weeks following the oil price crash and the spread of COVID-19.

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“Introducing a budget without taking into account economic realities we’re dealing with over the last few days is irresponsible,” said Meili.

Click to play video 'Saskatchewan couple in self-isolation after coronavirus concerns following Asian cruise' Saskatchewan couple in self-isolation after coronavirus concerns following Asian cruise
Saskatchewan couple in self-isolation after coronavirus concerns following Asian cruise

The premier said his party will not make “panicky decisions” or “knee-jerk reactions” to a variable market.

Minister of Finance Donna Harpaur said she’s hopeful the budget will remain balanced throughout the year.

“We could delay for two weeks, but to what end? If the markets recover we’re in the same budget. If the markets haven’t recovered, again, I don’t think I would change my expenditures,” she said.

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Harpaur stated the government will revise the budget within the first quarter if a recession is, in fact, looming. However, the government feels confident that the 2020-21 budget has enough stimulus measures within it to sustain Saskatchewan’s economy.

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As for revenue from oil, it will account for just 4.5 per cent of the 2020-21 budget said Harpaur. Other sources of revenue come from the federal government, other resources and taxes.

“We have taken [measures] to make the budget more stable and more predictable than it has been in the past because we’re not as reliant on oil as we used to be,” Harpaur said.
“In this case, should [oil] stay at $30 a barrel for an entire 12 months, we’re only looking at a $500 million shortfall.”

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While Moe committed to delivering a balanced budget on March 18, he wouldn’t commit to the Oct. 26 election date.

On Tuesday, the NDP leader asked the premier to stick to the fall election date to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Why would you introduce something that brings people into more social contact in a time where events are getting cancelled and people are emphasizing more social distancing?” Meili asked.

“There’s zero business case, from a public health point of view, of introducing a massive public event that’s not already scheduled.”

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Moe said his government is in constant communication with health officials and that they are weighing Saskatchewan’s election date “very, very seriously” whenever that may be.

“Should we have a type of outbreak here, the health officials are well placed to deal with what comes with this,” Moe said.