Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says voters will not head to the polls this spring.
Moe made the announcement Thursday following weeks of uncertainty to when electors would cast their ballot.
“We will remain focused on providing a strong, stable government and addressing the health and economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moe said in a statement on Twitter.
“I will not be calling a provincial election this spring.”
The Saskatchewan government was weighing the option to call an early election for weeks, which had come under scrutiny from health officials and the province’s opposition.
“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?” asked Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili.
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer compared voting in a snap election to grocery shopping.
“The election itself is like grocery shopping,” Dr. Saqib Shahab said. “Even if you have a pandemic, you still have to go grocery shopping. You shouldn’t go if you’re sick. Maybe get someone else to do the groceries.”
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Hours after Shahab made those comments, the province’s health authority was notifying a Saskatoon resident they tested positive for COVID-19, making it Saskatchewan’s first presumptive case. That evening, the government of Saskatchewan also implemented a COVID-19 page on their website that didn’t exist previously.
Moe wasn’t available for comment Thursday, as he was on a plane back to Saskatchewan, after the First Ministers’ Meeting was cancelled – due to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau being isolated from potential novel coronavirus exposure.
Health Minister Jim Reiter told reporters he’s unaware if Moe knew about the test result prior to his election statement, but added it was a difficult decision to make.
“He had to decide what would be in the best interest of Saskatchewan people,” Reiter said.
As of March 10, 285 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus in the province. Of those 263 people have tested negative, 22 results are pending and one person had a presumptive positive result, says the government.
NDP calls for Saskatchewan government to delay the budget
The opposition leader praised Moe’s decision to end any speculation of a spring election.
“It’s something we were asking now for several days. We thought it was very poor for Moe to be planning an election when we should be planning for a pandemic,” Meili said.
Despite the praise, he’s still asking for the Saskatchewan Party to delay the 2020-21 budget by a few weeks following the crash of oil prices and the spread of COVID-19.
He also asked the government to form a bipartisan committee to tackle novel coronavirus. Reiter says forming a committee will be up for the premier to decide.
On Thursday, Finance Minister Donna Harpaur reiterated that the budget will not be delayed, which will be presented in the House on March 18.
Budget day often draws large crowds to the Saskatchewan Legislature. The health minister said he will review the risk assessment related to budget day crowds, but as of now, no restrictions have been put in place.
Concerned about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is very low for Canadians, but they caution against travel to affected areas (a list can be found here). If you do travel to these places, they recommend you self-monitor to see whether you develop symptoms and if you do, to contact public health authorities.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.