Saskatchewan premier doesn’t see need for Emergencies Act in COVID-19 fight

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe speaks during a meeting of Canada's premiers in Saskatoon, Sask. Wednesday, July 10, 2019. Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he doesn’t see a need for Ottawa to use the sweeping Emergencies Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moe said Thursday that he has had discussions with the federal government on the issue and recently received a letter about it. Letters were also sent out to other premiers.

The Emergencies Act would give Ottawa power to override the provinces and restrict the flow of people and goods.

Moe said he doesn’t see how the never-before-used legislation would do anything the provinces aren’t already doing to respond to the spread of the virus.

He said he’s on weekly calls with premiers about how they can work together and believes provincial laws allow leaders the flexibility to address the needs of their jurisdictions.

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Moe said he hopes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will take Saskatchewan’s stance seriously.

“Saskatchewan would remain steadfast, has been to this point in time, not specifically against the use of the Act , but we do not see the reason for the use,” he said.

“I have every reason to believe that as myself and potentially other premiers communicate, that they feel that the use of this Act at this point in time would at the very least be premature.”

The provinces must be consulted before the legislation is invoked. Moe took a call with Trudeau later Thursday.

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On Friday, Trudeau said he is not planning to invoke the Emergencies Act, which would give the federal government sweeping powers.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Prime Minister said sending letters to the premiers about the Emergencies Act was “purely a procedural step.”

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“We are no more likely to invoke this today than we were a few days ago, as the deputy prime minister said today at the press conference,” said Ann-Clara Vaillancourt.

Last month, Trudeau resisted the idea of turning to the legislation and continues to avoid invoking the act.

Federal officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said Trudeau has consulted the premiers about invoking the Emergencies Act during their weekly teleconference calls, including one Thursday evening, but that there has always been a consensus among premiers that it’s not needed.

Thursday’s letter was part of those consultations, simply putting in writing the explanations Trudeau has given premiers verbally about what invoking the Act could entail, the officials said.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has said that he is in favour of the measure, calling it a move that would “unify our approach as a nation.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, however, has said the provinces need to be able to act unilaterally.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. All international travellers returning to Saskatchewan are required to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

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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. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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