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Saskatchewan NDP calls for rental eviction moratorium to be extended

Ryan Meili wants the eviction ban extended to Aug. 31 due to a recent spike in cases and what he calls testing shortfalls. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

The Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the province to extend the rental eviction moratorium until the end of August.

Non-urgent evictions were placed on hold in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The province said this was to protect tenants facing financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Read more: Saskatchewan to resume residential evictions in August

Early this month, Attorney General Don Morgan said the Office of Residential Tenancies will accept eviction applications from landlords for the non-payment of rent beginning Aug. 4.

NDP Leader Ryan Meili wants the ban extended to Aug. 31 due to a recent spike in cases and what he calls testing shortfalls.

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“Health Minister Jim Reiter has had months to ensure the availability of proper testing capacity in Saskatchewan, but Saskatchewan remains significantly below the national average for testing and the minister won’t release data on testing waits,” Meili said.

“Reiter is leaving families flying blind during a spike in cases throughout the province.”

The Saskatchewan government had not responded to a Global News request for comment at the time of publication.

Meili pointed to the government’s talking points to support his argument to extend the moratorium, saying Morgan stated on March 26 the moratorium was needed, in part, to help flatten the curve.

Read more: Saskatchewan suspends evictions during state of emergency

On July 7, Morgan said the curve has been successfully flattened in Saskatchewan in announcing the moratorium would be lifted on Aug. 4.

“When we started the process initially, we indicated that it was rent deferment, not a rent holiday,” Morgan said at the time.

Meili said the curve is no longer flat.

At the time of Morgan’s announcement, Saskatchewan had 54 active coronavirus cases.

Active cases have spiked since then, with the province reporting 307 active cases on July 27.

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The province also reported Monday that 1,613 coronavirus tests were completed the previous day.

Health officials said Saskatchewan’s per capita testing rate as of July 25 was 67,297 people tested per million population, with the national rate 101,145 people tested per million population.

“We need to start taking steps now to ensure cases don’t spread further in the community as families prepare to send kids back to school in September,” Meili said.

“Extending the rental eviction moratorium is one action that the government can and should take now to support families and control the spread of COVID-19.”

Meili said the government needs to bring together landlords and rental advocates to discuss potential subsidies for landlords who have lost revenue due to missed payment and prevent abuse of the eviction moratorium.

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The Saskatchewan Landlord Associations says since the eviction ban started, there is over $30 million in arrears owed to landlords due to tenants not paying rent.

The association also said some tenants are deliberately not paying their rent.

With files from Roberta Bell