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Saskatchewan premier says health minister’s poll comment not appropriate

Health Minister Paul Merriman pointed to the Angus Reid Institute survey that showed people were satisfied with the Saskatchewan government's handling of the coronavirus. File / Pool Camera

Saskatchewan’s premier says one of his ministers who cited a public opinion poll as a measure of success in fighting COVID-19 was not appropriate.

Health Minister Paul Merriman pointed to the Angus Reid Institute survey last week that showed people were satisfied with the Saskatchewan Party government’s handling of the virus.

The research found that 55 per cent of 497 respondents polled in Saskatchewan in November thought the province was doing a “good job” handling COVID-19. It was 77 per cent in June.

Saskatchewan is dealing with more people in hospital and a rising death toll as the virus spreads. Merriman’s comments focused on public opinion were met with criticism, including from the Opposition NDP.

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“Likely not the most appropriate response,” Premier Scott Moe told The Canadian Press in a recent year-end interview.

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“Health minister, myself — we get a lot of questions over the course of a week at any point in time in this pandemic, and if we don’t answer each and every one of them as perfectly as we should or would or could, I think people would be understanding of that.”

Moe said he hasn’t spoken to Merriman about the comment.

“He’s human,” the premier said.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan restricting indoor gatherings to immediate household members'
Saskatchewan restricting indoor gatherings to immediate household members

Moe said he doesn’t know if there is a measure of success when it comes to tackling the virus. As of Wednesday, the province reported having about 4,200 active infections, with 124 people in hospital and 98 deaths from the virus.

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Saskatchewan has the third-highest rate of active infections per capita in Canada — behind Manitoba and Alberta. The province has banned most household visits and ordered businesses to cut their capacity.

“One question that I often think about is what are people going to say about COVID in two years in Saskatchewan when they look back,” Moe said.

He said he hopes people will view the pandemic’s effect on everyday life as having been temporary, and that things improved with a vaccine.

“I don’t know that that’s a measure of success — the answer to that question — what are people going to recall when they talk about COVID in two years is something that I most certainly am thinking about today,” said Moe.

“How do you measure success in a virus that we are still sorting out, trying to learn?”

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