Saskatchewan Liberals seek public support to push government for pandemic-handling response

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan Liberals seek to push petition on government COVID-19 response'
Saskatchewan Liberals seek to push petition on government COVID-19 response
WATCH: In April the Saskatchewan Liberal Party began a petition to launch an investigation into the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition is about to enter its next phase – May 9, 2022

The Saskatchewan Liberal Party has no seats in the legislature, but wants an independent review of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Liberal party leader Jeff Walters says the petition was launched on April 19, mainly on social media. So far it has gathered just over 10,000 signatures.

Click to play video: 'USask public policy professor on future of Sask. NDP'
USask public policy professor on future of Sask. NDP

“We decided this past weekend that it is time to go to step two, actual physical campaigning, doing some good old-fashioned door-knocking to get more signatures,” said Walters.

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The Liberal Party says they launched the petition last month after Premier Scott Moe refused the NDP’s request to hold an independent review.

From all accounts we have been hearing from thousands of people in the province, they feel it’s the right thing to do. We are representatives of the people and will do our best,” said Walters.

Walters adds they need 15 per cent of eligible voters in the province or roughly 127,000 votes in order to advance this petition to the next step.

Walters says he feels there will be enough support.

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The Liberals say Saskatchewan has some of the worst pandemic numbers in the country. According to the province, there have been over 137,000 COVID-19 confirmed cases with over 1,300 deaths at this point.

Political scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, Daniel Westlake says the Liberals are facing a challenge, given the government’s refusal of the NDP request for a review.

“I think it’s a tall order for a third party that is relatively weak, that doesn’t have any seats in the legislature, to win a vote on this,” said Westlake.

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Still, says Westlake, the point may not be to have a successful plebiscite.

“From a political standpoint, it’s a way for the Liberals to get their opposition to the way that the Sask Party has handled the pandemic noticed in an environment that does not give them many opportunities to communicate their opposition to the government,” Westlake added.

“It’s also a way for them to meet with voters and perhaps build connections that could be useful in the next provincial election.  There is also an outside chance this generates enough attention that the government calls an inquiry to try to pre-empt the petition or plebiscite. Though I think the Liberals would have to get their petition a lot of attention for that to happen.”

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“The Liberals don’t have the same venues to draw attention to their calls, so they need to try things like plebiscite petitions in order to get attention.  Either way, I doubt that the government will call an inquiry.  The Sask Party has a majority so there isn’t really a way for the opposition to force an inquiry, and the Sask Party is sitting comfortably enough in the polls that I don’t think they will face a great deal of public pressure to call an inquiry on their own.”

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The Liberals are their door-to-door knocking for their petition beginning on Friday.

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