Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili identified holes in the plan to reopen the province’s economy after its release on Thursday, including a “starkly noticeable” lack of consultation and supports.
The Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan consists of five phases to allow businesses to begin operating again as COVID-19 numbers continue on a positive trend.
“One thing that’s very starkly noticeable is any mention of First Nations and Métis people, any mentions of the particular challenges faced in the north is obviously so relevant right now with an outbreak in La Loche,” he said.
As of Friday, the far north has 25 of the province’s 57 active cases.
The La Loche outbreak stemmed from a resident in a long-term care home who received positive COVID-19 results. On Thursday, an update on The Northern Village of La Loche Facebook page said there were 14 cases in the La Loche and Clearwater River Dene Nation region.
However, Northern Medical Health Officer Dr. Rim Zayed says the outbreak is under control.
“This is a plan that further reflects the government’s approach to this to date, which has not been to bring in municipal First Nations leaders, cross party leadership, leaders from business and labour in any meaningful and visible way, and that shows in this document,” added Meili.
Further to this critique, Meili said the province hasn’t provided enough resources to help individuals, families, communities and businesses throughout the pandemic—not just in its initial response, but also in the long-term.
“Even if everything opened up tomorrow, there’s going to be significant challenges for people at this time and there needs to be provincial investment and support,” said Meili.
“Our long-term success depends on the quality of our supports for people right now.”
The first phase of the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan begins on May 4, followed by the second phase on May 19. The timeline of the last three phases is dependant on the first two.
Meili questioned what signals it’s time to move on to the next phase, and if two weeks is enough time to say whether or not the first phase has stirred up any issues.
“What will they need to have seen in terms of health care preparedness, in terms of public awareness and use of non-medical masks, in terms of the case numbers in the time leading up to that?” asked Meili.
“I want to see those benchmarks clearly outlined and clearly addressed before we open.”
He hopes the plan strikes the right balance between feeding the economy and keeping the public safe. Without results, though, he said it’s too early to tell.
It is clear though, he said, that the plan aims to find that balance. While it’s important to be having conversations of reopening the economy, Meili said there’s too much emphasis being placed on the past tense—that we’ve flattened the curve.
“We have to recognize that there are risks involved and we are not past this.”