Wednesday, November 25, 2020

On limited consultations

While we'll find out this afternoon what (if anything) the Moe Saskatchewan Party will do in terms of action against COVID-19, Jason Warick's report on its consultation process doesn't offer any reason for confidence.

It's bad enough that Moe is only consulting with groups who have an obvious motivation to avoid restrictions. But the consultation itself seems to be limited to self-regulation falling short of the possibility of shutting down any activity - even where the people involved recognize a need to consider that option:

"Every sport was asked last week by the government to come back to the business response team with what they can do more in terms of restrictions," said Kelly McClintock, general manager of the Saskatchewan Hockey Association.

"So I'm assuming there could be some announcements this week in terms of maybe some more restrictions."


Rob Kennedy, manager of sport development for Sask Sport, said they don't have an opinion on whether sports should continue or not. He said sports provide a lot of physical and mental health benefits to tens of thousands of kids across the province, but said community health and safety is the top priority.

He said their role is to come up with sport-specific suggestions for making things safer. Some indoor, close contact sports have different levels of risk than distanced outdoor ones.

It's the government health experts and leaders who can best make those final decisions, Kennedy said.

And even corporate spokespeople aren't taking the line that there's a need to keep businesses open at the expense of public health:

Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve McLellan agreed.

He said business owners are working hard to innovate and keep their customers and staff safe. He said the chamber doesn't have a set position on further restrictions, but is confident the government will strike the right balance between fighting the virus and preserving jobs and businesses.

"We need to make sure that we have as many businesses as many jobs available when we come out of COVID as we possibly can, but not keeping businesses open at the cost of our public health," McLellan said.

Which makes it rather striking that the consultations have seemingly been designed to ask only the question of what more limited steps might be available to give the appearance of action, rather than which protections are actually necessary to rein in the pandemic. And it's not hard to anticipate Moe omitting the consistent statement that it's his responsibility to consider the latter question by saying the consultation represents the limit of what he can possibly do.

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