Saskatchewan premier cancels outdoor ceremony at legislature due to ‘threats’
By Mickey Djuric
REGINA — Presenting a message of optimism, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the province’s best days are coming as his government laid out its agenda for the fall session of the legislature.
In the throne speech Wednesday, Lt.-Gov. Russell Mirastry spoke of nearly a dozen corporations investing in the province but made no mention of any new supports to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The speech said the Saskatchewan Party government remains focused on the economy, promising to create 100,000 new jobs by 2030, and will join Alberta in its discussions with the federal government over equalization payments.
“The federal government is now compelled to enter into good faith negotiations with the provinces on changing the equalization section of the Constitution,” Mirasty said in the speech.
Last week, 62 per cent of Albertans who voted in a referendum were in favour of the principle of equalization being removed from the Constitution.
Similarly to Alberta, the province plans to introduce a bill that would ban protesters from restricting access to hospitals, something Saskatchewan’s Opposition NDP has pushed for.
The speech also says the government will bring in tougher measures on crime, including possibly looking at the idea of creating a provincial police force.
The province also plans to introduce legislation to protect workers from sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Our government is working to build a better Saskatchewan. A stronger, safer, healthier, better educated and more independent Saskatchewan,” Moe said.
“That starts with a strong and growing economy that provides the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all Saskatchewan people.”
While the government expressed optimism over its economy, including new Indigenous business programs and new international trade offices, Saskatchewan’s health-care system remains overwhelmed due to a fourth wave of COVID-19.
NDP Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said the throne speech is tone-deaf and is being used to deflect from the health crisis the province is facing.
Saskatchewan currently has the highest weekly COVID-19 death rate and case rate among the provinces.
“What we need from this government is an immediate plan of action to address the crisis Scott Moe created,” Meili said. “Anything less is a choice to put politics ahead of the health and safety of the people of Saskatchewan.”
Outside the legislature, about 150 protesters against COVID-19 public health measures — such as the vaccine policy — expressed their anger by chanting “Scott Moe come out” as the throne speech was set to begin.
The premier was to hold a ceremony outside the legislature before the new session began, but it was cancelled at the last minute.
“In light of recent threats and on the advice of security officials, the outdoor portion of the planned ceremonies this afternoon with His Honour and Premier Moe has been cancelled,” a spokeswoman for the premier said in an email.
She confirmed the threats were made Wednesday.
The Regina Police Service said no arrests have been made, and the RCMP, which serves as the premier’s security detail, said they are not investigating.
Prior to the cancelled event, Nadine Wilson, an Independent member of the legislature, gave a speech to the crowd. Weeks ago, Wilson resigned from the Saskatchewan Party caucus after misrepresenting her vaccine status.
Members of the legislature either have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter the building.
Government house leader Jeremy Harrison said security at the legislature has been enhanced over the years.
“We’ve seen aggressive action from the anti-vaccination crowd and it’s very concerning,” Harrison said.
“It’s a very small proportion of the public, and for whatever reason, they bought into conspiracy theories that are off the wall.”