During a campaign stop Tuesday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau criticized Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s recent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the province’s response is hurting those who are fully vaccinated and is a risk to the economy.
On Monday, Saskatchewan set a new record for COVID-19 cases reported in a day. It has also led the country in test positivity rate, and ranks second to last in current vaccination rate among provinces.
“I feel bad, really bad for those people in Alberta and Saskatchewan who have stepped up to do the right thing,” Trudeau said during an event in Richmond, B.C.
He said Saskatchewan and Alberta have the lowest percentage of people vaccinated among provinces, but that the majority of those eligible, more than 70 per cent, have received both doses.
WATCH| Trudeau criticizes Moe and Kenney on vaccination, pandemic policies:
Trudeau said that when policies like proof of vaccine requirements are brought in, vaccination rates increase.
He said a Liberal government would cover the costs of a vaccine passport system for any province that adopts one.
Saskatchewan and Alberta are the two most populous provinces without provincial proof-of-vaccination mandates.
Alberta recently re-implemented a provincewide mask mandate. Saskatchewan has left masking policies up to municipalities and businesses.
Trudeau said a lack of vaccine policy in the two provinces and fewer health restrictions will adversely affect the 70 per cent of those 12 and over who are fully vaccinated.
“Because of leadership that will not keep them safe in the right way or protect the economy in the right way, they are facing greater risks because of cancelled surgeries, they are facing emergency public health restrictions that may have to be brought in.”
Alberta and Saskatchewan have the lowest vaccination rates in Canada and the highest rates of cases. Both provinces have recently announced reduction in surgeries and medical procedures to deal with a rising number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
On Monday, Saskatchewan imposed an emergency order so it could move health-care workers around to deal with surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
CBC requested a response from Moe. His press secretary said in an email that, “we have no comment on a politically-charged statement from one of the federal party leaders on a serious health challenge affecting all Canadians.”
Sask., Alberta re-opened in early July
Alberta removed public health restrictions on July 1. Saskatchewan followed suit 10 days later.
Moe said Saskatchewan would not have a “Trudeau summer,” referring to remarks made by the prime minister in May about most Canadians not being able to get two doses of vaccine by the summer.
Saskatchewan did make two doses available to all eligible residents in July, but its pace of vaccinations has trailed all other provinces except Alberta.
On Monday, in a meeting with doctors, Alberta chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said she “deeply” regrets her part in contributing to a narrative that “COVID’s over.”
“If you look at the experiences of all of the different provinces across the country, those that have kept in some base level restrictions to manage the interactions and close contacts are the ones that are not seeing the significant impact,” Hinshaw said.
“And those of us that removed them are the ones that saw the significant very steep rise in some of these acute care impacts.”
As of Monday, Saskatchewan’s weekly rate of cases per 100,000 was 223, the second highest in Canada behind Alberta’s 230.
Close to 80 per cent of those hospitalized in Saskatchewan in August were not vaccinated.