Saskatoon councillor 'confused' over health minister's comments on COVID-19 jurisdiction
Ward 3 Coun. David Kirton says he's "confused" regarding Health Minister Paul Merriman's claim that cities can set their own COVID-19 restrictions.
"I really don't understand, though, what the health minister is saying when he says we can, you know, go on our own and make our own decisions on that because we know that we have to make that request first, and we tried and the request was denied," Kirton told CTV News.
City council unanimously passed a recommendation on Sept. 29 for Mayor Charlie Clark to write a letter to Premier Scott Moe asking for a limit of 15 people at private gatherings in Saskatoon, including household gatherings.
Administration had also recommended a limit of 150 people at bingo halls, event centres, theatres, casinos, art galleries, libraries and recreational facilities or one-third of current capacity, whichever is less.
The Saskatoon area then, as now, had the most COVID-19 cases in the province.
The province denied the request. When a reporter asked Merriman on Thursday why it was denied, Merriman said that the province had created a base layer of COVID-19 restrictions and recommendations.
"If the municipalities want to be able to add on top of that they have that ability to do that," Merriman said.
Kirton said the city only has jurisdiction over its own facilities such as leisure centres, City Hall and municipally-owned rinks.
On Oct. 1 the city started requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for dryland areas within leisure centres to comply with the provincial rules. Effective Friday, that requirement will be expanded to all areas within leisure centres and indoor rinks.
"That's as far as we can go without the province giving its thumbs up to any other requests that we make, so we're pretty limited here in Saskatoon," Kirton said.
He said he's "disappointed" that the province is not recognizing that Saskatoon needs different measures than other municipalities.
"I guess it just frustrates me because we were just trying to make it as safe as possible for the citizens of Saskatoon."
Municipalities across Saskatchewan have been reticent to make their own restrictions after seeing Regina get its "hand slapped" when the province quashed its own local restrictions in March 2020, Kirton said.
"For Health Minister Merriman to say this, I guess I would love to hear more information from him as to where we can do this because at this point, I don't have that information."
With files from Nicole Di Donato