Saskatoon eyes COVID-19 bylaw to implement gathering limits
The City of Saskatoon will look at options to enact its own gathering limits after the province rejected a request to implement restrictions.
“The fact that we are the only jurisdiction the doesn’t have gathering size restrictions, even Alberta does, doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know why the province decided not to act on our letter,” said Mayor Charlie Clark.
Council approved a motion from Clark for city administration to report on creating a bylaw to restrict gathering sizes in Saskatoon. The vote was 7-4.
Clark acknowledged the city would be looking into an idea that would move into a “grey zone” in terms of the city’s jurisdiction.
“I believe we need more information because it does create some uncertainties for sure in terms of jurisdiction,” Clark said.
In September, City Council approved a framework for how the city would respond to COVID-19.
It outlines four color coded levels which would trigger actions depending on the severity of the situation.
The city is currently in the Orange level, which is identified as “high risk.” It includes various measures including physical distancing requirements, staggering shift times and requiring proof of vaccination. It also stipulates a request be made to the province for gathering size limits to be implemented.
The city sent the province a letter requesting gathering size limits in Saskatoon, but the province rejected it saying the vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations are unvaccinated residents who should get vaccinated.
Coun. Troy Davies, who voted against the motion, was concerned it could cause more confusion for the public considering the city just approved a framework a few weeks ago on how council would respond to COVID-19.
“We went through all this, we got our legal advice. And maybe we didn’t get the answer that we were all hoping for from the province. But now, because we didn’t get our answer, were going to back and kind of re-invent the wheel here.”
Coun. Hilary Gough said she was not sure whether any action by the city regarding gathering limits would be feasible but said the city should explore options.
“We are in a crisis and our health care system is in a crisis and we’re hearing from experts that we have access to that action is needed. And so I think it’s incumbent on us to explore all potential actions.”
Coun. Bev Dubois mentioned comments from the city solicitor that no other municipalities in Canada, to her knowledge have passed a bylaw of this type and have had it approved by the provincial government.
“I really do think we’re going down a path where we already know the answer. And we don’t like the answer. I don’t like the answer. But I really don’t think that this is going to change much,” Dubois said.
Saskatoon has been a COVID-19 hotspot over the last several weeks, as active cases across the province topped over 4,000.