Politics - Government can't relax on COVID-19

We all love the Canadian Football League and love the Saskatchewan Roughriders even more.

Short of a lemon yellow canola field under a living sky of blue, it’s doubtful you will find a Saskatchewan image more icon than green pantone of the ‘Riders.

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Saskatchewan is a small province. We have no other professional team. And, really there are few truly unifying things in a place often divided between rural and urban and left and right. The ‘Riders bring us all together.

Moreover, it’s election year when political parties rally around positive and unifying symbols.

So it might have seemed a no-brainer for Premier Scott Moe to make a case for Regina and Mosaic Stadium should to be the CFL hub city, should there be a CFL season.

To not do so in Saskatchewan - to not send the message that this province is as good as anywhere else, at least when it comes to the CFL - would have left some grumbling.

So within hours of hearing Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister - who presides over the home of the rival Blue Bombers - was putting up $2.5 million for that province’s hub city bid, we heard Moe was willing to pony $3 million for Regina’s bid.

But what about the pandemic?

Many suspect Winnipeg secured the tentative hub city bid weeks ago because the hotels and indoor facilities surrounding Winnipeg’s stadium along with the larger International Airport made it the preferred choice of the CFL players’ association.

If this was the case, was it a wise choice of government time to be messing around with this bid in the middle of a pandemic when there are surely other priorities?

But if it was a serious attempt and not a political ploy, was it our best expenditure of money?

With all that is going on - including a $2.4-billion 2020-21 deficit in which this government seemingly doesn’t have much money for anything - could $3 million be put to better use?

How should we spend it now?

Surely, there are better things we could with the money than throwing it into the infrastructure pot so we can put a new layer of pavement on roads - pretty much what governments always do before every election.

If we do have a few extra coins to throw around, wouldn’t it be better to put it towards making sure teachers had masks and that schools were clean and ready to accept students returning to classes this fall?

In fairness, to Moe and his government, it has tried to be responsible in its spending and has been criticized by some for being too slow in re-opening Saskatchewan.

Three million dollars isn’t much in the context of $16-billion annual provincial budget. And Moe explained that the CFL hub city bid - supported by the City of Regina and local hoteliers - would have been a step towards recovery with some 600 CFL players moving here for two or three months.

But COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan increased by about 160 cases a week and a half in the middle of this month  - an average of 15 or so a day instead of one or two.

Quietly, this is the second-biggest outbreak since the rapid spread in La Loche.

And while it is true that most can be traced to outbreaks on Hutterite colonies, that doesn’t make what’s going on right now any less serious.

Now is not the time for government to lose sight of the problem at hand.

Now is not the time to relax what’s been a vigilant approach by the Sask. Party government in the COVID-19 fight.

And now is certainly not the time for a government to be distracted by politically popular notions when this pandemic requires our full attention.

Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics since 1983.

© Copyright Yorkton This Week


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