Few of us would want to be in the unenviable spot that Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has found himself in for most of the past 11 month.
For almost a year now, Moe’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has left him in a lonely damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t place.
Life for Saskatchewan’s Premier would be difficult enough if Moe simply had to deal with those who viewed the novel coronavirus as a hoax perpetrated by a quest for a one-world government.
Make no mistake that the extreme anti-maskers, anti-lockdowners and anti-vaxxers — often coming from the far right of the political spectrum, but occasionally joined by those with far left views as well — have made Moe’s life miserable.
Perhaps the worst moments of this pandemic fight have come when people from this very group have targeted Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab with public racially motivated taunts in front of the Legislative Building and even invasions of Shahab’s space and the privacy at his home.
Some of Moe’s best moments as Premier were the ones he spent standing up for the province’s CMO who has clearly become his friend. They were great moments for this province as well.
But the complicating factor for Moe is that while most in this province don’t agree with the taunts levelled at Shahab, many do disagreed with the CMO’s repeated views that it’s better to have curtailed social and economic activity that now includes limitations as to who can now visit you in your home.
Or at the very least, many of this view are happiest when Moe has selects the least socially and economically intrusive choice given to him by Shabab.
Conversely, Moe has faced a barrage of criticism from the other side — some who are seemingly working under the premise that he could have simply locked down the province for a year with no repercussions.
Meanwhile, others are advocating the need for more restrictions or a temporary lockdown or circuit-breaker similar to what was imposed in Manitoba that now seeing significantly less transmission and a slowing of the its death toll.
There is little middle ground for Moe. Worse yet, both sides seem to resent the Premier when does present what appears to be a compromise.
The best Moe has been able to hope for is to present his policy direction in a reasoned and compassionate way and try not to be overly antagonistic.
It is for this reason that Moe’s comment last week to the Municipalities of Saskatchewan annual conference was somewhere between unproductive and bizarre.
"It's easy for someone to stand up and say 'we need to lock everything down' when they have the opportunity to work from home," Moe said in his online presentation to the virtual conference.
Yes, he made the remark while working from home — something he and Shahab have repeatedly recommended others do, if possible, to stop the spread of this virus.
So what real purpose is served by belittling those who are simply doing exactly what you asked them to do?
Is Moe being completely honest when he implies it’s just those who have the “opportunity to work from home” who are advocating for tougher restrictions to bring cases down? Is he unaware that the sharpest advocates for this have been doctors and health care providers who put themselves at risk by attending to those sick with COVID-19?
And, perhaps most critically, what value is there in escalating already high tensions between rural and blue-collar workers and urban and white-collar at a time when the message still needs to be that we are all in this together?
One gets mistakes are going to be made, but the deliberateness of Moe’s divisive messaging was troubling.
We won’t get through this pandemic any faster by fighting.