Sask. opposition say former health minister lied about province's COVID-19 preparedness plan in March 2020

·2 min read
NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat says Freedom of Information documents show that former Sask. Health Minister Jim Reiter lied about how prepared the province was for COVID-19.  (CBC News - image credit)
NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat says Freedom of Information documents show that former Sask. Health Minister Jim Reiter lied about how prepared the province was for COVID-19. (CBC News - image credit)

The official opposition is accusing former Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter of lying a year ago about the province's plan to fight COVID-19.

The province denies the accusation and says the NDP is politicizing early efforts to prepare.

On March 10 of last year during legislative assembly, NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat asked Reiter about his plan to address the new coronavirus.

At the time, there were no presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province.

Reiter told Mowat during question period that he had a plan and accused the NDP of fear-mongering, according to Mowat.

At a news conference Thursday, the NDP said it had obtained documents through a Freedom of Information request.

It said the documents prove the first draft of the Saskatchewan COVID-19 Preparedness Plan was not distributed throughout the Sask Party until 7:43 p.m. CST on March 10.

That was five hours after Reiter told NDP the plan was in place three times during question period.

The complete plan was then released to the public on March 11, 2020.

"We've also obtained an email sent by a communications staffer saying, 'I'm totally pulling these out of the air,' while responding to a media inquiry about the non-existent COVID-19 plan," said Mowat at the Thursday news conference.

"I am calling on Premier Scott Moe to answer for the former Health Minister Jim Reiter for lying about the government's plan for COVID-19 ... The people of Saskatchewan deserve to know why the government chose not to be open and honest about their response to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Jim Reiter, former Saskatchewan minister of health, at an update on COVID-19 at the Legislative Building in Regina on March 11, 2020.
Jim Reiter, former Saskatchewan minister of health, at an update on COVID-19 at the Legislative Building in Regina on March 11, 2020.(Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

In an emailed statement, Moe's government said the NDP is making multiple false accusations, calling it "a disappointing politicization of the early efforts of public health officials to address the COVID-19 pandemic."

The province referenced quotes from Reiter from the March 10, 2020, question period in the statement.

Reiter had said he'd had "numerous meetings" with health officials in the recent days, including the province's chief medical officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab.

"There's an emergency preparedness plan in place that has been for some time. It's tweaked for different types of emergencies," Reiter said on March 10, 2020. "They're working on it for the coronavirus."