Saskatchewan premier cancels outdoor ceremony at legislature due to 'recent threats'

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REGINA — Presenting a message of optimism, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the province's best days are coming as his government laid out its agenda for the fall session of the legislature.

In the throne speech Wednesday, Lt.-Gov. Russell Mirastry spoke of nearly a dozen corporations investing in the province but made no mention of any new supports to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The speech said the Saskatchewan Party government remains focused on the economy, promising to create 100,000 new jobs by 2030, and will join Alberta in its discussions with the federal government over equalization payments.

"The federal government is now compelled to enter into good faith negotiations with the provinces on changing the equalization section of the Constitution," Mirasty said in the speech.

Last week, 62 per cent of Albertans who voted in a referendum were in favour of the principle of equalization being removed from the Constitution.

Similarly to Alberta, the province plans to introduce a bill that would ban protesters from restricting access to hospitals, something Saskatchewan's Opposition NDP has pushed for.

The speech also says the government will bring in tougher measures on crime, including possibly looking at the idea of creating a provincial police force.

The province also plans to introduce legislation to protect workers from sexual harassment in the workplace.

While the government expressed optimism over its economy and new programs to invest in Indigenous businesses, Saskatchewan's health-care system remains overwhelmed due to a fourth wave of COVID-19.

NDP Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said the throne speech is tone-deaf and doesn't reflect the health crisis the province is facing.

Saskatchewan currently has the highest weekly COVID-19 death rate and case rate among the provinces.

"What we need from this government is an immediate plan of action to address the crisis Scott Moe created," Meili said. "Anything less is a choice to put politics ahead of the health and safety of the people of Saskatchewan."

Outside the legislature, about 150 protesters against COVID-19 public health measures — such as the vaccine policy — expressed their anger by chanting "Scott Moe come out" as the throne speech was set to begin.

The premier was to hold a ceremony outside the legislature before the new session began, but it was cancelled at the last minute.

"In light of recent threats and on the advice of security officials, the outdoor portion of the planned ceremonies this afternoon with His Honour and Premier Moe has been cancelled," a spokeswoman for the premier said in an email.

It's unclear if the alleged threats are new, or if the spokeswoman was referring to alleged threats the premier and the province's chief medical health officer received last week via email.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2021.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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