Saskatoon's hands tied when it comes to introducing stronger COVID-19 measures: mayor

·2 min read
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark says the city doesn't have jurisdiction to re-implement a city-wide mask mandate.  (Guy Quenneville/CBC - image credit)
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark says the city doesn't have jurisdiction to re-implement a city-wide mask mandate. (Guy Quenneville/CBC - image credit)

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark says the city simply doesn't have the jurisdiction to expand COVID-19 measures beyond a certain level.

City council unanimously voted to make masks mandatory in city facilities and on transit at a council meeting Monday. City staff who report to the workplace will also need regular mandatory COVID-19 rapid testing starting in mid-September.

Council also asked administration to look into vaccine requirements for civic staff and access to facilities. But Clark said at a news conference Tuesday morning that logistical and jurisdictional issues come into play when it comes to implementing restrictions outside of city operations.

"We've been facing questions about this from the beginning of the pandemic. Why can't the city go out and establish public health guidelines or measures in private operations or in public operations outside of city jurisdiction?" said Clark.

"It's been very clear that those are under the provincial jurisdiction."

The provincial government confirmed Tuesday cities can implement policies for their facilities and employees, but cannot mandate policies for private business.

"As employers, municipalities have the ability to implement policies related to the civic workers in municipal-owned facilities; they also have the ability to implement policies for members of the public attending municipal-owned property," according to the provincial government statement.

"The city would not have the authority to implement public health measures to private businesses and other private establishments, who continue to make their own operating decisions including measures relating to COVID-19."

Bryan Eneas/CBC
Bryan Eneas/CBC

The city also runs into logistical problems when it comes to a vaccine passport system, according to Clark.

"We lack the data, the infrastructure and the information to somehow go alone and establish our own vaccine passport," Clark said.

He said he'll continue to voice his support of a more co-ordinated effort by the province that doesn't lead to each municipality and organization having to figure health measures out on its own.

Clark is not alone in the sentiment, according to the city's director of emergency management Pamela Goulden-McLeod, who also attended the conference. She said she'd personally welcome provincial support.

"I know our critical infrastructure partners have indicated that they would welcome direction from the province at this point, because they do not have the internal capacity to put things in place themselves," she said.

On Tuesday morning, the City of Regina also announced that it would re-implement mandatory masking in city facilities and on transit come Saturday. It plans to move toward requiring proof of vaccination for anyone entering its facilities.

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