COLUMN: In a time of crisis, the province falls short

It was another bizarre week in Saskatchewan politics.

The Sask. Party had to make some moves to get with the times when it comes to dealing with the crisis we find ourselves in, and they fell short.

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The announcement regarding their Social Services pandemic response plan was not received well. The $171,00 they put forward to benefit shelters in Saskatchewan was a small contribution in the eyes of those who work in the industry and critics from the opposition alike.

Leader of the Official Opposition Ryan Meili said in a press conference he was disappointed with the additional funding announced by the province.

“It’s a bare sliver of the operating budgets of these facilities. Those dollars will be eaten up in no time,” said Meili.

There were some great announcements with the response plan. It really does seem like for the most part the Sask. Party is trying to get ahead of this crisis, although to many Saskatchewan citizens, the approach the provincial government has taken is one of a turtle’s pace.

The positives with the provincial response plan is the announcements of overflow from shelters for the province’s most vulnerable, will be provided with other means of shelter such as hotels and wherever else possible as long as people can still practise social distancing and self-isolation.

Social Services Minister Paul Merriman also said there are approximately 1,700 vacant Saskatchewan Housing Corporation units in 29 larger communities around Saskatchewan that will be leveraged to ensure people impacted by the COVID-19 crisis will have a place to go.

The $171,000 for shelters across the province is where there seems to be a large disconnect. In a story published by CTV, Lighthouse Saskatoon executive director Don Windels, said he anticipates they will receive about $35,000 which works out to be around 0.5 per cent of their annual budget.

 If those numbers are close, that leaves $136,000 for the remaining nine facilities and organizations that are due to receive the additional funding.

If you split the pie evenly with the remaining facilities, that works out to be $15,111, a drop in the bucket for many of these organizations trying to continue their work in a crisis.

In times like these, it would be easy to say anything helps. Until you consider how much operating costs must skyrocket when you are dealing with a virus that doesn’t just go away.

Lydia Bourouiba, an associate professor at MIT, has researched the dynamics of exhalations like coughs and sneezes. Bourouiba has studied for years at The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission and said in a story published by USA Today, exhalations cause gaseous clouds that can travel up to 27 feet. 

Imagine trying to contain a virus that can travel up to 27 feet in close quarters like some of these facilities, which are doing the best they possibly can for the province’s most vulnerable.

With community transmission numbers starting to rise in the province, it may be a stretch to say one cough or sneeze in public could cause anyone around them to get sick, but in a crisis just the mere risk is one that needs to be taken seriously.

Fifteen to $35,000 could not possibly make a dent when staffing will have to be upped, supplies order, and hours of additional care and maintenance will inevitably have to take place to maintain the obviously surging numbers of those trying to seek refuge and avoid at all costs catching COVID-19.

Premier Scott Moe has said over the last few weeks when questioned if the province has acted fast enough to combat the widespread virus, he believes the province has acted quickly and accordingly in line with other provinces to get ahead of it.

Although, there are countless reports of supply issues for healthcare professionals and a worry of a shortage of ventilators in the case of a surge.

A surge that doesn’t seem as crazy as it once did when cases were only jumping by single digits daily. From March 27 to March 30, confirmed cases jump by 72. We are now at over 200 cases in three weeks with 44 of them community contacts, 10 with no known exposures and 56 under investigation by public health.

We can only hope if the virus does hit massive surges in cases, the province and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) have really done their due diligence and are ready for the many cases that could be filling their hospital beds at rapid rates.

To point out another positive point in a week of disappointments, the province is finally addressing the ability to share more in-depth information with the public during the crisis.

As Abraham Lincoln one said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended on to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

Moe has announced the Saskatchewan Health authority will publish a report for the public which will include models and projections of the spread of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.

We can only hope the virus doesn’t skyrocket enough to where the precautions taken by the province, along with short-comings in additional funding will not come back to bite them going forward.


Jordan Stricker is Glacier Media’s Local Journalism Initiative reporter, covering the Saskatchewan Legislature. Glacier is the parent company of Pipeline News.

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