Miscellaneous news items from an age of horror

Welcome to August, a month characterized by hot, sunny days, awesome meteor showers, angry wasps and alarmingly early sunsets. August is also, of course, the month when Saskatchewan students and their parents begin to ponder the suddenly looming school year.

It’s been a little more interesting to ponder this year thanks to an unprecedented global pandemic and some surprising gaffes by both elected and unelected officials in an election year.

On July 28 (close enough to August), Saskatchewan’s chief electoral officer Michael Boda announced schools would be closed and used as polling stations on Oct. 26, the day of the provincial election. Surprisingly, Boda also suggested polling stations could be worked by teachers as part of their paid professional development.

The suggestion was surprising to teachers, anyway.

Within 24 hours the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation counter-announced it had confirmed teachers would NOT be made to work the election.

Observers might perhaps observe that it’s odd to hear an idea like this even floated, given already high levels of concern for student and teacher safety during a pandemic and the potential for the virus to be transmitted at polling stations.

In related education news, Saskatchewan Education Minister Gord Wyant announced Aug. 4 that mandatory mask policies would be up to individual school boards to implement. The minister cited as a reason diverse school size — which he said ranges from four students to 1,600 — and school divisions consequent different needs.

While an optimist might celebrate Wyant’s announcement as a rare example of respect for local decision-making by a provincial government known for policies like revoking local board taxation powers, a pessimist might suspect the government was slyly offloading politically risky decisions in an election year.

Then again, Wyant has seemed comfortable declining to reduce class sizes and refusing to hire more teachers, a reluctance critics say could mushroom cloud in his face on voting day if COVID-19 gets out of control in schools.

Another Summer, Another Protest Camp

In recent months the Saskatchewan Party government has faced criticism for what critics have called inaction during a seemingly endless suicide crisis in northern Saskatchewan.

The current heat on the provincial government can only increase thanks to Tristen Durocher’s ongoing hunger strike on Legislative grounds.

Durocher set up the Walking With Our Angels camp after walking more than 600 kilometres from the village of Air Ronge to Regina. In media interviews, the 24-year-old has said both the odyssey and camp are a response to the Saskatchewan Party government voting down an Opposition bill on suicide prevention this past June.

On Tuesday Aug. 11, Durocher received robust support from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. Although Prairie Dog was unable to attend the event due to looming deadlines, media reports showed more than a dozen First Nations leaders on hand to share stories of how suicide had impacted them.

Durocher has said his strike will conclude Sept. 13.

Ice Cream Cones Vs. COVID

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe apologized after a Facebook photo posted on Aug. 9 showed him practicing social anti-distancing at a rural Saskatchewan ice cream shop. The premier, a veteran politician who was also not wearing a mask in the photo, leads a party that currently enjoys a gigantic lead in polls.