COVID-19: Saskatchewan Set To Announce First Stage Of Pandemic Exit Strategy

Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe is scheduled to address the province tonight at 6 p.m. to recap where Saskatchewan stands six weeks into the pandemic. Then on Thursday morning the government is supposed to unveil a plan to begin loosening restrictions on economic activity.

Discussions of this type are taking place around the world. In countries that have had success in limiting the spread of the virus, such as South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand, there is cautious optimism that this can be done safely. In countries/jurisdictions where the pandemic is still spreading, though, suggestions that widespread economic activity could be resumed are generally seen as contrary to public health interests.

As a relatively remote province with a small, widely dispersed population, Saskatchewan was likely never going to be at risk for a major outbreak. And with the measures the province has put in place, we have been reasonably successful at limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Saskatchewan Set To Announce First Stage Of Pandemic Exit Strategy”

COVID-19: Hot Summer Bummer

Ordinarily around this time of year I’d be getting started on our Hot Summer Guide. It runs in our last June issue, and highlights a range of music/theatre festivals, fairs and other special events that are planned for Regina, Saskatoon and Saskatchewan’s “Hinterland” in the period from late June until Labour Day weekend.

Some years, spring may have already arrived. Other years, we might still be in the grip of winter. But regardless, the exercise always serves as a bit of a tonic as it allows me to look ahead to all the fun and fellowship that people across the province have planned over the summer months.

This year, though, it’s a much different situation.  Because of all the uncertainty around the pandemic, and the restrictions placed on large public gatherings, organizers of many popular events have made the difficult decision to cancel for 2020.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Hot Summer Bummer”

COVID-19: Will The Pandemic Throw Our Consumer Habits For A Loop?

One thing that’s struck me as especially bizarro about the pandemic is how “innovative” professional sports leagues and associations have been in trying to continue their seasons/host their events.

Some events, such as Wimbledon, the Men’s and Women’s Curling/Hockey World Championships, British Open, CHL playoffs and Memorial Cup and NCAA Basketball Championships have simply been cancelled. Others, such as the French Open, Masters and U.S. Open Golf Tournaments, Tour de France and Kentucky Derby have been tentatively rescheduled to the fall (or in the case of the Summer Olympics and Euro 2020, until summer 2021).

In the case of North America sports leagues, hockey and basketball would ordinarily be into the first round of the playoffs now, while baseball would be in its opening month. And all sorts of brainstorming has been going on about how the games might be played. Even U.S. president Donald Trump has been part of the push.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Will The Pandemic Throw Our Consumer Habits For A Loop?”

COVID-19: Federal Support For Oil Industry Provides Employment And Environmental Benefits

In a Friday blog post, it was noted that Alberta premier Jason Kenney and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers had petitioned the federal Liberal government for direct financial support for struggling oil producers and relaxed environmental regulations.

Later that day, Ottawa responded with $1.7 billion in funding to help the industry clean-up orphan wells with about $400 million expected to go to Saskatchewan. An additional $750 million was allocated to reduce methane emissions from fossil fuel production.

In an ideal world, those programs would be the responsibility of the industry that garnered billions (and even trillions) in profits from fossil fuel resources. But that’s not the way big business operates these days.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Federal Support For Oil Industry Provides Employment And Environmental Benefits”

COVID-19: Protesters Channel Alt-Right Anger Against Science And Public Safety

When physical distancing and other lockdown measures were being introduced in mid-March, public health officials issued cautionary warnings that, as the pandemic progressed, and the measures (hopefully) helped reduce the infection and fatality totals, a backlash might arise where people would accuse governments of over-reacting.

You could attribute it to human nature, I suppose. Although it probably aligns most closely with a particular sub-set of people who see the world through the lens of alt-right broadcast and social media rife with conspiracy theories and alternative facts.

We haven’t seen too much of that so far in Canada. But south of the border, where the political environment seems to be growing more toxic by the day, that sentiment is definitely percolating.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Protesters Channel Alt-Right Anger Against Science And Public Safety”

COVID-19: Different Countries Have Responded To The Pandemic In Different Ways

Most of the coverage we’ve done has focused on the U.S. and Canada. There are some interesting stories happening in other areas of the world, though, that highlight different aspects of how the pandemic is being managed. Here are a few:

Russia While Vladimir Putin’s government initially tried to play dumb about the virus, insisting that everything is under control, in recent days it’s become clear that the pandemic is spreading there as well. As of April 17 at noon, Russia’s case count stood at 32,008 infections and 273 deaths. Those numbers should probably be taken with a grain of salt because of Putin-inspired propaganda, but Moscow (population 12.5 million) and Saint Petersburg (5.3 million) have reportedly been especially hard hit.

Sweden Unlike most countries, Sweden hasn’t implemented major physical distancing requirements to address the pandemic. Schools have remained open, and businesses such as restaurants have continued to operate. Initially, the policy seemed to be working, and Sweden (irony of ironies, since it’s a socialist country) was being touted by conservative pundits as an example of how the pandemic could be managed without inflicting too much economic harm.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Different Countries Have Responded To The Pandemic In Different Ways”

COVID-19: The Trouble With Normal

The default word that most people probably use when fantasizing about the pandemic ending and restrictions on their lives being lifted is “normal” — as in, they want life to return to normal.

It’s an understandable sentiment, I suppose, but is it a wise one? As the normal that’s being referenced, by definition, created the very circumstances that we find ourselves in today.

Instead, some are arguing we should seize the opportunity presented by the tattered state of our current world and aspire to a new normal — one which addresses the true challenges that face us related to climate change and the broader health of the environment.

Continue reading “COVID-19: The Trouble With Normal”

COVID-19: Trump Tries To Shift Blame For Failed Pandemic Response By Cutting Funding To WHO

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious now that there’s no shortage of blame to go around for how most countries and national agencies have responded to the pandemic.

China, where the outbreak appears to have started, is on that list. After the alarm was raised by a doctor in Wuhan on Dec. 30, the Chinese government’s first response was to admonish him for spreading false information. While criticism of China’s political response to the pandemic is justified, China’s scientific response in investigating the virus and sharing data with the outside world has subsequently been praised.

As the above-linked article notes, most of the criticism has come from right-wing politicians led by U.S. president Donald “China Virus” Trump, but also includes prominent conservatives in the U.K. Heck, even Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer gets a shout-out in the article.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Trump Tries To Shift Blame For Failed Pandemic Response By Cutting Funding To WHO”

COVID-19: Ignoring The White House, 10 States Announce Plans To Develop Their Own Pandemic Exit Strategy

Physical distancing guidelines are in effect in the U.S. until April 30. As I noted in two earlier blog posts, Trump and his Republican followers are desperate to see restrictions loosened ASAP so the economy can start to recover from the hit it’s taken.

With the November election looming, the stakes, in both a political and economic sense, are high. But the human stakes are also high. And the unfortunate reality is that, at this point anyway, the U.S. has had little success in “flattening the curve” of COVID-19 infections. Instead, the pandemic is still picking up steam.

Recognizing that reality, governors of states in areas that were especially hard hit in the pandemic’s early days have announced their intention to coordinate with each other on whatever strategy is eventually settled on to open up their economies.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Ignoring The White House, 10 States Announce Plans To Develop Their Own Pandemic Exit Strategy”

Recent Court Ruling Validates Two Public School Systems in Saskatchewan

While COVID-19 is dominating the news cycle, there are other stories out there. On March 25, for example, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in a case involving a dispute between the public and separate school systems in Saskatchewan.

I’ve written on the case before in our print publication. It involves complex constitutional and practical issues that are beyond the scope of a simple blog post, but here’s a breakdown.

In 2003, a public school in Theodore was slated for closure by the local school board because of a declining student population. To avoid that happening, the town applied to join the separate system. That was subsequently done, and the school continues to operate today.

Continue reading “Recent Court Ruling Validates Two Public School Systems in Saskatchewan”