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'That's not leadership': Sask. premier faces criticism after not denouncing conspiracy theories at town hall

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Premier Scott Moe is facing criticism after not outright denouncing several conspiracy theories while attending a town hall event in Speers, Sask. in late April.

In Moe’s opening remarks at the event in his home constiuency of Rosthern Shellbrook, he outlined that the topics of the town hall would include carbon taxation, health care and wait times, policing and Saskatchewan’s provincial relationship with the federal government.

However, at numerous points during the two-hour discussion with residents, numerous conspiracy theories were cited.

They included everything from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) infecting residents at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to chemtrails.

One resident asked Moe if he would denounce the World Health Organization’s pandemic treaty – an agreement created to improve global cooperation and address gaps in pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

“I haven't looked at it very close but I can imagine what's in it,” Moe said in his answer.

Moe proceeded to explain that ideas and treaties from “unelected bodies” such as the WHO and World Economic Forum do not affect anyone until national governments choose to implement them.

After changing the topic to the carbon tax and Saskatchewan’s appearance at the COP28 conference – Moe was asked yet again about denouncing the treaty.

“I'm not against looking into that. I don't disagree with you on that,” he said.

Minutes later, another resident handed Moe a collection of papers and proceeded to allege that the SHA and the Public Health Agency of Canada infected the population at the beginning of the pandemic using a Chinese delivery system meant for biological weapons.

At the end of the extended commentary – Moe answered the resident.

“I’ll read your document,” he said in response, referring to the papers he was handed.

The answer was met by applause from the crowd.

Another resident asked Moe if he was doing anything about the “barium, aluminum, strontium, lithium, atrazine” being “dumped” on the province by “god knows who.”

After confirming the man was talking about chemtrails – Moe responded.

“I am starting to hear about this from emails that are coming into our office over the last number of months and honestly I'll have to do some more work looking into it,” he said.

“I don't know if there's as coordinated an approach as some folks think. But there obviously are emissions that are coming out of the jets that are flying over and the projection is there's going to be a lot more jets flying and in the not too distant future.”

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday after video of the town hall surfaced online – Saskatchewan NDP Leader Carla Beck criticized Moe’s actions – slamming his refusal to speak against conspiracy theories.

“It shouldn't be difficult for the premier to say the Saskatchewan Health Authority was not involved in some global conspiracy to deliver biological weapons on the people of Saskatchewan,” she said.

“When we embolden these theories, when we allow space and we don't show leadership, you have health-care workers exposed to being yelled at while they're trying to provide care to people in emergency rooms.”

Beck believes Moe’s behaviour during the town hall is one small part of an ongoing trend for the Sask. Party – appeasing voters the party is worried it may lose ahead of this fall’s provincial election.

“It's a pattern of behaviour. So as I said, 18 emails after the byelection last summer, where the Sask. Party lost 23 per cent of their vote in Lumsden Morse. We saw them fabricate a crisis and bring in an emergency session and use notwithstanding clause twice against some of the most vulnerable kids in our province,” she claimed.

“First time in 25 years, because they got scared. Because they got 18 emails from people who used to vote for them, who were mad at them.”

When asked how she would’ve handled speaking to residents with entrenched views like the ones Moe spoke with – Beck offered some advice.

"Sometimes you just have to say, ‘No, that's not a thing. That's not a thing that Saskatchewan health-care workers or the SHA were involved in,’” she said.

“If you have a premier who can’t say no, who can't find a path forward … or as soon as they hear one angry town hall participant talking about chemtrails or conspiracy theories involving your health-care workers and they fold like a cheap tent – that's not leadership.”

In a response to CTV News, the government of Saskatchewan outlined that since his election in 2011, Moe has taken "every opportunity to meet with people in his constituency and answer their questions about government policy."

"He accepted an invitation from [local residents] to attend a town hall meeting in Speers where he did just that, listening to and responding to constituents' concerns on a number of different topics," the statement read.

A poster from the town hall provided by the province revealed the event was held on the evening of April 27, at the Speers Recreation Centre.

"This is your opportunity to hear about issues that may be of concern to you," the poster read.

Speers is located approximately 100 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

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