The Government of Saskatchewan decided it was up to the Canadian Football Leagiue’s Saskatchewan Roughriders to mandate whether or not fans would be required to have proof of vaccination for the Covid-19 virus.
Ultimately, the Riders announced Aug. 30 that they would invoke the regulation where fans would need proof of double vaccination by Sept. 17. The Edmonton Elks did the same thing Aug. 30.
If you’re not from Saskatchewan and you didn’t know, the Roughriders have almost been untouchable in the history of the wheat province. They had some lean years but generally speaking they are beloved by most of the province. However as the rest of the stadiums in the Canadian football League have mandated a rule where you have to proof of being double-vaxxed.
It would be naive to think the two sides haven’t discussed this at length behind closed doors as they are very intertwined to each other. Heck, the Minister of Advanced Education and former Minister of Sport Gene Makowsky was a Rider offensive lineman.
Of course this rule doesn’t defence against “pulling tickets” for those unvaccinated by those who are, similar to those of age who can go into a liquor store and buy alcohol for those underage.
The Riders have held off implementing the rule. They have had three home games in a row. They sold out the first one (after two years away) and the Labour Day Classic (Sept. 5) vs. Winnipeg was sold out (as it always is) weeks ago. Attendance numbers of games two (27,076) and three 33,350.
Due to the fact Covid regulations should be lifted off in Ontario nearer the end of this year, more games will be on the road in late season.
Why is this significant? Because it is obvious the team doesn’t want to rattle its fanbase, many of which they believe think this would be an unpopular idea. The Calgary Stampeders implemented the double-vax proof rule and there was an outcry, to a small extent of people saying they would give up their tickets and never attend another game etc. Three of the first four Rider games as sell outs (although the empty seats for games two and three were very obvious on TV). They are a business and as such is doing what they can while making the most money they can.
Leadership for the safety of the public was required. The government didn’t want to be seen as the villian. Poor leadership.
The Roughriders executive believed they would anger too many of the volatile people by implementing such a rule. In fact, what is happening is that they are angering and scaring many fans who do have the vaccines. They are perhaps under the belief that if the anger one side and the others decide not to show up that maybe
The numbers are soaring in Saskatchewan as Health Canada data shows that Sask. has the highest test positivity rate in the nation at 9.8% and 44 per cent of new Covid-19 cases nationally were from the wheat province.
Those in Sask. (justifiably) mock their neighbours to the west for high numbers and tragically in northern Alberta, patients in Grand Prairie are been transferred to nearby facilities because the city’s hospital is being overwhelmed by pandemic cases.
Leadership again is needed.
Ironically in Alberta where Premier Jason Kenney is not popular, everyone is wondering where he is. He has not been seen win public since Aug. 9 where according to CTV, the number of active cases as of Aug. 23 went from 3,433 to 7,931. Hospitalizations were 137 to 258 during that same time frame and those in ICU went from 29 to 57. It seem like the two provinces are taking the summer off and then when school comes they will get back to it… maybe.
Sask’s Health Minister Paul Merriman had well anticipated news conference Aug. 25 where his answers were simultaneously underwhelming and overwhelming.
“I haven’t seen any modelling data as of lately,” said the health minister.
“Most of the people that are in hospital are unvaccinated, so I guess the question is why are they unvaccinated and ending up in the hospital? That’s their choice.”
One would think that health experts like Chief Medical Health Officers Dr. Saqib Shahab and Dr. Deena Hinshaw would be saying something. Apparently not.
What is odd is that no one has been explaining anything. Merriman who apparently doesn’t look at his own department’s data and Tyler Shandro has been MIA, Hinshaw has sent out directives last week she wasn’t going to be available to media.
Hence the anti-vac conspiracy theorists, those are legitimately concerned about Covid and those somewhere in between who don’t want to get sick but believe the economy will collapse if everything gets closed down.
Monetary considerations seem to be winning out as the government are basically saying that they have done all they can and now it is up to citizens.
While it is understandable that from a politician’s standpoint is the words and phrases like communist, martial law, freedom stealer etc, but health should be the priority, no? Without good health, you ha ve nothing. With vaccines saving people from such long time disease as malaria, Hepatitis A and B, whooping couch, polio, chickenpox, diphtheria, mumps and pneumococcal disease, what is the problem with getting a vaccine against a proven killer?
Health is more important than football, even in Saskatchewan.
Ryan Dahlman is the managing editor of Prairie Post West and Prairie Post East