Regina NDP MLA Meara Conway wants the Saskatchewan Party government to scrap a proposed change to The Residential Tenancies Act that she said would make it easier to evict tenants.
The opposition party’s critic for social services said this is the opposite of what the government should be looking to do during a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said should be to protect and keep people at home to limit transmission.
Conway mentioned how she learned through conversations with organizations and community members that eviction numbers are steady in the province during the pandemic. She said it’s news that concerns her.
“Many other jurisdictions have taken meaningful action to ensure that we have slowed the rates of eviction during a pandemic,” explained Conway. “I think it’s concerning that when people are being asked to stay home, there is no real plan in place to make sure they can.”
The Residential Tenancies Act was originally changed to allow victims of interpersonal violence to end a long-term lease on 30-days’ notice. The government then amended the legislation late last year to allow victims of sexual violence to get out of their lease without penalty, too.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Gord Wyant said on Wednesday that he has not seen a lot of evictions in the last while.
Wyant explained how the proposed change is to switch the time period for the provision of a notice from 14 days to seven days. Wyant suggested that the proposed change is to simply give more balance to the legislation.
“It’s really an effort to streamline the process to allow landlords to move through and give tenants a further opportunity to make sure they get all their evidence in front of the hearing officer,” Wyant stated. “That way the hearing officer can make the right decision given the balance of the interests that are before them.”
When one reporter asked if it is the right time to accelerate this process during a pandemic, Wyant said they are still giving thought to those similar arguments brought up by stakeholders and by members of the NDP.