September 28, 2020

Information for Media: Communications Restrictions During Writ Period

Prior to the commencement of Saskatchewan’s 29th General Election, the Government of Saskatchewan is releasing information regarding government communications activities during a writ period.

“Following the issuance of a writ, it is important that the Government of Saskatchewan and members of the public service remain impartial and comply with limits set under The Election Act,” Deputy Minister of Executive Council Cam Swan said.  “To ensure transparency and preserve public confidence in the impartiality of government, we will enact these communications restrictions upon issuance of the writ.”

The Election Act, 1996 sets limits on government ministries, boards, Crown corporations and other agencies regarding publications after the issuance of the writ for a general election until and including, polling day.

During a general election, no government ministry shall publish in any manner any information with respect to the activities of the ministry.

Communications restrictions do not apply to:

  • information that, because of an emergency or compelling public safety concern, is required to be published in the public interest;
  • advertising by the Saskatchewan Pension Plan that is related to its competitive business interests;
  • advertising by a Crown corporation that is related to the Crown corporation’s competitive business interests;
  • or advertising by a government ministry in the ordinary course of its business respecting employment or the procurement of supplies.

News Releases and Requests for Information by the Media:

Government of Saskatchewan news releases will be kept to a minimum, and concern only matters of vital importance, including the continuance of COVID-19 updates.  Necessary releases, other than those dealing with an emergency or compelling public safety concern, shall be in the name of the minister and shall consist of statements made by him or her.

In responding to requests from the media, ministries or officials who act as spokespersons for the government will provide only technical or factual information.  Spokespersons will not participate in debate of programs, policy rationale or defense of programs.

Continuity of Communications During the COVID-19 Pandemic

To ensure the flow of communications during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health will continue to issue the COVID-19 news release on a daily basis.  The Chief Medical Health Officer will hold a scheduled media availability each Wednesday during the writ period, with additional availabilities as determined by the Chief Medical Health Officer in order to distribute information.

In accordance with spokesperson guidance, the Chief Medical Health Officer and the Ministry of Health government will provide only technical or factual information and will not participate in debate of programs, policy rationale or defense of programs.

Responsibilities of Members of the Executive Council During a Writ Period

While the legislative assembly is dissolved during a writ period, members of executive council (Premier and Ministers) retain their ministerial portfolios and responsibilities until the time at which a new executive council is sworn in.  As such, there are situations in which the Premier or Minister may appear in their official capacity to represent their ministerial responsibilities.

In accordance with the Act, the communications restrictions apply to public servants, not to elected officials who remain in office as ministers.  There is no restriction on direct participation by a minister in any media event, ceremony, presentation, official opening of a private project, or at a ceremony conducted by another level of government.  In managing media enquiries, ministers will continue to be available to handle media inquiries without being affected by the restrictions of the Act.