MEADOW LAKE, Sask. — Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says there are no rats in his home, but feel free to “insert all the politician rat jokes here.”
“I’ve been hearing quite a few of them,” says Wall.
That’s because when Wall is not at the Saskatchewan legislature in Regina, he’s at the family home in Swift Current, Sask., and Swift Current is experiencing a well-publicized rat problem.
The rodents have infested the southwestern Saskatchewan city, where some people say they’ve been bitten in their beds.
“I actually haven’t seen one. I know neighbours have seen them, but I have not seen one yet and I’ve been home a lot … in the last little while,” says Wall. “But obviously it’s a concern.”
No one knows where the rats are coming from.
The problem has prompted Swift Current city council to come up with a rat catching plan. It’s encouraging property owners to take a more aggressive approach to cleaning up yards and work sites by disposing of garbage.
There’s also a public health warning. The Cypress Hills Health Region says rats carry many diseases and can spread bacteria, viruses and parasites.
Some residents have said city council isn’t doing enough to clean up the problem. There is concern that the coming cold weather will drive the rats indoors.
The issue is primarily the municipality’s jurisdiction. However, the premier says the province is co-operating with the city to help tackle the situation. The city is going to be making use of pest control officers from around the region, not just near Swift Current, says Wall.
Wall says rodents are a reality in almost every urban centre, but he admits the national attention has cast a shadow on his hometown.
“I don’t think it’s helpful obviously. Rats aren’t the most pleasant thing you can talk about,” says Wall. “None of this, which is a temporary issue that will be dealt with, changes the underlying strength of Swift Current and the brand that we have as a community.”
As for the rodents, Wall says he’s only spotted one pesky critter and it didn’t stick around.
“We had a gopher problem in the backyard and our border collie chased it off,” says the premier.