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5 heated highlights from Saskatchewan's fall legislative session

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Sparring over ideological differences is a key fixture of any parliamentary democracy. However, some moments in the fall session seemed especially tense in Saskatchewan’s legislative chambers.

BECK REMOVED AFTER 'DEAD LIE' COMMENT

A visit by Saskatchewan steelworkers to their legislature, accusatory language by the government house leader, and Carla Beck’s refusal to apologize led the New Democratic leader to be formally escorted and expelled from the chamber – albeit just for the day.

  • Sask. NDP leader escorted out of legislature following comments

The incident was sparked by claims that the provincial NDP does not support pipeline projects.

Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison said the provincial NDP invited federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to speak at their fundraiser, someone he said whose entire reason for supporting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was ensuring another pipeline never gets built in Canada.

“This is why they have absolutely zero credibility on every economic file and none more so than when it comes to pipelines and the energy sector,” he said.

In her answer – Beck said the NDP’s position of supporting pipelines had been clear – and called the minister’s accusations a lie.

“I think the minister likes to think himself rather clever within the walls of this assembly,” she said. “Everything that that minister just said is a dead lie.”

Beck was cautioned by the speaker of the house and asked to withdraw the comment and apologize – twice.

“I’m afraid, Mr. Speaker, I have to draw a line, I will not withdraw,” she replied to the second request.

Beck was escorted out of the chamber by the Sergeant at Arms for her refusal.

Speaking to reporters after the incident – Beck said she didn’t regret her decision.

“Day after day, this session in particular, we’ve had to deal with the minister standing up and spitting obvious, frankly, lies in the legislature, misrepresenting our position on things.”

Expulsions from the chamber are rare but do happen when members refuse to back down.

Beck went on to say that the experience was the first time she had been kicked out from anywhere.

LEMAIRGE ACCUSES WOTHERSPOON OF 'RACIALLY CHARGED' COMMENTS

During debate immediately following the passage of the Saskatchewan First Act – Sask. Party MLA Jim Lemaigre accused opposition member Trent Wotherspoon of racially charged comments.

The member from Athabasca claimed that Wotherspoon made reference to Lemairge’s Indigeneity while criticizing the government’s efforts in consulting with Indigenous peoples for the Saskatchewan First Act.

“My advice to the member from Athabasca - and I like this guy personally, I like him personally, Mr. Speaker - but my advice is sometimes you gotta say no,” Wotherspoon said in the exchange. “Sometimes you have to exercise your own judgement and take a stand for the people you represent.”

“I’m very much free to think, I’m here representing Athabasca constituency and based on that I will make my decisions,” Lemaigre told reporters days after the incident.

“At no point was it proper to imply that based on my being Indigenous that I needed to make a decision a certain way.”

Wotherspoon called Lemaigre’s accusations “baseless and wrong.”

“When I stood in the assembly … [it was] on the heels of the Saskatchewan Act being advanced without any consultation, without any honouring the duty to consult with First Nations and Metis people,” he explained.

“So I challenged that member to focus on the things that matter to his constituents and to those across Saskatchewan. As I would any member, rising on that occasion and at that moment.”

Speaker of the House Randy Weekes later ruled on the incident – saying that Lemaigre had used inflammatory language when he accused Wotherspoon of using racially charged comments.

“This is not the first time members in this chamber on both sides of the house have used statements by members as a forum to use divisive language when making comments about serious issues," he said.

"This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

TEED'S MARATHON SPEECH TO DELAY PRONOUN POLICY

The province’s only gay, out MLA – Nathaniel Teed – spoke for nearly six hours to delay the passage of the province’s controversial pronoun policy.

"I'm not honoured to stand and talk to this, but I will stand and do my duty as a legislator in defence of human rights; in defence of the most vulnerable in our province, especially the queer and trans community of which I'm a part," Teed said in his speech.

The legislature was recalled early in October to pass the "Parents’ Bill of Rights."

Under the legislation, schools are required to alert parents if a youth under 16 asks to use a different pronoun or name.

"I want to say that the only 'gay agenda' I have in front of me today is to keep queer and trans kids alive. I want them to still live, as long as it gets better, until the point where it gets better," Teed said during his remarks.

Saskatchewan’s pronoun policy was first announced in August after the upstart Saskatchewan United Party carved out a significant slice of the vote during a by-election in a Saskatchewan Party stronghold.

Saskatchewan United campaigned on the controversy sparked by a Planned Parenthood sexual health resource that was provided to Grade 9 students in the town of Lumsden.

"After the loss of some votes in (a) stronghold of the Saskatchewan Party government. We saw the government just absolutely lose it," Teed said.

"They still won the seat, Mr. Speaker. Yeah? (They) just didn't have ballot boxes full of ballots."

The Parents’ Bill of Rights would be passed in the legislature on Oct. 20 – with all Saskatchewan NDP members voting against it.

DOMOTOR SCANDAL AND 'A TROUBLING PATTERN'

Serious allegations saw a sitting Saskatchewan Party MLA arrested and charged in a prostitution-related investigation in Regina.

Ryan Domotor, the MLA for Cutknife – Turtleford, faces a charge of obtaining sexual services for consideration.

Domotor was stripped of all titles and responsibilities and was removed from the Sask. Party caucus following his arrest.

NDP Leader Carla Beck took the opportunity to point out what she called a “troubling pattern,” connecting Domotor’s alleged offence with convicted murderer Colin Thatcher attending the legislature for the 2022 speech from the throne at the invitation of another Sask. Party MLA.

“What does the premier have to say to Saskatchewan people who see a troubling pattern from the Sask. Party MLAs while Saskatchewan maintains some of the worst rates of violence against women in the entire country?” Beck demanded during proceedings.

Moe would call Domotor’s conduct “disgusting and vile” and defend the government’s reaction to the accusations.

Beck pointed to some grim statistics.

“The numbers speak for themselves, we have the highest rates of gender-based violence in the country,” she said.

“It’s been that way since 2009 and in fact the rate in Saskatchewan is double the national average … We continue to see women – whether it’s through domestic violence or sexual assault or human trafficking – continue to be victims and continue to be harmed.”

THE PROTEST, THE FALLOUT AND THE 'LEWD' GESTURE

A protest that disrupted legislative proceedings left its mark on the closing weeks of the fall legislative sitting.

Hundreds of demonstrators filled the galleries of the legislature on Nov. 20 with the goal of making their voices heard – halting proceedings by chanting “ceasefire now” in reference to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

What followed was a string of accusations from the government spanning days – claiming the NDP had a role in the protest.

One exchange saw warnings be handed out to both sides of the aisle.

MLA Jeremy Harrison was forced to apologize for his comments, accusing members of the NDP of orchestrating the disruption – charges that the NDP have continually denied.

https://regina.ctvnews.ca/no-meetings-are-secret-sask-ndp-leader-says-moe-s-accusations-are-a-distraction-1.6657991

Meanwhile, NDP member Jennifer Bowes was accused of making a “lewd” gesture in response to Harrison’s comments.

When asking the Speaker of the House to review Bowes conduct – Estevan MLA Lori Carr refrained from describing what she believed Bowes had done.

"I will not describe this on the floor of the House but if you review the video, you will see it," Carr said.

Speaking to reporters after the incident – Bowes explained that she was sarcastically cheering on the government after the accusations were made.

“Is that maybe the best way of conducting myself? Perhaps not,” she explained. “But certainly the allegation being made is not something that there's any truth to.”

Bowes later apologized following a ruling by the speaker.

After calling for an investigation into the demonstration on Nov. 20 – the government decided to not precede.

-- With files from Josh Lynn, Drew Postey, Caitlin Brezinski and Wayne Mantyka.

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