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Nearly half of Sask. Party members elected in 2020 will not be on the ballot in 2024

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There’s bound to be many new faces in the province’s legislature later this year. Nearly half of Saskatchewan Party members elected in 2020 will not be representing the party on the ballot this fall.

On the last day of the legislative session, reporters asked Premier Scott Moe if the departure of so many MLAs bodes well for the government going into an election.

Moe chalked it up to “party renewal.”

“There’s a lot of historical context and experience that is walking out the door but this is part of the renewal process for every party, including our party,” he told reporters on May 16.

“When I was elected in 2016, there were [17] new MLAs. The renewal process does continue to occur, but when you have two or three MLAs that had been elected in 1999 and 2003, you just can’t expect them to serve forever.”

Of the 48 Sask. Party members elected in the 2020 election, 21 (or 43 per cent) will not be representing the party this coming fall.

Veterans retiring

The 29th Saskatchewan Legislature officially ended last Thursday, with a long line of retiring MLAs giving their final remarks in the assembly.

Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Donna Harpauer (Humboldt-Watrous) was one of several long-time Sask. Party members who reflected on their time in politics.

Harpauer recounted her nearly 25-year-long career, beginning in 1999. She ended off with a joke, revealing her long tenure had convinced one of her grandchildren that the legislative channel was really the “Grandma Donna Show.”

“Well, the Grandma Donna show has come to an end but the legislature will continue,” Harpauer chuckled. “And I have been honoured to be able to be here for as long as I have, representing an amazing constituency and supported by amazing people.”

Harpauer isn’t the only veteran MLA who’s retiring from provincial politics at the end of the current term.

In February, veteran MLAs Don McMorris (Indian Head-Milestone), Dustin Duncan (Weyburn-Big Muddy) and Gordon Wyant (Saskatoon Northwest) joined Harpauer in announcing they would not run again in the coming election.

The four cabinet ministers represent over 80 years of combined experience.

In August of 2023, Don Morgan (Saskatoon-Southeast) revealed he, too, would make his exit.

Morgan first won his seat in 2003 and served in cabinet positions for the better part of two decades. He has overseen everything from education, to provincial crown corporations, to the Ministry of Justice.

Those soon-to-be former cabinet ministers are flanked by a host of others.

Greg Ottenbriet (Yorkton), Ken Francis (Kindersley), Fred Bradshaw (Carrot River Valley), Delbert Kirsch (Batoche), Dana Skoropad (Arm River), Gary Grewel (Regina Northeast), Hugh Nerlien (Kelvington-Wadena), and Marv Friesen (Saskatoon Riversdale) also revealed they will not run.

Both Terry Dennis (Canora-Pelly) and Randy Weekes (Biggar-Sask Valley) lost their bids for re-election in contested nominations.

Weekes recently shared his frustrations with members of Saskatchewan’s governing party – alleging he was harassed and intimidated while serving as speaker by House Leader Jeremy Harrison and Deputy House Leader Lori Carr.

Moe has called Weekes’ claims “unequivocally false.”

In addition to this, three former Sask. Party MLAs are listed as independents on the member’s list.

Nadine Wilson (Saskatchewan Rivers) was expelled from the party after misrepresenting her vaccination status. She would go on to form the Saskatchewan United Party (SUP). On May 16, she announced she had stepped down as leader, being replaced by John Hromek, who ran under the SUP banner in the Lumsden Morse by-election of 2023.

Both Greg Lawrence (Moose Jaw Wakamow) and Ryan Domotor (Cut Knife-Turtleford) were expelled from the Sask. Party’s caucus in late 2023 after criminal charges came to light.

Lawrence was ejected after he was charged with two counts of assault in Moose Jaw. Domotor was charged with communicating for the purpose of obtaining sexual services in Regina.

Domotor was one of 16 individuals charged in the vice investigation targeting sexual exploitation and human trafficking in the city.

The Sask. Party now boasts 44 MLAs following by-elections in 2022 and 2023 as well as the expulsion of Wilson, Lawrence and Domotor.

Sask. NDP losing two members

On the opposition’s side, only two NDP members have stated their intentions not to run again.

Doyle Vermette (Cumberland) will end off a nearly 16-year career in provincial politics in the fall. First elected in a 2008 by-election, Vermette has served as the opposition whip and critic for northern affairs and mental health and addictions.

Vermette highlighted the need for a province-wide suicide prevention strategy. After being rejected twice, his proposed bill passed in the legislature in June of 2021.

“To my brother from Cumberland I say, please know that we will continue to take up that work for you in here and out in the community,” NDP Leader Carla Beck said, in a speech dedicated to Vermette.

“We owe that to you and to the families you have fought so hard for.”

Jennifer Bowes (Saskatoon University) announced last summer that she wouldn’t seek re-election in 2024. She has served as the critic for advanced education, innovation, status of women, and deputy whip. Prior to her time in politics, Bowes worked with the ministry of corrections and organizations such as the Elizabeth Fry Society.

“This is a member who consistently shows up on the side of those oppressed and less fortunate and the member has never failed to find the courage to speak up,” Beck said. “I have no doubt that she will continue to speak truth to power.”

The Saskatchewan NDP currently holds 14 of the 61 seats in the assembly.

'Worried about every seat'

With legislative proceedings wrapped up, the stage is set for both parties to turn their focus to the upcoming election — to be held on or before Oct. 28, 2024.

When asked if there are certain constituencies the Sask. Party is worried about, Moe had a clear response.

“We’re worried about every seat in the province,” he said.

“We have an opportunity this summer. I think all MLAs and those candidates that might be running, they have an opportunity to get in front of the people that they’re vying to represent and to put forward what their plan is from a party perspective.”

“That is the question that I think Saskatchewan people are going to look at,” Moe added.

“Who is going to continue to grow our Saskatchewan economy? So that we can continue to invest in our classrooms, in our healthcare system and continue to invest in our communities.”

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