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Sask. legislature resumes with new faces leading government, Opposition
Trent Wotherspoon, left, shakes hands with Ryan Meili, center, after the results of the Saskatchewan New Democrats leadership convention are announced at the Delta Hotel in Regina on Saturday March 3, 2018. Meili won the leadership race with 5,973 votes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, March 12, 2018 12:06PM CST
Last Updated Monday, March 12, 2018 7:35PM CST
REGINA -- Saskatchewan's legislature resumed Monday with new leaders on both sides of the house, and a new Speaker to act as a referee in their debates.
Premier Scott Moe told reporters on Monday he's looking forward to getting used to colleagues in both his own government and the Opposition.
"I think it's a time for some degree of renewal here in the government," Moe told reporters Monday.
"I'm looking forward to the session and we're looking forward to working not only with colleagues on the government side of the house but the Opposition side as well."
Moe became premier when he won the Saskatchewan Party leadership contest at the end of January, replacing Brad Wall, who has retired from politics.
The Opposition NDP elected Ryan Meili as its new leader earlier this month.
Mark Docherty, an MLA for Regina Coronation Park, beat out six other candidates and was elected as the new Speaker on Monday to replace Corey Tochor.
Tochor resigned in January to challenge MP Brad Trost for the federal Conservative nomination in Saskatoon-University. Tochor succeeded on Saturday, and will need to resign at some point as the member for Saskatoon Eastview.
Meili has called on Moe to seek a new mandate from voters sooner than the next fixed election date in November 2020, saying last week the government really doesn't have a mandate.
But Moe has said his government will continue working to fulfil the plan it laid out in 2016.
A new budget is due soon, and Wall's last austerity budget produced deep divisions -- so deep that some of the cuts have been reversed or scaled back.
Moe promised during his leadership campaign to hire 400 positions in the education sector, but also faces a shortage in revenues due to slumping oil and gas prices.
"He's now got this dance to do between what promises does he have to keep now, what promises can he delay and how much austerity is there going to be in this budget that's coming in early April," explained Tom McIntosh, professor of politics and international studies at the University of Regina.
McIntosh said Moe has committed to balancing the budget by 2020, but that likely means deeper cuts will be necessary unless energy revenues improve.
"If we get another budget like that (2016) one and there's outrage and upset, I think it's an indication Moe is going to go his two years, and that closer to the fixed date, he'll hope things are looking better economically," McIntosh said.
"It strikes me that Scott Moe will not want to run on a real austerity program."
Meili told party members during the convention that elected him that he supports pharmacare, restoring a provincial bus service that was cut by the Saskatchewan Party and protecting the province's Crown corporations.
The Saskatchewan Party handily won three recent byelections in safer, rural seats, but McIntosh said Moe may use urban byelections to gauge whether he could go to the polls early.
In addition to the byelection to replace Tochor in Saskatoon, a byelection may be needed in Regina Walsh Acres. The Saskatchewan Party's Warren Steinley has announced his intention to seek the federal Conservative nomination in Regina-Lewvan, a seat currently held by Erin Weir of the NDP.
"If the SaskParty holds those seats that might be a temptation for Moe to say look, maybe it's not as bad in the cities as we thought. Maybe we'll lose a few, but let's go for it now rather than wait two more years," McIntosh said.