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Sask. NDP call for education minister's firing, premier reconfirms confidence

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The Saskatchewan NDP are calling for the resignation or firing of Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill, saying he lied about apologizing for comments he made to a mother whose daughter died. 

Cockrill’s comments came to light last week when Taya Thomas spoke of the struggles faced by parents who need more classroom supports for children with special needs.

After Thomas’s appearance at the legislature, Cockrill committed to meeting with Thomas to discuss the issues her family encountered.

According to Thomas and the NDP – when Saskatchewan teachers’ job action came up in Thomas’ conversation with Cockrill – he said to her, ‘What do they want me to do? Give up my first born child?’”

Cockrill acknowledged in the assembly last week that he made a mistake.

“In that meeting Mr. Speaker, I used an expression that was a poor choice of words on my part. I did apologize to Ms. Thomas,” Cockrill said during question period.

Thomas claimed she did not receive an apology.

“He did not apologize to me. I had a friend there who witnessed that, He did give me his condolences but then he made that careless comment afterwards,” Thomas said.

Cockrill reiterated to reporters following question period Thursday that he did in fact apologize to Thomas. 

"I apologize for that and I am human. I made a mistake," Cockrill said. 

NDP MLA Aleana Young also apologized after she said she wondered if Cockrill was suited for the job of being education minister. 

"You made two or three personal remarks to the minister of education. You should know you are not allowed to do that. Please stand, withdraw and apologize," Speaker Randy Weeks said to Young. 

According to the NDP, they also want Cockrill to resign for repeatedly misleading the media and public.

"This was the last straw. The minister has been caught lying publicly time and time again," Beck said in a social media post on Monday. 

"This minister has no respect or compassion for the people he serves. Today, I'm calling for the resignation of Jeremy Cockrill," the post continued. 

The NDP pointed to Cockrill’s first media scrum as education minister in August of 2023 where they said he told reporters that he had heard concerns from parents in every riding about teachers withholding information on what pronoun their child was using in school.

“The next MLA to step up to the mic, Everett Hindley, contradicted Cockrill, saying that he had never heard such concerns,” an NDP release said.

“During the emergency session, Cockrill told the media that his government’s pronoun policy was informed by widespread consultation with “tens of thousands” of concerned citizens. The government never substantiated this claim. Freedom of information requests returned just 18 letters and a “rush jurisdictional scan” initiated less than two weeks before the policy was unveiled,” the release said.

In question period on Monday Beck called on Premier Scott Moe to fire Cockrill.

After offering further condolences to Thomas, Moe said he agreed with Cockrill acknowledging that he used a very poor choice of words.

“He made a terrible mistake,” Moe said. “He’s apologized for that mistake I understand privately, he’s apologized on the floor of this assembly and apologized publicly in the rotunda.”

Moe said that in spite of what was a “very poor choice of words” – he believes much of what Cockrill is doing is in the best interest of students, classrooms and teachers.

“He [Cockrill] retains the full confidence of myself, the full confidence of his cabinet and the full confidence of his caucus,” Moe said during question period to strong applause from Sask. Party members.

-- With files from Wayne Mantyka.

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