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'They do need to be kept in check': Sask. premier responds to MLA suspension ruling

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Cabinet ministers in Saskatchewan’s legislative assembly are frustrated over opposition attacks during question period.

The Sunrise Motel controversy and the province’s dealings with Clearpoint Health Network has led to some fiery exchanges in the chamber in recent weeks.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer sent a text to the speaker suggesting the opposition be reigned in. Speaker Randy Weekes objected to the unsolicited input – and demanded the deputy premier withdraw and apologize.

“I would just like to read into the record what the Minister of Finance just sent me, ‘Randy, if you can blatantly lie, tarnish reputations of elected and unelected individuals with innuendos but no proof, we have no avenue to push back and this assembly has become a joke and a stage for an opposition puppet show. Disappointing,’” Weekes said, quoting the message.

The Speaker claimed to be bombarded by texts from government benches and sought an apology.

Harpauer complied, however Government House Leader Jeremy Harrison became upset over what was happening and offered comment from his desk.

“I ask the Government House Leader to stand and withdraw and apologize for that comment too,” the Speaker added.

“I’m not deaf.”

Harrison responded to the order by saying “I’m not" and left the house. Weekes suspended Harrison for the rest of the day for disregarding his authority.

Premier Scott Moe told reporters on Tuesday he accepts the Speaker’s ruling.

“[The Speaker] is there to do just that and emotions, and MLAs do bring emotions to the floor of the assembly. That in itself I think is admirable but they do need to be kept in check,” he said.

“The assembly is a place … to debate policy decisions that each party is putting forward. It should never be a place of personal attacks. There I think some frustration with the approach that some of the opposition members are taking, they view it as much too personal,” Moe added.

The opposition believes government members have crossed a line.

“I mean, the Speaker represents the institution. It’s about influencing and pressuring him in that position.”

The premier believes texting was an efficient way to conduct house business. However, he believes his members now will think twice before ever texting the speaker again.

“I think people would have paused before they start sending another text if that is the result,” Moe explained.

“So I think it was maybe unexpected [but] it's his prerogative.” 

- With files from the Canadian Press 

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