Saskatchewan Party meeting in Prince Albert to set out vision for province

MLA Joe Hargrave and Premier Scott Moe (right) speak to reporters during the Sask. Party's annual retreat in Prince Albert on August 8, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The Saskatchewan Party caucus is meeting in Prince Albert this week to lay out their plan for the future of the province.

The annual summer retreat is being held at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club. It began yesterday and concludes today.

“We’re pleased to be here in Prince Albert … to be having discussions with respect to how we move forward in a renewal of our growth plan here in the province, having long and in-depth discussions, hearing from MLAs from across the province on what they have heard in their constituencies,” Moe told reporters during a lunch break Thursday.

Moe said a key question the caucus is trying to answer is what the province will look like in 2030.

“What services will we have as things change, a time marches on?” he asked.

“We had a successful initiative when we released the original plan for growth in 2012.”

That plan looked forward to 2020 — next year. Now it’s time, Moe said, to look at the next ten years.

“This is an important time for our province to renew the vision on behalf of the people we represent, and to continue to engage with the people we represent, setting goals and targets, and ultimately having a look behind the curtain if you will with respect to what our province is going to look like.”

The caucus is also looking ahead to the 2020 provincial election. Nominations have been held in 40 of 61 ridings. Some MLAs have announced their retirement, while others are seeking a federal seat in this year’s federal election.

“We’re in strong shape when it comes to the organization and our candidates that are looking to run in the next election,” Moe said.

“We’re pleased with where we are with respect to our preparedness.”

When it comes to the candidates seeking federal seats, though, the premier indicated that he might not call a by-election for any MLAs who become MPs.

“We’ll be following the rules with respect to whether or not a by-election is to be called,” he said.

‘There is a significant cost when you do call a by-election previous to a general election.”

That topic, in particular, has raised the ire of the provincial NDP.

According to the province’s rules, by-elections don’t have to be called if an MLA resigns 40 months after the last general election. That was Tuesday. Neither Corey Tochor, who is running for the federal conservatives in Saskatoon University, or Warren Steinley, who is contending in Regina Lewvan, have stepped down.

Both the MLAs have said they will retain their provincial seats until writ drops and the federal campaign officially begins.

“The premier can let those seats go well over a year without representation,” NDP leader Ryan Meili told the Herald during a visit to the city in late July.

“We … will continue to call for by-elections to b held there. It’ not fair for the people or the voters in those constituencies to have no MLA for over a year just because this government is worried to lose those seats.”

Moe, though, has said other area MLAs will help represent those constituencies, reiterating that not holding a by-election will save the province money,“If there are people stepping down after 40 months, there are some stipulations in place to save that cost (of by-elections) on behalf of the taxpayers of the province