Contentious sessions put Sask. Speaker’s duties on full display

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post House Speaker Randy Weekes walks towards the chambers into the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan on Tuesday, April 16, 2024 in Regina.

Alec Salloum

Regina Leader-Post

In his role as Speaker, Randy Weekes serves as the referee for house proceedings while MLAs from the government and Opposition square off during daily question periods.

Over the course of the current sitting, Weekes has sent several MLAs to the penalty box or sought an apology and withdrawal of comments deemed unparliamentary.

The Speaker has the highest authority of any person within the house. He sits on a raised dais wearing robes or traditional court attire to match his station as an official and to separate him from other MLAs.

Weekes had to blow his whistle once again to stop play during the second reading of bills after question period on Monday.

The events that occurred made waves through the house and on social media, and put Weekes’ discretion as Speaker on full display.

“As Speaker, I have received literally hundreds and hundreds of text messages from the government house leader [Jeremy Harrison], the deputy government house leader [Delbert Kirsch], and occasionally from the minister of finance [Donna Harpauer],” he said from his feet as debate adjourned on Bill 157.

Weekes went on to read into the record one of Harpauer’s text messages.

“Randy, if you can blatantly lie, tarnish reputations of elected, unelected individuals with innuendoes but no proof, we have no avenue to push back, then this assembly has become a joke and a stage for an opposition puppet show. Disappointing.”

Weekes then told Harpauer that if she wanted to make a point of order she could raise to her feet and do so. He then asked her to withdraw and apologize “for this text and any others” she may “feel inclined” to send him “off the record.”

Harpauer apologized and then, as the deputy clerk read out proceedings, Harrison offered comments which were not audible to those viewing the broadcast.

Weekes rose to his feet, asked Harrison to “stand and withdraw and apologize for that comment too. I’m not deaf.”

“I’m not,” Harrison retorted, while grabbing his things and departing from the chamber. Weekes then suspended Harrison for the remainder of the day.

This is not the first time an MLA has been booted from the floor of the assembly during the spring sitting. Nadine Wilson, leader of the Saskatchewan United Party, was removed in March for using the term “doublespeak.”

In December 2023, Opposition MLA and deputy house leader Meara Conway was removed from the legislative assembly after refusing to withdraw and apologize for “provocative and personal attacks” against a government MLA.

Conway’s words were directed at Harrison, who withdrew his comments on the day.

In May 2023, Opposition Leader Carla Beck was removed from the legislative assembly for saying “everything that minister said is a dead lie” following discussion about layoffs at a Regina steel mill.

This was the result of the minister — Harrison again — saying the NDP had “stood up at every opportunity to vote against pipelines.”

Beck’s language was deemed unparliamentary, she refused to apologize and was escorted off the floor of the legislative assembly by the sergeant-at-arms.

That day, Harrison’s language was also deemed unparliamentary, but he apologized and withdrew the comments when asked.

According to the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan’s website, “It is the Speaker’s duty to ensure that the rules of the House for conducting its business are followed and that all members of the House have an opportunity to take part in debates.”

Weekes is the 27th Speaker of the house, selected in 2020 after five rounds of secret ballot voting, beating out former MLA and Speaker Mark Docherty.

“The individual chosen must be prepared to serve all members of the legislature equally to keep order in the House,” the website says.

Weekes lost the Saskatchewan Party nomination for the Kindersley-Biggar constituency to Kim Gartner back in December of last year.