Decision not to run for re-election wasn’t easy for longtime northern MLA

Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette holds The Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act. Vermette announced on May 17 that he would not seek re-election. Submitted photo.

Next MLA needs to listen to and fight for northern residents says Vermette

After 15 years representing the northern constituency of Cumberland, NDP MLA Doyle Vermette is ending him time in politics.

Vermette announced on May 17 that he would not seek re-election in 2024. The longtime MLA said it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but he’s confident he’s done all he can do for his constituents.

“It’s been 15 years, and if I finish up the term, it’ll be 16 and a little bit,” Vermette said in a phone interview the day after the announcement. “I’ve been talking with family and with my executive and different people, leaders. I’ve had some people say, ‘oh please don’t go and stuff,’ but at the end of the day I made that final decision.”

Vermette was born and raised in Prince Albert, but moved to La Ronge permanently in 1990. He was first elected in a by-election in 2008, winning a close race over Saskatchewan Party candidate Dale McAuley by 168 votes.

He was re-elected in 2011, 2016, and 2020, but said it was time to let someone else be the a voice for northern residents in the Legislature.

“I’ve done what I can to raise the issues with government,” he said. “You look at parts of it I’ve been looking back and forth on, and it wasn’t an easy decision, I’ll be honest. I had people encourage me to continue, but for me, I just look at it at the point of, I’ve raised many issues, and … I’ll sit there and say to myself, ‘I’m proud.’ I feel I’ve done all I can to this point.”

Vermette made mental health and suicide prevention priorities during his time in office. He said his proudest moment was the unanimous passing of the Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act, and piece of legislation he’d brought forward two times before without success.

The issue was an emotional one for Vermette, who was removed from the chamber in May 2022 after refusing to apologize after swearing and accusing the Mental Health and Addictions Minister Everett Hindley of lying during question period.

Vermette credited northern families, leaders, and activists like Tristan Durocher for putting pressure on the government to pass the Suicide Prevention Act. More than a year after his suspension, the issue is still an emotional one.

“I worry about my own grandkids, my great-grandkids, and the next generation,” he said. “I can say that’s probably the one I feel so passionate about you get emotional about it because you’ve tried your best and you did all you can.”

The NDP will choose a new nominee to run in Cumberland on July 8. Vermette said northern residents, like their southern counterparts, want leaders who will advocate for them. As long as the NDP does that, he’s confident the part can retain the seat.

“People want someone who will fight for them and go and sit with them and listen,” he said. “The people I talked to, they want to have their MLA, their elected representative, they want to have their government hear their issues, get their expressers, and they want meaningful consultation.

“The average person out there trying to make a living, they just want to be heard,” he added.

As to whether the NDP can win the 2024 election and form a government, Vermetee said their plan is coming together.

He said recent rallies at the Legislation by healthcare and education workers show residents are unhappy with the current government, but added that people need to make their presence felt at the ballot box if they want change.

“When you have that type of force, government had better pay attention, because governments don’t get elected in. They get elected out,” he said. “That’s my understanding. I’ll wait and see what happens. It will be up to the people, and I trust that people will decide. When the people decide they want change, it will happen, and I’ve got to trust that. We’ve got to be ready, and I’m sure our party will be ready.”

As for his future, Vermette said he hasn’t decided on a new course of action. He’s planning on serving out the rest of his term before making any final decisions.

“Hopefully, health wise, nothing changes, but that’s my plan: to serve my term until my term is done.”

@kerr_jas •