Hargrave happy with Sask. Party’s direction, cites age and family plans as reasons for not running

Daily Herald File Photo Joe Hargrave speaks at a news conference at École St. Anne school on Sept. 16, 2020.

Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave said he’s happy with the direction of the Saskatchewan Party, and recent allegations from outgoing Speaker Randy Weekes played no role in his decision to not seek re-election.

Hargrave secured the PA Carlton Sask. Party nomination by acclimation in November, but on Monday he reversed course and said he would not run in the next provincial election.

“I’m 68 years old, coming 69 years old, which is not that bad, but 73 is a lot older, and that’s how old I would be when I was done,” Hargrave said during a phone interview Monday afternoon

“I want to give back to my community and my province, and I want to continue to serve somewhat … and I didn’t want to go for one year or two years and then resign,” he added. “That’s not what I do. It was four years, (and) I just was finding (I was) unable to sort of commit to that.”

Hargrave said he was confident he could serve another term when he secured the Sask. Party nomination in November. However, a few months later a longtime friend was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

He said that news more than anything else caused him to rethink how he wanted to spend his next few years.

“I thought it was going to be good,” Hargrave said. “I really did, and then this other news came and it really started me thinking about my own life and where I want to go and what we want to do as a family, Fran (Hargrave’s wife) and I.

“I apologized to the Premier. I said, ‘I know it’s bad timing.’ It’s got nothing to do with this other garbage that’s going on. This is strictly about me and my wife and what’s best for us.”

The Saskatchewan Party came under fire as the final session of the 29th Legislature ended on May 17 when outgoing speaker Randy Weekes accused government of bully and harassing him over his rulings, specifically Government House Leader Jeremy Harrison. Weekes also accused Harrison of being obsessed with guns, and alleged Harrison sought permission to carry a handgun in the legislative assembly.

Premier Scott Moe denied these allegations, and said it was just sour grapes from Weekes, a 20-year Sask. Party MLA who lost a nomination battle in the constituency of Kindersley-Biggar. However, Harrison later resigned after admitting he once brought a hunting rifle into the Legislature during a brief stop to pick up some paperwork before heading on a hunting trip.

While the accusations sparked headlines, Hargrave said it did not impact his decision to not seek re-election. He added that he is happy with the direction the party is heading, and plans to support whoever the Sask. Party nominates to replace him in Prince Albert Carlton.

“I’m quite fine with the party,” Hargrave said. “I’ll still be working for the party right up until my last day and … whoever’s replacing me, I’ll be helping out there to make sure he or she gets elected.

“I’m good with the party, and I’m good with the leadership, and I’m good with my fellow MLAs. There are people, the speaker, he may be bitter like that, and some of the NDP are saying that (it’s about the party’s direction). Of course they’re going to say that. It’s an election year, but it’s just not true.”

Hargrave is the latest in a line of sitting Saskatchewan Party MLAs who have announced they will not seek re-election. The list includes cabinet ministers Dustin Duncan, Donna Harpauer, Don McMorris, and Gord Wyant, as well as Carrot River Valley MLA Fred Bradshaw, and Batoche MLA Delbert Kirsch.

The Saskatchewan Party said in a statement they plan to nominate a new candidate for Prince Albert Carlton in the coming weeks.

The Saskatchewan Party has 28 of 48 candidates nominated. Hargrave is the 14th sitting MLA who is not seeking re-election.

Jenson to replace Hargrave in cabinet

Hargrave also stepped down as Minister of SaskBuilds and Procurement. Warman MLA Terry Jenson will replace him. This is Jenson’s first time in cabinet.

“Joe has decided not to run again in this fall’s election and has asked to step away from his ministerial role,” Premier Scott Moe said in a press release. “He has played a key role in helping advance some of the most significant capital projects we have seen in our province’s history and I thanked him for his service and leadership.”

The move was one of three made on Monday. The biggest involves Highways Minister Lori Carr, who replaced Jeremy Harrison as Government House Leader. In the other change, Corrections, Policing, and Public Safety Minister Paul Merriman was named Deputy House Leader.

Hargrave said he stepped down as SaskBuilds Minister because the two projects most important to him: the Rose Garden Hospice and Acute Care Tower at Victoria Hospital, were completed or under construction.

“I sort of left it open for the premier, and said, ‘you want to put somebody else in there? I’m 100 per cent with it. I understand, because I’ll be leaving and I’ll stay on the rest of the boards and the committees, and I’ll serve faithfully, but that’s about it.

“My big project was the hospital. I wanted to see that one across the line with the equipment moving, and the Hospice is there and that was the other big project for me for PA…. There are other people who are going to stay and we may as well get them going. My replacement for Minister was on the board there for a long time with me and served very well, and he’ll be a good replacement for me.”

NDP blasts Sask. Party for ‘chaotic’ caucus

Saskatchewan NDP leader Carla Beck said Hargrave’s decision to not seek re-election is another sign of significant problems in the Saskatchewan Party.

Speaking Monday afternoon, Beck said Premier Scott Moe is too busy putting out fires in his own party to adequately govern the province.

“The Premier has a problem,” Beck said. “There is obvious chaos on the government side, and again, this government seems to be more interested and more focused on trying to quell the soap opera that is happening in their own caucus than they are in fixing very real concerns that people in this province have.”

Beck said the government should spend more time focusing on areas of concern, like health, education, and the road into Cumberland House.

“There’s no doubt about it. The government is having all sorts of chaos on their side,” she added. “We’ll let them focus on that. We’ll focus on the things that matter to Saskatchewan people.”