Hargrave named SaskBuilds and Procurement Minister in Tuesday cabinet shuffle

MLA Joe Hargrave at a previous event. (Herald file photo)

More than two years after stepping down as Minister of Highways, Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave is back in cabinet.

Hargrave was named Minister of SaskBuilds and Procurement in a cabinet shuffle announced by Premier Scott Moe on Tuesday. Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross was also named Legislative Secretary to the Minister of Health.

Hargrave said he’s grateful for the opportunity to oversee a new portfolio.

“I’m so pleased that the Premier had the courage and felt the confidence in me, that this was a good role for me to take on,” Hargrave said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “(He) had that confidence in me that he put me in charge of this, so I’m very pleased. I think it’s good for me and hopefully it’ll be good for everyone in Saskatchewan.”

As SaskBuilds Minister, Hargrave will oversee construction of the Victoria Hospital project, which will expand the hospital from 173 beds to 242. He’ll also oversee construction of a new La Ronge long-term care home, which began in July and is expected to be completed by late 2026.

Hargrave said SaskBuilds is an exciting portfolio.

“It’s all about building and strengthening Saskatchewan, and that’s sort of what I’m about. I love that,” he said. “We’re trying to build our economy up. With our economy being as strong as it is, and our future looks bright, we’ve got to continue to build and strengthen the whole province and continue to protect it and build on it.”

Cost instruction increases are one of the main challenges Hargrave will have to deal with as he takes over his new portfolio.  Statistics Canada reports year-over-year non-residential construction costs rose by seven per cent in the second quarter of 2023. Stats Canada cited the rise in price of concrete as one of the biggest factors in the increase.

Hargrave said building schools and hospitals will be a priority for SaskBuilds, and that won’t change with higher prices.

“We have to do the best we can,” he said. “Even though the prices are high, we’ve still got to keep moving. The province is growing and the economy is growing, and it’s required that we were there to service the people of Saskatchewan.”

Hargrave previously served as Minister of Highways, Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Water Security Agency, Minister responsible for SaskEnergy and SaskTel, and as Vice-Chair of the SaskBuilds Corporation board. He was also Minister of Crown Investments Corporation, Minister responsible for SGI, and chair of the Crown Investments Corporation board.

He stepped down from cabinet following protests over his decision to travel to Palm Spring, Calif. on Dec. 22, 2020 to finalize a property sale during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tuesday’s shuffle will also see a new Education Minister, with Jeremy Cockrill taking over from Dustin Duncan, and a new Health Minister in Everett Hindley.

Duncan was facing criticism from the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) and LGBTQ+ groups like Prince Albert Pride, over a new policy requiring students under the age of 16 to seek parental consent to change their preferred names or pronouns at school. The decision sparked protests in Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert.

Hargrave said Duncan had “100 per cent of caucus’ support”, and he expects Cockrill to have  that too.

“Dustin is very capable, but so is Jeremy,” Hargrave said.

“We’re very supportive,” he added. “Everybody in caucus is very supportive and I believe that by the poll results, the people of Saskatchewan are very supportive of the position we’ve taken.”

Saskatchewan NPD leader Carla Beck called the government’s pronoun policy a “deeply cynical and divisive move” during a visit to Prince Albert on Tuesday.

Beck also blasted the cabinet shuffle in an official statement released Tuesday afternoon, particularly the decision to retain Donna Harpauer as Ministery of Finance.

“Today’s announcement changes nothing for Saskatchewan people who are struggling with the cost of living, waiting for surgery, or worried about the lack of supports in their kids’ classrooms,” reads the statement. “With no change in the finance portfolio, it’s clear that this tired and out-of-touch government thinks that the status quo is just fine when it comes to the crushing cost of living. It’s time for a government that will deliver cost-of-living relief for families.”

Harpauer is one of nine ministers who retain their current responsibilities. The others are Jim Reiter (Energy and Resources), Gordon Wyant (Advanced Education), Jeremy Harrison (Trades and Export Development, Immigration and Career Training, Innovation and Tourism Saskatchewan), David Marit (Agriculture, Saskatchewan Crop Insurance), Don McMorris (Government Relations First Nations, Metis, and Northern Affairs, Provincial Capital Commission), Bronwyn Eyre (Justice and Attorney General), Gene Makowsky (Social Services), and Laura Ross (Parks, Culture, and Sport, Status of Women, Lotteries and Gaming).

McMorris also added the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Ministry, and Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board roles. Marit also becomes the new Water Security Agency Minister.

Moose Jaw North MLA Tim McLeod is the only first time new minister. He’ll serve as the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors, and Rural and Remote Health.

Six ministers remain in cabinet, but with new responsibilities:

  • Dustin Duncan becomes Minister of Crown Investments Corporation and Minister responsible for all the major Crowns, including SaskPower, SaskEnergy, SaskTel, SGI and SaskWater, as well as Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission;
  • Christine Tell becomes Minister of Environment;
  • Paul Merriman becomes Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety and Minister responsible for the Firearms Secretariat;
  • Lori Carr becomes Minister of Highways;
  • Everett Hindley becomes Minister of Health; and
  • Jeremy Cockrill becomes Minister of Education.