Updated for the final time at 5:55 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2020.
Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave has resigned from his cabinet position of Minister of Highways, the province announced on Monday afternoon.
Premier Scott Moe accepted the resignation and appointed Carrot River Valley MLA Fred Bradshaw as Minister of Highways and Minister responsible for the Water Security Agency.
Hargrave will remain a member of caucus and MLA for Prince Albert Carlton.
NDP raise more questions about Hargrave’s Palm Springs trip
The NDP is questioning the reasoning behind MLA and Minister of Highways, Joe Hargrave’s decision to travel, who said he left for the U.S on Dec. 22 to finalize the sale of personal property and move his belongings back to Saskatchewan.
Real estate listings show that Hargrave’s home in California was listed on Dec. 26/27, according to an NDP press release sent Monday morning.
Property records confirm that the home’s current owner is Joseph Hargrave.
Several real estate listings show that the home was listed on Dec 26 or 27.
A listing on Compass.com states the home was listed on Dec. 27 and begun accepting back up offers on the same date.
Another listing of the same house on Zillow.com states it was listed on Dec. 27 and is pending sale since the same date.
The NDP believes there is no reason Hargrave had to finalize the sale in person and said in the release, “it turns out that even that attempt to excuse his behaviour wasn’t true.”
“Anyone who owns a house knows there’s a big difference between finalizing a sale and listing it,” said NDP Ethics Critic Matt Love.
“Why did the Minister feel the need to lie about this? Was he just trying to make his flimsy excuse for ignoring the rules sound better when really all he wanted was a sunny Christmas vacation by the golf course and pool in his gated community?” Love added.
The NDP also reported that Minister of Corrections, Christine Tell travelled to Palm Springs to visit a sick relative in November.
“Everyone has sympathy for those who have friends and family who are sick that they can’t see,” said Love. “What we’re asking is why Sask Party Government Ministers think rules and directives don’t apply to them? Why are they telling regular people to do one thing and then doing another themselves?”
Tell was in California from Oct. 30 to Nov. 9 to visit a close family member who was sick with a non-COVID-19 related illness. She followed public health guidelines, including self-isolating for 14 days after her return to Canada, a statement from government spokesperson Paula Steckler said.
Premier takes responsibility for poor communication with caucus over international travel
Premier Scott Moe took responsibility for poor communication with his caucus, and introduced new rules for MLAs planning to leave Saskatchewan following the resignation of Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave on Monday.
Moe told reporters he should have been clearer with MLAs about what trips were and were not allowed over Christmas. The premier pledged to fix that mistake after accepting Hargrave’s resignation.
“Admittedly, I did not explicitly tell MLAs that they could not travel outside the country, leaving it to them to determine whether their travel was necessary,” Moe said during a Monday afternoon press conference. “While no other ministers or MLAs traveled outside the country for the holiday season, as I said, I should have been much more clear on this and I will be going forward.”
Effective immediately, caucus members will not be allowed to leave the province without approval from the caucus chair. Moe said the restrictions are in place until further notice.
Only trips involving emergencies or pressing government business will be approved. Moe announced the restrictions at a caucus meeting Monday morning.
“I should have been more clear, with all of our caucus, on ensuring that we were not travelling when we were asking the people of this province to do so much,” Moe told reporters. “I should have been more clear. We are being clear from here on.”
Moe spoke with Hargrave about the trip on Monday. He said they mutually agreed that resigning was the right decision.
Moe defended Hargrave as a good minister who did good work as a representative, but said they needed to avoid the perception that politicians and voters weren’t held to the same standard.
“There were no rules that were broken by Minister Hargrave in his travel. However, he has deemed that it was not the right decision, and he’s offered his resignation here today,” Moe said.
As first reported by Canadian Press, Hargrave traveled to California on Dec. 22 to finalize the sale of a piece of property in Palm Springs. Saskatchewan residents can travel internationally, but non-essential travel is discouraged.
The provincial NDP released a statement on Monday showing Hargrave’s property wasn’t listed online until at least four days later.
When asked on Monday whether he felt misled by Hargrave, Moe said the question was irrelevant. NDP leader Ryan Meili said that response shows a lack of leadership from the premier.
“He shows no real understanding of the anger his government’s arrogance has caused,” Meili said in a statement released Monday afternoon. “We all know none of this would have happened if they hadn’t been caught. There was no apology. The people of Saskatchewan deserve much better.”
Hargrave is one of several Canadian politicians who left the country over the holidays. The list includes Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips, NDP MP Niki Ashton, and Alberta provincial municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard. Phillips and Allard both resigned, while Ashton was stripped of her shadow cabinet duties.
–with files from Jason Kerr/Daily Herald