RM of Prince Albert reeve Eric Schmalz was acclaimed as the Saskatchewan Party candidate for Saskatchewan Rivers in a meeting at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation building Wednesday evening.
Schmalz, a former RCMP officer, currently works as an auctioneer. He is the seventh candidate the party has confirmed for the 2024 provincial election.
“This has been a tremendous groundswell of support that started early on,” Schmalz said during an interview afterwards. “A lot of the constituency members of the Saskatchewan Party came out in full support early on in the campaign and we were able to carry that through.
“Anyone who was considering running, when we had conversations, they decided they would back me, and I’m very proud to have them as part of my team.”
Schmalz was first elected as reeve in a by-election, then re-elected in 2020. He served as an RCMP officer for 13 years before returning to Prince Albert to get involved in the family business.
Schmalz said economic opportunity is his biggest concern, especially in rural areas. He said Saskatchewan Rivers is home to forestry, livestock, and grain farming operations that needs attention and focus from the provincial government.
Crop production fell in Saskatchewan by 47 per cent in 2021 after the province was hit hard by drought. The drought resulted in the largest crop insurance payout in Saskatchewan history at $2.4 billion, and led to a 0.3 per cent drop in the province’s GDP.
Despite those challenges, Saskatchewan still hit record ag export levels in 2021 and 2022 thanks to high grain and oilseed prices.
Schmalz said a strong ag and forestry sector are important to the health of rural Saskatchewan.
“People should be able to live anywhere they want,” he said. “If they want to stay in a wholesome small town, raise their kids there, and have an opportunity to educate their kids there, that’s what I think we need to continue to support.”
Schmalz said the Saskatchewan Party has provided a “steady hand and responsible government” since being elected and that’s a big reason why he sought the nomination.
He also credited his father for emphasizing the importance of community service and civic involvement while he was growing up. He said that’s another reason he wanted to run for MLA.
“I feel service is the greatest thing you can provide to your community,” he explained. “(I) have the opportunity to serve in this role, in this capacity, (and) hopefully after the next election I can do that as a member of the legislature.”
Schmalz will run against incumbent MLA and Saskatchewan United Party leader Nadine Wilson. Wilson previously represented the Saskatchewan Party since 2007, but resigned from caucus after misrepresenting her vaccine status.
The NDP has not yet nominated a candidate to run in Saskatchewan Rivers.