SK Party’s new ‘war cabinet’ lacks credible membership

It has always amused me that our SP MLA’s simply HATE to be criticized – and the ministers that Premier Moe has moved around in order to formulate an agenda that will lead them to electoral victory in 2024 are a perfect illustration of that thin-skinned reality.

Nothing illustrates this more than the premier having decided to keep Paul Merriman entrenched as the Minister of Health, while appointing Bronwyn Eyre as our new Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

The NDP is now in the middle of a leadership race to replace retiring member Ryan Meili. On June 26th one of the two extremely intelligent and well-informed candidates, Carla Beck or Kaitlyn Harvey, will be leading the official Opposition into the 2024 campaign. Moe has effectively given both of them his version of the Salmon Arm salute, saying in effect that “we don’t care if your party ridiculed Mr. Merriman’s handling of the Health portfolio; we’re keeping him there because his character fits our perception as to how this portfolio must inevitably be streamlined (read: “privatized).”

Publicly speaking, Mr. Merriman slapped his own family in the face by disparaging opposition-suggested changes in addition treatment policies (his sister’s fight with crystal meth addiction was a source of inspiration to many when his father Tim served as MLA for Saskatoon Northwest). Equally repugnant was his Alfred E. Neuman-esque “What – me worry?” dealings in formulating policy to address Covid-19 related infection fluctuations, a level of indifference that gave up a nation-high death rate per 100,000 individuals.

As for the reassigned Saskatoon Stonebridge-Dakota MLA Bronwyn Eyre, her previous stints as Minister of Education and Minister responsible for the Status of Women should have already embarrassed the Saskatchewan Party into confining her policy contributions to the back benches. In her fluctuating political career, Ms. Eyre has displayed a rather disconcerting habit of letting her personal biases overwhelm her responsibilities for providing public service.

As Minister responsible for the Status of Women, her “Right to life” beliefs seriously conflicted with the overwhelming majority of women whose personal life stories force them to choose between having an abortion or carrying a child without father to term, only to be later slut-shamed by the very people who opposed her even considering such a medical option. Equally painful, Ms. Eyre’s opinions as to supporting women’s international struggle to be respected as “equals” of men totally reflect the Party’s lack of empathy towards policies that would see the establishment of more “safe shelters” for abused women, or having police and social services give increasing attention to such violence.

Her “borrowing” her son’s “homework” assignment (that being to examine how Indigenous peoples became victims of a colonialist mentality that disagreed with their traditions, customs and religious beliefs) to show “bias” in the province’s educational system forever branded her as a passive supporter of then Premier Brad Wall’s contempt for Indigenous concerns and forced reliance upon government funding efforts to resolve their many social and economic illnesses.

This – all while representing a riding that includes the Whitecap Dakota Sioux reserve near Dundurn…

As the new Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Ms. Eyre’s “urgent” task will be to show the more “dedicated” Sask Party members that their “concerns” as to the “weakening” of mandatory sentencing for criminal activities, changes as to the handling of drug possession matters, and the so-called “needless strengthening” of handgun regulations are foremost focal points in the Party’s prayers and thoughts. In that capacity, she is well aware that Independent MLA Nadine Wilson’s preoccupation with forming a “Saskatchewan Selfies Party”, as well as the policy “wing” of the Buffalo Party adding still more vinegar to its “I hate Justin” hot sauce is weakening SK Party voter appeal. But, as long as unthinking voters continue to believe Conservative sound bites that high food prices have nothing to do with climate change, or blaming our PM for record-setting gas prices (despite Big Oil first quarter profits being up a staggering 300%), hope still prevails for voter victory in 2024.

Ms. Eyre has already expressed her intention to push back against any federal regulation of policy that may imperil the province from proceeding with certain social service or environmental programs, as seemingly does federal Bill C-69. This move by the Moe government may be their way of preserving the royalty boom that has resuscitated the provincial budget from the price-gouging increases in the cost of a barrel of oil, but here in Prince Albert we have another concern, that being that the government may be forced to defend its forestry management policies, much less its to-date unknown agreements with Paper Excellence in reopening the city’s pulp and paper mill.

So far, we have only seen effusive praise for Paper Excellence having decided to invest in the province. However, there are increasing concerns being raised as to whether the plant’s viability can be maintained with the borderline product availability concerns now being addressed in public forums, as well as how its operations may affect how the province handles its obligations to address climate change issues.

In a piece reprinted from the Star Phoenix, Nick Pearce [“Researcher says logging puts historical sites at risk”, (Prince Albert Daily Herald, April 2, 2022, p. 3)] cites some of the many concerns coming from the Saskatchewan Forest Protection Network, particularly in its inability to effectively make public its concerns of the Island Forests Forestry Management Plan (now, already having been approved by the government), and echoed by Metis and Aboriginal associations seeking representation and voice to their interests. As well, in a letter to the Editor of the Kamloops This Week paper, Garry Worth expresses a thankfulness that Paper Excellence is no longer involved in the Kamloops mill reopening, especially given the manner in which in the firm has already conducted business in Canada, and particularly in Nova Scotia.

Considering how silent our local MLA’s have been about the terms and conditions that have allowed this multinational firm to begin its operation here in Prince Albert, perhaps it’s time that their voices be heard on this matter, and that these opposing concerns also be brought to public attention.

Here’s my suggestion, for which I happily admit is plagiarizing ideas formulated by our premier. Since both Kaitlyn Harvey and Carla Beck will be in Prince Albert in approximately two weeks time, perhaps the Chamber of Commerce could schedule a luncheon debate on this issue, with Premier Moe and Carleton MLA Joe Hargrave to form the official “opposition” to these women’s concerns.

My personal “bet” is that this event would sell out faster than the premier’s rah-rah budget presentation – and at a considerably higher ticket price, to boot.

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