MLA Saskiw says Danielle Smith directed him to meet with premier's office

MLA Shayne Saskiw said Thursday that he set up the first meeting with the premier's chief of staff, Mike Percy, because the two of them had a prior acquaintance
Wildrose MLAs Drew Barnes (left) and Shayne Saskiw called on Premier Jim Prentice to honour the 2016 fixed election date. (John Archer/CBC News )

Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw said he was directed by former leader Danielle Smith to set up meetings with the premier’s chief of staff about crossing to the Progressive Conservatives.

Saskiw said Thursday that he set up the first meeting with Mike Percy, because the two of them had an prior acquaintance through the University of Alberta.  

The two met several times, but Saskiw said he wasn’t part of the later negotiations so he doesn’t know what was offered to Smith and the eight other MLAs who crossed on Dec. 17.

“I wasn't there when the caucus met and made their decision,” Saskiw  said.  

“I wasn't at Danielle's house for those meetings so I wasn't along the path far enough to know what exactly was promised explicitly.”

Prentice has said nothing was promised to any of the former Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor.

Premier urged to stick with 2016 election date 

Saskiw and his Wildrose caucus colleague Drew Barnes held a news conference on Thursday urging Prentice not to call an election this spring, a year before the date fixed in Alberta law.

“This would be a violation of the public’s trust, a broken promise from this premier, illegal under Alberta law and entirely unprecedented,” Saskiw said.

The next election is supposed to take place between March 1 and May 31, 2016. Prentice promised during the PC leadership campaign to honour that date, Saskiw said. 

Although Prentice claims he is not thinking about a spring election, political observers think he may call a vote this spring before the sustained impact of low crude oil prices shrinks the Alberta Treasury.

However, Saskiw's contention that an early election call is illegal isn't correct. Drew Westwater from Elections Alberta says the premier gets the final say. 

"There is also a provision in the Election Act that at any time in his mandate, the premier can visit the lieutenant governor, dissolve the legislature and call an election, and issue the writs for an election at any time," he said. 

Saskiw is one of five WildroseMLAs left following a massive defection that saw 11 caucus members, including leader Danielle Smith, switch to the PCs late last year.

Despite that setback, Saskiw claimed his party is ready for a spring election.

“We’re more than ready,” he said.

“Our campaign planning is probably at a further stage than it was before the 2012 election. We have way more resources than we did back then.”

MLA Heather Forsyth is leading the party on an interim basis until the party selects a permanent leader to replace Smith.

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