Saskatchewan

New premier, new Opposition leader, new speaker: Big changes for Sask. Legislature as spring sitting begins

A new premier, a new opposition leader and a new speaker are all among the changes for the upcoming spring sitting of the Saskatchewan Legislature, which starts Monday.

April budget, cannabis policy and ride hailing legislation expected to be highlights of spring sitting

Premier Scott Moe will be one of a number of familiar faces in new roles as the legislature begins sitting on Monday. (CBC)

A new premier, a new opposition leader and a new speaker.

Just a little bit of change for the upcoming spring sitting of the Saskatchewan Legislature, which starts Monday.

Premier Scott Moe, who has been on the job for six weeks, will take his seat front and centre, replacing Brad Wall after his 10 years as premier.

Moe will also have a new deputy next to him in the assembly. Minister of Education Gord Wyant is also deputy premier, having lost his bid for leadership to Moe on Jan. 27.

There are many familiar faces in cabinet, including Minister of Health Jim Reiter, Minister of Justice Don Morgan and Minister of Environment Dustin Duncan.

Back in cabinet are Jeremy Harrison, who leads the new ministry of trade, Minister of Advanced Education Tina Beaudry-Mellor and Minister of Central Services Ken Cheveldayoff.

All eyes on April 10

Premier Moe said the major focus of the upcoming sitting will be April 10 budget. It will be the first budget delivered by Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer, who took over the portfolio last August.

"It isn't easy to tighten our belt and make the decisions we have to make. I would say engagement is one thing that has really increased through a couple of leadership races. Now it's our goal to increase that engagement," Moe said.

With a promise to get to balance by the 2019-20 fiscal year, Moe said difficult decisions have to be made but consultation with those affected is important prior to April 10.

"There will always be challenging and difficult conversations. We continue our three-year plan to balance."

Meili makes debut as NDP leader

Premier Moe won't be the only one making a maiden voyage in a legislature leadership role. Newly minted NDP leader Ryan Meili will lead his 12-person Opposition caucus for the first time.

Following his election win, Meili pledged that he will propose ideas and offer policy, rather than simply opposing the government.

"So much has changed and I think that's really exciting. Unfortunately I think the things that really need to change haven't," Meili said on Friday.

"We're going to see the same approach to budgeting. We're going to see the same austerity approach and cuts to the services we need."

A little more than a year after being elected as an MLA, Ryan Meili will lead the Opposition NDP this spring. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

There will also be a new dynamic in the assembly itself, as Meili and Moe square off for the first time in debate.

"I think it will take some getting used to, to know exactly what his style is going to be, now that he's in the hot seat and has to answer some of the more difficult questions," Meili said.

Regina Lakeview MLA Carla Beck has been named NDP deputy leader, while former interim leader Nicole Sarauer is the new Opposition house leader.

New speaker

On Monday, question period won't begin until a new speaker is elected.

Saskatoon Eastview MLA Corey Tochor stepped down from his role in January to pursue the federal Conservative Party nomination in the riding of Saskatoon-University.

All members of the legislative assembly are eligible to become speaker, with the exception of the two leaders and cabinet ministers.

Marijuana age, ride hailing on agenda

With many people focused squarely on the budget, other issues will arise during the spring. The province has yet to announce a legal age to purchase cannabis products.

The federal government has said it wants legislation to legalize the recreational use of cannabis passed by this summer, but the process of readying for retail sales is expected to be fully complete weeks later.

Saskatchewan municipalities have said they are eagerly awaiting more direction on marijuana policy, including the minumum age to purchase it, so they can implement their own rules.

In the fall, the government introduced The Vehicles for Hire Act, which sets out requirements for drivers who are looking to make some cash through app-based ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

Under the proposed legislation, drivers must undergo mandatory criminal record checks and obtain a Class 4 driver's licence, which permits them to operate taxis or limousines.

The decision on whether to allow ride hailing will be up to individual municipalities.

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