Analysis

Moe, Meili snipe at one another over 'dog whistles' and 'accountability' as sitting ends

The six-week fall sitting of the legislature wrapped up this week with targeted statements from the premier and the leader of the Opposition.

Rural crime prevention headlined government’s fall agenda

Premier Scott Moe and NDP leader Ryan Meili finished the fall sitting by trading personal jabs. (CBC)

The six-week fall sitting of the legislature wrapped up this week with targeted statements from the premier and the leader of the Opposition.

Question period can be a mixed bag. Some days, news is made inside the assembly, but the 25 minute back-and-forth is often political theatre.

The theatrics don't always involve Premier Scott Moe and Opposition leader Ryan Meili. The two party leaders sometimes square-off, but are mostly understated in their questions and answers.

This was not the case as this sitting wrapped up.

In perhaps his most heated answer as Premier, Moe took aim at Meili and his statements this fall.

"Mr. Speaker, he's made inflammatory and racially charged statements with respect to dog whistle politics and to legislation which affords rural property owners in this province the same rights as urban property owners," Moe said as his caucus erupted in applause.

The flourish was Moe's finale for the sitting. He told reporters afterward he wanted to "remind people of the statements that have been made." Moe said Meili did not keep a promise to "do politics differently."

"[You see] an Opposition that is looking at some gotcha questions. An Opposition that is continuing to ask for every investment across the board and then asking in the same breath for us to quit spending more money and balance the budget," Moe said.

On Thursday, Meili responded in the house without Moe present, as the premier was in Montreal.

"We are tasked with holding him accountable. If he's so offended with our questioning, one can't help but wonder, did he want the work or did he only want the job?" Meili said as his colleagues clapped.

Meili said one of his frustrations is not seeing the results of reviews the government does of itself.

"Instead of reports and reviews that are done in a way that we're urged not to ask more questions and then they're never released, I'd like to see a commitment to accountability and transparency," Meili said.

The Opposition focused on increasing supports to battle opioid and crystal meth addiction, while raising concerns over the GTH land deal and Regina bypass. 

In March, MLAs will return for a 10-week sitting which will be highlighted by the budget. If the fall was a preview, we can expect tensions to continue to rise.

Sitting lacked 'big story' says prof

The government introduced several new laws over the last few weeks, including Clare's Law — which aims to prevent domestic violence — changes to trespassing rules and training requirements for new semi truck drivers.

Jim Farney, the department head of politics and international studies at the University of Regina, said the sitting did not have a defining moment for either the government or opposition.

"Overall, there's really nothing that added up to a big story or big change," Farney said.

The province focused on rural crime prevention initiatives, which included allowing smaller communities the ability to increase policing, arming conservation officers and making people get permission before entering rural private property.

Farney said the trespassing law change will lead to a court battle.

"I'm expecting we'll see fairly significant court cases about treaty rights come out of it. My guess is that they've made the political decision that this is good policy for them and let the courts fall where they may. That is a pretty stark choice," Farney said.

Carbon tax still a winner for Moe

Farney said the NDP moved around on issues every few days and missed an opportunity to create its own message this fall.

"They had a convention, they had a leadership race, they should have had momentum to say, 'This is our alternative.' I didn't see that get built this session, which should have been their big job."

The government and premier have consistently opposed the federal carbon tax and expressed concerns over the Trudeau government's handling of the Trans Mountain pipeline project.

"I think Moe is finding a lot of success being the guy who stands up, in quotation marks, for Saskatchewan. He's now got a lot of provincial allies. I think it is resonating with voters," Farney said.

Farney said the carbon tax is the most topical issue of the day and Moe's position on it makes him stand out from the NDP. He said the NDP will need to present its alternative at some point because "the election clock is starting to click."

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 11 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca