Saskatchewan

Sask. NDP says government is playing 'games' with return to legislature

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili says government House Leader Jeremy Harrison is playing "games" as their two parties go back-and-forth about a potential return to the legislature.

Opposition says government terms to resume sitting came minutes before morning news conference

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said the province is playing "games" at a news conference Thursday. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili says government House Leader Jeremy Harrison is playing "games" as their two parties go back-and-forth about a potential return to the legislature.

On Thursday at 10 a.m. CST, NDP MLAs stood on the steps of the legislative building calling for Premier Scott Moe to resume the sitting.

"The people of Saskatchewan deserve and expect accountability. We are ready to get back to work," Meili said.

Last week, the NDP sent a letter to the government requesting terms of a return to the legislative sitting by Tuesday. Meili told reporters the NDP had not heard back from the government as of the beginning of the news conference.

"[Moe] has still given us zero indication of a plan. I have heard nothing and seen nothing," Meili said.

"If it was up to Scott Moe, if it was up to Jeremy Harrison, they would have done nothing this entire summer they would have kept the legislature entirely closed."

When asked by The Canadian Press about an offer being sent to his office before the news conference, Meili insisted he had not received any word from the government.

"We didn't have anything as I came down here. That's the kind of stunt you would expect from Jeremy Harrison. He knows we are out here. If he fires a letter just before I stand on the podium, you can see the kind of games that are being played."

After the brief news conference, the NDP confirmed it had been given the government's terms for returning to the legislative sitting at 9:55 a.m., five minutes before the NDP news conference.

Both the government and NDP declined to disclose the terms of that offer to CBC.

"This morning, the Government House Leader provided the government's plan for the introduction and consideration of the 2020-21 budget in the Legislative Assembly to the Opposition. Out of respect for the ongoing discussions between House leaders, the government will not be releasing this letter," a government spokesperson said.

On Thursday, Moe said he would not put the government's option "in the public realm."

He called the pitch "the most comprehensive opportunity for budgetary legislative scrutiny of any option that has been put forward in this nation by any province or territory since the emergency measures have come into effect."

Moe said there are no other legislative priorities for the government at this time aside from introducing and passing the budget, and debating related budget bills.

When asked why the government does introduce a motion to bring back the legislature and forego a negotiation with the opposition, Moe said it was his hope the respective House leaders would accept the government's proposal.

On Wednesday morning, Government House Leader Jeremy Harrison told CTV News Regina that the two sides had "confidential discussions at this point, but hopefully we will have some news in the next few days."

Last week the NDP sent the government its own terms for resumption of the sitting:

  • A full 2020-21 budget introduced in the legislature, including projected revenue, deficit, debt and economic indicators.
  • Twenty-eight sitting days complete with Question Period.
  • Seventy-five hours of study of the estimates.

Sitting saga 

The legislative hiatus has now surpassed the two-month mark, the sitting was suspended indefinitely by mutual consent on March 18.

For the last several weeks the NDP has been calling for a resumption. The government's responses to the media, communicated by Premier Moe, have evolved.

Initially, Moe said the government was focused on its COVID-19 response rather than resuming the sitting. Two weeks ago he said he had not "given thought" to recall the legislature. Last week Moe said it was the government's "preference" to present and pass a budget.

Moe said the discussion would be done at the House leader level.

Last week, Federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer called for a resumption of in-person Question Period at the federal level and a tabled fiscal update.

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 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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