Ken Cheveldayoff officially joins race to lead Saskatchewan Party

Using "Rural Roots, Urban Strong" as his campaign slogan, veteran Saskatchewan Party MLA Ken Cheveldayoff officially launched his bid Monday to become the party's next leader.

Veteran Saskatoon politician highlights 'rural roots, urban strength' in bid

Ken Cheveldayoff currently represents Saskatoon Willowgrove. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC News)

A crowd of more than 150 people cheered on veteran Saskatchewan Party MLA Ken Cheveldayoff as he launched his official leadership bid Monday.

Cheveldayoff joked his campaign may be one of the "worst-kept secrets in Saskatchewan", after he stepped down last week from his cabinet post as Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport.

Describing himself as a "centrist, very much a moderate", Cheveldayoff said he is the only candidate so far who has strong ties to both rural and urban Saskatchewan.

He joins Tina Beaudry-Mellor, Alanna Koch, Gordon Wyant and Jeremy Harrison in the race to succeed Brad Wall.

'We've made some mistakes'

Cheveldayoff said his government has "made some mistakes" in calculating the provincial budget, and in handling the Global Transportation Hub. 

"What we now need to do is take a step back, realize what we've done wrong and prepare for another 10 years of growth," said Cheveldayoff, who has bounced in and out of cabinet posts during the Saskatchewan Party's 10 years in office.

Cheveldayoff said the GTH would be "better run in the private sector" and should be sold to free up money for education and mental health care. 

"We'll be admitting where we've made some mistakes, and more importantly looking forward and having a plan to go forward," Cheveldayoff said. "I'm ready for that job."
Ken Cheveldayoff officially launched his bid to become the party's next leader on Aug. 28. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC News)

Fascination with politics began early

Cheveldayoff is a familiar face at Conservative Party events in Saskatoon. He was first elected in Saskatoon Silver Springs in 2003, and currently represents northeast residents in Saskatoon Willowgrove. 

He attributes his fascination with politics to the "profound impact" John Diefenbaker made on him, the day the former prime minister flew by helicopter to his school yard in Blaine Lake.

"I was so excited to meet him that I ran out there and I was the first one in line to meet him. And I was so excited that I ran to the back of the line so I could meet him again," he told supporters Monday.

More than 150 supporters packed a ballroom Monday at the Sheraton-Cavalier hotel in Saskatoon, to cheer on Saskatchewan Party leadership hopeful Ken Cheveldayoff. (CBC)

Cheveldayoff went on to win the first Queen Elizabeth II scholarship for excellence in parliamentary studies, and served as a page in the House of Commons while attending Carleton University. 

His wife, Trish Cheveldayoff, was a longtime anchor at Saskatoon's CFQC television station. Their son attends the University of Saskatchewan, and their daughter is finishing Grade 12 at St. Joseph's High School.

A self-described "centrist", Cheveldayoff attended Saskatoon's flag-raising for Pride Week in 2014 alongside then-MLA Rob Norris. 

To date, Cheveldayoff's lone endorsement from within the Saskatchewan Party comes from caucus chair Randy Weekes.

 "I think to be fair, most of them are sitting and waiting to see who's all in," said Cheveldayoff.