Saskatoon

'Not a chance': Some Saskatchewan senators have no interest in cabinet seat

In a recent phone call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said the prime minister told him he was working on a solution to ensuring Saskatchewan is represented, but didn’t provide specifics.

Questions about representation have surfaced after Liberals lose only seat in Saskatchewan

Some senators in Saskatchewan say they wouldn't be interested in a cabinet appointment if the Prime Minister asked them to represent Saskatchewan within the federal government. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The recent election saw people in Saskatchewan send a strong message to the Liberal Party of Canada by voting out Ralph Goodale who has been a sitting Liberal MP in Saskatchewan since 1993.

Now, the conversation has turned to how the federal government will ensure Saskatchewan's interests and issues are heard, with some experts pointing to the appointment of senators as a potential option. 

Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, head of the Independent Senators Group, said he feels an appointment of an independent senator would be counterproductive to Trudeau's attempt to make the Senate a less partisan body.

David Tkachuk, a Conservative senator appointed by Brian Mulroney, didn't mince words when he said he wouldn't be interested in the position.

"You couldn't pay me enough," he said. "Not a chance."

As a Conservative senator, he said he has been representing the people of Saskatchewan through the first four years of Trudeau's reign. 

"We haven't seemed to have had any effect on it," he said. "The voters obviously have had an effect and now he sits there without any members from here. It's his fault." 

Tkachuk said the only way Trudeau could help address the anger being felt in provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan is through policy. He said he'd like to see the prime minister repeal Bill C-69, which overhauled the environmental assessment process for major resource projects, a move oil-patch proponents have said will hurt an already struggling industry. 

Conservative Senator David Tkachuk said he has no interest in sitting on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

He also said the repeal of Bill C-48, which bans tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of oil from docking along B.C.'s north coast, is necessary to rebuild the relationship. 

"If he gets those two things done, that would do a lot more to repair our relationship with the rest of the country than appointing 10 senators to cabinet," he said.

In a recent phone call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said the prime minister told him he was working on a solution to ensuring Saskatchewan is represented, but didn't provide specifics. 

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said government's need "to make sure that it is hearing from every corner of the country," noting there have been governments that didn't have that representation.

"There have been different approaches taken," Prime Minster Trudeau told media. 

"I'm going to be reflective on how we move forward in the right way, but I have already indicated in my conversations with Naheed Nenshi and my upcoming conversations with people like Don Iverson and Charlie Clarke, and Michael Fougere and others, that I very much want to hear the concerns that folks are experiencing and the solutions that they have to put forward for a part of the country that has faced some very difficult times over the past years."

A statement sent to CBC Saskatoon on Thursday indicated, "representing all Canadians is something that is very important to the prime minister." 

It added this is why he's been meeting with municipal leaders, sitting premiers, Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde and many Liberal MPs who were defeated on election night, including those from the prairies and Western Canada.

"These discussions have centered around how the different orders of government can help make life more affordable for Canadians, build a stronger middle class, and work collaboratively toward a stronger country," the statement said. 

'I wouldn't accept it': Lillian Dyck

As the only Liberal senator in Saskatchewan, many would feel Lillian Dyck would be an option considered by the PMO to represent the province in cabinet. However, she said it wouldn't be a job she'd be interested in taking. 

"I don't think that it's a good idea and if I were to receive a call, which I highly doubt, I wouldn't accept it." 

Lillian Dyck of Saskatchewan is one of nine senators who still consider herself Liberal in the 105-seat Red Chamber. She says she'd like to see Liberal senators rejoin the Liberal National Caucus saying it's one way Saskatchewan could have access to the government's inner circle. (Chris Rands/CBC)

Dyck, who was appointed as a senator in 2005 by Paul Martin, said there is a distinction between the senate and the House of Commons, as while senators are appointed, MPs are elected.

"We haven't gone through the election process and I think the election process is important because members of Parliament and those who succeed, and those who didn't, have extensive conversations with their constituents." 

Dyck said senators don't have that same level of interaction with people on the front lines in the provinces. She actually would like to see senators be allowed to have regular discussions with the Liberal National Caucus, as in the past, Liberal senators were allowed to attend, but that changed in 2014.

"Senators are appointed to represent the province, but if we're not allowed to interact with our colleagues, then we can't fulfil that obligation," she said. 

"That is one way that we could have helped get Saskatchewan to the inner circle, to the MPs and the various members of the Liberal government. That avenue is no longer open to us and I believe that illustrates one of the short-comings of the path forward that Trudeau has set."

Marty Klyne doesn't see idea getting traction

Independent Senator Marty Klyne, who was appointed to the senate in 2018, said he doesn't see the idea getting past the discussion point. He said one of the reasons it might not be getting traction is the fact many senators now sit as independents. 

"I do know that there's a lot of advanced consultation taking place between the PMO and stakeholders in both provinces, I don't know if it's been ruled out, but I just don't see that idea getting any traction." 

Klyne said while he would have to deliberate if the PMO came knocking, he said it's something he'd be interested in. 

"At the end of the day, I suppose one who is asked to serve shall," he said. "I'd certainly want to know, going in, what one was getting into in that regard."

Marty Klyne said he'd have to deliberate if the Prime Minister reached out and asked him to sit as a Cabinet member, saying he'd like to see what the job would entail first. However, he said whoever is chosen, needs to be ready to take action for Saskatchewan right out of the gate. (Courtesy: City of Regina)

Klyne said whoever is selected to represent Saskatchewan needs to be deeply in tune with the province and it's issues across the board, but noted there needs to be "some action right out of the gates." 

"You can't paint Saskatchewan with a broad brush, just like you can't paint Canada with a broad brush," he said. "I would say they need to be attuned to the six regions of Saskatchewan and what the unique challenges and opportunities are." 

He said they'll have to understand how the challenges and opportunities in Saskatchewan will be "knit back" into national strategies on energy, agriculture and trade relations with China.

Klyne believes there is enough common ground between the Government of Canada and Saskatchewan to develop a strategy on how to hear the province's concerns and how to take action. 

"That needs to happen very quickly," he said.

Trudeau told reporters last week his government is "going to make sure that every part of this country sees its priorities reflected on what this government does, even if we don't have members of the government elected in those regions."

All of Saskatchewan's federal ridings are currently held by Conservative Party of Canada MPs.

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