Moe cautions Saskatchewan Party members over texts to legislature Speaker

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he has cautioned his caucus about texting the Speaker after his finance minister landed in hot water for doing so.

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he has cautioned his caucus about texting the Speaker after his finance minister landed in hot water for doing so.

Moe said Tuesday he told Saskatchewan Party members that messages to Speaker Randy Weekes can have consequences and instructed them to govern their actions accordingly.

“Use at your own peril,” he said of his conversations with caucus.

“If you send a text that is going to be read into the record, you should be fully aware of that.

“Yes, it’s important to bring some emotion to the floor of the assembly with the policies we’re bringing forward and defending, but we’re here to represent our constituents … and we should do so with honour and so should the Opposition.”

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer texted Weekes during legislature proceedings earlier this week to complain that government members can’t push back during debate and said the house was turning into an “Opposition puppet show.”

Weekes, who is a member of the governing caucus but must be impartial, demanded an apology from Harpauer and said he has also received hundreds of texts from government house leader Jeremy Harrison and deputy government house leader Lori Carr. 

Moe said he didn’t scold the members and wouldn’t say whether Harpauer’s text was inappropriate. 

“I won’t speak on behalf on what’s appropriate and not appropriate for those two to be communicating,” he said.

Harrison and Harpauer were not available to speak with reporters. 

Opposition NDP ethics critic Meara Conway said Harpauer’s text crossed the line by appearing to pressure and criticize the Speaker. 

She said NDP members have texted Weekes about house business. Moe had also said this is common.

“Texting the Speaker about a ruling he makes, criticizing him, that would be unthinkable to myself and my team,” Conway said.

“It’s never been done nor would we ever dream of it.”

Weekes, who has represented the Saskatchewan Party since 1999, had lost his nomination to represent the party for the election scheduled this October. 

Conway has been questioning the government for weeks about provincial dollars being spent on two motels owned by Gary Grewal, a legislature member for the Saskatchewan Party. 

This week, it was revealed the province had spent higher nightly rates for social services clients to stay at one of his motels, the Regina Thriftlodge.

Conway noted the province had started using the motel more frequently after Grewal was elected in 2020, spending $731,000 since 2021.

The province has denied any wrongdoing, saying hotels for clients are chosen based on availability at the time of need. Grewal is not running in the upcoming election.

Conway has also questioned a $6-million sole-source contract the province signed with a private surgical company in Calgary.

The company, Clearpoint Health Network, has donated $14,000 to the Saskatchewan Party since 2016, and a former finance minister lobbied on its behalf. 

The province has said it acted above board when it signed the contract.

Conway said she believes Harpauer sent the text because Saskatchewan Party members were unhappy with her questions on those issues.

“My job is to scrutinize and critique the government. We’re demanding basic accountability,” she said. 

“These numbers could not be more damning. It’s not just one hotel, it’s a second hotel that has followed the same pattern.”

Moe said some of the Opposition’s questions have become personal attacks. 

“The floor of the assembly is not place for personal attacks, it’s a place to discuss and debate policy decisions each party is putting forward,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2024.

Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press

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