Changes needed to make government accountable: NDP

Today, the NDP called on the Sask. Party government to strengthen legislation to prevent conflicts of interest and backroom deals, after Conflict of Interest Commissioner Ronald Barclay’s 2019 annual report noted that the government has yet to implement any recommendations from his previous report.

“The people of Saskatchewan deserve a government they can trust, and that means an open and transparent government,” said NDP Ethics and Democracy Critic David Forbes. “People are rightly concerned about the effect that the Sask. Party’s wealthy donors and insiders have on their government.”

The Conflict of Interest Commissioner reissued many of his previous recommendations, including eliminating the 100-hour threshold that allows in-house lobbyists to avoid registering as lobbyists.

The Sask. Party has repeatedly opposed measures to increase transparency, including voting down a bill to get big money out of politics and not supporting another NDP bill that would have addressed the commissioner’s concerns.

Meanwhile, the Sask. Party pushed through a sweetheart deal for their largest corporate donor to build in Wascana Park and orchestrated sketchy land deals at the GTHBill Boyd was found to have breached existing conflict-of-interest laws, using his office for financial gain while in China. Donna Harpauer accepted paid accommodations from a Northern Village council, while government was asked to investigate issues with the council.

“The Sask. Party has a long history of skirting the rules and falling short of what people expect,” said Forbes. “By failing to implement these long-overdue changes, the Sask. Party government is letting people down again.”

Reality check: “Hold my wine”? Moe’s Sask. Party trumps Ford’s Conservatives when it comes to sketchy political donations

Ontario Premier Doug Ford may be catching heat for promoting a winery on his propaganda network after accepting $2,050 in donations from its president, but Saskatchewan is still the ‘wild west’ when it comes to campaign finance laws.

Thanks to outdated laws that the Sask. Party has refused to change, Saskatchewan is the only province in Canada that still allows big money to dominate its elected government and its decisions. Corporations, unions, organizations and individuals, including those from out of province, are allowed to donate unlimited amounts to Saskatchewan political parties and candidates. And the Sask. Party takes full advantage of the legislative vacuum, raking in millions from many of the same people and businesses that in turn enjoy lucrative government contracts and Crown board appointments.

One need look no further than the backyard of the provincial Legislative building for evidence, where the Sask. Party recently rewrote the rules governing Wascana Park to push through a shockingly sweet deal on prime public real estate for their largest corporate donor, that also donated $10,000 to Scott Moe’s leadership campaign.

A simple comparison of the Sask Party’s donor list to the Government of Saskatchewan’s annual payee list (Public Accounts Vol. 2) reveals a pattern repeated year after year: a steady stream of cash flowing from donors to the Sask Party amounting to over $2 million over the last decade, and a long list of government contracts going to Sask. Party donors.

In 2017, the Saskatchewan NDP tabled legislation to ban all corporate and union donations in order to hand power back to the people of our province, but the Sask Party government’s MLAs unanimously voted against the measure.

Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia have moved to limit influence on their politics, but Scott Moe’s Sask. Party seems just fine with the status quo.

Doug Ford only wishes he had it so good.

“Step aside for the sake of your constituents”: Meili calls for Sask. Party MLAs to resign ahead of Aug. 6 loophole

The NDP is calling for federal Conservative candidates Corey Tochor and Warren Steinley to resign their jobs as Sask. Party MLAs before August 6 to ensure that by-elections are held in those constituencies. Because of a loophole in the Legislative Assembly Act, if the two MLAs wait to resign until the writ is dropped in September, Premier Moe would not have to call by-elections in the two seats, leaving the constituents of Regina Walsh Acres and Saskatoon Eastview without an MLA for nearly 14 months.

“These two federal candidates have spent the summer knocking doors for Andrew Scheer while cashing cheques from the people of Saskatchewan,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “They should have done the right thing and stepped aside months ago, but they still have a chance — as long as they do it this week.

“My message to Corey Tochor and Warren Steinley: It’s wrong to slow-walk your resignation past August 6, and it’s wrong to deny the people who elected you a voice for well over a year. Please step aside, for the sake of your constituents,” Meili said.

The NDP has tabled legislation to close the loophole that would allow these seats to go unfilled for over a year. The NDP bill would require a by-election be called within six months of a seat becoming vacant when the period between general elections is more than 48 months. Such an amendment is required because the Sask. Party added an additional six months to their term for the second election cycle in a row.

“Both Mr. Tochor and Mr. Steinley have been federal Conservative candidates since early 2018,” said NDP Ethics and Democracy Critic David Forbes. “That’s a lot of time they’ve spent auditioning for a new job, when they should have been doing the job the people of Saskatchewan entrusted to them.”

“Now they’re running down the clock to deny those voters any representation at all for well over a year,” said Forbes. “It’s cynical, it’s anti-democratic, and it’s wrong — they should do the right thing and step down by the end of this week.”

NDP gives Sask. Party member another shot at transparency

The NDP is calling on the Conflict of Interest Commissioner to take a deeper look into then-Minister of Government Relations Donna Harpauer’s undeclared personal vacations on the Village of Pinehouse’s dime. In December the Commissioner looked into the Village paying for her and her partner’s hotel accommodation. Recent Freedom of Information requests show that on the same two occasions, the Minister’s partner also had his guided fishing tours covered by the Village, but they were not declared or reimbursed.

“It stretches the imagination to hear the Minister say she was unaware of these additional expenses – it didn’t pass the smell test then and it doesn’t pass the smell test now,” said NDP Ethics and Democracy Critic David Forbes. “Especially when she was asked point blank in the Legislature back in May if her trip entailed any other expenses beyond hotel bills.”

Forbes sent a letter to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner today requesting a more in-depth investigation of these undisclosed gifts. At the time of the trips, serious concerns had been raised about multiple infractions of provincial FOI legislation and financial irregularities at the Village office and, as Minister responsible, Harpauer had formally committed her Ministry to working with the Village to ensure compliance. In April, Harpauer recused herself from caucus discussions related to Pinehouse.

“It shouldn’t take multiple FOIs and several years to pass for the Minister to be transparent with the people of Pinehouse and the province about gifts she had failed to declare,” Forbes said. “We hope the Conflict of Interest Commissioner can get to the bottom of this.”

Getting Big Money Out of Politics

NDP vote in favour of getting big money out of politics

Sask. Party content to allow out of province corporations to influence Saskatchewan elections 

Saskatchewan’s outdated campaign finance laws have made this province the “wild west” of election fundraising, and despite the proposition of a bill by the NDP that is common sense and would bring the province’s laws in line with the rest of the country, the Sask. Party voted for more of the same.

“Our province has long had broken campaign finance laws that allow unlimited out-of-province donations, and the people of Saskatchewan have been calling for change,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “It’s disappointing that the Sask. Party want to continue to allow the election process in Saskatchewan to be influenced by large corporations, when it should belong to the people of the province.”

Saskatchewan is one of the few provinces that still allows corporations, unions, organizations and out-of-provinces companies to donate unlimited contributions to political parties. The NDP has listened to Saskatchewan residents’ concerns and put forward Bill 606 – The Election (Fairness and Accountability) Amendment Act. However, the Sask. Party voted against it.

Over the past 10 years, the Sask. Party has received $12.61 million in corporate donations and, of that, $2.87 million has come from companies outside the province.

This bill would have banned corporate and union contributions to political parties. It would also have restricted personal contributions so that only individuals who are residents of Saskatchewan can donate and those donations would be capped at $1,275.

“The Sask. Party seems content to stick to the status quo. By refusing to change these outdated laws, they are harming democracy and showing their true colours,” said NDP Ethics and Democracy Critic David Forbes. “Our campaign finance laws are the worst in the country and, under the Sask. Party, we’re actually falling further behind. Our proposal is common sense, is fair and ensures that Saskatchewan politics stay in the hands of Saskatchewan people.”



Thanks for stopping in at my website!  The fall session of the Saskatchewan Legislature is now over – the Sask Party government’s Throne Speech showed that Scott Moe is again letting people down. Throughout the Fall Legislative Session, our leader, Ryan Meili and the NDP stayed focused on the issues that matter to Saskatchewan people, particularly growing public frustration with the state of Saskatchewan classrooms and emergency rooms.

Over the past weeks the NDP raised concerns around long wait times in emergency rooms, the prevalence of hallway medicine, and the brand-new Saskatchewan Hospital that already needs its roof replaced and where patients and staff still can’t drink the water. The NDP also shone a light on the culture of fear that has prevailed under the Sask. Party, revealing a hush memo that warned Saskatchewan healthcare workers not to speak out or keep detailed minutes.

NDP MLAs put forward a number of ideas to better the future of the province, including pressing the federal government to rebate the cost of grain drying for farmers and restoring the AgriStability program to where it was before Harper’s cuts. The NDP also committed to ensuring that with an NDP government, no K-3 classroom would have more than 24 students. Critic for Northern Affairs Doyle Vermette introduced Bill No. 618 — The Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act — to help prevent further tragedies that many communities are facing.

I am honoured to serve as the critic for Labour; Workers’ Compensation Board; the portfolio of Ethics & Democracy and Diversity, Equality & Human Rights. As well as serving as deputy chair of the NDP caucus.


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