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Emotional farewells in Leg by departing MLAs

Daily Leg Update: Longtime members including Don Morgan, Don McMorris, Dustin Duncan, Gord Wyant and Donna Harpauer give their final speeches in Legislature
These MLAs not seeking re-election (clockwise), Donna Harpauer, Don McMorris, Gord Wyant and Dustin Duncan, were among those giving farewell speeches in the Legislature this week.

REGINA - This was an emotional week at the Saskatchewan Legislature for several departing members of the Legislative Assembly.

There are 19 current sitting MLAs who are not running again. 13 are Saskatchewan Party MLAs who are not seeking re-election: Marv Friesen (Saskatoon Riversdale), Hugh Nerlien (Kelvington-Wadena), Gary Grewal (Regina Northeast), Ken Francis (Kindersley), Fred Bradshaw (Carrot River Valley), Delbert Kirsch (Batoche), Greg Ottenbreit (Yorkton), Dana Skoropad (Arm River), Don Morgan (Saskatoon Southeast), Dustin Duncan (Weyburn-Big Muddy), Gord Wyant (Saskatoon Southeast), Don McMorris (Indian Head-Milestone), and Donna Harpauer (Humboldt-Watrous). Two are Saskatchewan Party MLAs who lost their party nominations: Terry Dennis (Canora-Pelly) and Speaker Randy Weekes (Biggar-Saskatchewan Valley). Two more are Saskatchewan Party MLAs who were expelled from caucus after a criminal charge and who now sit as Independents: Ryan Domotor (Cut Knife-Turtleford) and Greg Lawrence (Moose Jaw Wakamow). Two more are opposition New Democrat MLAs: Jennifer Bowes (Saskatoon University) and Doyle Vermette (Cumberland).

When you count those who departed the Assembly prior to the end of the term it brings to 24 the number of MLAs who were elected in 2020 who are not on the ballot in 2024. Those other MLAs include the NDP’s Buckley Belanger (Athabasca) and former Opposition leader Ryan Meili (Saskatoon Meewasin) and Sask Party members Lyle Stewart (Lumsden-Morse) and Mark Docherty (Regina Coronation Park), all of whom resigned their seats earlier this term; and Sask Party MLA Derek Meyers (Regina Walsh Acres) who died in 2023.

The result was a large block of time allotted this week on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon to accommodate farewell speeches for departing MLAs. Not all the departing MLAs chose to do a full farewell speech: as one example, Vermette gave a brief member’s statement on Monday that more or less served as his goodbye remarks. But those who did speak gave stirring and emotional addresses and shared many personal memories of their time in the Legislature.

We will not share all of the remarks here, but as recorded in Hansard, here are brief excerpts from the speeches by some of the most prominent and longest-serving members, starting with Don Morgan on Tuesday.

Don Morgan

“Some of my colleagues here have talked about the NDP and tried to give them a message and tried to explain things to them. In 20 years, if I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a thousand times what they needed to hear, and frankly they don’t listen…

The best part of it, about this whole job, is the people that are in this building. And I’m not going to talk about politics or anything, but I just want to talk about the people for a few minutes. In the building there was people like Steve, Jeff, and Ralph that look after the building. I regard them as friends. I love the visits and the banter. Steve had been for a while on a big diet, lost a huge amount of weight. He put a fair bit of it back on and his line was, “My fat wardrobe is saying welcome back.”

“Linda and Jackie and Syed in the cafeteria put up with my jokes and humour, and they’re some of the best people you could want. I’m going to really miss Ray and his mail cart that he pushes around. He’d leave it in the hallway and I would hide it. And that’s a game that you should probably outgrow by the time you hit grade 3, but my level of immaturity is such that I’ve been doing it for 20 years and I’ve got a few months left to continue doing it.

“…I’ll close by telling you about my mom. I used to go and visit her when I would go back to Saskatoon. She was in a seniors’ facility at the time. One of the visits, she said, I saw you in question period. I asked her how I was doing and I was expecting a compliment. After all, she’s my mom. Instead she just said, I don’t know; when you come on, I just press mute. So with that, I will let the Assembly join with my mom and press mute on me. So, Fred, thanks to all of you. It’s my privilege to move adjournment of debate.”

Gord Wyant 

“… There was a nomination. I was acclaimed and I won the election in November of 2010, Mr. Speaker. And a few months . . . well it was about a year and a half later, Mr. Speaker, I got a call from Brad (Wall). I met with him and he asked me to be his Attorney General, Mr. Speaker. And that was probably one of the most humbling days of my life, you know, just as a not-so-young lawyer being asked to take on the role as the Attorney General. It’s not something that I ever dreamed about doing, but certainly for a lawyer it’s quite an accomplishment. And I was very, very proud.

“And I didn’t know if I was up to it, Mr. Speaker, but Brad seemed to think I was, and so I was happy to accept it. And I want to tell a little story about the first day that I walked into the office. I walked into the office and my chief of staff, Denise Batters, who I didn’t mention in the list, but Denise was there. And she came out and she looked at me and she said, ‘This is quite a day for you.’ And I said, ‘Yeah. I’m the Attorney General of Saskatchewan. It’s a pretty cool day. Your name’s on the door. It’s pretty cool.’And she says, ‘Well today you’re suing the tobacco companies, and the media will be here in 20 minutes.’ And all I could think of to myself, was it (Don) Morgan who left that little gem for me.

“And as I look up on the wall, you see the photographs of all the former attorneys general, Mr. Speaker. You know, you see Turgeon and you see Romanow. You see a number of them, and you see Don Morgan. And Don’s little gift to me that day, I had no experience particularly with the media of that kind of size. All of a sudden 20 minutes later I had to prepare for a media interview because Don had neglected to tell me about the fact that we were issuing a statement of claim against the tobacco companies that day.

“Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I just want to thank my colleagues for the faith and the confidence and the trust that they’ve shown in me. I can’t mention them all by name. I know I’m going to take some great memories from this building and remember each of them with the trust and the gratitude that I have.

“And I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that on this side of the House I have great confidence in this government, Mr. Speaker, the fact that they will carry on the great work that they’re doing for the people of Saskatchewan. So I’m pleased to be able to continue to support my colleagues in that regard, Mr. Speaker.”

Dustin Duncan

“... Mr. Speaker, finally to the two premiers that I’ve been honoured to work alongside and who I am blessed to call my friends, I want to share, really quickly, just a couple of stories. One thing about Brad Wall. When I was the Environment minister, Brad first tasked me, and he said, you know, “I have three priorities.” And I don’t remember exactly what they were, but it was something like clean air and clean water and then a third one, and the third one might have been a water strategy or something like that. And so I would get working on some things and I would come, you know, we would bring something to . . . I’d bring something to cabinet. And he would get a little bit, I think, exasperated with me, because it would be something that I was working on that weren’t necessarily those three things. And it was, I just wanted, like, clean air and clean water and a multi-material recycling program, and that was never on the “three list.” And then the next time I would bring something to cabinet he’d say, I just wanted three things — clean air and clean water, and the third thing was something entirely brand new. I may be exaggerating. That may have been exaggerated.”

Some Hon. Members: — “No. No, it’s not.”

Hon. Mr. Duncan: — “No, apparently it’s not. But the three things has become a bit of a running theme around our offices, Mr. Speaker.

“And both Premiers, I will say, developed a pretty good habit of maybe surprising me with announcements. Maybe not necessarily that the thing was being announced, but just that it was being announced either on the radio or maybe in a speech, Mr. Speaker.”

An Hon. Member: — “We didn’t know neither.”

Hon. Mr. Duncan: — “Yeah, but, Mr. Speaker, I’ll always be indebted to Brad Wall for the faith that he placed in me, and to the Premier from Shellbrook for the trust that he gave me. I’m going to miss you all, colleagues, maybe even some of you across the way.”

Donna Harpauer

“... But how do you sum up 25 . . . what will be this fall 25 years in 20 minutes? Even at two minutes per year that’s 50 minutes, and we all need to hunker in a little bit. But at different touch points throughout our lives, we come to a fork in the road, and which path we choose will determine where our lives go. And 1999 was such a time.

I lived in a swing riding. It had been Liberal; it had been NDP; it had been Conservative. And I had voted anything but NDP. I hated vote splitting. I understood vote splitting, and so if I thought the Conservative could win over the NDP, I voted Conservative; if I thought the Liberal could win over the NDP, I voted for the Liberal.

“And then there was organization meetings for this new party, and I attended two of them. And after the second one, I was invited to go to the bar with Bob Bjornerud and June Draude. And at that time, as we sat in the bar, they asked me if I would consider running, which was a ridiculous idea. I was a stay-at-home housewife and very actively involved in the family farm. I was the equipment operator, quite frankly, all the way through harvest. And it had never, ever occurred to me to look at political life.

"Not too long after, June asked me to meet her for coffee at a restaurant, and you know, we had a good chat. And at the end, she slid an envelope across the table. She said, read this and let me know. And in the envelope was what it would take to become an MLA. And she phoned me afterwards. And I thought, you know, it’d be an experience. I wouldn’t win. It was held at the time by an NDP cabinet minister, Eric Upshall. And I thought, but you know, it would be a great experience. It would be something that I could gain some experience at and I could meet different people. And quite frankly, it just isn’t good enough to sit around and complain at the kitchen table…

“And then September 16, election night, there was a gathering with people that had supported me through the campaign. And the media declared the NDP won. They declared that Eric Upshall won. And yeah, that’s what I expected. Like that’s . . . Except the media was wrong, and they retracted both. And holy crap, I was elected as the MLA for, at that time, the Watrous constituency.”

“… You know, three of my grandchildren now are as old or older than my youngest child was when I was first elected. And I’ll tell one cute story. I think I’ve told it once before, but for those who weren’t here when I told it, Emryk, my grandson, was sitting on the end of his mom’s bed watching the TV. And his mom said — my daughter Shannon who’s, well, my favourite daughter some days — said what are you doing, Emryk? He said, I’m watching the Grandma Donna show. She said, say what? I’m watching the Grandma Donna show. And he’s watching the legislative channel at home. I think he was about four at the time.

“And so the Grandma Donna show has come to an end but the legislature will continue. And I have been honoured to be able to be here for as long as I have, representing an amazing constituency, and supported by amazing people. I love the province and always will. Saskatchewan’s best days are still ahead and I’m looking forward to them. Thank you.”

Don McMorris

“... So I’m sorry. I heard some of our MLAs and they’re so gracious. Dustin, you’re amazing. And I wish I could be like you, honestly I do, but I can’t. So I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to go after the NDP a little bit. You know, I’ve heard them say over the last couple weeks or months, they’ll ask a person, are you better now than you were five years ago, eight years ago? Are you better now, better off now than you were?

“And you know, we can all go . . . I could be asked that question and, you know, that answer may change. But I think the real question is not about an individual. I think that the question is, is Saskatchewan better off today than it was under the NDP? My answer is, damn rights it is.

“Let me try that again. Is Saskatchewan better off today than it was under the NDP?”

Some Hon. Members: — “Yeah.”

Hon. Mr. McMorris: — “Yeah, okay. Now we’re on a roll. 

“…We built a new hospital in Moose Jaw. We built a new hospital in Humboldt. We’ve got a hospital coming up in Weyburn, and we’re building a new hospital in Prince Albert. I ask the question: when it comes to health infrastructure, is Saskatchewan better off today than it was under the NDP?

Some Hon. Members: — “Yeah.”

Hon. Mr. McMorris: — “Come on you guys. Damn rights it is…

“… Mr. Speaker, the economy is the root of everything that is good about this province, and we can never forget it. So if you want to compare economies, is Saskatchewan better off today than it was under the NDP?”

Some Hon. Members: — “Damn right it is.”

Hon. Mr. McMorris: — “Mr. Speaker, it has been an absolute honour to stand many different spots in this House, many different spots — opposition for sure and a number of different spots — to be able to put my thoughts on the record as to what makes this province so good, why I love this province so much, what will increase the standard of living in this province.

“Mr. Speaker, I’ve been very, very blessed to have represented the people of Indian Head-Milestone for 25 years. I’m going to miss it, most of it. I’m going to miss you. There’s certain parts of it I won’t miss. But after 25 years, Mr. Speaker, I’m going to take my seat right now because damn rights, it’s time. Thank you.”