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Questions on why Harrison is still in cabinet dog Premier Moe

Premier Scott Moe speaks to reporters again on continued fallout from the Jeremy Harrison gun-at-the-Legislature controversy.
Premier Scott Moe speaks to reporters Monday at a cabinet swearing in at Government House.

REGINA - There was another cabinet change announced Monday, but Premier Scott Moe was being dogged by questions on why Jeremy Harrison wasn’t the one shuffled out.

At the swearing-in ceremony for Terry Jenson as the new SaskBuilds minister to replace Joe Hargrave, Moe faced a multitude of questions on why Harrison was still Minister of Trade and Export Development, after Harrison admitted last Friday to bringing a long gun to the legislature a decade ago.

Harrison's admission followed accusations from Speaker Randy Weekes on the final day of the session that Harrison brought a gun to the Legislature against the rules, and also followed comments made by Moe to reporters on May 17 that he had been assured the allegations made by the Speaker were “unequivocally false.”

On his decision to keep Harrison in a cabinet role but accepting his resignation as Government House Leader, Moe said this:

"The allegations that we heard on the last day of session, largely, if not all, were related to his actions and relationships as House Leader. So that is no longer. His work he does as a cabinet minister is quite separate from that. However, in saying that, we have some work to do, and I have some work to do as Leader of this party, to set the framework for a better environment, regardless of who’s government post-election,  on how those official lines of communication happen between Opposition House leadership, Government House leadership, and the Speakers’ office."

Moe did accept responsibility for what he considered a breakdown in communications between the House leadership teams and the Speaker.

“I would say, I bear some responsibility in this,” Moe said. “Traditionally, and I’ve seen this in my time of service 13 or so years now, there's been officially regularly scheduled meetings between the House leaderships of both the opposition, and the government and the Speaker, whether that be weekly or biweekly. I’ve now become aware that maybe those have gone by the wayside, and so you don’t have that avenue of official communication between the House leadership teams and the Speakers’ office. And I think that that’s paramount to have that official communication channel so that we can actually do the business on behalf of the people of the province. And so the fact that has gone by the wayside, I take responsibility for that — we’re the government.”

Harrison's resignation as Government House Leader had not been enough for opposition New Democrats. They pointed to Moe's previous comments that the allegations were “unequivocally false," and accused either Moe or Harrison of “lying” to Saskatchewan people about what happened.

On Monday to reporters, Moe pushed back on the notion that this was “lying." 

“With respect to the word ‘lying’, what we’ve seen is a number of allegations that were put out on the floor of the Legislature, and on further recollection reading through those allegations, I think (Harrison) corrected the record on something he said, and informed me of it as well,” said Moe.

When asked in the scrum how he could tolerate having Harrison in cabinet when Harrison did not tell the truth, Moe responded “he gave me the information he had and clarified it at the first opportunity.”

Moe also faced questions about yet another cabinet change — the second such cabinet change in about a week and a half. Joe Hargrave departed the SaskBuilds and Procurement portfolio after he announced he is not seeking re-election in Prince Albert Carlton, bringing the number of departing Sask Party incumbent MLAs up to 16 -- or 18 if including the two independents that were booted from caucus.

Moe was asked by reporters about the optics of yet another incumbent Sask Party MLA deciding to not run again and whether it meant dysfunction within the party.

“I would say not,” said Moe. “There’s some personal reflection going on, I think, in the broader scope of what it takes to serve in politics in this day and age, at any level, federal, provincial, or municipal… but I think it’s also an opportunity for renewal in our party."

Moe said he thought they were real opportunities with "folks running for the party for the first time." As for Hargrave’s own decision, Moe attributed it to Hargrave’s “reflection on a few personal things that happened in his life the last number of months,” he said.

Beck unimpressed with Premier's comments

Speaking to reporters at the Legislature following the Premier’s scrum, Opposition Leader Carla Beck slammed Moe for not giving Harrison the boot. She accused Moe of giving Harrison a “free pass,” and in particular didn’t believe Moe’s characterization of what Harrison had told him.

“I simply don’t think it’s credible. I don’t think that passes the sniff test for anyone in the province. There was a lie. Again when we got the news today that the Premier was going to be making an announcement at Government House, we thought that a decision has been made. This is, again as I said on Friday initially, this is a question of leadership, and again the Premier has failed to meet the mark on this.”

Beck said she was “honestly surprised that that was the Premier’s response to this, again a minister who lied to him. And again, let’s be clear, no one believed that the Minister suddenly remembered after talking to one or two family members. It’s a failure of leadership on the part of the Premier. I think there needs to be consequences for that Minister, but also now the Premier has shown shockingly bad judgment.”