YORKTON - With a little more than a year until the next provincial election Greg Ottenbreit has announced he will not seek re-election.
Ottenbreit said the decision was actually made some 18 years ago when he was just considering seeking the Saskatchewan Party nod in the Yorkton constituency. Part of that process was to establish something of a plan, a plan that looked ahead to when he would be 60 and that it might be the time to retire.
“Sixty seemed a long way away, but now I’m close to 60,” he said, adding he feels “there is probably more for me to do,” and if he wants to explore those options, it was time to walk away from being an MLA.
That said, Ottenbreit added it was still a big decision.
“When it came closer I was sort of having second thoughts,” he said, but upon reflection realized it was the time to move on.
“It’s been a pretty good run,” he said with a smile.
But, life as an MLA comes with something of a cost too, said Ottenbreit.
“It’s always living in a fishbowl,” he said, adding criticisms do come with the job, but they also effect a person’s family. It’s a reality that has actually gotten worse through Ottenbreit’s time as MLA with the emergence of social media where even small things can become amplified with negativity.
Interestingly when asked about career highlights and disappointments the same thing topped both lists – a new hospital for Yorkton.
“A hospital is very close to everybody,” he said, adding he has been pushing for a new facility in Yorkton.
During his time as Minister of Health Ottenbreit said he recognized when looking at the portfolio provincially a new hospital in Prince Albert was a higher priority because of what it provided in terms of health care to Northern Saskatchewan and because a new facility there would take pressure off services in Saskatoon.
A new hospital in Weyburn was also a higher priority given the condition of the existing structure and its importance to the southeast area of the province.
But, Yorkton needs a new hospital too, and it’s finally moving forward, assured Ottenbreit noting dollars allocated for planning and scoping, and announcements of support from Premier Scott Moe.
That the hospital is moving forward accomplishes a long-held goal for Ottenbreit, who also admitted it is an issue of some disappointment that it took so long, but a provincial government must deal with priorities and finances with every decision, and now is finally Yorkton’s time.
Another hospital is on Ottenbreit’s highlight list too. He was minister when the first shovel was turned on the children’s hospital in Saskatoon and was there when it was complete as well.
Ottenbreit said it was a case of the facility serving a definite need.
“Seeing children with the same sort of things our son went through, it was a pretty satisfying experience,” he said.
Ottenbreit said he is proud of his time as health minister noting his five years in the portfolio is the longest since the Saskatchewan Party took power.
“Some of my personal experience lended themselves to the file,” he suggested, adding he went into the position with “a willingness to listen,” and an understanding the importance “of building relationships with a bunch of different people.”
It was an approach Ottenbreit said helped him enhance EMS services through his tenure, and undertake replacing the STARS fleet of helicopters, and the aforementioned children’s hospital.
Locally, Ottenbreit said he is proud of the growth the province has been involved with in Yorkton. The list includes funding for a portion of the water treatment plant, affordable housing, human services, health professional training programs at Parkland College, and most recently dollars for the just started York Road project.
The college’s Trades and Technology Centre, $20 million to refurbish Yorkton Regional High School and a new headquarters for the Good Spirit School Division were also on Ottenbreit’s list in terms of education.
“It’s impressive what’s been done when you look in the rear-view mirror,” offered a reflective Ottenbreit.
So does Ottenbreit have any words of wisdom for whoever may be his successor?
“Be humble enough to know you don’t know it all,” he said.
Next, Ottenbreit said an MLA “must be willing to build relationships . . . to work with people.”
And, what of Ottenbreit himself?
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I honestly don’t have any specific plan.”
Ottenbreit said first he has a year left as MLA ahead of the next election, and then he will look at options, although he said his long-time efforts with the Brayden Ottenbreit Close Cuts for a Cure initiative will continue, as will a long held love of flying.