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A look at the people who told their stories at their Leg

Ordinary residents were once again a major part of the story of the current session.

REGINA - It was not only the politicians who made news at the Legislature during the fall sitting.

A major part of the story were those ordinary residents from across the province, who showed up at the legislature to tell the story of the issues and hardships they were facing in their communities.

The residents who attended “their Legislature” — a phrase introduced during former Premier Brad Wall’s time to introduce the many guests in the gallery — raised a variety of issues. From SLGA layoffs to abortion, from surgery wait times to rat-infested living conditions, from education to vaccine injuries, the guests all had a story to tell and often it ended with a visit with one of the Ministers responsible.

Here is a look at just a few of the many ordinary people and groups, and their issues which made news at the Legislature this fall:

SLGA workers

A major story that erupted on Throne Speech day was news that SLGA was closing their remaining 34 liquor stores and putting the licenses up for private bidders.

That prompted a protest by liquor store workers on the steps of the Legislature during the first week of the session. In the final week of the sitting, the workers were back again, still facing layoffs and bringing petitions to the Leg.

“Last year,” said Tracy Sauer, president of SGEU, “they were being praised for the job that they did in a cyber attack. SGEU stood up and helped the government… These people have been a contributing part of this province for many years, and now their whole worlds are just lost.”

Bob Stadnichuk, vice-president of SGEU, accused the government of getting in the way of the SLGA liquor stores being successful. He said the government wouldn’t allow the stores to sell such items as pop and chips and ice.

“This is all from a government that has just decided it's better to keep chopping off at the bottom of all of us, and just let us fall apart,” said Stadnichuk.

Wait times

Surgery backlogs and emergency room delays were a big issue at the legislature.

On Nov. 16, the Official Opposition was joined by Janna Pratt who spoke of the issues that her daughter, Jream Pratt, had been facing in emergency rooms. 

Jream suffered from brain cancer and seizures, and her mother was in tears as she told reporters her daughter had to wait in emergency at Regina General Hospital for 20 hours before getting a bed.

Another heartbreaking story was Jolene Van Alstine, who has lived with Parathyroid Hyperplasia and had been unsuccessful in resolving her severe symptoms which she suffered from the previous six years. She was told she had to wait another two years for a specialist appointment before she could be placed on a surgery waitlist.

Her partner Miles Sundeen told reporters at a news conference that Jolene had gone so far as to release her records to the Medical Assistance in Dying program, out of desperation. The NDP raised her issue as they called for action on wait times.

Landlord troubles

Issues with various Saskatchewan Housing Authority properties were raised at the Leg during the sitting. Among those attending was Dominika Kosowska who went public at the Leg with her difficulties in having a rat issue addressed in her Saskatoon apartment building.

But the issues didn’t extend only to Sask Housing. Another issue raised was a situation in Regina where a young couple was evicted after their landlord ended up defaulting on their mortgage. 

Reporters heard from Jennifer Fuller, who had to scramble to find alternative accommodations after that situation erupted. In response the NDP called for the government to address high rates of mortgage arrears.

Call for an inquest

On Nov. 22 the family of Shayne Turner attended the legislature, calling for action after he died in White City after being prematurely discharged from hospital following an overdose. Both Official Opposition Leader Carla Beck and House Leader Nicole Sarauer were on hand and demanded an inquest into the situation.

“Shayne Turner was denied adequate care and tragically lost his life because Scott Moe has pushed our health system and the people in it to the brink of collapse,” said Beck in a news release. “When people turn to our hospitals and health system for life-saving care, it should be there. For Shayne, it wasn’t, and that’s something that can’t be taken back.”

Mothers looking for formula

Supply chain issues were also raised at the Legislature, most notably when Opposition critic Aleana Young introduced a group of mothers who were struggling to find formula for their newborn kids. The mothers reported struggles in calling up drug stores everywhere, trying in vain to find formula.

The issue was raised again during the final week of the sitting, with more mothers back at the Legislature with their babies.

“They are desperately trying to ensure they can feed their children,” said Young to reporters. “In a province like Saskatchewan, it’s strange to think that bare shelves, and babies unable to get the feed that they need to grow and be happy is the norm right now.

Any progress?

The stories that many of the individuals and groups shared were at times depressing. Many got meetings with the ministers responsible, but a number of them reported coming away frustrated at the slow pace of action.

There were also setbacks reported. After a meeting with the minister and pledges to address the situation, the NDP Social Services Critic Meara Conway told reporters last week “the mice are back” at Dominika Kosowska’s apartment, and she was planning to follow up on the issue. 

When asked if they had seen any progress with those coming to the Leg, Conway said in her critical areas, there had been “a few validators who had come through the building who hadn’t got a lot of action.”

As one example Conway pointed to at that same media conference, she said that she had gotten a message back from Jream Pratt’s family just two days before that their issues “hadn’t improved, they haven’t been addressed.”

A frequent complaint from the NDP in Question Period has been that it took these individuals having to come to the legislature to even be heard on their issues. That drew a reaction on Nov. 24 from Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Everett Hindley in Question Period.

"It’s disappointing for the member opposite to indicate that families have to come to this legislature to be heard. Mr. Speaker, we as MLAs have met with families," said Hindley.

"Myself as the minister responsible — numerous MLAs on this side of the House, but myself — I have travelled around this province over the past number of weeks and months meeting with families, meeting with communities, meeting with those and dealing directly with those that come with issues regarding mental health and those sorts of initiatives, Mr. Speaker."

Regarding the mice and rat infestations, Minister of Social Services Gene Makowsky has told reporters that was an issue they take seriously. "For any type of pest or situations where there is a safety concern of tenants, that is taken very seriously by Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, and myself, of course," he said on Nov. 10.

One group who made it known they were extremely frustrated with the reception they received was a delegation of vaccine-injured individuals. who came as guests of Saskatchewan United Party MLA Nadine Wilson. 

A frustrated Wilson told reporters that the group couldn’t get a meeting and that no one would listen to them. A few of the group accused the reporters of not being interested, either.

But it wasn’t all frustration for everyone. One advocate for cochlear implant users, Rod Rossmo of Saskatoon, had been at the Legislature during the spring, calling on the government to fund the replacement of sound processors for cochlear implants.

He was back again in the fall, and was all smiles at an announcement Oct. 13 just prior to the fall sitting, that the province would co-pay for the replacements. Sometimes, persistence does pay off.

Ukrainians at the Leg

There was one notable group who attended at the Legislature — some new arrivals from the Ukraine who had started new lives in Canada.

One of them was Andrian Makhnachov who had gained attention and fame for his TikTok videos about life in Saskatchewan since coming to the province in May. 

This fall, he and his brother attended the Legislature and met Premier Scott Moe. He’s just one of the many people who made an impact at the Legislature during the fall sitting.