REGINA — The newly-formed Saskatchewan United Party released a video this week as it continues its efforts to become an official party.
The video, released on the weekend and posted on the party’s YouTube channel, featured prominent party supporters Gerry Ritz, Nadine Wilson and Ken Rutherford.
Ritz is the former federal agriculture minister and was MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster from 1997 to 2017. Wilson is the current independent MLA for Saskatchewan Rivers and Rutherford was the federal Maverick Party candidate in Battlefords-Lloydminster in 2021.
Ritz featured prominently at the start of the video, outlining why he is active again in politics.
“To say I am frustrated at this time would be an understatement. Like many of you that frustration has turned to anger,” Ritz said.
Ritz pointed to a change in attitude seen in the provinces — one of acquiescence to a federal government “that has led us to blind alley after blind alley, all while spending huge amounts of money.”
The provinces seem “to go along to get along,” said Ritz.
“They promise us one thing — no mandates, no passports. Two weeks later, we had them! Then we had a premier that stood up and said ‘I’m going to make it really tough for the unvaccinated to take part in this particular society.’ And I found that very discouraging, very divisive. So those are the issues that have drawn me back into the political realm, to see that there has to be solutions that are people-centred, people-driven, not politics.”
The video is the latest salvo from the Saskatchewan United Party in their attempts to organize. The party has been in the process of collecting signatures to be registered as an official party with Elections Saskatchewan. On Facebook they claimed to be “closing in” on the 2,500 signatures required.
In recent months, the group has organized and held meetings in several Saskatchewan communities, but in the last week they have been particularly visible.
The Sask. United Party was prominent at the legislature last Wednesday, when both Rutherford and another party supporter, Nadine Ness, attended in the spectators’ gallery and were introduced by Wilson.
Ness is best known for her involvement in the Unified Grassroots movement that was opposed to COVID-19 mandates in the schools. Making the was a phone conversation that took place last fall between Ness and Premier Scott Moe, which was criticized by the Opposition.
In remarks in the legislature, Moe acknowledged that particular phone conversation with Ness.
“We didn’t agree on everything in that phone call, but I think we were able to contextualize a number of points within that conversation. And I think we can all be thankful that we can have that type of open debate here in this province, Mr. Speaker, in particular at this time, when we look around the world.”
Opposition Leader Ryan Meili also welcomed Rutherford and Ness in the gallery, but noted “truth be told, we share very different opinions. I was disappointed with Unified Grassroots in some of the positions taken, in particular around evidence-based public health measures, and disappointed that the premier chose to follow those recommendations.
“I do not begrudge the premier at all having that conversation, however, with Nadine, though I do note it was disappointing that folks like Hassan Masri didn’t get similar calls and similar time.”
It was later on during the day’s sitting that Wilson made news of her own, as she was tossed out of the assembly over unparliamentary language and heckling aimed at the government.
During Question Period, Wilson had engaged in a heckling match with Government House Leader Jeremy Harrison. Harrison later apologized and withdrew his remark directed at Wilson about “beaking from the member for Sask. Rivers who was not here for one single vote.”
After Question Period ended, Wilson was heard heckling and accusing the government of lying during a ministerial statement by Minster of Energy and Resources Bronwyn Eyre, who spoke on the oil and gas sector’s efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
That prompted a call by Speaker Randy Weekes for Wilson to apologize. After being asked three times and refusing, Wilson was suspended for the rest of the day and departed the legislative assembly.
In the reporters’ scrum afterwards, Wilson made it known she was frustrated with what she was hearing from the government about how positive the economy was.
“For them to wax poetry about a great economy — it’s not so great for the people that call me,” said Wilson, pointing to people who lost their jobs due to pandemic policies.
“And I hear from all over Saskatchewan, it’s not just my riding. It’s 61 ridings that they call me, because they feel they’ve been ridiculed or laughed at for their pain and suffering, for their life choices.”
Regarding the new party, she said interest was “all over.”
“It’s urban, it’s rural, it’s different genders, and it’s even other parties that we chat with. I’ve probably talked to thousands of people now, sometimes not by choice. They seek me out because they’re curious. So many people have been looking for a new political home. They feel alienated or not listened to, or, as I say, laughed at, ridiculed.”
Wilson welcomed Gerry Ritz’s involvement.
“He’s a great political mind. He’s got some great ideas, and he’s very down to earth, common sense.”
When asked whether she had spoken to Sask. Party MLAs about joining the new party, Wilson said she does have “conversations with the backbenchers.”
“They are concerned, they see what is happening is not truly what good governance is.”
When asked by reporters about Wilson’s reaching out to his backbenchers, Moe responded “good luck.”
Moe made clear he was not worried that any Sask. Party MLAs might join the new party.
“We are a united caucus,” said Moe, adding they were looking “not only to represent throughout this term as MLAs but looking forward to the next election as well.”