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Opinion: Pre-election spring sitting was what you'd expect and more

The spring sitting had a noteworthy finish, thanks to the speaker.
Saskatchewan legislature.

The spring sitting of the Saskatchewan legislature wrapped up Thursday.

It had a lot of the moments that you would expect. The governing Saskatchewan Party handed down its budget, which included a few things for the southeast, such as additional support for a new nursing home in Estevan and a new school in Carlyle; funding for improvements for Highway 18 between Estevan and Outram; and thankfully, the green light to begin fundraising for a new MRI scanner at St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan.

We heard the government tout the budget's theme of classrooms, care and communities, almost ad nauseum.

It was the type of fiscal plan you'd expect to see before a provincial election, except for a small deficit. But most people would tell you they'd accept a deficit if there's more money for health care, education, highways and other government spending needs, and they would certainly accept the deficit over tax increases.

The opposition New Democratic Party struck at the government on numerous fronts. The government fired back. Sometimes they didn't answer the NDP's questions. Each side heckled the other, making it difficult to hear responses. The Sask. Party sometimes brought up the NDP's record on a number of fronts from when the NDP was in power from 1991-2007.

It was the last sitting of the legislature before October's provincial election. Both parties were looking to score points with undecided and independent voters.

After all, summer is just a few weeks away. Our thoughts are turning to campgrounds, golf courses, lakes, summer events and the many other fun things that we can do and experience from Victoria Day to Labour Day. Most people aren't thinking about politics and an upcoming provincial election.

Most people don't want to hear anything about something happening in October. It's just another reminder of how short our summer season really is.

Also hanging over the spring sitting was the shadow of the labour strife between the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation and the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee. Nobody was surprised when the teachers rejected the government's "final" offer. A pact that both sides refer to as a tentative agreement is now in place; hopefully this situation is finally resolved and we won't have to worry about work to rule, sanctions or even the risk of a strike in the final weeks of the school year. 

Perhaps one of the most interesting developments came in the final days of the spring sitting, when the speaker of the house – 25-year Sask. Party MLA Randy Weekes – criticized the direction of the party. Some will accuse Weekes of sour grapes, since he lost the party's nomination in the riding of Kindersley-Biggar, but it was still stunning to hear the allegations of intimidation and harassment by the party stalwart, directed toward MLAs, including Estevan MLA Lori Carr.

Weekes also posted his cut-up Sask. Party membership card on X, with the caption of "enough is enough".

It's going to be a very interesting election. It's unlikely we'll see a change in government. The Sask. Party still has its base in rural Saskatchewan, and even with a number of long-time caucus members not seeking re-election, there are likely at least two dozen ridings that should be considered safe. That means the Sask. Party would need seven ridings to win a fifth majority government.

The Saskatchewan United Party (who now has a new leader) and the Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan will eat away at the support for the Sask. Party in rural areas, but it will be a large challenge to unseat the Sask. Party in those ridings.

Expect to see the Saskatchewan NDP make gains in the big cities. If they can return to or even exceed the 20 seats they had after the 2007 election, it should be viewed as a victory for them. It would allow the NDP to have a stronger opposition with more MLAs to hold the government to account.

The NDP has spent much of the past 13 years with less than a dozen MLAs. Most of them have been located in Regina, Saskatoon and northern areas of the province.

The spring sitting gave us lots to discuss. We'll see how much is remembered by the voters come October.