Fierce debates cap off Sask. legislative session

The spring session of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly came to a close on Thursday, wrapping up 10 weeks of fierce debate in the house.

Tensions came to a head on Wednesday, after the government rejected a proposal from the NDP on the formation of a suicide prevention committee.

NDP MLA Doyle Vermette rose in the house on each of the 22 days of session during Question Period to name families who have lost loved ones to suicide and to call on the government to provide a plan.

Vermette stood once again in an impassioned plea during Question Period on Wednesday, speaking about the committee formation proposal.

“Here’s an opportunity for the government to work together with families who asked you to please work with them,” he said. “That’s all the families want, so no one has to go through this hurt ever again.”

He then read off the names of every family he had brought up during the spring session.

“They wanted the premier to stand, why didn’t you just tell them that you didn’t care about them?”

Vermette was then asked to leave the legislature because he did not withdraw and apologize for swearing, which was considered unparliamentarily language.

The Cumberland MLA later said he was passionate, angry and frustrated because they have brought the legislation to the government several times and felt the families were ignored.

“They had an opportunity to truly do some good work together,” he said.

“I’ve been a part of a process, and honestly the families that have hurt, the families I’ve supported, the families that have come to this assembly and spoken time and time again advocating that they just want the government to understand and reach out.”

On Wednesday, Moe said members of the house share the emotion shown from Vermette but ultimately turned down the proposal for a newly formed suicide prevention committee.

“If what the opposition is looking for is for the government in some way to disavow the efforts that have been made … we’re not going to, in any way, disavow those efforts. They are saving lives,” he said. “We readily commit to the fact that there needs to be more done in this area … we also need to recognize that there is some good work being done.”

Speaking Thursday, Moe highlighted the suicide prevention strategy, which was passed in 2021 as something that continues to play a role in the province.

“That will ensure that the strategy … that we have in this province, will actually not only be in place today but it will transcend any future governments that are there,” he said.

Vermette said he stands by his comments made in the house.

“On behalf of families, the families have not been treated fair by this government. This government should be very ashamed of themselves right now,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say.”

“I felt [Tuesday] they would have supported that. I don’t know anymore, it’s frustrating.”

On Thursday after the final session, Premier Scott Moe said although there continues to be work done on several issues the provincial government has made progress throughout the spring session.

“We have a very solid course charted and have made some good strides this session,” he said.

The spring sitting, which began on March 7, had MLAs debating other major topics such as healthcare, education and security, among others.

With discussions about affordability also making headlines throughout the spring session, Moe said there is a possibility Saskatchewan residents could see a benefit from natural resource revenue surpluses in the future.

“We’re all shareholders,” he said. “What we will be looking for is, how can we use what might be a one time or a few year influx in natural resource prices to benefit all people equally because they all own the resource equally.”

The premier said there are several foundational issues MLAs will be working on with constituents before the fall session begins.

“We have a very ambitious summer ahead of us as government caucus members and myself, being out and about across the province and we look forward to seeing many communities starting very, very soon,” he said.