THE BLOG

November Legislature Recap

11/27/2013 02:47 EST | Updated 01/26/2014 05:59 EST

The Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan resumed sitting late last month, Members making the trek to Regina for the Third Session of the 27th Legislative Assembly.

Routine for MLAs is the back and forth of question period, or 'question time' as Speaker D'Autremont has began to refer to it.

The adage amongst the national media is that news is rarely made within the hyper-partisan political theatre of question period, but it is easier to cut through the noise in the Assembly.

Questions from opposition MLAs and answers from government MLAs are quoted verbatim in the Saskatchewan political media and given this political reality, it is best for all parties to come to question time fully prepared.

A series of strong questions from the opposition can instill a party's image as a government in waiting, where weak questions can damage a party's legitimacy on issues they attempt to raise.

Since the beginning of the Fall Period the Saskatchewan NDP has put in a subpar performance in question time, at times unaware of the rules and procedures governing the Assembly.

On October 30, NDP MLA Warren McCall rose in the Legislature to question the government on senators campaigning in provincial elections.

Speaker D'Autremont ruled this question invalid due to the question being related to party matters.

And rightly so, section 20(1) of the Rules and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan states "Questions on issues not officially connected with the government, of a private nature, related to Board of Internal Economy, caucus, party or political responsibilities are prohibited".

D'Autremont then recognized the Opposition House Leader again. McCall repeated his questioning on senators campaigning in provincial elections and his question was ruled invalid by D'Autremont once more.

Undeterred by the rules of the Assembly, McCall rose on a point of order after question time to question the decision by D'Autremont.

D'Autremont cut McCall off mid-statement to inform McCall that questioning a decision by the Speaker is not a point of order.

If being rebuked by the Speaker three times in one day was not enough for NDP MLAs, perhaps a community member calling the truthfulness of their statements into question would be.

On November 12, 2013, Premier Brad Wall took to his feet during question time to respond to accusations made by the leader of the NDP and Leader of the Opposition Cam Broten that the heat was turned down in a North Battleford school because of budget constraints forced by the provincial government.

The premier then quoted a letter to the Education Minister written by the Director of Education for Living Sky School Division Randy Fox, which stated that inaccurate information was reported in the Legislature.

Fox wrote that the implication that students were in classrooms in North Battleford with coats on because the Board of Education had instructed staff that the heat be turned down was not the case.

On the same day, in a question to Health Minister Dustin Duncan regarding the Allan Blair Cancer Centre, NDP MLA Chartier stated "we know from internal documents that there is indeed an infestation of mice at the cancer clinic".

The following day the Regina Leader-Post reported that there was only one mouse in the facility, and not on a floor where patients were being treated.

How far the NDP has fallen on health care issues in the birthplace of medicare.

While the Saskatchewan NDP under Cam Broten struggles to define itself or its policies, leadership rival Ryan Meili founded Upstream, a left-wing think tank seeking to "change the Canadian political landscape."

Considering that Ryan Meili is an accomplished family doctor in Saskatoon, it would be wise for the Saskatchewan NDP to consult Meili on health care policy and strategy rather than exaggerate about a mouse.

Whether it is not acknowledging the rules of the Legislature, a lack of fact checking their questions, or exaggerating the seriousness of a problem, Broten is not taking advantage of all the eggs in his basket.