The Saskatchewan NDP is criticizing MLA Darryl Hickie and Premier Brad Wall over Hickie’s reinstatement by the Prince Albert Police Service.
© Submitted photo
Prince Albert Carlton MLA Darryl Hickie
The Official Opposition fired the first shot in a war of words with the government on Tuesday with an official release that criticized Wall for allowing Hickie to “return to his old job as a police officer” with two years still left in his term as an MLA.
NDP justice critic John Nilson said his party had received calls on Monday from individuals who reported that they had seen Hickie “out as a traffic cop” that day.
“We don’t think it’s right that somebody who gets a full-time MLA salary should be splitting his attention and then doing part-time or … full-time work as a police officer,” Nilson said.
He noted that police officers have access to information about people and their criminal records that an MLA would not have. By the same token, MLAs may access information not available to police officers.
Nilson suggested that it was inappropriate for a sitting MLA to be involved in police work involving one’s own constituents.
“You get arrested by your MLA because you’ve broken a traffic law or you have your MLA as a police officer investigating you … it just doesn’t sound or feel right,” he said.
“I mean, practically, there are situations where people will do something extra with another job -- but not a job where you’re being paid by the taxpayer of Saskatchewan as an MLA and then you’re being paid (by) the taxpayers in Prince Albert as a police officer.”
Midway through Tuesday afternoon, the Saskatchewan Party issued an official statement by Premier Brad Wall in response to media inquiries.
“Prince Albert Carleton MLA Darryl Hickie has been doing police training in preparation for his return to active police duty upon the end of his term as an MLA,” Wall said. “As a result, he has been reinstated by the Prince Albert Police Service.
“I am certainly comfortable with a temporary arrangement and his continued focus on the constituents of PA Carlton while retraining and re-certifying,” the premier added. “Should Mr. Hickie decide to return to active duty at the conclusion of his re-training later this month he will be stepping down as an MLA.”
Wall’s statement concluded by noting, “Darryl has received approval from the Conflict of Interest Commissioner for his reinstatement.”
Prince Albert Police Chief Troy Cooper confirmed Wall’s statement that Hickie had returned to the police service for training and recertification.
“He’s a permanent member of our staff who’s just on a term to serve in government,” Cooper noted. “The way we accommodate that is we give him a temporary leave of absence, and when he came back to train and retrain and recertify, he had to cancel his leave of absence for that time period.
“The time frame that we’re talking about now, he’s training, and so he is for all intents and purposes (on) our permanent full-time staff again.”
Assigned to a training officer, Hickie is currently engaged in training involving use of force options and writing reports, as well as re-familiarizing himself with other aspects of policing.
“Some of that, of course, is in uniform, and some of our training is done in a vehicle,” Cooper said. “So he has to learn to use the equipment, he has to learn to write the reports, use the technology that we have.
If (Premier Brad Wall) would have just announced, ‘Get used to seeing Mr. Hickie in a uniform, he’s going to be doing some training’ and been open with the public, we wouldn’t have raised it in probably quite the same way. John Nilson
“So yes, he would be from time to time visible in the community with a training officer.”
The chief indicated that Hickie would not be assigned to any visible patrol function or a position where he might potentially be in the spotlight in the community if he intends to return as an MLA.
“I don’t think we’ve had any potential for conflict at this point,” Cooper said. “Darryl is a police officer first and foremost, and when he’s on a term, when he’s serving his term as an MLA, he has those duties separated and apart.
“I think he’s very sensitive to the fact that while he’s here, he’s doing police work. The police positions he will be assigned to would be positions, as I mentioned, where there would be no conflict, where’d he be doing more administrative duties.”
Whether or not the Prince Albert Carlton MLA chooses to return to the police force on a more permanent basis, Cooper noted, is a personal and political decision for Hickie to make.
Should Hickie step down as an MLA, his seat would remain vacant until a by-election could be held to determine his replacement.
The premier’s statement and Cooper’s clarification of Hickie’s current status with the police did not mollify NDP criticisms regarding a lack of transparency on the government’s part.
“This is something where the premier says he knew about it, and obviously it confirms my first point before, which is (Wall) has a sense of entitlement that he can just do things without telling the public,” Nilson said.
“This was something that he should have told everybody, but especially the people in Prince Albert, because it affects their representation from their MLA in Prince Albert.”
Putting the dispute over Hickie into a wider context, Nilson said it reflected a wider neglect of Prince Albert by the government.
Specifically, he pointed to the continued lack of representation for Prince Albert in Wall’s new cabinet and the pervasive issue of a second bridge -- particularly following a recent announcement that the provincial government would be contributing $50 million to two new bridge projects in Saskatoon.
Criticizing the lack of transparency surrounding Hickie’s police training, Nilson laid the blame solely at Wall’s feet.
“I think this one needs to be pinned right on the premier,” he said. “I mean, the premier knew about this. He had the opportunity to be open with the residents of Prince Albert and he chose to kind of hide it away.
“If he would have just announced, ‘Get used to seeing Mr. Hickie in a uniform, he’s going to be doing some training’ and been open with the public, we wouldn’t have raised it in probably quite the same way. But we raised it -- and (then) they come out of hiding and tell us what’s actually going on.”