The latest cabinet shuffle by the Sask. Party this week has once again brought to light a troubling issue.
With the latest cabinet shuffle, Saskatchewan’s third and fourth largest cities remain away from the cabinet table.
You can argue that this is the beauty pageant side of politics where optics triumph over pure talent, but it’s an undeniable force.
On the Sask. Party website, Premier Brad Wall is quoted as saying that this new group is a nice blend.
“Our province’s economy remains strong and as a government, we are working to ensure all Saskatchewan people share in the benefits of a growing economy,” Wall said. “I believe this new cabinet strikes the right balance and will keep our growth agenda on track.”
It’s important to note that Wall is dealing with a couple of unusual factors as he puts his cabinet together. First, he has an odd number of high profile lame ducks who have indicated that they won’t be running again.
Traditional political wisdom means that they lose their seat at the table.
The second thing is that Wall has a massive caucus to choose from as he puts his group together. The 49-9 licking that he put on the NDP back in 2011 means that he has 17 jobs for 48 people. (We won’t include him and his automatic spot in cabinet.)
That keeps two-thirds of his MLAs on the sidelines.
It’s interesting to break the current cabinet down by geographic region.
Let’s start with the big cities.
Regina has 11 ridings, with eight of them in Sask. Party hands. Three of those MLAs are in cabinet, Mark Docherty, Christine Tell and Kevin Doherty.
The story is similar in Saskatoon. With eight MLAs in the 12 ridings, there are three in cabinet; Gordon Wyant, Don Morgan and Jennifer Campeau.
In southeastern Saskatchewan, where the Sask Party swept the eight ridings, Dustin Duncan of Weyburn-Big Muddy and Don McMorris of Indian Head-Milestone are in cabinet.
In the southwest region, all six ridings are in Sask Party hands. Premier Brad Wall represents Swift Current while Lyle Stewart of Thunder Creek is also in cabinet.
Curiously, Moose Jaw isn’t represented.
In the West Central region, Donna Harpauer of Humboldt, Bill Boyd of Kindersley, Nancy Heppner of Martensville and Jim Reiter of Rosetown-Elrose are in cabinet from the six ridings, all of which are under Sask. Party control.
In the northwest area, the Sask. Party won five of six ridings and has two MLAs in cabinet, Tim McMillan of Lloydminster and Jeremy Harrison of Meadow Lake.
And finally, in our northeast region, Ken Krawetz of Canora-Pelly remains deputy premier and Scott Moe of Rosthern-Shellbrook was added for the first time as Minister of Environment.
Eight of the nine seats in the area are under Sask Party control.
From Prince Albert’s perspective, the looming retirement of Darryl Hickie left Victoria Jurgens as Wall’s only option here. He chose not to take it.
Instead he named Jurgens the legislative secretary to the Minister of Government Relations for northern Saskatchewan. No doubt that will be passed off as cabinet lite.
The traditional response to this kind of geographic criticism is to tell local voters that although their elected MLAs are not in cabinet, they are forceful representatives for the city.
That’s fine but it could prove to be a dangerous game if not handled correctly. The NDP has clearly targeted Prince Albert’s two ridings in the next election.
With a popular two-term incumbent retiring and a victory by Jurgens of fewer than 200 votes in 2011, the city could be in play next time around.
And they won’t have a local cabinet voice to rise above the election din.
Prince Albert Daily Herald