Four Cabinet Ministers with 80 years’ experience will not seek re-election.
REGINA: The recent departure of four veteran Saskatchewan Party cabinet ministers is shaking up provincial politics in the lead up to this years’ election which will see new faces seeking nominations in the constituencies they currently represent. However, it is doubtful that any of the rural seats that have been vacated will change party colours.
Those who announced (on February 6th) that they are not seeking re-election in the Saskatchewan election this October include:
- Donna Harpauer, Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance (Humboldt-Watrous)
- Dustin Duncan, Minister of Crown Investments Corporation (Weyburn-Big Muddy)
- Don McMorris, Minister of Government Relations, Labour Relations, Workplace Safety and Minister Responsible for First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs (Indian Head-Milestone)
- Gordon Wyant, Minister of Advanced Education (Saskatoon Northwest)
Harpauer and Wyant have been involved in politics for decades and their departures should come as no surprise as they wrap up their time at the legislature. Their departure presents an opportunity for Premier Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party to reshape cabinet and provide opportunities for new candidates in the vacated seats. However, as the other three seats are party strongholds, only Saskatchewan Northwest has the prospect of flipping.
These departures are also creating the potential for a shift in the political landscape across the province. These ministers will be extremely difficult to replace as Premier Moe relied on their institutional knowledge and proven political prowess (especially Donna Harpauer) to effectively, tactfully and skillfully navigate some of the government’s more politically challenging portfolios and policy files. With that said, they embody the Saskatchewan Party’s brand of leaving things better than the way you found them, and with new faces and shoes filling these roles – comes new challenges to navigate.
These ministers have been instrumental and played key roles in not only the rise of the Saskatchewan Party, but also the party’s historic first election win in 1999.
Donna Harpauer: Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance, MLA for Humboldt-Watrous
Harpauer was first elected to the Legislature in 1999 as one of the first MLAs under the Saskatchewan Party banner, upsetting long-time incumbent and cabinet minister Eric Upshall by an eight per cent margin.
From the start of her time in politics Harpauer stood out as a brilliant tactician as an Opposition member in the Legislature and was one of the first 25 Saskatchewan Party MLAs elected that reduced the NDP to a minority government.
Since then, she has won each of her re-elections handily, and has been a member of the Saskatchewan Party cabinet since they first took the reins from the NDP in 2007.
Harpauer’s portfolios as a cabinet minister have included: Social Services, Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Housing Corporation and the Status of Women, Education, Government Relations, First Nation, Metis and Northern Affairs, Minister of Crown Investments, Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, and as Provincial Secretary.
Harpauer had many notable achievements through her time in cabinet, including launching the first ever income support program for people with disabilities, the SAID Program, as well as overhauling the child welfare system by launching an electronic system to track children in care. Upon launching the system, she said: “We can track a library book anywhere in this province, but we can’t do the same for a child.” Additionally, she was also the second woman in Saskatchewan’s history to hold the position of finance minister. During her tenure she oversaw eight provincial budgets, including during the province’s most difficult fiscal times where she balanced the budget during the fluctuating economic conditions of the 2010s and tightened provincial spending during COVID-19.
After 16 years in cabinet, Harpauer holds the Canadian record for the longest-serving female cabinet minister. She was front and centre as the MLA for Humboldt-Watrous, the Minister of Finance during the tragic Humboldt Broncos hockey team’s bus crash and played a major role in Scott Moe’s successful leadership bid that led to him becoming premier.
Don McMorris – Minister of Government Relations, First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs, Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, Minister Responsible for the Provincial Capital Commission and the Workers’ Compensation Board, MLA for Indian Head-Milestone
McMorris was part of the first Saskatchewan Party candidates in 1999, defeating the incumbent MLA and cabinet minister Lorne Scott by nearly 20 percentage points and has had a strong presence in the constituency since.
McMorris served in many prominent cabinet positions including: Minister of Health, Highways and Infrastructure, Minister of Crown Investments, Minister Responsible for SGI SLGA, Public Service Commission, and the Lean Initiative. Highlights during his time in cabinet included breaking ground on the Regina Bypass and improving the healthcare system.
McMorris resigned from cabinet and caucus in 2016, the day after being pulled over with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and shortly after pleading guilty to drunk driving. He sat as an independent for seven months before caucus voted him back in.
Honourable Dustin Duncan – Minister of Crown Investments Corporation, Minister Responsible for all major Crown corporations, including SaskPower, SaskEnergy, SaskTel, SGI and SaskWater, Minister Responsible for the Public Service Commission, Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), MLA for Weyburn-Big Muddy
Dustin Duncan was first elected as MLA in Weyburn-Big Muddy at the age of 26 in a by-election in 2006, later becoming a minister under the Brad Wall government by the time he was 30.
Duncan’s time in cabinet has had him serve as: Minister of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport, Health, Education, Environment, Energy and Resources, and the Global Transportation Hub. He currently serves as Minister of Crown Investments Corporation and Minister Responsible for the Public Service Commission. He is Minister Responsible for SaskEnergy, SGI, SaskPower, SaskTel, Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, and SaskWater. On top of these ministerial duties, Duncan served as Vice-Chair of the caucus Crown Investments Corporation Committee, was a member of the SaskBuilds Corporation Board and a member of the Board of Internal Economy.
Duncan has danced an excellent tango during his time as minister, handling many complex and sensitive files. He passed legislation that introduced private MRI clinics and CT scans to the province to increase capacity and assist with lengthy wait times, consolidated 12 health authorities into a single provincial entity, and navigated the failure to meet the pledge of eliminating surgical wait times. What’s more, Dustin Duncan also announced the province’s climate change strategy “Prairie Resilience”, led the education portfolio during COVID-19, announced policy changes requiring students under 16 to seek parental consent to change preferred names/pronouns at school (which generated substantial controversy and sparked protests at the Legislature), and most recently stated he would assume full legal responsibility and was willing to go to “carbon jail” for removing the carbon tax off SaskEnergy bills.
Gordon Wyant – Minister of Advanced Education, MLA for Saskatoon Northwest
Wyant won his seat in Saskatoon Northwest in October 2010 by a staggering 25 percentage points and has held the seat for the party in every election since. Prior to joining provincial politics, he practiced law and served on Saskatoon City Council in Ward 5 from 2003 until 2010 and served as a member of the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners and on the Board of Directors of Saskatoon’s Credit Union Centre.
Wyant most recently served as Minister of Advanced Education. He was previously Deputy Premier, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of Education, and Minister responsible for SaskBuilds and Priority Saskatchewan.
He was one of a handful of caucus members that threw their hat in the ring during the leadership race after Brad Wall announced he was stepping down. During the leadership race, Wyant came under fire for being seen as “too liberal” for Saskatchewan Party members due to his membership to the federal Liberal Party. Wyant did his best to remind party members of the Saskatchewan Party’s big political umbrella and liberal roots and was quoted as saying “You can call me a Martin Liberal rather than a Trudeau Liberal,”. To many throughout the party, Wyant was recognized for bringing a common-sense methodological approach to the province while keeping the party closer to the middle rather than the right. He is the last Saskatchewan Party MLA with Liberal roots.
The next provincial election in Saskatchewan is scheduled for October 28, 2024, which means there are 264 days left to ensure stakeholders’ and organizations’ policy and election priorities are heard. Counsel will provide commentary and insights into the new cabinet ministers once they are appointed. Counsel Public Affairs is here to provide you expert knowledge and advice to help you navigate the evolving Saskatchewan Political landscape.
Jenn Henshaw, Associate Vice President, Prairies, Counsel Public Affairs