REGINA – Politics overtook policy as the second week of the campaign for the April 4 Saskatchewan election got underway Monday. Premier Brad Wall defended three of his party’s candidates who have drunk driving convictions, while NDP Leader Cam Broten fielded questions about replacing four of his hopefuls over inappropriate social media posts.
Wall said the convictions were many years ago and the candidates fully disclosed them.
“We make a decision on a case-by-case basis about what the person’s done to turn things around, how they’ve contributed since, and in these three instances we’re more than comfortable … having them as candidates,” Wall said in Saskatoon.
One of the candidates is Advanced Education Minister Scott Moe in Rosthern-Shellbrook, who Wall says disclosed his conviction before the 2011 provincial election. The Saskatchewan Party says Moe’s offence occurred in 1992 when he was 18 years old.
Eric Olauson, a Saskatoon city councillor who is running in the constituency of Saskatoon University, was convicted in 1992 and 1993.
Terry Dennis, who is vying for a seat in Canora-Pelly, has one conviction from 1979 and another from 2001. At the time of the second conviction, Dennis was mayor of Canora.
“We asked ourselves the question: If the people of Canora are prepared to re-elect (Dennis) four times as the mayor of Canora, how would we then disqualify him as a candidate to become the MLA for the people of Canora and the surrounding area?” said Wall.
“The point is the vetting worked and we were able to make a decision based on what Terry fully disclosed, not just to us by the way, but to the community.”
Checking out a candidate’s background became an issue last week when the NDP lost candidates over inappropriate social media comments.
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One candidate was removed Thursday and another resigned Friday over Facebook posts. Another two were given the boot on the weekend after NDP Leader Cam Broten directed his campaign team to take a closer look at the online accounts of the party’s candidates.
Broten also fired campaign chair Frank Quennell, a former justice minister, for not properly vetting candidates.
“I failed to anticipate and prepare for a Saskatchewan Party attack which allowed a major distraction to a campaign that should be about issues and ideas,” Quennell said in his own Facebook post.
“Cam Broten made the right decision to hold me accountable and to publicly set out the changes that were being made to his team.”
Four women have been named to replace the ousted candidates. Broten said that means there are now more women than men running for the NDP.
Both leaders tried to stay on message while fielding questions Monday.
“Some may want this campaign to spiral down into a discussion about tweets and pasts. What I’m focused on is the present reality that Saskatchewan people face and what Saskatchewan families face,” Broten said at an event in Regina.
“I think that’s what people in this province want the election to be about.”
He announced that the NDP would implement a small tax cut for middle-class families while increasing taxes one per cent for people earning more than $175,000 a year.
Wall said a re-elected Saskatchewan Party government would allow anyone receiving benefits under the graduate retention program to use up to $10,000 for a down payment on a home.
“It’s a campaign and so there will be politics and there will be policy,” Wall said.
“It’s up to each campaign to also be proposing what their ideas are for the future.”