Two vacated seats in the Saskatchewan legislature will stay empty until the November 2020 provincial election, according to Premier Scott Moe.
Saskatchewan Party MLAs Warren Steinley and Corey Tochor resigned Wednesday to run for the Conservative Party of Canada in the upcoming federal election.
“We have a number of MLAs that will be working to ensure that the people of these two constituencies in our two largest centres will be well-served,” Moe told reporters on Thursday.
Steinley represented Regina Walsh Acres in the legislature, while Tochor was the MLA for Saskatoon Eastview.
Running byelections in each area would cost more than $700,000 and the Saskatchewan government must be “prudent with the people’s finances,” Moe said.
The Legislative Act, which governs byelections, states votes to fill the vacancies must be held within six months of the members’ departures. However, the rule only applies if the seat becomes empty within the first 40 months following a general election.
It’s been 41 months since the last provincial election on April 5, 2016. The next general election is planned for November 2020.
Moe’s position is “pretty rich,” according to NDP Leader Ryan Meili, because Tochor’s and Steinley’s federal ambitions have been known for a long time.
Tochor received the Saskatoon-University nomination in March 2018 and Steinley was nominated in Regina-Lewvan in October of the same year.
Meili said Moe should have had Steinley and Tochor step down right away. Both will receive severance for their departures.
“These MLAs are essentially going to be double-dipping, taking a federal salary at the same as they take money from the provincial coffers,” Meili said.
University of Saskatchewan political studies professor Joe Garcea considers the situation the result of a concerning loophole that should be fixed.
“If the premier does not call byelections, the NDP will make political hay of this and try to score some political points in those two constituencies,” he said.
The Saskatchewan Party could even benefit from calling byelections, Garcea said, if they feel have a good chance at winning. Having incumbents would help the party’s electability in the subsequent general election, he said.
Steinley and Tochor were both first elected in 2011.