Two former Saskatchewan MLAs will not be getting their full provincial severance after becoming MPs in Monday’s federal election.
Government House Leader Jeremy Harrison said the Board of Internal Economy voted unanimously Wednesday to cancel the transition allowance a departing MLA who is voted in as an MP or appointed to Canada’s Senate.
The change is retroactive to Oct. 21, the same day as the federal election.
In this election, former Regina-Walsh Acres MLA Warren Steinley became the Conservative MP for Regina-Lewvan. Former speaker Corey Tochor resigned as Saskatoon-Eastview MLA and is now the Conservative MP for Saskatoon-University.
Before the rule change, both would have been eligible to receive a transition allowance based on the amount of time they’ve been a member of the provincial legislative assembly.
Harrison said it works out to one month’s pay for each year served. Both Steinley and Tochor were first elected in 2011, so they would be entitled to about eight months of transition allowance.
Harrison added that they were both eligible to collect their allowance while on the campaign trail. Both had to resign as MLAs when the campaign officially began on Sept. 11. They would have been eligible to keep getting their allowance if they lost.
The fact Steinley and Tochor were previously entitled to their full transition allowance led to the NDP calling for a change to the severance rules in the legislative assembly.
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Normally, a byelection must be called within six months of an MLAs seat being vacated. However, Premier Scott Moe does not have to call a byelection in these instances because more than 40 months have passed since the last provincial election in 2016.
The government’s reasoning for not holding these two byelections is that it would be costly, and the next provincial election would take place just a few months later, November 2020.
The Opposition NDP called on the government to close this “loophole” and hold the byelections.
“I wouldn’t see it as a loophole. The provision was put in place so there would not be a requirement to initiate a very costly byelection process — $275,000 at least per constituency — for a member to only be in place for a short number of months or weeks prior to an election call,” Harrison said.
Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said that now there will be people without representation in the legislature for over a year.
“They should have figured this out months ago. It should have happened when those members were nominated, that’s when we should have had the byelections,” Meili said.
“The fact of the matter is, this is the same government that added three more MLAs saying they thought representation was really important. The costs much, much more than a byelection would.”
Harrison said that the NDP voted in favour of these byelection rules in 2011.
Since the 2016 provincial election, the NDP has won three byelections in Regina and Saskatoon, while the Saskatchewan Party won three rural byelections.