During a question period exchange that brought up the contentious Bill 70 and a decades-old incident of hidden camera surveillance, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe told independent MLA Nadine Wilson she should step down from her position and run in a byelection.
“Many folks are saying they didn’t vote for an independent member of the legislature and they don’t feel they’re being represented,” Moe said in the chamber Thursday morning, before alluding to former NDP MLA Buckley Belanger’s decision to leave provincial politics and run for federal office triggering a byelection.
“Resign. Run in a byelection. Ask the people of the constituency for their support once more so that they have the right to sit in this legislature on their behalf.”
Wilson, though, told reporters following question period that she has no intentions to do so.
She said it’s ‘business as usual’ in Saskatchewan Rivers and that she has not heard calls for a byelection from her constituents.
The comments followed a question in which Wilson questioned the motives behind Bill 70. The bill, which has faced resounding opposition criticism, seeks to reform security at the legislative buildings and grounds by reducing the responsibility of the independent sergeant-at-arms to the chamber itself and creating a new security service to oversee the rest of the building and adjacent grounds.
“It appears Bill 70 protects the state more than the citizens,” Wilson stood and said.
“Have any government employees, members or caucus staff ever employed mobile devices in government offices, offices of elected officials or in the legislative assembly offices, or other devices to collect surveillance?”
After, Moe responded that such an incident hadn’t occurred to his knowledge. Wilson went into particulars.
“What would be the ministerial or staff consequences for individuals knowingly conducting surveillance in the legislative assembly deploying a hidden camera in an MLAs office in the building?” Wilson asked.
“Did the then-Saskatchewan Party chief of staff and current special adviser to the premier report that he had hidden a camera in the former Weyburn Big Muddy MLA’s office here in the legislative building? How could Bill 70 deal with this?”
Wilson suggested that mentioned surveillance occurred without the knowledge of the sergeant-at-arms, and asked what provisions Bill 70 would provide for dealing with such a situation.
According to affidavit documents tabled by Wilson Thursday, former MLAs Jason Dearborn and Dennis Allchurch said they were informed in a caucus meeting by former Saskatchewan Party Chief of Staff Reg Downes that a surveillance operation was undertaken in an MLA’s office using a hidden camera. The affidavits were signed this month.
“The footage of the camera revealed a theft by a party caucus staff member in the office of the Weyburn-Big Muddy,” both Dearborn’s and Allchurch’s statements read.
The staff member was not named.
According to a 2007 Regina Leader-Post article, the incident was acknowledged in the legislature in May of that year to have happened in 2002 in former MLA Brenda Bakken-Lackey’s office, involved a private security firm, is alleged to have involved the theft of a $20 or $50 bill and was not reported to the police.
Following question period, Moe said, “there was advice given at that point in time by the sergeant-at-arms that likely should have been brought in earlier.”
“That advice has been taken but we’ve never had an incident since.”
In response to Wilson’s concerns about Bill 70 potentially allowing for the use of private security organizations, Moe dismissed the idea and said the new security service will be “non-partisan”.
“I don’t think there’s been any indication that private security would be utilized in this legislature,” Moe said.
“I think the conversation has been around using public servants in the way of sheriffs in this building. They’re non-partisan. They’re offering services that are protecting our courthouses now, offering law-enforcement services to the people of Saskatchewan in a non-partisan way.”