'Nothingburger', 'hysteria' and 'reprehensible attack': Sask. cabinet minister and critic square off

·3 min read
The debate inside the Saskatchewan legislature so far this session has been highlighted by an almost daily back-and-forth between the Trade and Export Minister Jeremy Harrison and the opposition critic Aleana Young. (CBC - image credit)
The debate inside the Saskatchewan legislature so far this session has been highlighted by an almost daily back-and-forth between the Trade and Export Minister Jeremy Harrison and the opposition critic Aleana Young. (CBC - image credit)

The Saskatchewan spring sitting is only two weeks old and a definite pattern is emerging: the back and forth between Trade Minister Jeremy Harrison and economy critic Aleana Young has become almost daily theatre.

The tone in "pandemic question period" was generally muted in 2020, but the spring session has sprung some sharp-tongued attacks from Harrison and Young, with plenty of one-liners and cutting barbs.

On Monday, Young called Harrison "the worst jobs minister in Canada, by the numbers."

Harrison responded with an incredulous, "Oh my goodness," and called the Opposition's budget replies "reckless and extreme."

Last week, Harrison answered a question about rising lumber costs hurting the construction industry, saying the high costs are a boon for the 8,000 people employed in the forestry sector. On Monday, Young called Harrison's response a celebration of "high construction costs."

Harrison replied that the NDP had "zero credibility with our business community, and that's why they have virtually zero seats."

Young replied, "It's great that the member opposite, who hasn't had a real job in nearly 20 years, is so comfortable," so Harrison called being an MLA a "real job in serving their constituents and their province."

Minister Jeremy Harrison (left) and opposition MLA Aleana Young have been debating jobs and the provincial economy for the first two weeks of the sitting.
Minister Jeremy Harrison (left) and opposition MLA Aleana Young have been debating jobs and the provincial economy for the first two weeks of the sitting.(Government of Saskatchewan)

Harrison claimed the NDP was pushing to lock down the province and would put "80,000 people out of work."

The most recent figures from Statistics Canada show the labour force grew by 3,000 people from January 2021 to February 2021, but February 2021 saw 23,000 fewer people employed than the same month the previous year.

The debate between Harrison and Young continued Tuesday, with Young once again calling Harrison "the worst jobs minister in Canada." This time she referred to the minimum wage, which the NDP wants set at $15 an hour.

Young said at the current pace Saskatchewan's minimum wage of $11.45 an hour would not reach Alberta's $15 level even when her infant daughter turns 28.

Harrison referenced Saskatchewan's low unemployment rate, which is among the strongest in the country.

Back-and-forth started Week 1

The initial sparring between Harrison and Young began the first week of the new session when Young replied to the budget.

"The government is spending $9.5 million more to establish four international trade offices, cushy foreign patronage postings with little to show for the shrouded work," she said. "The Sask. Party prefers to waste money to ensure that these perk-filled postings abroad are theirs and theirs alone."

The following day in question period, Young criticized "a total nothingburger of a budget."

Harrison responded by raising Young's budget reply.

"I am very disappointed in that member who yesterday attacked the character, attacked the integrity, attacked the professionalism, and attacked the work ethic of professional public servants with decades of experience working in that sector, who are doing all they can to promote Saskatchewan's export interests abroad.

"Mr. Speaker, she has an opportunity right now. She can do the right thing. She can stand in the House and she can apologize to those public servants for the characters of whom she impugned."

Young responded by calling Harrison emotional.

Harrison again asked Young to apologize.

She did not and said, "The hysteria grows."

A week later, Harrison raised the issue again and asked for Young to apologize for a "reprehensible attack on our professional public servants."

Young did not apologize.