Pair of Sask. MLAs removed from chamber after emotional, combative debate

·5 min read
Two MLAs were forced to leave the Saskatchewan legislative chamber on Wednesday for breaching rules. (Matt Duguid/CBC News - image credit)
Two MLAs were forced to leave the Saskatchewan legislative chamber on Wednesday for breaching rules. (Matt Duguid/CBC News - image credit)

On the second last day of the legislative sitting, emotions boiled over resulting in the Speaker asking two MLAs to leave after they refused to apologize.

Speaker Randy Weekes has repeatedly warned the opposition and government for using "personal attacks" and did so as recently as Tuesday.

The issue came to a head on Wednesday afternoon in a rare ejection of two members for different reasons.

The removal of a member is a fairly rare occurrence, with the last happening in 2017.

Vermette says minister 'doesn't give a shit about anyone'

For 22 days, Opposition MLA for Cumberland Doyle Vermette has stood near the end of question period to ask the government to do more in preventing suicides.

On Tuesday, he asked the government to support his motion to strike an all-party committee on suicide prevention.

The government declined that request and on Wednesday, Vermette became emotional when he took to his feet at the end of question period.

He read the names of the families he had introduced who lost a loved one to suicide and said they "have been treated miserably by you."

"They wanted the premier to stand. Why didn't you just tell them you didn't care about them?" he asked.

"And the minister, why didn't you just tell the truth that you don't give a shit about anyone," Vermette said voice cracking while looking at the government members.

Following Vermette's question, Weekes stood to address the house.

"This is a very sensitive topic, yes I heard the words. Let's move on," Weekes said.

The Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Everett Hindley also responded.

"This is a very serious issue and we do take this very seriously. Many members in this chamber and across this province have been affected by this."

Hindley said the government would work on existing initiatives and called it a priority for the government.

Weekes indicated he would not call on Vermette for an apology.

"I heard what the member for Cumberland said. It's a sensitive issue. It's an emotional issue for all of us. That's going to be my ruling today. Because of the sensitivity of the issue, that's my ruling today," Weekes said.

Nearly an hour after Vermette's comments, Weekes did ask for an apology.

Vermette saying Hindley was not telling the truth and using the word "shit" is considered unparliamentary.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker. I cannot," Vermette said.

After a third request, Weekes then censured Vermette for breaking house rules and suspended him from the chamber for the remainder of the day.

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

On Tuesday, Hindley and Premier Scott Moe said an all-party committee on mental health was not needed because a committee of representatives from different levels of government already exists in the form of a "strategic planning and oversight team."

Following question period, Vermette spoke to reporters and said he was frustrated by the government's lack of interest in his pitch for a committee, which he said is being asked for by families who feel that are not being heard by MLAs.

As for the government's existing committee, Vermette called it "the best-kept secret from everybody. I don't even know about this committee."

Vermette said he has been asking for action and a plan on suicides and has not heard about the committee until Tuesday.

"Nobody knew about this committee, so I don't know where this came from."

Wilson also suspended from the chamber

About 50 minutes before Vermette was asked to leave, Saskatchewan Rivers Independent MLA Nadine Wilson was removed from the chamber after failing to apologize.

During question period, Wilson could be heard shouting at Minister of Trade and Export Jeremy Harrison, 'What laws are you going to break now?"

Moments later, Wilson continued speaking loudly from her seat and shouted the word "lie" and was told by the speaker to withdraw and apologize for using unparliamentary language.

Weekes asked Wilson to apologize three times. When she did not, he found her in violation of "disregarding the authority of the chair" and he asked the sergeant-at-arms to escort her out.

Shortly after, Wilson stopped to speak to reporters. Regarding the comment about breaking laws, she said she was referring to the government's COVID-19 rules and using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a justification.

Wilson has accused the government members of bullying her.

Moe was asked about Wilson's dismissal after question period.

"This is a member that has left caucus due to misrepresenting her status. This is a member who has periodically showed up and then when she does show up, she gets kicked out."

Wilson left the Saskatchewan Party caucus in Sept. 2021 for misrepresenting her vaccination status.

Moe also accused Wilson of missing every vote in the house.

He said she should step down and run in a by-election.

As for the heckling, Moe said it happens but that "all sides need to work on keeping that to a minimum."

"This is a place to debate policies and not personalities."

Michael Bell/The Canadian Press
Michael Bell/The Canadian Press

Moe said he is not worried about Wilson recruiting any MLAs to the potential new party she is involved in.

When asked about Wilson trying to get former colleagues to cross the floor, Moe said "good luck."

Saskatchewan United has had its name approved and is gathering signatures to register as an official party.

Wilson is involved in the party as is former federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz. Two other individuals involved in the group, Ken Rutherford and Nadine Ness, were guests of Wilson and watched proceedings from the gallery on Wednesday.

When asked about the decorum in the house Opposition Leader Ryan Meili accused the government of "gross bullying behaviour toward women in our caucus."

"It's rough in there and it's rougher than I have ever seen it."

Meili said the opposition has to "punch harder and yell louder" to be heard given a 48 to 12 seat disadvantage.

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