Constituency offices of Sask. Party members who resigned have closed

The constituency offices of former Saskatchewan Party MLAs Corey Tochor (Saskatoon Eastview) and Walter Steinley (Regina Walsh Acres) have closed, leading to the loss of one part-time and two full-time staff positions. Both men resigned their seats last week to run as Conservative candidates in the federal election.

Premier Scott Moe said no byelections will be held to fill their seats because the next provincial election is just over a year away and running two byelections before then would cost more than $700,000.

That means residents in those two constituencies will not have an MLA or a constituency office to go to for more than a year.

Opposition leader Ryan Meili says that's unacceptable.

"There will be no one there to answer the phone, to help people with casework around social services or access to health care, or what's going on in education," said Meili. "Anybody living in Saskatoon Eastview or Regina Walsh Acres will have nowhere to go that's their local representative."

CBC

Corey Tochor's federal campaign responded to a request for an interview with a short statement that said any Saskatoon Eastview constituents needing assistance can contact fellow Sask. Party MLA Don Morgan at his Saskatoon Southeast office.

John Saltasuk, the Government Caucus Office chief of staff, wrote in an email that Legislative Assembly procedure is for one constituency assistant to work up to 40 hours after the member's resignation to wrap up office functions and casework.

"After this 40-hour period, the constituency office is formally closed and staff are no longer employed by the Legislative Assembly," Saltasuk wrote.

Saltasuk said phone lines for Tochor and Steinley's constituency offices have been forwarded to the neighbouring MLA offices of Laura Ross in Regina or Don Morgan in Saskatoon.

But telling someone to find another MLA isn't good enough, said Meili.

"There is a reason that we have MLAs representing their constituencies. They develop relationships with the voters, the businesses, the community organizations, the schools. They have an understanding of what's going on on the ground," he said.

Matthew Howard/CBC

"You cannot just simply say: 'It'll be fine. Somebody else will cover it.' That really undermines the whole concept of representative democracy. That is the representative for Saskatoon Eastview, for Regina Walsh Acres, and right now they don't have one."

Meili also said it's ironic that the Sask. Party increased the number of MLAs in the province to 61 in the last election, "but now they're absolutely fine leaving two entire seats with large populations unrepresented for over a year."

Meili said constituency assistants (CAs) are key liaisons for residents.

"I know I'm in our office we have people all the time coming with real needs and they really appreciate the help and support that CAs give them," Meili said.

"And often the CAs are able to resolve things in ways that MLAs can't because they're there on the ground or, if they're not able, the MLA is pretty important too. And in Eastview and Walsh Acres they don't have either of those people anymore."

Meili said the NDP has started a petition demanding the provincial government hold byelections.