Hayward beats Barnhart for Municipalities of Sask. presidency

·3 min read

Gordon Barnhart is gone as the head of the association representing Saskatchewan cities, towns, and villages amid criticism of his travel to Hawaii and his views on amalgamation.

The former lieutenant-governor’s bid for a second term as president of Municipalities of Saskatchewan was cut short by challenger Rodger Hayward, who won 351 votes to Barnhart’s 115.

Hayward, who is the mayor of Naicam and a former vice-president of towns, said he was “extremely happy” with the results, despite celebrating at a distance in the virtual convention.

“My arm would be sore shaking hands today,” he said. “I’m now sitting by myself in my home office, thinking about it — but that’s not a bad thing either.”

Barnhart, who campaigned from Hawaii, came under fire recently for his comments on amalgamation and for travelling despite the pandemic — which Hayward said partly led him to mount a campaign.

Barnhart said he wasn’t surprised at the results on Monday afternoon, adding that he felt a bit of relief. He plans to focus on his duties as mayor of Saltcoats and still predicts big changes are on the way for municipal governance, he said.

“I still believe we’re on the cusp of some major changes. We’re going to have to be. I think change is coming whether we want it or not.”

In a tweet, Premier Scott Moe thanked Barnhart for his time in office and congratulated Hayward on the win.


It was a rocky campaign for Barnhart, who faced at least one reported call for his resignation.

Former association CEO Laurent Mougeot said Barnhart “failed to address a number of elephants in the room” and paid the price on Monday.

He pointed to amalgamation and travel to Hawaii as some of those issues. Others included the financial situation of the association, and the branding change from Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association to Municipalities of Saskatchewan, he said.

The last was a point of contention with the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, which was also blindsided by Barnhart’s comments on amalgamation last spring.

Those internal issues led the association’s external advocacy work to take a back seat in the last provincial election, Mougeot added.

He called Hayward “a well-seasoned politician” who “understands the role of the president isn’t a one-man show” and would project “a unified voice.” The new president is well-suited to the varying needs between smaller villages and larger municipalities, he added.

Hayward’s campaign prioritized advocating to government, involving the membership and offering a united municipal voice.

He pledged more consultation with members regarding financial concerns and to mend fences with SARM. He said one of his first phone calls will be to SARM president Ray Orb.

“I think the unified voice rang pretty hard with people,” he said. “We were being a little disjointed. We need to work together, not separately.”

Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix