On April 8th New MLA of Last Mountain Touchwood, Travis Keisig, rose in the legislature, providing his response to the 2021 budget.
Born in Balcarres, a farmer and a welder by trade, Keisig decided to formally enter the political realm after his youngest child had been accepted into University around the same time long-serving MLA Glen Hart announced his retirement. Keisig ran and became the Saskatchewan Party candidate after a contested nomination in January of 2020.
Keisig’s wife Sheila is the Administrator for the Rural Municipality of Tullymet and Vice President of the Rural Municipal Administrators’ Association of Saskatchewan. They have two daughters, Shannara and Sharlize. Shannara is enrolled in the Continuing Care Aid program at Sask Polytechnic, working part-time in the community of Strasbourg at the Last Mountain Pioneer Home. Like many young people, COVID has changed career and education plans, and his daughter Sharlize works in Regina at a veterinary clinic. She will be going to school in the fall to further her education in that field.
Keisig first became interested in politics around the carbon tax debate. “It’s an unfair tax that disproportionately affects rural people. It disproportionately affects Saskatchewan people. It doesn’t do anything. If in your heart and soul you believe this is going to change the environment, the data doesn’t show that. British Columbia has had a carbon tax for almost 8 or 9 years and their emissions have done nothing but go up. The statistics show that. The Supreme Court has ruled, they are the ultimate voice in Canada. We are [devising] a plan on how we are going to deal with it, it’s still in the works but it will have to be implemented in some way in the future.”
Living in Shaunavon for a period, Keisig worked for an oil field construction firm before starting his own small business providing mobile welding services. Keisig said the oil field has been very good to him and that the resource sector is hurting. “You can’t touch one manufactured product in your house without having some influence of hydrocarbons. It’s so rampantly used in the manufacturing process, it’s critical for our transportation. It’s an integral part of today’s society. As much as certain governments think you can tax it out of existence, it’s not feasible.”
In the budget, the Government announced that SGI would collect effective October 1st, 2021, a $150 annual tax on electric vehicles (EV). The tax will go toward road maintenance.
“I am 100% in support of it. There is 15 cents from every litre of gasoline that we purchase as individuals that goes toward road maintenance… If you want to buy an electric car absolutely, go right ahead. There is nothing wrong with that… but governments have to have a vision, how do we fund our highway repairs.” Keisig gave an example that if most people switched to EV’s, it would be a considerable loss in funding highway repairs, and the loss of a revenue stream would be devastating.
“Realistically we never have enough for highway repairs. Small population, massive geography and our Government has always tried to make highway infrastructure as high as a priority as possible.”
“All of Saskatchewan people have always committed to paying their fair share. They have never shirked their duties and this provides all electric car owners an opportunity to do that.”
Keisig said there are 407 electric cars in Saskatchewan, and the fee will raise $63,000.
Keisig said the experience of becoming an MLA has been overwhelming as there is so much to learn. He noted that new MLA’s are partnered with veteran MLA’s who teach the nuances of public service. “I was very fortunate to be partnered with my neighbour Don McMorris. A very well respected man in caucus and very experienced in the political realm. His guidance and assistance has been tremendous. There are 12 new MLA’s in the Saskatchewan party, which is nearly ¼ of the caucus. There’s a lot of new ideas and some of my new colleagues. I have to give them a ton of credit. They are absolutely fearless. They will speak up in caucus meetings and bring forward their points of view. Many decisions this Government makes is caucus driven and it’s important every voter knows that their votes matter, that their representatives matter.”
COVID-19 has permeated all facets of life in Saskatchewan. Many municipalities have closed their offices with staff working from home, and council meetings have moved online over Zoom.
Recently, at the request of the Strasbourg town Council Keisig attended their Zoom council meeting. He heard concerns over how the Last Mountain Pioneer Home Foundation had to fundraise to replace a specialized tub when they normally fundraise for things such as activities to enhance the lives of those living there. Numerous municipalities provided money for the tub. Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Josephson said the concern was why municipalities should pay for capital costs for Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities. Josephson said it’s not that they don’t want to help, and they did help because many people have parents and grandparents who live at the home, and it’s a large area employer but questioned why they have to use taxpayer money for a capital cost.
Keisig said the council had “very valid concerns and it’s top of mind for the government and myself personally especially when my daughter is an employee there.”
Premier Scott Moe has asked MLA’s not to travel in and out of the city during the spring sitting due to the current COVID risk. Keisig and his family are taking the precautions seriously as he will spend the entire sitting in Regina. He said that usually, his spouse would visit during the weekend, however on a recent Dr’s visit to the city, she came in and left without their regular visit.
Keisig was recently vaccinated at the Regina drive-thru when it was his turn. He remarked as to the efficiency, professionalism and cleanliness of the site after the spring snowfall. “It is very important that people go and get vaccinated. That’s the way we are going to get through this pandemic because every person I talk to, every person in my constituency, every person in Saskatchewan we want to get back to the way we were. And we will once the vaccinations keep rolling out. We are struggling with deliveries but as soon as we get them we are putting them into people’s arms.”
Keisig credits the skills he learned in 4-H with providing him with essential skills in his new role as an MLA, “I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for 4-H.”
Keisig’s father, Fred, who passed away in 2013, was in 4-H as a child after Keisig’s grandfather started the Tullymet 4-H beef club. Fred then passed 4-H to his children, where Keisig learned the ropes. Keisig’s daughters carried on the tradition through their involvement with horse 4-H.
“I don’t do a lot of showing beef cattle anymore but the public speaking skills I learned as a small child in 4-H - I was in 4-H up until I was 18 years - old has served me tremendously well in the job I have now. I couldn’t even imagine doing this job without learning those public speaking skills as a youth.” Keisig said the skills he learned in 4-H “has been the cornerstone of the foundation that I have built this career on. I am a huge advocate for 4H and a huge proponent.” He recommended if people have the opportunity to put their kids in 4-H, to do so.
Keisig is a member of the committee on intergovernmental affairs and justice. The spring sitting started on April 6th and will conclude after six weeks on May 14th.
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
Note: These reports are abridged for content
- Jenifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
Note: These reports may be abridged for content
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times