When, on May 31, 2011, retiring MHA and then Speaker of the House Roger Fitzgerald proclaimed “This House now stands adjourned” few were aware it would be almost 10 months until the 47th General Assembly of the House of Assembly would resume.
Premier Dunderdale broke the news after her landslide victory in the Oct. 11 election causing a cross section of the electorate to froth at the mouth with anger (we, the province’s media, must take some of the blame in this for not A) asking the question on when the House would re-open and; B) making a kafuffle about it when told it was going to be March.)
The reasoning, as we have been reassured, is the government’s desire to craft legislation for full, frank and open debate as soon as the speech from the throne concludes on March 5.
Here’s hoping they have a cornucopia of bills to present to the house because it is quite clear from the discussions in various media outlets, the people are getting restless.
As an aside, it is worth noting that in less than a month after their November 7 election, Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall made his speech from the throne and their equivalent of the House of Assembly sat for a full two weeks right up until Dec. 15 before recess.
In accordance with Rule 4 of the Rules and Procedures of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, “the first session after a general election may commence on a day outside the normal period of the parliamentary calendar, at the discretion of the government.”
That says one of two things: Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party – a coalition of Progressive Conservatives and Liberals – is on the ball, or our government is not.
Nevertheless, for provincial political junkies and hopefully the politicians themselves, a second Christmas is right around the corner.
With only two months, or 58 sleeps until the big day, the anticipation is building about the impending long list of legislation the government is sure to roll out.
Getting excited yet?
You better be because if Premier Dunderdale takes the lead of former premier Danny Williams, blink and you could miss the show all together.
After winning the Oct. 9, 2007 election, then premier Danny Williams waited until March 10, 2008 to reopen the house – almost nine months after the cessation of the House of Assembly
“I will try and be as quick as I can. I know people are probably getting a little tired. It is late in the afternoon and people are starting to get fidgety in their seats. I feel your pain. I will assure you that this speech is going to be quick,” Mr. Williams quipped as proceedings drew to a close on the first day back.
The first day and they were tired? Oh dear. Thankfully they only had to sit for just four more days that month before things really ramped up. In April MHAs sat for 14 days and in May they managed 16 before closing out the first session with three days in June.
“Mr. Speaker, if I may I just want to take a few moments as we wind up this session of the Forty-Sixth General Assembly to thank everybody, to thank all members on both sides of the House for what has been a very productive session,” Mr. Williams said at the conclusion of the first session on June 4, 2008 after 33 days of debate.
“I think it went on a little longer than we thought and that is a good thing. We started in March, we have gone now through to a part of June and I think that is worthwhile, taking into consideration, of course, that we did not have the opportunity to sit in the fall.
“I think, as everybody knows, it was an opportunity for government after the election to sort of get in position, to get ministers in place and to give us an opportunity to be ready for the spring session. So, that has all worked out very well.”
This retrospective should give us all hope because thankfully Premier Dunderdale has her ministers in place after a cabinet reshuffle and after spending the past five months crafting legislation, they shouldn’t need too much time to “get in position”.
Roll on March 5.
– Juris Graney
Juris Graney is editor of the Northern Pen, Transcontinental’s Community newspaper in St. Anthony.