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Sask. Party MLAs deflect committee attempt to call witnesses about gun allegations

Saskatchewan Party MLAs are deflecting an Opposition attempt to call witnesses to answer questions on weapons allegations against a cabinet minister. Saskatchewan Government House Leader Jeremy Harrison speaks to the media at the Saskatchewan legislature in Regina, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

REGINA — Saskatchewan Party legislature members have deflected an attempt to get senior government officials, including Premier Scott Moe, to answer public questions on weapons and harassment allegations against a cabinet minister.

In a Monday meeting of the house services committee, Opposition New Democrat member Vicki Mowat proposed a motion to summon Moe, cabinet minister Jeremy Harrison, government house leader Lori Carr and senior adviser Reg Downs to a future committee meeting to discuss Harrison's actions.

But Saskatchewan Party members on the committee amended the motion, handing the issue off to a separate process set up by legislature.

NDP member Meara Conway objected, saying that process is conducted in private and the issue should be dealt with publicly.

"This has now become an issue of public record," she said.

"The public is aware of this, and the public wants answers. It's disappointing to see this amendment, which appears to be an attempt to block an investigation."

On the last day of the spring sitting in May, Speaker Randy Weekes — also head of the services committee — accused Harrison of toting a gun in the legislature, wanting to carry a handgun and sending harassing text messages.

Harrison initially denied bringing the gun into the building but later admitted doing it and resigned as government house leader. He also said he once sent Weekes an inappropriate text with an expletive.

There have been conflicting versions of what happened with the gun.

Harrison said he brought a rifle into the legislature about 10 years ago in the fall, as he was going bird hunting. However, a letter from the legislature's former acting sergeant-at-arms said it happened eight years ago in the spring and involved shooting coyotes.

Harrison had also said security was aware of the gun, but the letter said security was not informed.

The letter said security officers were startled when they encountered Harrison, who was wearing camouflage clothing. Harrison walked past the security kiosk and disappeared around a corner.

Weekes said he was also concerned Harrison may have carried a gun into the legislature on another occasion.

Earlier this month, the NDP asked Weekes to call the committee and have it move a motion to appoint an independent investigator.

The Saskatchewan Party used its majority on the committee to amend Mowat's motion and handed the issue off to the separate house process.

"We don't believe this committee is the process to deal with (harassment)," said Saskatchewan Party committee member Jim Reiter.

Reiter said weapons issues are for the police. "That clearly is the purview of security in this building. We don't believe that it should be position of politicians to direct law enforcement."

The New Democrats maintain an investigation through the legislature's anti-harassment policy would be highly limited and not have the scope to investigate allegations of guns, staff-on-member harassment or what they call the Moe government's subsequent coverup.

"The harassment process is ill-suited to getting answers on the long gun issue," Conway said.

The Saskatchewan Party majority on the committee carried the vote.

"I don't feel we're blocking (an investigation) in any way, shape or form," said Reiter after the meeting. "We're directing it to the appropriate process that should be followed."

He said Weekes could start the legislature's process at any time by requesting it of the official in charge, who makes the decision whether or not to proceed.

Mowat told reporters after the meeting that the committee move is an example of a government that thinks the rules don't apply to them.

“It’s disappointing that Premier Moe has instructed his MLAs to run interference for Jeremy Harrison,” she said.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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