Monday, November 5, 2012

Campaign Update: Erin Weir

An interesting story that has developed outside of the NDP Leadership Race has been the recent treatment of Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce President Steven McLellan inside the legislature. Due to Mr. McLellan holding a press conference in the rotunda, with regards to the Chamber's and SaskFilm's report on the Film Tax Credit, he is now essentially barred from the legislature unless escorted.

While various people have been scratching their heads over this one, Erin Weir's campaign has decided to effectively take the question to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Dan D'Autremont. Erin's letter, which I've included below, is a bit tongue in cheek but also call strays from being too heavy handed with the matter either.

Effectively, the letter is more of a request to have the rules clarified than anything else...Though it does include one very heavy punch towards previous Saskatchewan Party/Government decisions when it comes to sanctioning people within the Legislature.

Much like Erin, I can understand the need for security and other concerns that come up from having people running around the legislature and doing things without proper permissions. But at the same time, the legislature belongs to the people of Saskatchewan. From Erin's letter, I glean that it's more or less impossible for anyone outside of a sitting member to hold a conference within the legislature (it seems everyone else must stay outside).

And while it might not be a big issue, I think we do need to address the need to allow citizens to make their voices heard inside the Legislature; and if there are safety concerns, then we just need to develop policies and procedures that address those while still allowing citizens to voice their concerns in their legislature. Effectively, we do need to demand public inclusion and the ability to speak our minds in our own representative building. Anything less than that, is just exclusionary and wrong.

*Below is Erin's letter.

November 5, 2012

Hon. Dan D’Autremont
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan
129 - 2405 Legislative Drive
Regina, Saskatchewan
S4S 0B3

Dear Mr. Speaker:

I write to seek clarification on the rules concerning access to the
Legislative Building to speak with the press.

As a registered candidate for Leader of the Saskatchewan New
Democratic Party, currently the Official Opposition in the
Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly, I often have reason to communicate
with members of the Legislature Press Gallery Association.

A wide range of groups and individuals frequently speak with the media
inside the Legislative Building. It is customary for journalists,
including many from outside the Legislature Press Gallery Association,
to interview commentators in the rotunda following budgets and throne
speeches. For example, Prairie Dog and Planet S magazines accurately
report that I commented on the last Speech from the Throne at the
Legislature on October 25.

However, when I arranged to speak with reporters in the rotunda on
September 13 about banning corporate and union donations to provincial
political parties, the Sergeant at Arms indicated that I could not
enter the Legislative Building for this purpose. Of course, I followed
his instructions and instead conducted interviews outside.

I note that you sanctioned Rick Swenson and Grant Schmidt of the
Progressive Conservative Party last year and Steve McLellan of the
Chamber of Commerce last week for making themselves available to
journalists inside the Legislative Building. A common feature of these
three announcements is that their content was politically awkward for
the governing Saskatchewan Party.

I appreciate the need to maintain security and accessibility at the
Legislature, and am eager to follow the rules. But recent incidents
have created confusion about the rules in effect. Under what
circumstances is it permissible to speak with reporters inside the
Legislative Building? Under what circumstances is it not allowed?

Thank you for taking the time to provide clarification.


Erin Weir

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