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Two more Sask. Party MLAs announce they won’t be running in next election

As Saskatchewan prepares for a possible fall provincial election, several Saskatchewan Party MLAs have said they are stepping away from politics.

On Monday evening, two more provincial MLAs announced they will not be running in the upcoming election.

Saskatoon Riversdale MLA, Mark Friesen, said he is dealing with some health challenges that make it difficult for him to continue.

“I want to thank the people of Saskatoon Riversdale for electing me in 2020 and thank Premier Moe and my caucus colleagues for their support and friendship over the past four years,” Friesen said.

Kelvington-Wadena MLA Hugh Nerlien is also stepping away.

“After many long discussions, I have decided to not seek re-election this fall and will be focusing on spending more time with family,” he said.

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With Nerlien and Friesen not running, it marks seven Sask. Party members who have announced they are stepping away since the beginning of the year.

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Back in February, four long-time party members announced they would not be returning including Donna Harpauer, Don McMorris, Dustin Duncan and Gord Wyant.

Later in the month, Regina northeast MLA Gary Grewal also announced he would not seek re-election.

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In a separate situation in January, Moose Jaw police charged Sask. Party MLA Greg Lawrence with assault following an investigation. He later announced his resignation from the caucus.

Lawrence would mark eight MLAs not returning in one form or another since Jan. 1, 2024.

The Sask. Party said they have 48 candidates nominated for the next election. Of which 29 are incumbent MLAs seeking re-election and 19 are new candidates.

Daniel Westlake, a political scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, said there could be a number of reasons for people stepping away.

“A (Saskatoon) riding might be a difficult one for them to win, so you can see an MLA saying ‘I might not want to face a tough contest. I’m going to lose,’” Westlake said. “Whereas one from rural Saskatchewan, where I think the Sask. Party has a fairly comfortable lead, the calculations for an MLA might be different.

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With all the changing faces in the party, Westlake doesn’t expect it to make much of a difference at the polls.

“I think a number of things would have to go wrong for the Sask. Party to lose the next election,” he said. “I don’t think there’s enough here for this to impact the party’s chances of winning.”

“It’s not great to be missing an experienced cabinet minister and experienced campaigner.  I’m not going to say that doesn’t matter. But it’s not the kind of damaging thing that we would need to see for the Sask. Party’s ability to win government to really be called into question.”

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