Saskatchewan’s current minister of agriculture is headed back to the provincial legislature after voters handed the governing Saskatchewan Party a landslide win Monday night.
Bob Bjornerud, a southeastern MLA for 16 years and a Saltcoats-area farmer, handily won his riding of Melville-Saltcoats on Monday by a spread of over 3,300 votes against Melville-area cow-calf producer Leonard Dales.
Premier Brad Wall’s government earned 64 per cent of the popular vote and 49 seats Monday night for a second majority, reducing the New Democrats to a 32 per cent vote share and nine seats, for what will be the provincial NDP’s smallest caucus since 1982.
Dwain Lingenfelter, the party’s leader and its critic for agriculture and Saskatchewan Crop Insurance, was among those unseated. His Regina constituency of Douglas Park went to the Saskatchewan Party’s Russ Marchuk, a Regina education consultant and former school principal, by a spread of almost 900 votes.
Lingenfelter, an NDP mainstay through the 1980s and ’90s and a former agriculture minister (1999-2000), announced his resignation Monday night after conceding defeat to Wall.
It remains to be seen who Wall will choose as agriculture minister from his expanded caucus of 49 MLAs, up from 38 after the 2007 election.
Bjornerud, the ag minister since 2007, a former ag critic and the former reeve for the R.M. of Saltcoats, appears the obvious choice but the party has substantial depth in the ag sector with many MLAs either current or former farmers.
Among possible candidates are Arm River-Watrous MLA Greg Brkich, a grain and cattle producer from Bladworth who most recently served as Bjornerud’s legislative secretary on the ag file.
Several members of Wall’s most recent cabinet also previously served stints as ag critic on the opposition benches, including Kindersley MLA Bill Boyd, Humboldt MLA Donna Harpauer and Thunder Creek MLA Lyle Stewart.
Meanwhile, naming an agriculture critic with experience in the file may be difficult for the NDP without Lingenfelter, who still has a hand in the family grain and cattle operation at Shaunavon.
One of the few NDP MLAs with any ag experience is newcomer Cathy Sproule, a Saskatoon-based federal government lawyer specializing in aboriginal law. Sproule was born and raised on a farm in the province’s south and is a co-founder of both the Ness Creek Music Festival and the Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old Tyme Music Festival.
Sproule on Monday kept the Saskatoon riding of Nutana for the NDP by a spread of just over 500 votes against Saskatchewan Party candidate Zoria Broughton, a teacher who was also raised on the farm.
The riding had been held since 1986 by longtime NDP MLA and former ag critic (2007-09) Pat Atkinson, who didn’t seek re-election.