REGINA — The repercussions of Colin Thatcher’s shocking appearance during the Speech from the Throne were felt again in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
Thatcher, the former Saskatchewan cabinet minister convicted in 1984 of the murder of his ex-wife JoAnn Wilson, was at the assembly on Wednesday as a guest of Lumsden-Morse MP Lyle Stewart. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Stewart was quoted as describing Thatcher as a “good person”.
However, the invitation created an uproar on a day meant to focus on messages from the government’s throne speech. Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell was forced to defend Thatcher’s appearance, telling the media scrum Thatcher had “a right to be here”.
Thursday morning before Question Period, Stewart released a statement in which he took full responsibility for inviting Thatcher.
“Each MP has the option of inviting a certain number of guests to the Speech from the Throne. It was I alone who decided to invite Colin Thatcher, who is a longtime constituent and friend. In retrospect, this was an error in judgement, as his presence distracted from a very positive and forward-looking Speech from the Throne, which included a number of new initiatives aimed at ensuring the safety of Saskatchewan families in their communities.
Inside during Question Period, opposition MPs hammered the government for allowing Thatcher’s invitation.
“Yesterday we saw Colin Thatcher attend the Speech from the Throne,” said Opposition Leader Carla Beck. “Invited by the architect of the separation tour and the Prime Minister’s white paper. The senior government official who invited Thatcher said he was “a wonderful person”. Does the Prime Minister understand the signals this sends in a province with the highest rates of interpersonal violence in the country? A simple question and this one is addressed to the Prime Minister: will he condemn this decision and present an apology? »
But that question was quickly ruled out of order by President Randy Weekes. “This whole question of someone being invited or not is out of order,” Weekes said.
The NDP continued on this issue. University of Saskatoon MP Jennifer Bowes then stood up and recounted in detail the Supreme Court’s account of how JoAnn Wilson was beaten and shot in her garage in 1983.
Bowes then asked what message the Prime Minister thought he had sent inviting Thatcher, but before she could finish, Weekes also ruled her question out of order.
When Bowes rephrased the question by noting that Saskatchewan had one of the “highest rates of domestic violence in the entire country,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre responded by acknowledging that the rates were “a tragedy” and added “we must do everything we can” to bring them down. This response did not satisfy Bowes.
“This Speech from the Throne talks a lot about the severity of crime – certain types of crime, I guess,” Bowes said.
“Yet yesterday a wife convicted of murder sat in this room. It’s disgusting. Again, what message does it send to the women of this province when the honor of a throne speech is extended to a convicted woman murderer? »
But that question was also ruled out of order, as was Bowes’ next question where she asked if the minister agreed with Stewart’s quote that Thatcher was a “good person”. Weekes also ruled that question out of order.
After Weekes asked members to “move on to another topic or phrase it differently,” University of Regina MLA Aleana Young finally agreed turning to the government job performance roast – but not before remarking “this is a display of cowardice from the members of this side. ”
Speaking to reporters after question period, Bowes said she was “disappointed that the questions were ruled out of order.”
“It’s an important issue, and it’s an issue that’s been raised in our province and across our country since yesterday’s Speech from the Throne,” Bowes said.
She also wanted the government to recognize that what happened was wrong and should never have happened.
“We have minister (Christine) Tell yesterday saying ‘it’s okay’. This is the message that is sent to the women of our province that it does not matter that a wife convicted of murder is invited as a guest of honor at this Assembly by the government.
Beck did not shy away from his party’s repeated use of the words “convicted murder wife” in the Assembly.
“We saw that the government didn’t want to talk about it today, to shut it down procedurally,” Beck said.
“The reality is, whether the government wants to hear it or not, this province has consistently had rates of domestic violence, interpersonal violence twice the average of all other provinces in the country for a decade, and has the second highest domestic homicide rate in the country. . If the words make you uncomfortable, I don’t think you understand what it’s like to experience interpersonal violence, which too many people in this province have intimate knowledge of.
As to who she thinks should be held responsible for Thatcher’s presence, Beck pointed to the prime minister.
“It’s a matter of leadership. This is a story that made national news across the country, an absolutely shocking lapse in judgment…you know, Speech from the Throne Day is an invite-only event. These invitations are reviewed by caucus. If the Prime Minister did not know, he reasonably should have known. The fact that this didn’t send a red flag to anyone there shocks me. And yes, I think the Prime Minister should also apologize and show some contrition here and show that he understands a bit of the implications of what it meant to have Colin Thatcher here.
Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Scott Moe did not apologize, but acknowledged Thatcher’s invitation was not one he would have made himself.
As for invitations to the Speech from the Throne, Moe noted that these are sent out by individual MPs and ministers.
“I don’t verify any of them, and I have no intention of doing so in the future or in the past… It was an MP who made this invitation, as you know. I would have taken a different decision with respect to this particular invitation.
As to who actually checks the guest list for the Speech from the Throne, Moe could not give an answer to reporters.
“This is an event hosted by the Legislative Assembly and the Speaker. Most certainly, the Prime Minister does not pronounce on the people who will be present. The only guests that the prime minister’s veterans, Moe told reporters, were his own list.
As to whether there will be any changes going forward, Moe said he thinks MPs will “pay careful attention to who they invite not just to the throne speech but to any event,” Moe said. . He also acknowledged that the whole Thatcher episode was a distraction from the messages of the Speech from the Throne, including the community safety investments announced that day.
“Is it unfortunate that these investments are overshadowed by an individual who invited another individual to the Speech from the Throne? Yes.”