Security team

NDP questions should be put to the new Sask. legislative security team

The province has earmarked more than $1.5 million to build the team, but expects new staff to cost no more than the current system.

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The provincial government offered more details Monday on its new legislative security team after the NDP continued to press for answers.

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Public Safety Minister Christine Tell told reporters the new team will be made up of 11 armed government employees who aim to increase visibility.

“You’re going to see more exposure than what we’ve seen,” Tell said, noting that they will also be liable for their conduct to the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission.

“They will fall under that jurisdiction,” Tell said. “Currently, they are not.”

Questions about the new security team continued as MPs went to committee on Monday night to discuss potential changes, which are outlined in Bill 70.

With the bill, the province would diminish most of the responsibilities of the sergeant-at-arms and see the hiring of a new director of security appointed by the minister.

Following his unveiling, former Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Quinn resigned from his position in early February.

Tell said the province has set aside more than $1.5 million to establish the team, but expects the new hires to cost no more than the current system.

Of these dollars, $843,000 is for operating funding and $684,000 for salaries. An additional $440,000 is for housing and potential tenant improvements.

She said it’s possible the new team could be ready in the fall, but didn’t provide a firm date. Current security personnel in the building can apply for the new positions, Tell said.

The NDP accused the province of making changes to what should be an independent process.

In her amendment, NDP justice critic Nicole Sarauer proposed that the new director of security be appointed by the president rather than the minister.

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“The people of Saskatchewan want the security of this building to remain as it has been for more than 30 years, regardless of government interference,” Sarauer said. “This is accomplished by passing the reporting structure through the President.”

Prior to the committee meeting, Tell said she would not accept the amendment.

She said the auditor reported that the expertise within the department is good.

Tell added that she or other ministers do not directly control or want to get involved in operations.

“Governments have operated like this for many, many years,” she said. “The suggestion that these people who are employed are partisan in nature is really an affront to these people who have worked so hard.”

Tell said an “ever-changing world” prompted the government to demand the new service.

Although she did not provide a list of examples of past security issues that prompted the legislation, she said on Monday that a series of events prompted the changes.

She said the crowd outside the Legislative Assembly on the day of the Speech from the Throne was “a cause for concern”.

In October, the province canceled the outdoor Speech from the Throne ceremony due to unspecified “recent threats”. Protesters against vaccination mandates were outside the steps of the Legislative Building that day.

Sarauer said the NDP feels the Sergeant-at-Arms handled security well, including on the day of the Speech from the Throne.

“Protests are permitted to occur outside of this building, as long as they are conducted legally. To my knowledge, that protest was,” she said. “I do hope that the members of this committee will think long and hard about what this bill could mean and what it means for these brave people who protect us today.”

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