Brad Wall speaks to media at Elk Ridge on Friday, as Herb Cox stands beside him. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski
Saskatchewan government's annual caucus retreat at Elk Ridge Resort has been bittersweet for two cabinet ministers who will soon be replaced.
Environment Minister Herb Cox and Economy Minister Bill Boyd are both stepping down, of their own accord.
The public didn't know until now, but Cox has been undergoing chemotherapy since Christmas time and will be undergoing stem cell transplants by the end of the month.
This is his second time undergoing the process, as he had cancer in 2011 as well. This time around Cox said he has more energy because the harvesting of his stem cells was already done in 2011.
He's optimistic about recovery and plans to stay on as MLA.
"I don't see that this will affect me at all. I look at it, it's no different than somebody who had an operation or maybe was in a car accident or whatever and was laid up for a period of time," Cox said.
Despite his health concerns, Cox will be holding another news conference next week regarding the Husky Energy oil spill.
Premier Brad Wall commends both ministers for their performances in tough positions. He pointed to Cox's work during the wildfires in northern Saskatchewan last year, and his leadership since the Husky Energy oil spill in recent weeks.
Boyd has been in cabinet since 2007 and said he wants to open up space for other Sask. Party members to take on the role.
Bill Boyd speaks to media, Herb Cox stands to the side. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski
"You see that we have a very, very high quality team now and as a result of that I think it's time for some of us to think about the future a little more carefully and give opportunity for some other people to serve," he said.
Wall said Boundary Dam 3 is a part of Boyd's legacy as Minister of the Economy, but also spoke of Boyd's role in the Sask. Party beyond just as minister.
Boyd is one the eight founders of the Sask. Party. He was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party 19 years ago, when the PCs merged with the Liberals to create the Sask. Party.
"The Saskatchewan Party would not be here if it were not for Bill," Wall said.
He said in the years since, Boyd has been held in high esteem by all his colleagues. That made the conversation in which Boyd told Wall he wanted to step down from caucus, a bittersweet one.
"I remember having a discussion when I was considering running for the leadership in the first place. One of the first people I called for advice and counsel and hopefully support was Bill. So now to have this conversation all these years later was a little bittersweet."
Those glowing words gave way to some reflection on economic situations, like the Global Transportation Hub land deal and SaskPower Smart Metres, that the government has struggled with.
The GTH deal was subject to an auditor's report that cleared Boyd of allegations of misconduct.
"I think the report showed that government has to get things better in terms of communications, on expropriating of land," Wall said.
Boyd, too, acknowledges his role has not always been easy.
"You do what you think is the right thing all the way along. If I were to look back on it we probably would have made the decision to pull the Smart Metres out a little bit earlier. However you kind of deal with the hand that you're dealt with at the time," he said.
Just last week, Minister of Liquor and Gaming Don McMorris resigned after being charged with impaired driving.
In spite of all these recent developments - including widespread criticism of announcements related to reducing benefits for those on social assistance - Wall said the retreat was "truly one of the best meetings we've ever had,” and focused more on “transformational change” than on the people in government who are driving it.
With these three cabinet vacancies, Wall has some big decisions to make.
"Sure, this changes some things and there are certain spaces now perhaps ... are open now in cabinet that weren't open just a few months ago," he said.
A cabinet shuffle is coming in the next few weeks.