Finance minister Kevin Doherty. Photo courtesy Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce.

Saskatchewan’s finance minister may have been under fire with the mid-year budget coming out on Monday, but earlier this month he put another MLA in the spotlight with some criticism of his own.

Earlier this month, Kevin Doherty wrote the following comment on a Facebook post by La Ronge’s Mayor – and provincial Saskatchewan Party candidate for Cumberland – Thomas Sierzycki:

“Thomas, it’s on the record that Doyle Vermette voted against the Long Term Care home in La Ronge…people in that community need to ask him why?”

Doherty clarified that statement on Friday, saying Doyle Vermette is on the record for this because he voted against a budget that devoted $500,000 in planning dollars towards such a facility.

“He might have been able to stand up and say ‘you know what? I like that aspect of the budget, but I can’t support the budget as an opposition member – the totality of the budget.’ But he didn’t even stand up and say that,” Doherty said.

Vermette says some of his constituency members gave him a heads up about the Facebook post. It isn’t settling well with Vermette, who calls the post “dirty politics.”

“People have made me aware of that so that was kind of good that I saw the Facebook post. I questioned it myself, I was actually very upset. It’s like, you know, this is dirty politics but if that’s what they want to play, then that’s their decision as a minister or as a person wanting to post that.”

He points to his own track record on advocating for long-term care in the north since 2008: organizing petitions, meeting with community members, and banding together with the northern health region.

“I have worked with the leadership, worked with individuals, families who have come here into my office and approached me saying ‘Doyle we gotta, it’s wrong, we have to show respect, dignity to our seniors and we have to keep them home with the language, the culture,” Vermette said.

But Doherty says when Vermette voted against the provincial budget, it made a statement, and that he posted his comment on Facebook because people in the constituency deserve to know the record of their MLA.

“It’s his record. He stood in the legislature and voted against the budget. That’s the record. That’s not spin, that’s not me making that up, that’s his position on that budget, he stood up and voted against it. So we’re held to account for our record. I’m held to account for things that I do in the budget or my voting record inside the legislature, that’s what he’s held to account for,” Doherty said.

The NDP is calling that claim ridiculous. Vermette says a budget is taken as a whole, not in parts, and he voted against it because there’s not enough infrastructure money going back into northern Saskatchewan.

“They could have announced, with record revenues, a facility. Instead we got, they’re slow walking again, having $500,000 for planning, there’s still no facility,” he said.

“They yell at me in the house, you know, we heckle back and forth… ‘Oh you voted against long-term care, that member voted against a long-term care home, well, you know, you haven’t announced a long-term care home.”

Vermette said the dollars that are being devoted to planning for the care home is the result of “the good work that many people who signed the petitions, many family members, many people are putting pressure on this government, saying enough’s enough.”

Vermette is also collecting signatures on a petition for a long-term care facility in Denare Beach and area.

This debate is sure to continue as Saskatchewan heads into a spring election.