Sask. NDP demands Joe Hargrave resign after Palm Springs trip; Moe says he will stay

The Saskatchewan NDP posed a number of questions to Premier Scott Moe, and called for Joe Hargrave to resign from his cabinet appointments, following revelations about the minister’s ongoing trip to Palm Springs, California.

“Joe Hargrave, with the permission of the Premier has flown off to the state of California. Both the Premier and Minister Hargrave showed extremely poor judgement. California is in a state of very serious COVID-19 outbreak,” Opposition leader Ryan Meili said in a Thursday news conference.

Meili said the provincial government is sending conflicting messages by advising residents not to travel internationally while an MLA is doing so himself.

“Whether he thinks that after this he’s a good representative for Prince Albert Carlton is a fair question, but at the very least he should be gone out of cabinet.”

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But in a statement released following the conference, the premier’s office said Hargrave will remain in his executive council.

“Minister Hargrave will remain Minister of Highways. The Premier has discussed this with the Minister and agrees with the Minister’s assessment that his decision to travel was an error in judgement,” the statement reads.

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After details of Hargrave’s whereabouts were revealed Wednesday, Premier Scott Moe said he had been made aware of the trip prior to the Highways and Water Security Agency minister’s departure.

In a statement, Hargrave said that he is in Palm Springs to finish selling personal property and to move things back to Saskatchewan.

“I deemed (the trip) necessary,” Hargrave said Wednesday.

In a separate statement, Moe said he expects Hargrave to follow any required COVID-19 health orders in Palm Springs and at home.

Hargrave added in his statement that he left on Dec. 22 and intends to self-isolate for 14 days in his Prince Albert home after returning.

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But on Thursday, the NDP questioned whether or not such business should be deemed essential for an MLA.

“I find it hard to define selling one’s personal vacation home as a business trip,” said Saskatchewan NDP deputy leader MLA Nicole Sarauer.

“I think most people would see that as a personal trip to deal with personal matters. He didn’t have to go down to conduct business for his job.”

Sarauer said her party is “disappointed and angry” about Hargrave’s decision to travel when residents are being asked to make personal sacrifices this holiday season for the greater good.

Read more: Premier Scott Moe says he wouldn’t change a thing about coronavirus response

The Opposition also asked for answers on whether or not Hargrave has any family members with him on his travels, why he didn’t choose to handle his Palm Springs affairs remotely, and if any other Saskatchewan Party MLAs have recently travelled abroad or approached the premier about doing so.

Meili said none of his party’s MLAs approached him about travelling out of the country over the holiday season.

In a Thursday afternoon statement, Minister Hargrave said “in discussions with the Premier, I realize that my decision to travel was an error in judgement at a time when so many people have had to make sacrifices during the pandemic.”

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“I apologize for this error in judgement, and am returning to Canada as soon as my self-isolation period is over in California on January 5th.”

The statement from the premier’s office added that “no other members *of caucus or cabinet are travelling internationally during the holidays” and that Hargrave was travelling with his wife “who has a stake in the property.”

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