Larry Doke reflects on nine years as MLA for Cut Knife-Turtleford

With the end of the session on July 3, Larry Doke has bid farewell to the legislative assembly after nine years as MLA for Cut Knife-Turtleford.

Doke is now back in his constituency of Cut Knife-Turtleford where he looks forward to serving out his final weeks as MLA until the provincial election.

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“I’m happy with the accomplishments that we’ve been able to make over the last nine years,” said Doke, who spoke to the News-Optimist recently about the wrap-up to the session.

“I don’t mean just me — I mean the people in the constituency and me as the representative.”

“We’ve been able to get some projects done and I’m quite happy with that. One being, of course, the passing lanes out of North Battleford to Cochin... and then the full complement of doctors throughout the constituency and many other areas of road work.”

Doke had a variety of roles during his time in the Legislature, including serving in Cabinet as Minister of Government Relations and Minister responsible for First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs during the period of the Sask. Party leadership race in 2017-18.

A particular highlight was his involvement with the Pacific North West Economic Region, where he served as a one-year President of that organization.

“I got involved in PNWER in 2013, and I was the president last year — of course, we had our big summit in Saskatoon. I really enjoyed my time in PNWER. Even in 2013 when I started as opposed to now, the accomplishments that we’ve done in the Pacific Northwest with trade across the borders, dealing with COOL (labelling) with cattle, cybersecurity — the list goes on and on,” said Doke.

“We’re having a tough time right now because we won’t be having a summit this year. It was supposed to be in Big Sky, Montana, but we’re going to do it virtually. We have about 20 working groups, so each working group is going to have a webinar. So that’s what will happen this year and then we will go back to Big Sky next year as long as COVID(-19) is under control.

“Even as we speak today, I was on a conference call a little bit earlier here. We are lobbying the US government not to put tariffs back on aluminum. We’ve got a voice right at the White House, so we were able to get our message across there.

“Of course, border crossing right now is a big issue but we’re not going to have any border crossing until it’s absolutely safe. There’s some repercussions on that, especially in BC where you have the tourism trade, especially with the ships and everything like that. It’s really taking a hit... I think the US would like to open up on their side, but Canada, we’re being a little bit safer here. So between the five provinces and the three provinces and two territories, we’re able to get our message across. We’re able to work on things like transportation, getting grain to market, potash, or whatever it may be. We take a bipartisan approach on everything, so we have a very strong voice both in Ottawa and in Washington.”

In the legislative session that just wrapped, Doke chaired the human services committee, which received estimates for social services, education, health care and advanced education.

Doke said the committee had “probably one of the biggest portfolios there to get through estimates for the budget. So we did all of that. I was quite pleased with all that, it was very cordial between the ministers and the opposition.”

As for the day to day sitting of the legislature during the three week sitting in June and July, Doke made clear he was far from impressed.

“I’m going to speak honestly — I was very disappointed,” said Doke.

“I felt that the NDP put the pressure on us to go back in to session— we did that. The questioning day to day was extremely weak. Even the Premier’s estimates — very weak. You know, I am a firm believer of a ‘good debate makes for good decisions’ and it was very poor debate. I was truly disappointed...

“There was a lot of ‘going back in time 10 years ago’ over whatever. It didn’t deal with the current issues... lots of personal attacks, lots of questions, but no real answers from the opposition about what they would do. And I get that they’re the opposition, but day after day after day does nothing coming out of there so I was very disappointed in that.

“Historically, it has been pretty good over the years, but I don’t know whether it was just leader Mr. (Ryan) Meili or because of the COVID(-19) situation, but I found that part very very weak.”

When asked if the NDP were playing politics during that sitting, Doke responded “absolutely.”

“They were off the mark 100 per cent. They didn’t get to why we were there — they wanted a budget, we put the budget out. There wasn’t a lot of questions about the budget. I just found it ironic,” said Doke.

“I think they were more focused on making it political, you know, with an election coming up... I don’t think it shone too well on them.”

As for the NDP’s call to reconvene in September just before the election:

“That’s just not going to happen. It was hard enough to do the three weeks, we did it. We put together what he said we would do. We did the budget, we did the estimates, did all the committee work, so we got all that done. There’s no more to talk about. I guess the talking will be done at the polls.”

Doke said he is happy to be leaving the Leg on his own terms. “I didn’t lose an election or anything, so I’ve got peace with that.”

While his time at the Leg is at an end Doke will continue on as MLA until the Oct. 26 provincial election is called. He expressed confidence that Sask Party nominee Ryan Domotor, who is chief administrative officer with the rural municipality of Mervin, will hold the seat for the party in the coming election.

He called Domotor “very knowledgeable of the Municipal Act and municipal affairs, along that line, so he’s going to be a great asset, especially for us in the Northwest.”

Summing up the past nine years in the Legislature, Doke said the following:

“It’s nine years, but for me this ends up being 30 years of municipal and provincial politics when this term is done in October.

“So, yeah, it’s been a long time as a previous North Battleford councilor ... I ran in the 2003 election, I was nominated in 2002, so it’s been a long grind. I’ve had some health issues over the years, but we’ve gotten through that. I’ve been just extremely honoured and humbled by my constituents. You know, I’ve always had an open door policy. If anybody phones me, I always call them back, whether I know it’s not going to be a good phone call, but it doesn’t matter. I called everyone, and my staff in Maidstone there were exceptional. We never refused a call.

“The amount of people that we’ve been able to help really gives you a good feeling inside. You don’t always get the answer they want to hear, but for the most part people just want to be heard and like I say, they may not like the answer but at least if you give them an answer I think people are satisfied.”

He thanked the people who supported him through the last two elections.

“All the people that supported me through the two elections — you know, the first election I remember in 2011 we had 120 volunteers working on that election. That was incredible. I couldn’t believe it, it was unbelievable. And the same the second go, too. We had a huge campaign team and they’ve been very very loyal. I thank them dearly as much if I can, and, of course, my family especially my wife (Valerie), I couldn’t have done any of this without her support so it’s been very, very good.”

“Looking to the future, you know my fishing and my golfing have slipped over the years so I’ve got to get that back. Probably a little bit of travelling once COVID-19 settles down, we get a vaccine and we can move forward on that.”

There is also a possibility Doke might decide not to pack it in on politics after leaving the Legislature.

“I live in the resort village of Metinota and I’ve had quite a few calls about whether I would run for mayor here, so I haven’t made my mind up on that ... You never know. I’m thinking about it, I’ll put it that way.”

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