With Elwin Hermanson not seeking re-election, the Rosetown-Elrose constituency suddenly finds itself with big shoes to fill.
The Sask. Party hopes the man for the job is provincial political rookie Jim Reiter, and he is aware of the shadow Hermanson casts.
“He’s a former leader, and he almost became premier,” said Reiter. “I’m just me and I’m not trying to replace him or replace anybody. I’m just trying to do the best job I can do.”
Reiter is well-established in the area. He’s lived in Rosetown for nearly 25 years and presently serves as the administrator for the RM of Marriot, and plans to stay with the RM until the upcoming election is over.
Given that just over 85% of the riding’s population was born in Saskatchewan, a common sense of community will be key to whoever wins the riding, according to former NDP Cabinet Minister and former Rosetown MLA, Bernie Wiens.
“Being rooted is always a valuable asset,” said Wiens. “It’s a pretty standard rep for a good representative. You need to be able to live with the policies you’ve made when you leave politics and come back to the community.”
Wiens, who served as an MLA from 1991-1999, currently acts on the University of Regina’s Board of Governors and still farms near Rosetown. He originally got into politics when he “raised a ruckus” so the local school bus would change its route and pick up his kids directly; then “it just went from there.”
Rosetown-Elrose is predominantly rural, with the largest centers in Outlook, Rosetown and Elrose. Just over 43% of the population is employed in agriculture. However, the main issues of the constituency are different depending on who you talk to.
“We’ve seen our small towns decline. We need some kind of economic development there to help them out,” commented Reiter. “The NDP can spin it anyway they want but they’ve never been a friend to business and that’s where jobs are created.”
“People are also extremely concerned about health care in rural Saskatchewan, and concerned about long term care for seniors,” continued Reiter
However, in Wiens’s experience he sees the needs of Rosetown-Elrose much simpler. He says health care in Saskatchewan is only getting stronger, and rural citizens are proud people who aren’t looking for handouts, and points to his own farm’s success in the last two years as evidence.
“A rural area like this wants a government that runs a sound operation,” said Wiens. “You need to govern in such a way that you’re ready to deal with the circumstances of your decisions. Agriculture is having one of the two glory years since when I was running. Farmers only get frustrated when they are competing with huge foreign subsidies.”
Wiens also says this area is traditionally right of center, but if an NDP representative can get into office, he/she could stay in for a while, like he did. In 1991 he won by just 60 votes, but won by more than 1,100 in 1995. The recent NDP minister’s words are not lost on Reiter, who isn’t getting over-confident.
“I guess I am cautiously optimistic. I’m a bit of a worrier by nature so I don’t take anything for granted,” said Reiter.
*After this article was written, the NDP, Liberal Party, and Green Party all announced nominations for the riding.*