REGINA (Staff) – In a surprise to many, Saskatchewan agriculture minister Darrel Cunningham fell before the rural Liberal scythe in the provincial election.
He lost to Liberal candidate June Draude by a close margin in the riding of Kelvington-Wadena, a new constituency that took in some of his old seat but also contained Liberal areas and towns where Draude was better known.
Kelvington-Wadena riding in east-central Saskatchewan is part of a wide swath of rural Sask-atchewan that dropped its New Democratic candidates in favor of Liberals.
Cunningham said he thinks a general feeling of dissatisfaction lingered over his riding and some others. Tough times in agriculture and government control on spending soured people on the New Democratic government.
Many NDP supporters in his riding stayed home on election day, assuming an easy Cunningham win, he speculated.
Loss of Cunningham leaves premier Roy Romanow with one of his most important portfolios empty. There is no obvious replacement.
Saskatchewan Wheat Pool president Leroy Larsen said it is crucial that the new agriculture minister have an agricultural background.
Not required to be farmer
A farmer MLA would be the most likely to understand agricultural issues, but it does not have to be a farmer if someone else has an adequate grasp of farm issues, Larsen said.
In the rumor mill of the post-election legislature the names of Eric Upshall, Grant Whitmore, Dale Flavel, Judy Bradley, Carol Teichrob, Andy Renaud, Berny Wiens and Dwain Lingenfelter were mentioned as possible contenders.
Upshall has been passed over for the job before. Whitmore is a farmer and a former Saskatchewan Wheat Pool delegate, but some wonder if his election in a Saskatoon seat would hurt his image with farmers.
Flavel is also a farmer but keeps a low-profile in the legislature. Teichrob and Bradley are both acknowledged as capable of holding a cabinet post (Teichrob was in the first Romanow cabinet) but many doubt a woman would be appointed to the traditionally male position.
Berny Wiens has already been agriculture minister, but his identification with the controversial 1992 Gross Revenue Insurance Plan changes could be a factor. Lingenfelter, now the economic development minister, is known to be interested in the agriculture portfolio.