Sask. Party candidate says roads an issue

Seeking to end Stewart’s run are:

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected since the publication of its original printed version. Saskatchewan Party candidate Lyle Stewart was elected as a Saskatchewan Party MLA in 1999. He also took 64 percent of the vote in 2007.

AVONLEA, Sask. — Lyle Stewart and Gary Nelson are heading south on Highway 334, good-naturedly debating a common rural Saskatchewan question: Ford trucks or Chevy?

For the record, Stewart, the most recent agriculture minister and Saskatchewan Party candidate in this constituency, is a Ford man and has been since he raced stock cars.

He’s driving.

Nelson, one of the owners of Nelson Motors and Equipment, is directing Stewart to several farms in the area.

Stewart, a farmer and rancher, has been involved in politics for years. He ran provincially for the Saskatchewan Party, and won, in 1999. He was a founding member of the Saskatchewan Party and was re-elected in 2003, 2007 and 2011.

The constituency of Lumsden-Morse is a large east-west riding, generally, between the Swift Current and Regina city limits, and includes Saskatchewan Landing, Craven and the rural area around Moose Jaw, as well as Stewart’s home area of Pense.

About half of it is the former Thunder Creek riding and the rest are from eight other constituencies following changes to the electoral boundaries map.

Although his most recent portfolio was agriculture, the recurring issue among farmers on this day is the state of the road.

Highway 334 south of Avonlea is generously named. It’s a bouncy, narrow stretch that’s been patched many times.

Traffic here is agricultural, and larger equipment and loads are putting pressure on roads not built to handle it.

“We’ll keep pecking away at it,” Stewart assures rancher, organic grower and RM councilor Randy Paicu.

“We’ve made some progress and spent a lot. We expected to be in a better spot by now.”

Paicu is also concerned about foreign ownership of farmland and whether the changes made to the rules earlier this year will work.

But overall he and the other farmers Stewart meets are happy with the state of their industry and what the government might be doing to make that happen.

“You don’t have to do a sales job here,” Paicu said.

Even a stop at a family farm known to not support the Saskatchewan Party turns out well when Stewart finds common ground on a medical issue.

He underwent prostate cancer treatment about 18 months ago and offers encouragement for an upcoming surgery.

Stewart says he has been well received throughout Lumsden-Morse.

“Farm country has been pretty receptive, more so than ever, especially this time around,” he said.

As he seeks a fifth term, Stewart muses about whether it will be the last. He is 65 and his son has taken over most of the farm duties. He and his wife Linda also have two daughters, and are grandparents to six.

He took 64 percent of the popular vote in 2007 and rural Saskatchewan has supported the Sask. Party in the last two elections.

Like all incumbents, Stewart says he takes nothing for granted. At each farm stop he asks voters to remember him on April 4.

Seeking to end Stewart’s run are:

  • Green Party: Patricia Crowther, a Chaplin native currently working as a courier
  • NDP: Lumsden high school teacher and town councillor Rhonda Phillips
  • Liberal: Moose Jaw retiree Gerald Hiebert

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