Former federal agriculture minister makes a return to the political arena — this time at the local level
Gerry Ritz is back in political office.
The former Saskatchewan MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster and federal agriculture minister was elected reeve in the Rural Municipality of Mervin during the Nov. 9 municipal election.
Ritz defeated Evelyn Bloom 517 votes to 480, according to the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities election results website. Incumbent Tom Brown did not run again.
Ritz was in Parliament from 1997 to 2017. He said he was “convinced in a moment of weakness” to run for office at the most local level as part of a slate under Engaging the RM of Mervin banner.
A group of ratepayers had established a website to that effect, noting that over time the council and administration had become difficult to deal with in several areas. The group said the council didn’t respond to public concerns, wasn’t proactively engaging the public and restricted land use through its policies and bylaws.
Ritz, who lives with his wife on a quarter-section at Brightsand Lake, said one bylaw that sparked concern was the move to prohibit recreational vehicles such as campers on residential lots as of Jan. 1, 2024, unless a permanent structure exists as well.
After sitting in on a number of previous RM meetings, he was compelled to get involved. He said council has to be more accountable, open and transparent.
He already knows this job will be more hands-on than his previous job at the federal level. People like to complain and he said that’s fine if they have some options for solutions and how to get to those solutions.
“I’m looking for results,” he said. “I’m not a process guy.”
This council and others will have to deal with the ongoing concerns about taxation. Ritz said lake residents pay about a quarter of the property tax overall, while another 10 percent comes from residents like him who aren’t in organized hamlets. Agricultural property contributes 19 percent, while industrial and energy pay 46 percent.
Rural crime and broadband are other issues.
“We’re still on dial-up on a good day,” he said.
One of the council’s first tasks will be to hire a new administrator. The previous administrator, Ryan Domotor, was recently elected for the Saskatchewan Party in Cut Knife-Turtleford.
Meanwhile, Carmen Sterling, who had been reeve in the RM of Weyburn as well as vice-president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, lost to Norman McFadden.