The last one of six original Saskatchewan Party MLAs first elected to the provincial Legislature stepped down this month.
Lyle Stewart of Pense resigned after 25 years as MLA for the rural riding of Thunder Creek, later redesigned as Lumsden-Morse, but including the rural Moose Jaw region.
An executive assistant to Colin Thatcher in the Progressive Conservative cabinet, Stewart tried for the Thunder Creek nomination after Thatcher went to prison for murder of his ex-wife.
Twice Stewart lost the PC nomination to Rick Swenson of Moose Jaw and won only by six votes in 1999. He unseated Liberal incumbent Gerard Aldridge in that election, winning over 50 per cent of the vote then and in the next next four elections.
In his early days Stewart was the consummate politician turning up at every function in the far flung riding that he could attend. — be it a fowl supper or local public meeting.
He wasn’t that comfortable mingling with voters at first. There were times when he attended events and sat with media throughout.
Stewart overcame that shyness.
Once he was appointed minister of agriculture and became the farmers’ advocate in cabinet he didn’t have the time to attend everywhere. He piloted farmer-friendly legislation with a focus on crop insurance.
The rancher made the headlines in the fall of 2009 for a non-political event.
On his way home from Regina he saw a vehicle stopped on the road with a man walking toward him.
The ag minister stopped to give the fellow a lift out of the cold October day.
The man approached with a pen in hand and stabbed Stewart in the hand seven times as they struggled for 30 minutes. The six-foot plus rancher won the struggle and overcame the man, holding him until the RCMP arrived.
Stewart resigned as ag minister in 2012 after contracting cancer.
He also served as minister of enterprise and innovation, minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation and was interim party leader when Brad Wall resigned.
In 2022 Stewart invited friend Colin Thatcher to the Legislature — an invitation that became controversial as voters were outraged that a convicted murderer was invited.
Stewart apologized and was stripped of remaining non-MLA posts.
Obviously Stewart believed in the judicial system goals – once a criminal has served time and become a good citizen they should be treated like others. Others made this a political issue.
Lyle Stewart was one of that rare breed of politician who never let political success and power change who he was.
His boots will be hard to fill.
Ron Walter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.