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Saskatchewan Party founder, former agriculture minister Bob Bjornerud to retire

REGINA - The last of four former Liberals who joined with four Conservatives to create the Saskatchewan Party is calling it a career.

Bob Bjornerud, the former agriculture minister, says he won't run in the next provincial election expected in April 2016.

"The only thing I can say today is I imagine the coyotes and the beavers and the gophers will all be breathing a sigh of relief right off the bat," Bjornerud said Monday at the legislature.

"Other than that, probably at my age it's pretty well expected that it's time to step down."

Bjornerud joked that even though he doesn't look like it, he will be 70 by the time of the next election and it's time for someone else to carry the Saskatchewan Party banner.

Bjornerud was first elected in the constituency of Saltcoats, now named Melville-Saltcoats, as a Liberal in 1995.

He helped form the Saskatchewan Party in 1997 and served as agriculture minister for five years after the party won the 2007 election. Coyotes, beavers and gophers were often the target of his policies to reduce nuisance animals for farmers and ranchers.

In March 2012, Bjornerud told Premier Brad Wall that he wanted to leave cabinet to spend more time with his family.

"When I stepped out of cabinet as (agriculture) minister it was a great experience — I wish all farmers would have that opportunity — but I was getting burned out and I didn't even realize it. It took me at least six months to start to get back to where I felt really good again, so it was time to move on. And I think it's the same with being an MLA out there," he said.

"When the election is called, I'll be here about 21 years. Boy, that's a long time in the life of a politician."

Wall was full of praise for Bjornerud. The premier recalled that Bjornerud dealt with issues in the cattle industry, successfully pushed to bring back administration of federal farm programs to Saskatchewan and overhauled crop insurance to make it better for farmers.

"Bob Bjornerud was one of the very, very best farm-gate agriculture ministers this province has ever had or ever will have," said Wall.

Finance Minister Ken Krawetz and Social Services Minister June Draude, two other former Liberals who founded the Saskatchewan Party, announced their retirements last month. The fourth, former finance minister Rod Gantefoer, retired before the 2011 provincial election.

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