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An Honourable Calling

An Honourable Calling: Political Memoirs

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 256
  • Book Info
    An Honourable Calling
    Book Description:

    In this engaging and candid political memoir, Blakeney reflects on his four decades of public service, offering first-hand insights on the introduction of government-sponsored medicare, the patriation of the Canadian Constitution, and new approaches to natural resource development.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8825-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. 1 Winning Office
    (pp. 3-7)

    On a sweltering night in June 1971, amid the bustle of an election eve, at our headquarters in a vacant supermarket building in Regina, thoughts were rolling through my head.

    When I was in high school, the yearbook editor had predicted that I would become a lawyer and a politician. I had graduated from Dalhousie Law School in Halifax and had been elected to the Saskatchewan legislature. Now, as the night wore on, it became clear that the major step in my political career was about to happen. I was to be premier of Saskatchewan.

    My life in politics had...

  6. 2 An Unlikely Chap
    (pp. 8-28)

    In many ways I was an unlikely person to become Saskatchewan’s premier. I was neither born in Saskatchewan nor educated in Saskatchewan.Indeed, when I became minister of education in 1960, I used to joke that I was qualified to be fair and impartial since I had never spent a day of my life at any educational institution in Saskatchewan as either a teacher or a student.

    I was born in Nova Scotia. My father’s people sailed from their home Belfast area of Northern Ireland in the 1760s to settle in South Carolina. They were supporters of the Loyalist side in...

  7. 3 Nomination and the 1960 Election Campaign
    (pp. 29-39)

    The CCF nominating convention for Regina City was held in April 1960 Trianon ballroom. There were probably 1,700 people there.Regina was to be represented by four candidates all representing one constituency. One sitting member, provincial treasurer Clarence Fines, was retiring, and the two other sitting members, Charlie Williams, who was minister of labour, and Marjorie Cooper, would be nominated easily. The race therefore was for the two remaining nominations. Four contestants emerged. In addition to me they were Henry Baker, the mayor of Regina; Ed Whelan, who had been the president of the Regina CCF constituency and had many contacts...

  8. 4 Medicare
    (pp. 40-57)

    The introduction of The Medical Care Insurance Act in the Saskatchewan legislature in 1961 by Premier T.C. Douglas was a momentous day in history of medical care insurance in Saskatchewan and Canada. It was, in some ways, an accident of fate that placed me in the middle of the when the battle for publicly financed health care was fought and in Saskatchewan, and it is a story that I am proud to relate.

    By any standards Thomas Clement Douglas was a remarkable man. in Scotland in 1904, Douglas came to Winnipeg as a small boy with his father, a tradesman,...

  9. 5 The Doctors’ Strike, Its Aftermath, and Some Current Issues
    (pp. 58-66)

    July 1st dawned warm and sunny. By July 2nd it was clear that the great majority of doctors had stopped practising. Perhaps 150 doctors in private practice remained on duty, and they were practising without fees as emergency service operated by the College. A handful of hospitals remained in operation. The other hospitals sent their patients home or transferred them to the hospitals remaining open. Stories of people travelling long distances for care began to emerge. The death of a child was (questionably) attributed to the strike. Tensions continued to rise. There an expectation among many that the strike would...

  10. 6 Politics 1964 to 1971
    (pp. 67-81)

    We went into the 1964 election expecting that we would win. We simply had not appreciated the extent to which the medicare dispute had polarized opinion in Saskatchewan. We had won the medicare battle; the medicare plan was working and working well. The Opposition would not dared to suggest that they would dismantle the Medical Care Insurance Plan. Nonetheless, there were many people who had been bruised by the battle. A further factor was that the medical care dispute had consumed an enormous amount of the energy and creativity of the government and its members. We were simply not up...

  11. 7 In Office
    (pp. 82-85)

    We convened a special session of the legislature on 28 July 1971, just four after we assumed office. There were a number of things that we wanted to get done as soon as possible. We had campaigned vigorously against the user fees imposed by the Thatcher government in 1968 on who visited a doctor’s office or were in hospital – what we called deterrent fees. We set about to abolish those fees forthwith. The recorded vote in the legislature was unanimous. The members of the Liberal Party who had defended these fees so vigorously for three years voted for their removal....

  12. 8 Drills, Pills, Skills, Pancakes, and Parks
    (pp. 86-98)

    Any NDP government coming to office in Saskatchewan would seek to and expand medicare. Our goal during our eleven-year term was to secure hospital and medical care insurance and to build toward the dream of a universal comprehensive health care insurance plan for all people of Saskatchewan.

    We were conscious of the fact that we were breaking some new ground. In the 1950s and 1960s, we in Saskatchewan were greatly helped by the decision of the Diefenbaker government to share the cost of hospital care insurance and the decision of the Pearson government in 1966 to share cost of medical...

  13. 9 The Universities
    (pp. 99-105)

    Universities have a role to play in the day-to-day life of a province like Saskatchewan. As a premier in a province with only two universities, each heavily supported by the provincial government, I faced heightened concerns about the relationships between the government and universities. We certainly had these issues during the 1971–82 period.

    During the 1960–4 period of the Douglas-Lloyd government, I was minister of education for a time and as such dealt with the University of Saskatchewan, then our only university. It was a warm relationship. Our deputy provincial treasurer, Albert W. (Al) Johnson, sat on the...

  14. 10 Northern Saskatchewan
    (pp. 106-116)

    One of our major efforts during the 1970s was to improve life for people northern Saskatchewan. In order to put the problems of the North context, it is useful to set out a few of the basic facts about this special and different part of the province.

    Following the Second World War, civilization, as we are pleased to call taken to the North. People from the South moved in, taking schools and modern health services with them. It’s not clear whether the consequences, good and bad, of modernization were fully considered. Once it was decided that modern health services were...

  15. 11 Agriculture and Rural Life
    (pp. 117-126)

    In the 1970s, the major industry in Saskatchewan was farming. The chief products of the farms – wheat, barley, oil seeds, beef, and pork – were sold largely outside the province and often outside Canada. Most of products were sold under international market conditions over which neither the people of Saskatchewan nor their government had any control, and at prices that were notoriously volatile. Economic stability for farmers was always sought after and rarely achieved. The uncertainty was added to by the unreliability of moisture and other weather conditions. Understandably, this made life in the smaller communities that depended upon agriculture uncertain...

  16. 12 Oil
    (pp. 127-137)

    Our election program in 1971 spoke of resources and our need to get benefits from them in the form of royalties, employment, and local control. But in our early years in office, resources did not occupy the central in government decision-making that they did later in the decade.

    In 1971 and earlier years, the value of mineral resources – oil, natural potash, and uranium – on world markets was modest. Their market value over and above the costs of producing them provided only a small margin to be divided among the mineral owner, the producers, and governments. All this began to change...

  17. 13 Potash
    (pp. 138-156)

    The potash story is one of the more interesting issues that our government was called upon to deal with during its eleven-year tenure. It is part of the struggle over resources and who would get the benefit from them that convulsed Canada during the 1970s, and which has influenced the political map to this day. An attempt to defend the Trudeau National Energy Program would earn a black eye in most Alberta bars today. Saskatchewan people are, for the most part, more peaceful. They would simply throw the offender out, if the publican, mindful of his premises, did not beat...

  18. 14 Uranium
    (pp. 157-167)

    In Saskatchewan the story of uranium is a sharp contrast to the story of oil or potash. While our government in the 1970s had robust disputes with the petroleum and potash companies about royalty levels, I thought that I could not have had a real dispute with the uranium companies even if I tried. They were so sensitive to the political aspects uranium development, and accordingly so willing to have government partners, that dealing with them was a serene and simple activity.

    I recall some of the negotiations of a new royalty schedule. We put out proposal to them that...

  19. 15 Some Thoughts on Resource Policies
    (pp. 168-172)

    As I reflect on the resource controversies of the 1970s and early 1980s, I struck by the differences in approach used by the different resource industries, oil, potash, and uranium, in their dealings with the government of Saskatchewan.

    The oil industry spokesmen were hardened veterans in dealing with governments. When the Saskatchewan government increased royalties sharply by Bill 42 in late 1973, and when the federal government, in the spring of 1974, introduced a rule about the non-deductibility of provincial royalties, the oil companies, in effect, said that they would continue produce from existing wells, but they would sharply curtail...

  20. 16 Constitution: Introduction
    (pp. 173-183)

    One of the great events of my time in public life in Canada was the patriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982, complete with a Charter of and Freedoms, a new amending formula, and other important changes. Two major changes dealt with the control of natural resources with the legal rights of aboriginal peoples of Canada.

    On a rainy morning in April 1982 on a platform erected in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, the Queen signed a proclamation bringing into force the Constitution Act, and so cutting the legal cord that Canada’s Constitution to the Parliament of the...

  21. 17 Constitution: The Week That Was
    (pp. 184-190)

    The week of constitutional negotiations in November 1981 was as highly charged as any in which I have participated, except those leading to and then terminating the Saskatchewan doctors’ strike of July 1962. We who were involved in the constitutional negotiations and had invested so much blood, sweat, and tears into them regarded them as very important indeed. But I suspect that the public were less involved. I remember a quip in the 1960s of Premier Ross Thatcher in Saskatchewan. He is quoted as saying that if he asked the public in Saskatchewan what their 100 most pressing problems were,...

  22. 18 Constitution: Aftermath
    (pp. 191-195)

    We returned to our homes after the marathon negotiations of November 2nd to 6th, pleased that an agreement had been reached but sorry about clear failures. I was keenly disappointed, but not at all surprised, we had not arrived at something that the government of Quebec could agree to. We understood that a very large majority of MPs from would accept the agreement, but that was not the same as having agreement of the Parti Québécois, which was the government of Quebec. I was sorry that I had not been able to persuade my colleagues to include the Aboriginal clause...

  23. 19 Democracy after the Charter
    (pp. 196-203)

    One of the greatest accomplishments in the history of the Western world the last two centuries has been the development of institutions by which free people can govern themselves in a democratic way. If by democracy we mean the participation by the great majority of adult citizens in their own government, then this is a comparatively recent development. The legitimacy of democracy as an idea owes its birth in recent centuries to the philosophers of the Renaissance and to the American and French Revolutions of the 1770s, ’80s, and ’90s. Prior to that time, held the view that only a...

  24. 20 Defeat
    (pp. 204-213)

    In the provincial election of April 1982, the NDP was soundly defeated. I not see it coming until well on in the campaign. I was not aware of widespread unhappiness with the government. Certainly there were danger signs. The support staff in the some seventy-one major hospitals a strike that continued for over sixteen days in March of 1982. With so many hospitals not in full operation over such an extended period of time, we felt that we had to ask the legislature to pass back-to work legislation and provide for binding arbitration if a negotiated settlement was not arrived...

  25. 21 Academe and Beyond
    (pp. 214-220)

    I left elected politics in March 1988. I recall my last day at the legislature. Once it is clear that you are finally leaving, friend and foe alike find kind words to say about you. And kind words followed – after twenty-eight years.

    My wife and I went on an extended trip to Greece, Egypt, Italy, France, Britain for six weeks – the longest holiday trip of our marriage. I then on to teach at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. Osgoode is Canada’s largest law school, with the finest law school library. Dean James MacPherson, now a judge...

  26. 22 Overseas
    (pp. 221-233)

    One of the happy side benefits of retirement is that it becomes possible pursue some interesting new challenges. I remained at the University Saskatchewan as a visiting scholar, giving a few lectures in political studies and constitutional law, but was now free to pursue some international activities.

    In the 1990s the Canadian government had an enterprising project in South Africa. It was operated through an agency called the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), which is an arm of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). In 1993, IDRC was advising African National Congress (ANC), the political party headed by Nelson Mandela,...

  27. 23 The Future
    (pp. 234-252)

    Superannuated politicians, and others, are often given to speculation on what the future will bring and how much better it would unfold if they were in charge.

    We can predict that much in the future will be depressingly the same as the past. But much will not be. This is sometimes equally depressing.

    What does the future hold for Canada? We will continue to wrestle with the problems and issues that have faced us since Confederation.

    We will search for the best basis for good relations between francophones and anglophones in Canada. There are many hopeful signs on this front....

  28. Index
    (pp. 253-258)