28 April 2011

Allan Blakeney ... death of a statesman

As politicians of all sorts battle another election down to the wire, I'd like to pay my respects to one of the best. Allan Blakeney died April 16th leaving behind an impressive legacy.

Blakeney was an achiever from the beginning. He followed a gold medal graduation from Dalhousie's law school with a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.

Following his education, he became a senior civil servant in Saskatchewan before winning political office and joining the cabinet of Premier Tommy Douglas. He played a key role in the introduction of Medicare in 1962 and was subsequently appointed Minister of Health. He became leader of the NDP and ultimately Premier of Saskatchewan from 1971 to 1982. As premier he worked to improve the province's social programs with a dental program for children, a prescription drug program, subsidized housing, home care, and a guaranteed income supplement for the elderly poor. To ensure control of the province's resources remained in the hands of its people he created Crown Corporations such as SaskOil and the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

After leaving politics he occupied the Bora Laskin Chair in Public Law at Osgoode Hall in Toronto for two years, then later settled in Saskatoon where he accepted the Law Foundation Chair at the University of Saskatchewan. He has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is also a past president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

His interests went beyond provincial and national to the international. He had a long-term interest in the World Federalist Movement and served as the Canadian branch's National President from 1992 to 1996. He was intensely involved in South Africa where he helped develop the structures for democratic government following the dismantling of apartheid.

Blakeney's appointment to the Order of Canada read:
A former Premier of Saskatchewan, he has contributed enormously to the field of public administration and was a key player in introducing the first comprehensive public medical health care plan in Canada. Throughout his distinguished career, his patriotism and loyalty to the nation have transcended party politics. His integrity and sense of social responsibility as a statesman, lawyer and teacher are an inspiration to all Canadians.
The candidates in the current federal election could do worse than model themselves after Allan Blakeney.

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