It was announced today that Allan Blakeney, who served as Saskatchewan’s premier from 1971-82, had succumbed to cancer at the age of 85. Born in Nova Scotia in 1925, Blakeney studied law at Dalhousie University and was a Rhodes Scholar. Attracted by the progressive political agenda of the CCF under Tommy Douglas, he moved to Saskatchewan in 1950 and worked as a senior member of the civil service.
Blakeney entered politics in 1960, and served in both the Douglas and Woodrow Lloyd administrations before becoming leader of the provincial NDP in 1970. In comparison with the Waffle movement on the far left, Blakeney was regarded as a moderate member of the NDP. Nonetheless, when he led the party to victory over the Liberal government under Ross Thatcher in 1971, he did implement a fairly radical agenda of nationalization in the oil and potash industries that aroused the ire of corporate Canada and even the U.S. government.
By the late ’70s, Blakeney was an elder statesman among Canadian premiers, and he played a key role in the patriation of the Canadian Constitution and the creation of the Charter of Rights in 1982. Along with Alberta premier Peter Lougheed, he was a strong advocate for provincial ownership of natural resources.
Following a devastating defeat at the hands of the Grant Devine Conservatives in 1982, Blakeney stayed on as NDP leader and led the party back to respectability in the 1986 election. He stepped down as leader then, and was replaced by Roy Romanow. In the ’90s he served as a consultant in the Romanow NDP government, and received a number of awards including the Saskatchewan Order of Merit and Order of Canada. He was also a past president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.