Saturday, November 24, 2007

Moosomin Constituency Loses Again

Here is a little political history directed to all those who have since forgotten, didn’t know, didn’t care or were too young to know it even happened. In 1975, after years of working the federal political scene at the local level, I ran for elected office in the Moosomin constituency. The liberals held the seat and they had held it for decades until I ran as a Progressive Conservative and was elected in the 1975 provincial general election. Dick Collver was the leader of the Progressive Conservative party at that time and the party was nowhere in the polls and did not hold one seat in the legislature. Along with myself, only six other conservatives were elected in 1975. I was re-elected in 1978 and in 1982 when the Progressive Conservative party formed government under the leadership of Grant Devine.

During two terms in opposition I spoke all over the province promoting the conservative party and no one spoke much more in the legislature than I did. Some even referred to me as the Tory Gunslinger. I earned this infamous title as a person who would strongly defend the conservative party anytime it came under attack from political opponents. I was also a person who would attack the government or any bureaucrat who was opposing what I was attempting to achieve for my constituents. I was outspoken to the extent that the media once referred to me as the Rodney Dangerfield of politics and a loose cannon. For me this was a compliment because I could be all of that in a second if it was in defence of my constituents. I never forgot who I was, from where I came and who elected me.

When we became government in 1982 Grant Devine and the transition team believed I was too independent to serve in cabinet. I wasn’t prepared to do as I was told if it wasn’t coming from my constituents. I had an opportunity to be the Speaker of the Legislature, but that didn’t interest me, as I was a partisan politician. Instead, I chose to serve, as a legislative secretary and take on special assignments that suited both the government and the issues I believed were important to the province. Over time in government, I became more and more disappointed with the direction the government was taking on certain issues. This placed me in a position where I was drifting away from the power circle of the conservative government, but not from most of my constituents.

Then along came Don Toth, asking how long I was going to be the MLA and when would I step aside to let others seek the job that I had earned with the support of my constituents. Toth stated that Moosomin needed an MLA who would get along with the Premier and the party. I was only concerned with getting along with my constituents. Then the conservative hierarchy in Regina informed me that they didn’t need me to win in the Moosomin constituency. My constituents then proved them right. It is here where Don Toth entered politics with the support of the Regina hierarchy lead by the once powerful Eric Berntson. It is also here where my political career as an elected Member of the Legislature came to an abrupt end as I decided not to accept Don Toth’s challenge to my nomination. The details of this decision I will leave to some future book written by some political historian or me.

In deed, I was the master of my own demise, but for all the right reasons, which was representing my constituents. I have missed that aspect of politics ever since. Regardless, I remained loyal to the Progressive Conservative party, delivered the motivational speech to the candidates in the 1986 campaign and worked tirelessly in numerous constituencies to assist in providing Grant Devine with his second term in government. I learned that loyalty and hard work does not always get you where you want to go, but more importantly defines whom you are.

Don Toth went on to win consecutive elections and is now a member of the SaskParty government. He got along with Grant Devine, but was never given a cabinet position. He got along with Brad Wall, who used to work for the Devine government and now serves as our province’s new Premier. Again, Don Toth has not been given a cabinet position. He will have to settle for the non-partisan position as Speaker of the Legislature, which should suit his demeanor quite well.

Brad Wall was only about ten years old when I was first elected as a conservative MLA. Between Don Toth, and me the conservatives and the SaskParty conservatives have held the Moosomin constituency since 1975. Don Toth was a founding member of the SaskParty and is the only SaskParty member who has served in government. He is likeable and as qualified as some of those who now serve in cabinet. It could be fairly argued that he is more qualified than some of those Premier Wall has appointed to cabinet. I can sympathize with how Don Toth must be feeling. In simple terms, it just damn hurts. Regardless, politics is not, and should never be; about one’s own self. It is about your constituents.

The Moosomin constituency has earned the right now on three occasions since 1975 to have a cabinet member in the Government of Saskatchewan. It is not for me to pass judgment on those who were chosen to serve in Brad Wall’s cabinet, but for the sake of the Moosomin constituency Don Toth should have been appointed to cabinet. It is not about Don Toth or me, it is about the Moosomin constituency being taken for granted and continually denied a member in cabinet.

For Don Toth, I can only say, what goes around comes around and history does repeat itself. Of course, I could ask Don Toth how long he intends to be the MLA for the Moosomin constituency before he gives someone else a shot at it, or before someone callously takes it from him.