I think most people had the experience in their life of meeting a really unique individual who comes along and leaves such a strong impression that you never forget them. I’ve been very fortunate in my life in politics to meet several of these people - people like John Diefenbaker, Joe Clark, Grant Devine and perhaps the guy that left some of the strongest impressions – Richard (Dick) Collver.
Dick Collver was a young, successful businessman who was not content to let the established political order in Saskatchewan dictate his life. He took the brash step of seeking the leadership of the PC Party of Saskatchewan when the Party had no electoral success of any magnitude for over 40 years. He did, however, see a philosophy and a way of approaching government that fit his temperament and had the drive to seek out its leadership and mould the Party into a strong, fighting political force. He did this with sheer energy, his own money and a whole lot of miles driving around this province and he did not take “no” for an answer.
I was a university student in Saskatoon when Dick became Leader and often had the opportunity to interact with him at political events, drive him to functions out of town and hang around the old office down on 20th street. Dick’s drive and enthusiasm was absolutely infectious and he just made people want to succeed where political success for the PC Party had not been possible for generations.
Young people were drawn to him in the hundreds and then thousands and he certainly spoke the language of the ordinary men and women who paid the taxes in this province. The political establishment which at that time was made up of the CCF/NDP and the provincial Liberals scoffed at this brash young man from Saskatoon. No one gave the PC Party the slightest chance of electing members in the 1975 election. My father ran as one of Dick’s candidates in that historic election and I remember many a conversation around our kitchen table about Dick’s leadership and in fact, he was at that kitchen table a few times and how his leadership was at times a little bit out on the edge.
His personal success in that election and the success of the 6 MLAs who joined him was one that was shared by all of us who kept the faith in those early days. I have no doubt in my mind that the passion that Dick Collver planted in the political breasts of so many Saskatchewan people is what ultimately lead to the landslide success in 1982 and my own opportunity to serve as an MLA from 1985 to 1995 in Thunder Creek.
Dick Collver was not around after the 1982 election as he chose to follow his own political agenda and business interests beyond the borders of Saskatchewan. I have always wondered what Dick would have been like as a Premier. Would he have been able to implement the ideas that he talked about so strongly? What would be the picture he would have painted on the Saskatchewan canvas?
I do know one thing though and that is I still pose a question to myself when faced with a political dilemma and I know other PCs and former Progressive Conservatives that do the same thing to this day and that is “what would Dick do in this circumstance”? Usually Dick was totally unpredictable and sometimes you simply had to hang onto your hat and hope for the best but at the end of the day the man just made a whole lot of common sense.
This morning the PC Party is putting out a news release with a series of questions that we believe need answering because of the smart meter fiasco at SaskPower and the Sask Party government’s management of that issue. I am sure that Dick Collver would pound these questions into the very minds of everyone in both those institutions and demand answers. That was his nature. I hope that 30 years later we have the fortitude and common sense needed to make sure the people of this province get the answers they deserve and the safeguards put in place so that this can’t happen again.
I want to say thank you for those years of leadership. I had the privilege of knowing this man, working for him and seeing the positive changes that I think he brought to this great province. No one is perfect in politics and Dick certainly wasn’t but he gave his all to make our province a better place in which to live and raise our families. Rest in peace.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.