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Honorary Doctorate to Roy Romanow,
senior fellow in public policy, University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina
visiting fellow, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University,
presented by Peter Walker, Dean, Faculty of Medicine

2003-06-02

Roy Romanow, right, with Dr Peter Walker, dean of the Faculty of Medicine

Chancellor:

It is a land of bitter cold, dry heat and daunting open spaces, but something about the prairies brings out the best in us. The region nurtures an idealism capable of finding its way into everyday life. For most Canadians, nothing captures this quality more eloquently than the emergence of our contemporary health care system, which began as a bold experiment launched in Saskatchewan in the 1960s.

The tireless proponent of that initiative was New Democratic Party pioneer Tommy Douglas. His life-long pursuit of social policy standards made him a cultural and political hero to many, including a young Roy Romanow growing up in Saskatoon.

During the course of his own 34-year political career, Mr. Romanow remained true to his prairie roots. Elected to the Saskatchewan Legislature eight times between 1967 and 2001, he spent a great deal of that time showing the rest of the country the virtues of acting on worthwhile ideals.

En 1989, alors qu'il est chef de l'opposition néo-démocrate à l'Assemblée législative de la Saskatchewan, M. Romanow donne un aperçu révélateur et spectaculaire de sa détermination. Le gouvernement conservateur veut privatiser la Saskatchewan Energy Corporation, le réseau provincial de distribution du gaz naturel. Le matin où la loi doit être adoptée, il quitte l'Assemblée en signe de protestation, entraînant tout son caucus avec lui et bloquant, du fait même, tout le processus législatif et administratif.

C'est le genre de pari politique qui plaît en Saskatchewan, et M. Romanow a brillamment remporté celui-ci : le débat public autour de cette question a repris de plus belle, et les réactions négatives ont fait reculer le gouvernement qui a éventuellement abandonné le projet.

Within two years they were out of power and Mr. Romanow was premier, a post he would hold for 10 more years. And while he might never again have had to employ such extraordinary tactics, he continued to set a course the rest of the country could follow closely.

Among other things, he balanced the province's budget, diversified its economy and instituted new programs to protect children at risk. Each of these moves captured the attention of leaders elsewhere in the country, who began to adopt similar measures. Mais la contribution la plus importante de Roy Romanow a commencé par une série de grandes réformes apportées au système de soins de santé de la Saskatchewan, notamment en privilégiant les notions de prévention et de mieux-être.

En 2001, peu après son retrait de la vie politique, à la demande du Premier ministre du pays, M. Romanow accepte de diriger la Commission sur l'avenir des soins de santé au Canada. Durant 18 mois, en sa qualité d'unique commissaire, il commande des études et tient des audiences publiques partout au pays, explorant des sujets aussi divers que le coût des médicaments, les besoins de plus en plus pressants en soins à domicile et les défis sanitaires particuliers auxquels fait face la population autochtone canadienne.

His final report, entitled "Building on Values", was tabled in the House of Commons last fall. It offers nothing less than a blueprint for updating and improving the way Canadians deal with all aspects of health, from financing basic treatment to keeping up with technological innovations. It is a plan that must lead to action, as far as Mr. Romanow is concerned. He regards this complex social program as nothing less than a defining feature of our national character.

It may be entirely fitting that our character should be defended in this way by the populist spirit that thrives on the prairies. Saskatchewan has often been described as the "last, best West", still essentially an untamed frontier as late as the 1920s. And as settled as it might have become, it continues to offer us all that is best about the frontier - a sense of wonder and a sense of hope.

Mr. Romanow has embraced this infectious optimism throughout his life and his work, making us all the better for his efforts. Chancellor, in the name of the Senate of the University of Ottawa, I present to you for the degree of Doctor of the University, Roy Romanow, who embodies the frontier spirit we shall always need.

 

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