REGINA, Sask. — Saskatchewan’s new premier, Lorne Calvert, officially took over yesterday and created a new department that will share its minister with the highways department.
The NDP was humbled in the rural ridings in the 1999 election and forced into a coalition with the Liberals to hang on to power. The result was that during the leadership campaign, Calvert said he would make it a priority to renew the NDP’s presence in the countryside and promised the creation of a rural revitalization post.
“Rural Saskatchewan is experiencing major change. This government is committed to working with rural communities to do all we can to strengthen rural Saskatchewan,” says Calvert.
That honor has gone to Patricia Atkinson, who was previously the provincial health minister. In addition to her responsibilities for rural revitalization in the newly created post, she’ll also handle the highways portfolio.
Born in Biggar, Sask., Atkinson received her Bachelor of Arts and her Bachelor of Education degrees from the University of Saskatchewan. She is an active member of her community, having served as a member and vice-chair of the Saskatoon Community Clinic Board of Directors. She has had leadership roles in several community organizations.
Atkinson served as Principal and teacher-therapist with the Radius Community Education Centre in Saskatoon prior to her election to the Legislative Assembly in 1986. She was re-elected in 1991, 1995 and 1999, and represents the Saskatoon-Nutana constituency. Atkinson was appointed Minister of Social Services in 1992. In 1993 she was appointed Minister of Education, a position she held for five years. In September 1998 she was appointed Minister of Health.
As Minister of Education, Atkinson provided strong leadership in the renewal and expansion of Saskatchewan’s Community Schools program, for which she received a national award from the Canadian Association of Community Education. In 1996, she launched Saskatchewan’s distinctive approach to school division restructuring.
In May 1998, Atkinson received the Saskatchewan School Library Association Award of Recognition for demonstrating commitment to effective school library programs.
Former Highways Minister Maynard Sonntag was moved to a new post in energy and mines.