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New Saskatchewan highway minister will be busy

REGINA, Sask. - Saskatchewan's new NDP premier, Lorne Calvert, has officially taken over control of the province.In doing so, he delivered on a promise to create a new department, which will happens t...

REGINA, Sask. – Saskatchewan’s new NDP premier, Lorne Calvert, has officially taken over control of the province.

In doing so, he delivered on a promise to create a new department, which will happens to share its minister with highways.

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 end result was that during the recent leadership campaign, Calvert said he would make it a priority to renew the NDP’s presence in the countryside. He 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.

Patricia Atkinson, who was previously the provincial health minister, will have the responsibility of doing both jobs. (Probably not a bad idea, given the state of many of the trails that pass for highways in Saskatchewan.)

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 attended the University of Saskatchewan, where she received two degrees: a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education.

She is active in her community, having served as a member and vice-chair of the Saskatoon Community Clinic board of directors.

She has had leadership roles within 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.

Re-elected in 1991, 1995 and 1999, she represents the constituency Saskatoon-Nutana.

Atkinson first reached the provincial Cabinet when she was appointed Minister of Social Services in 1992.

In 1993 she took over as Minister of Education, a position she held for five years. In September 1998 she was appointed Minister of Health.

As Minister of Education, Atkinson lead 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 spearheaded the restructuring of the province’s education system.

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 has not disappeared. He has taken over energy and mines. n

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