An Honourable Calling: Political Memoirs.


272 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 978-0-8020-9891-7
DDC 971.24'03092




Reviewed by Ashley Thomson

Ashley Thomson is a full librarian at Laurentian University and co-editor or co-author of nine books, most recently Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005.


Full disclosure: In the early 1970s I was a foot soldier in the Saskatchewan NDP and I have always admired Blakeney. These memoirs give me even more reason: written in an accessible style with dollops of humour along the way, the book is extremely well organized, thoughtful, and, best of all, gracious to former opponents.

Early chapters are devoted to Blakeney’s Nova Scotia upbringing, his unplanned move to Saskatchewan, and his growing interest in provincial politics cumulating in his election as MLA in June 1960. Blakeney began his career in the cabinet of T.C. Douglas, and later, when Douglas resigned, in that of Woodrow Lloyd.

As a minister, Blakeney watched first-hand as the government introduced Canada’s first medicare program, and later handled the resulting doctors’ strike. In 1964 the government was defeated, leaving Blakeney in opposition for the next seven years.

His triumphant return as premier, having succeeded Lloyd as opposition leader in 1970, led to a flurry of initiatives on universities, northern Saskatchewan, agriculture, oil, potash, and uranium. Each is covered in separate chapters. There are also three chapters on the creation and subsequent development of the Constitution Act of 1981. Of course, much has been written on many of these topics elsewhere, which Blakeney acknowledges, but the book is invaluable since Blakeney approaches each topic with fresh information.

After his defeat as premier in 1982, Blakeney stayed on as opposition leader until 1987, when he turned the party over to his successor. The chapters describing the activities of the Conservative regime which replaced him read rather wistfully as the successor government dismantled many important initiatives taken by his government.

In private life he kept himself busy with various academic appointments as well some consultancy work overseas, and in a final chapter he reflects on major continuing challenges facing the country he loves.

Sadly, I doubt that this book will get the attention it deserves. From a pan-Canadian perspective, Saskatchewan is a small province, Blakeney belongs to a third party, and his public profile is over 30 years behind him.

Pity. His book is one of the best in its class.


Blakeney, Allan., “An Honourable Calling: Political Memoirs.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,