Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

October 1997


Published in Great Plains Research 7:2 (Fall 1997). Copyright © 1997 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Long a fixture on the Canadian political landscape, and best known outside province for a dogged defense of provincial rights in pursuit of its state entrepreneurial agenda, the three-term NDP government of Saskatchewan's Allan Blakeney (1979-1982) is beginning to attract a more critical and systematic attention, centered around the traditional paradox of populism on the Great Plains: the admixture of conservative community values with a more or less radical economic view. Jim Harding, a left NDP activist and Regina city Councilor as well as an academic sociologist-a narrow cross section of the social science community, exclusive of history and political science, is represented in this volume-is well situated to examine the "social justice" record of the Blakeney government, which future historians will almost certainly see as representing the zenith of social democratic activism in the late twentieth century prairie west. Predictably, some of the thorniest issues addressed relate to northern and aboriginal affairs, though Harding was apparently unsuccessful in soliciting a native perspective on the NDP, and, like many Saskatchewan leftists, has a one dimensional critique of the NDP's controversial uranium mining policies, designed in part to modernize the aboriginal economy in the north. Premier Blakeney's fear of recreating ghetto-like conditions in the southern cities (substituting, in comparative terms, Northern Natives for Southern Blacks) was well known. That eventuality is to some extent coming to pass today in cities like Winnipeg and Regina, as the "Northern Vision" recedes in the face of market economics.