2017-07-27 Ex-premier Grant Devine expected to be appointed to University of Saskatchewan board of governors, Star Phoenix
The Saskatchewan Party government’s decision to appoint a former premier remembered for running up a massive deficit in the mid-1980s to the University of Saskatchewan’s board of governors is a “concern,” says the university student union’s vice president of operations and finance.
Grant Devine, who taught agriculture at the university before serving as the province’s Progressive Conservative premier from 1982 to 1991, is expected to be named to the 11-member board in the coming days, according to a university document obtained Friday by the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
“I don’t see in his record the capability to try and mitigate (the university’s) situation,” said University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union vice president Deena Kapacila, referring to the Sask. Party government’s 2017-18 austerity budget, which cut $18 million from the university’s $312 million operating grant as part of a broader $600 million deficit reduction plan.
Devine — who is expected to be appointed alongside Deloitte partner Shelley Brown and March Consulting Associates president of operations Ritu Malhotra — will be the second former premier on the board. Roy Romanow, whose Saskatchewan NDP party defeated Devine’s PCs in the 1991 election, serves as the university’s chancellor and as one of its governors.
“How, at a time of budgetary challenges created by the Sask. Party, could they even consider appointing to the board of one of our universities the person who led our province to the brink of bankruptcy?” Saskatchewan NDP advanced education critic Ryan Meili wondered in a prepared statement.
Devine’s government employed Premier Brad Wall as a staffer. Advanced Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre said the decision to appoint the former premier was based on his qualifications, which include two degrees from the U of S, one from the University of Alberta, a PhD from Ohio State University and years as an agriculture professor. Devine taught agricultural economics at the U of S in the 1970s.
“This is not a partisan appointment; it’s a qualification appointment, a qualification issue and it’s a commitment to the University of Saskatchewan,” Eyre said.
Reached by email, Devine agreed to an interview, but he could not subsequently be contacted.
Eyre said she preferred to “leave the partisan politics out of this” before reiterating her view that the former premier’s qualifications “speak for themselves.”
The Saskatchewan government can appoint five people to the university’s board. Devine, Brown and Malhotra are expected to serve three-year terms, replacing David Dubé, Kathryn Ford and Greg Smith, whose terms have expired. The government’s other appointees are Cameco Corp. chief financial officer Grant Isaac and management consultant Lee Ahenakew.
The other members of the board are Daphne Arnason, Joy Crawford and Jay Kalra. USSU president David D’Eon and U of S president Peter Stoicheff also sit on the board of governors.
The document obtained by the StarPhoenix does not state when the new appointments will be officially announced or take effect.
The U of S has spent the last several months cutting costs in response to the 2017-18 provincial budget, which cut a total of $25 million from universities across the province. The university has already reduced its allocations to programs and services by $12.2 million, offered buyouts to some unionized staff members and pledged to reduce its senior administrators’ salaries.