Saskatchewan

Sask. government seeks 'expedited' appointment of new Lt.-Gov.

The government of Saskatchewan needs a new lieutenant governor if it wants executive orders to be approved.

W. Thomas Molloy's death prevents approval of government orders

Lawyer and negotiator W. Thomas Molloy was sworn in as Saskatchewan's 22nd lieutenant-governor by Chief Justice Robert Richards. During his illness, Molloy's duties were performed by Richards. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The government of Saskatchewan needs a new lieutenant-governor if it wants executive orders to be approved.

The July 2 death of W. Thomas Molloy, the previous Lt.-Gov., prevents the provincial government from getting orders in council passed or from recalling the Legislative Assembly.

Molloy, 78, died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. 

"The Government of Saskatchewan has been in communication with the federal government to convey the importance of an expedited appointment," the government of Saskatchewan said in a statement.

Chief Justice Robert Richards had been acting as Administrator during Molloy's illness. Richards gave bills Royal Assent at the conclusion of the spring sitting. However, he does not continue in his role following Molloy's passing.

"There is no provision for an Acting Lieutenant Governor, or Administrator, which normally occurs when a Lieutenant Governor is ill or out of the province," the government said in a statement.

"Chief Justice Richards filled in on ceremonial matters and on signing orders and council but when a lieutenant-governor dies they can't do that. So everything grinds to a halt," said D. Michael Jackson, former Chief of Protocol for Saskatchewan from 1980 to 2005.

"The government cannot adopt orders in council, which are very important for the function of government, they're executive orders which get things done and they have to be signed by the lieutenant governor."

Jackson said that things tend to be quieter in the summer, but that the legislative assembly cannot be summoned or prorogued without the lieutenant-governor. 

"People often don't think of the lieutenant-governor because they realize the premier or prime minister holds most of the powers but the lieutenant-governor holds a statutory position of great importance," Jackson said.

Lt.-Gov. Molloy and RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki attend the RCMP memorial parade in September 2018 in Regina. (Emily Pasiuk/CBC News)

Jackson, author of the 2013 book The Crown and Canadian Federalism, said this has happened once before in Saskatchewan.

Lt.-Gov. George Porteous died while in office in Feb. 1978. Jackson said that, at the time of Porteous' death, Premier Allan Blakeney's government did not realize a replacement was immediately needed. 

"The Blakeney government assumed that the chief justice as administrator could just carry on for him. But they were wrong. The chief justice at the time, Mr. Culliton said 'No, no, no I can't. You look at the Constitution we're not allowed to do that you have to have another lieutenant governor.' "

Both Porteous and his replacement were selected by current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's father Pierre's government.

Jackson said it is a common misconception that the provincial government selects the lieutenant-governor.

"Quite often the federal government doesn't even consult the provincial governments. They may as a courtesy but it doesn't happen very often," Jackson said.

A spokesperson for the Privy Council Office provided a statement via email Monday:

"The Government of Canada extends its condolences to Mr. Molloy's family. The Prime Minister recognizes the importance of filling the now vacant position of Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan and an announcement will be made in the near future."

Jackson said the role of the lieutenant-governor has evolved from constitutional to ceremonial and community based, and requires "full-time attention".

Indigenous Lt.-Gov. 'would be timely' 

As for who could fill the role, the Regina Leader-Post's Murray Mandryk recently suggested an Indigenous person should be selected.

"It's high time to express the diversity this province has enjoyed by appointing a person of Indigenous ancestry," Mandryk wrote in a column.

Jackson said an Indigenous appointment "would seem timely."

At Molloy's state funeral on Saturday in Saskatoon, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde called the former lieutenant-governor a "modern day Father of Confederation." 

Saskatchewan Lt.-Gov. W. Thomas Molloy's funeral was held Saturday at Merlis Belsher Place in Saskatoon. (CBC News)

Molloy was behind many modern agreements that shaped Canada, including acting as the federal negotiator who drew the borders of what we now call Nunavut. He went on to negotiate the Nisga'a treaty in British Columbia.

He also helped negotiate the Inuit of Northern Quebec Off-Shore, and the L'heidle T'enneh Sliammon final agreements.

Bellegarde said Molloy's family asked for a First Nation's name and an elder named him Wambli Kinyan, or Flying Eagle Man.

Molloy is survived by his four children, Corinne, Jennifer, Alison and Kathryn, along with 11 grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Alice.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from CBC's Scott Larson

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