08/25/2014 02:18 EDT | Updated 10/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Roy Romanow Happy He Didn't Need To Use Saskatchewan Separation Plan

Bruce Guenter/Flickr
I was in the hospital, so I'm posting up an older photo. Taken in Bladworth, SK. Luminance HDR 2.3.0 tonemapping parameters: Operator: Mantiuk06 Parameters: Contrast Mapping factor: 0.3 Saturation Factor: 1 Detail Factor: 4 ------ PreGamma: 1
Former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow said he was glad he had a plan in case Quebec separated from Canada and he's even more happy he didn't have to use it. 

Romanow told CBC News this morning that he set up a secret team of three or four Saskatchewan officials to consider the possibility that the Prairie province might leave Canada in the event of a "Yes" win in Quebec's sovereignty referendum in 1995. 

"The mandate was, just sit down, blue sky what you think all the options are; the pros and the cons and let's talk about this, in case the vote goes the wrong way," he said. "Happily, it went the right way."

He said he couldn't contemplate leaving Canada, but it was important to keep all the options open.

He said the committee had to look at the pros and cons of a variety of scenarios because the province was in a debt crisis at the time. 

Romanow said he instructed the task force in the fall 1994 to explore every scenario, including an option for Saskatchewan to separate from the rest of Canada. 

Also on the table was the possibility that the province would form an alliance with Alberta and British Columbia to leave the country. A third possibility looked at whether Saskatchewan might be annexed to the United States. The committee also examined the possibility of Saskatchewan adopting the U.S. dollar.

He said they took that idea of separating from the rest of Canada "a bit seriously, but not greatly." 

Romanow said he had to keep the committee's work secret because it was such a sensitive issue at the time.  

"What I was doing was acting in the interests of the voters and the people of Saskatchewan, which was my sworn duty, in the eventuality, in the anticipation, of the worst-case scenario," he said. 

This bit of Saskatchewan history was kept secret until last week when Maclean's Magazine published a review of a new book by Chantal Hébert, a Toronto Star columnist and CBC At Issue panellist, that's being released Sept. 2.

In The Morning After: The Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was, it's revealed that Romanow set up a special committee to assess options for Saskatchewan if Quebec were to separate.

The committee's work was filed under the "boring" title of Constitutional Contingencies — "a choice," said Hebert (whose book was written with the assistance of Quebec pundit Jean Lapierre) "intended to discourage curiosity.

The book says Romanow's committee was funded "off the books, outside the provincial Treasury Board process, to ensure its secrecy."

Ultimately, the "No" side won a narrow victory in the referendum.

Details about the Saskatchewan committee were revealed to Hébert by Romanow about 18 months ago. Before the interview with Hébert, he had never spoken publicly about the committee’s work.


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