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McKnight, William Hunter (1940–)

Born July 12, 1940, in Elrose, Bill McKnight was a farmer and a Progressive Conservative Party activist who played a leading role as party president in the 1970s revival of the provincial party. McKnight married Beverly Rae in 1961 and they have two children. He served in the House of Commons as MP for the Kindersley–Lloydminster riding from 1979 to 1993, and was in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for nine years, serving variously as Minister of Labour, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Housing, Western Diversification, National Defence, Agriculture, and Energy, Mines and Resources. McKnight was branded a “hatchet man” for the Progressive Conservative government. As Defence Minister he closed armed forces bases, cut billions of dollars from planned defence spending and cancelled equipment contracts. Then came a standoff with Native warriors at Oka, Quebec in 1990 and the deployment of Canadian forces to the Gulf War in 1991. Land claims dominated his tenure at Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1986–88). In the Agriculture portfolio (1991–93), he was involved in the redesign of farm income safety nets while the industry was buffeted by several years of drought and low grain prices brought on by an international export subsidy war. While McKnight was Agriculture Minister, his son Robert decided he could not make a living from the family farm at Wartime and auctioned off the equipment. McKnight retired from politics in 1993 to operate consulting and business ventures from his base in Saskatoon.

Barry Wilson

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