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Saskatchewan Mafia

This is a term of respect used to describe members of the federal public service who had come to Ottawa from the Saskatchewan government. Over twenty relatively senior public servants and central agency policy analysts left Saskatchewan after the election victory of a right-leaning Liberal government under Premier Ross Thatcher in 1964. Many were quickly hired by a federal Liberal government committed to an agenda of modernizing the welfare state under Prime Minister Pearson. Some members of the Saskatchewan Mafia proved to be instrumental in introducing equalization, extending post-secondary education, and implementing national Medicare. The most prominent members of the Saskatchewan Mafia included A.W. Johnson, who became Secretary to the Treasury Board, Deputy Minister of National Welfare and President of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; Tommy Shoyama, who became Deputy Minister of Finance and Chairman of Atomic Energy Canada; and Don Tansley, who became Senior Vice-President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the first Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. While other former Saskatchewan civil servants would also go on to have stellar careers in Ottawa, the collective impact of the Saskatchewan Mafia would influence a generation of public servants in the government of Canada.

Gregory P. Marchildon

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