Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Former CCF MLA dead at 101

By Pamela Roth
Leader-Post May 18, 2010

Myron Kuziak can't help but feel a sense of pride when he recalls the time his father Alex was giving a speech on the back of a flatbed truck to a large crowd on the shoreline of Crystal Lake.

He was criticizing the Liberal Party for its lack of development in the province, recalled Myron, and the people listening were soaking up his every last word.

"He could really work up a crowd. Everybody laughed and cheered," said Myron, who was 14 at the time of his father's rise in politics. "He was probably the most honest politician you could imagine."

Alex Kuziak was one of the last links to the administration of former premier and federal NDP leader Tommy Douglas when he passed away Friday in Yorkton at 101.

He was born and raised on a farm in the Canora district and was an active member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) Party since the movement was organized in 1933.

After completing high school at Yorkton Collegiate, Alex spent two years in Michigan before returning home in 1930 to prepare for a teaching career at Regina Normal School.

But he couldn't ignore the lure of public affairs and declared victory as the party's candidate in Canora in the 1948 general election, a victory he repeated in 1952.

Shortly after the win, he was chosen by the CCF as the minister of telephones and minister in charge of the Government Finance Office -- the holding company for most of the province's Crown corporations. Eight years later, he was appointed minister of mineral resources, serving in the governments of Douglas and Woodrow Lloyd.

During his time in office, Myron said Alex guided and influenced the development of roads into the north to exploit resources there and helped establish the existing co-operative fishery.

The provincial parks system also expanded significantly, said Myron, and much of the development of major resources, energy and communications infrastructure was due to his father's vision.

Although Alex's career in provincial politics came to an end in 1964, when he was defeated by a handful of votes in the Ross Thatcher Liberal sweep, his pride in his accomplishments remained strong.

According to Myron, Alex was very proud of the fact he was responsible for bringing an abundance of fir trees from northern Saskatchewan to the southern part of the province, along with the work he did in establishing provincial highways.

Aside from being a gifted public speaker who also spoke Ukrainian and Russian, Myron said Alex was an outspoken advocate for the inherent rights of mankind, and was recognized as a leader of Ukrainian Canadians in Saskatchewan.

He was the first person of Ukrainian origin to become a cabinet minister in Canada -- an accomplishment of which he was very proud, recalled former premier Allan Blakeney, who worked under Alex's leadership at the beginning of his political career.

"He was very proud of his heritage. The ground was being broken at that time by Alex," said the 84-year-old, who remembers Alex as a gifted speaker.

"He grew up in that area speaking Ukrainian and he moved in those circles with perfect ease. He was a highly affective politician who knew his people."

Myron describes his father as a man who was attentive to his family. He often did much of the cleaning and chores around the house and was an avid gardener until he was 90.

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