In conferring this honour on Gary Doer, the University of Manitoba is recognizing one of Manitoba's most influential and effective leaders. His highly distinguished record of achievement in public service makes Mr. Doer a very worthy recipient of such an honour.
As the outpouring of good wishes upon the announcement of his retirement proved, along with the highly positive press coverage, Mr. Doer is a remarkable public personality. He served for over two decades as the leader of the New Democratic Party and led it in a series of hard- fought elections. He battled opponents in the Manitoba legislature and made countless difficult decisions concerning the most crucial and often divisive public policy issues of our time. Yet he maintained the highest respect and admiration among the population at large.
Indeed, Mr. Doer is regarded by almost all Manitobans as a friend and fellow citizen who embodies the best of the Manitoba lifestyle. His ability to bridge the usual partisan divides, drawing support and earning the confidence from individuals in various camps and from different backgrounds allowed him to achieve the success for which the University recognizes him today.
Mr. Doer's public biography is well-known to Manitobans. A lifelong Winnipegger, his entire career has been in public service - first, as a provincial corrections officer, rising to become deputy superintendent of the Manitoba Youth Centre. Active in union politics, he was elected President of the Manitoba Government Employees Association in 1979. He continued in that capacity until 1986, when he entered the political arena, elected as the MLA for Concordia. This was followed by 23 years in public office. After two years in Cabinet, he became leader of the Manitoba NDP in 1988, Leader of the Opposition in 1990 and Premier in 1999.
As premier, Mr. Doer focused on, among other things, enhancing and protecting the public health care system, expanding education opportunities by increasing access and reducing barriers to postsecondary education, developing the North and increasing opportunities for First Nations, reforming electoral law, and promoting and developing Manitoba's hydro resources.
A major priority for him, as Premier, was protecting the environment. An early and staunch supporter of the Kyoto Accord, Gary Doer advanced green causes at home and abroad, including enhancing the management of Manitoba's water resource. The combination of 'green' policies developed in Manitoba over the past decade has won international recognition for our province and has been the basis for agreements forged with like-minded jurisdictions from Quebec to California. This commitment to the environment led, in 2005, to the American magazine Business Week naming him as one of the top twenty international leaders fighting climate change.
Particularly relevant to the University has been Gary's commitment to post-secondary education. Upon assuming office in 1999, he reversed the slide in funding that had marked previous years. He expanded Red River College, created University College of the North and responded with enthusiasm to this University's fundraising endeavours, making significant contributions to both the "Building on Strengths" campaign and the "Domino" project. Throughout his term as Premier, there was never any doubt that he remained committed to doing all that his government could to advance universities and colleges in this province.
Among many other achievements are the expansion of the Red River Floodway, assistance in the development of a new arena in downtown Winnipeg, championing the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and being an early supporter of the new Blue Bomber stadium. All of this was done at the same time that his government introduced balanced budgets during each of his ten years in office, while reducing many taxes.
As Premier, Mr. Doer always adopted a broad world view of provincial politics which led him to foster excellent relationships with political leaders across Canada and the United States. His appointment as Canadian Ambassador to the United States is testament to his success in that and to his record of diplomacy while Premier.
During his many years in the public's service, Gary Doer has directly touched the lives of all Manitobans, working to provide a better future for all of us. And now his post-political career is continuing on the path of public service, as he represents the people and government of Canada as Ambassador to the United States.
Gary has made many other contributions to our community by serving on a number of governing boards, including the University of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Prairie Theatre Exchange and Manitoba Special Olympics, among others.
Gary is married to Ginny Devine and is proud father to Emily and Kate.
Among the criteria for awarding an honorary degree is to recognize distinguished achievement in the public sector. Gary Doer certainly meets that objective. Awarding an honorary degree to Gary will not only recognize his achievements, but will also be a credit to the University of Manitoba.