The death of Saskatchewan’s 22nd lieutenant-governor, W. Thomas Molloy leaves a sizeable void in the function of the province’s government.
Most people are likely familiar with the ceremonial aspects of the role: awarding the Order of Merit and other honours, as well as welcoming royals and other dignitaries to the province.
Being able to fulfil these responsibilities does play into determining who is suited for the job, according to retired Saskatchewan chief of protocol Michael Jackson.
“A lieutenant-governor, first of all, should be a senior person with lots of experience in the province, and ideally know something about government and how it functions,” Jackson explained.
“That person has to have the dignity and gravitas to represent the province on very important occasions. To preside over ceremonies like the opening of the legislature and the speech from the throne.”
In addition to ceremonial duties, the lieutenant-governor has a number of constitutional powers. This includes giving bills royal assent and signing off on orders in council. These orders include funding agreements, board appointments, hiring ministerial assistants and many other responsibilities.
Prior to Molloy’s passing, Saskatchewan Chief Justice Robert Richards acted as the province’s administrator. This meant he fulfilled Malloy’s duties while on medical leave, including giving bills royal assent.
Now that Molloy has died, Richards can no longer act as administrator.
In Canada’s constitutional monarchy, the lieutenant-governor acts as the head of state for their respective province.
Jackson served as the province’s chief of protocol from 1980-2005, and while Molloy was appointed well after Jackson’s time in the job, he is saddened to see him pass away.
“I am sad to see Tom Molloy die in office after only a year. He was an excellent person for the job, and one of the things he brought to it was a deep understanding of Indigenous peoples,” Jackson said.
Through his distinguished legal career, Molloy worked on many high-profile treaty issues – most notably helping establish Nunavut as a territory.
Choosing a new lieutenant-governor
In a statement, the federal government said it will be announcing Saskatchewan’s 23rd lieutenant-governor in the near future. This appointment is made by the governor-general, based on a recommendation from the prime minister.
Regina Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk said he would like to see an Indigenous person appointed.
“We’ve never had one, and it’s never been reflective of a significant portion of our population and I think it should,” Mandryk said.
He added the skill set required of the lieutenant-governor opens the door for several potential First Nations candidates and would be a good move given current relations between the province and Indigenous communities.
“Now would be a really good time as a message of healing and otherwise, I think there’s some awareness of that.”
During Molloy’s state funeral, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde referred to him as a “modern-day father of Confederation.”
Mandryk said an Indigenous appointee would be an appropriate follow-up, given Molloy’s life’s work.
There is no public timeline on when a new appointee will be named. A spokesperson from the provincial government said they have asked the federal government to expedite the process given the import role the lieutenant-governor fills.