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Legislature says farewell to Kevin Phillips

John Cairns’ Leg Watch
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The legislative assembly was rocked by news of the death of Melfort MLA Kevin Phillips at age 63.

Much like what happened after Saskatoon Meewasin MLA Roger Parent died in 2016, Question Period was cancelled for the day on Tuesday, Nov. 14, as MLAs rose to pay their respects to Phillips.

An emotional Premier Brad Wall led a series of tributes in the legislature to Phillips. Wall’s remarks and some of the remarks of other MLAs are printed here, as recorded in Hansard.

Hon. Mr. Wall: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, colleagues in the House.

“I have led a life of security, and family, and community.” These are the words of the late member from Melfort, Kevin Phillips, in his maiden speech in this Legislative Assembly sometime in late 2011. “I have led a life of security, and family, and community.”

Mr. Speaker, I think it’s interesting — if we examine these words, we see what is intentional about them on the part of the man who said them in this place. Because, Mr. Speaker, I don’t think you can make that claim, to have led a life of security, unless you also acted in that way, unless you committed yourself in an effort to live a life of security. And I think, I’m pretty sure what Kevin was referring to when he said that was the industry and the enterprise and the work ethic with which he conducted his life to bring that security for himself and for his family. It’s an intentional statement.

And we know the record bears it out — his work ethic and his industry and his enterprise.

We know that he was a publisher at the Melfort Journal, that he was an entrepreneur. He was in the newspaper business. We know he was an investor and a partner in other businesses as well, that he worked hard to provide that security, to live a life of security. There are members on this side of the House that know the kind of business person he was, and the values he brought to this House, he brought also to that life. I’ve heard specific accounts of that.

He led a life of family.

He also led a life of community, as he noted in that maiden speech. And boy, his record is replete with evidence of that, Mr. Speaker. It in many respects seems to have been his life work even beyond his vocation, his avocations.

He tells the story in his maiden speech about being upset about principals being rotated around the school division in that northeast area, and this must have bothered him and a few other parents because he organized and went to a meeting. And I’m not sure of the result of that effort, but someone told him, as he noted in his Speech from the Throne, in his maiden speech in this House, he noted that someone had told him, you know, “You should put your money where your mouth is and run for the school board.” And so he did, and he served for nine years as a trustee in the Melfort School Division, three as the Chair of that school division. And then later on he became . . . He was the mayor of Melfort. And that’s when I got to meet him…

He led a life of community. There are any number of examples we could point to in this respect, but there are few that are as compelling as the domestic violence centre that he helped champion for the city of Melfort, which has also of course been a benefit in service to northeast Saskatchewan.

… So is there any good that can come from yesterday, from someone leaving us at 63 so tragically? You know, there is scripture that would say there is, that all things work together for good but, boy, it’s hard to see it on a day like today unless you consider his daughter Kelli and her husband, Howard. They have five kids: Autumn and Tempestt and Justice and Desiree and Denzel. Unless you consider Kevin’s son Brenden and his wife, Carly, who live in Alberta. Unless you consider his stepdaughter Brandi and her husband, Zach. They have two kids, Tyson and Haley. If you’re wondering if anything good can come from a day like today, well, there’s his stepson Riley and his wife, Felisha, and they have five kids: Kaleb and Raigen and Dexter and twins, Mia and Ava.

And so there’s every expectation, there’s every hope that we can have that the kind of person that Kevin was, the qualities that I have tried to inadequately describe today, are going to get passed on, that they’ve already been passed on, that they’re manifest in the lives of his kids, his stepkids, and his grandchildren. And so that’s the good that will come not from yesterday, from his death, but most assuredly from his life, from a life that is well remembered. Because I believe his was a good example, a very good example, a compelling one and for that example some day it will be said of his grandkids and maybe subsequent generations, that they led lives of security and family and community.

Opposition leader Nicole Sarauer:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On behalf of all Saskatchewan New Democrats, but more specifically my colleagues on this side of the floor, I want to extend our sincerest condolences to Kevin’s family, in particular his wife, April, his children, his grandchildren — of whom he talked frequently about and fondly — but also to his friends and his legislative colleagues on the government side.

Kevin was an incredibly kind man. I often had the opportunity to speak with him at MLA [Member of the Legislative Assembly] receptions. He always took time to speak to me, to speak to many of my colleagues. We shared stories this morning. He often shared with me advice, wisdom, life, politics, even as recently as last week at the Sask Watershed Authority reception. And I’m so grateful that I made it to that reception last week because I know now that that’s the last opportunity that I’ll have to get to talk to Kevin. We talked about life. We talked about family. We talked about plans for after politics.

And we also talked about what the Premier mentioned. He was a strong advocate for his community. He’s an even stronger advocate for improving supports for survivors of domestic violence. And he was so proud of the work that he and his community partners did in the creation of the Melfort shelter, and he absolutely should be. His legacy will live on through his children and his grandchildren, but he will also have a piece of that. That shelter is in part because of him.

Joe Hargrave:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On a day like today I wish I was a great orator like so many of the members in this House. Kevin was more than my colleague. As some of you may or may not know, he was my business partner for many, many years. And besides being my business partner, he was my good friend. We’ve been friends for nearly 20 years.

Many times, Mr. Speaker, we would leave this House on a Thursday after session, and he would drive ahead of me. I always got him to drive ahead of me in case . . . because he would like to drive a little faster, and I thought he could get the ticket instead of me. But we’d phone each other, on our hands-free of course, and we’d talk probably 20 minutes, half hour. And just about life, you know, about things. About the House, about the business. Just about life mostly. He was so proud of his new grandkid twins. He just couldn’t stop talking about them.

I talked to him on Friday. I talked to him this Friday. I said, “Kevin, what are you doing?” I told him what I was up to. What he was up to. And I said, “Oh, I left my keys to my truck. Are you happening to come to town? You know, into P.A. Because I left my keys to my truck, and you could bring the spare set from Melfort.” And he says, “No I’m not. I’m doing up my remarks,” he says, “because I’m speaking tomorrow at Remembrance Day.” He says, “It’s one of the most important days of the year for me.”

Remembrance. We’ll all remember Kevin. He believed, like me, if you want to make a difference in your community, in your province, in your country, you have to get involved. I strongly believe that. And Kevin and I were friends because we talked about that all the time. You have to get involved. And Kevin got involved in his community from the day, forever…

Cathy Sproule:

When we were the class of 2011 — and yourself, Mr. Speaker, was one of those — and Kevin and I and I think the member from Moose Jaw North and Silverspring, we were chosen to sit on a committee to go to Ottawa. And it was just a couple of months after we got elected, so we were all still pretty new. And you’ll recall that visit, I’m sure.

 We went to Ottawa to sit in on a committee on the development . . . We were planning the development of the lobbyist registry, so we had been established as a standing committee to do that. And that’s when I first got to know a number of the people who were elected the same time I was in the class of 2011. And my remembrances of Kevin, right from the get-go, was this warm friendliness that he would express.

And I was scared of those guys. I mean I was a new MLA, and it was terrifying in some ways to be the only new MLA on this side of the House when there was at least a dozen on that side of the House. So I was learning my way and I just felt, and I’m sure the rest of us that were at that conference felt that sort of easy friendliness that he brought with him to any conversation and just that gentle sort of almost laconic laid-backness that really put me at ease. And we had some great conversations right from the get-go. So I’ve always sort of cherished that opportunity because I met some of the new MLAs on a team basis rather than this adversarial world that we live in in this Chamber.


Warren Michelson:

Mr. Speaker, we lost a colleague, but more than that, we lost a friend.

I guess I was blessed to know Kevin since somewhere around 1976 when we moved to Melfort. I was running a furniture store and he was the advertising for the Melfort Journal at the time. I can remember the first advertising we booked with him. Always very helpful, always there to try and do his best for his clients, and we were no exception. Later on I moved into radio, into sales, so we were actually in competition with each other. But with Kevin there was never any animosity. You didn’t have to watch your back because of Kevin. You knew that he was a gentleman first and foremost, working for the community and for his clients. And he could never do enough for the community. It was always at Kevin’s heart, was the community of Melfort.

Mark Docherty:

Maybe it was his ability to see the world differently. He was upbeat and hopeful. He believed in people. He was inquisitive. He asked questions. He was sometimes childlike. The world had not jaded him. He was a good and decent man. He was here to serve. He was honoured to represent Melfort. He fought for that shelter. And what hasn’t been said is, it burned down. It had to be rebuilt. He was jaded and miserable for one day. He said, “We’ve got to get going. We’ve got to build it again.” And away he went supporting it.

Most of all, he loved April and his kids, his grandkids. I had the opportunity to spend an awful lot of time with him and his family. He was just proud. He was just so proud — always family first.

Thanks for making a difference, Kevin Phillips. Rest easy, my friend.