About a Great Singer and a Distinguished Public Servant

by Bob Phillips, BA (1947)

Distinguished Public Servant Bill Haney (BCOMM'49) died November 17, 1998 at the age of 76. Bill Haney was one prairie son who enjoyed singing. He seldom missed an opportunity to burst into song: always in tune, always on key and always pleasant. He was a boy soprano but later became a basso profunda, one of the lowest registers in music. He sang in his garden, around his home and as he drove along the highway. He also sang in church choirs across the country and in some of Ottawa's best choirs.

While in school he began to sing and when he was only about 15 entered a provincial singing competition and won. The late Dan Cameron, director of music at the University of Saskatchewan's Regina College, had been a judge and soon afterwards Bill began taking vocal lessons from Cameron and continued until Cameron died in 1963. But music was only his avocation. In his working life he was a public servant who served Saskatchewan and Canada well; from Regina in the provincial service and later from Ottawa in the federal service.

Bill Haney's first job on leaving high school was in a chartered bank in Cabri and then in that bank's branch at Lemberg SK. When the Second World War came Bill joined the Royal Canadian Navy as an ordinary seaman and served on the high seas on HMCS Swansea and HMCS Niagara. In 1944 he was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant and after the war served as officer with HMCS Queen, the reserve naval establishment in Regina.

William Loel Haney was born on a homestead on section 15, township 19, range 17 west of the 3rd meridian near the town of Cabri, the third youngest of a family of seven. Sometime later his parents, John and Lizzie Haney, moved into Cabri and eventually Haney senior became elevator agent for the new Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. Bill was brought up in the town but always delighted to remind city folk of his rural origin, especially the homestead citation.

After the war Bill took the Bachelor of Commerce degree at University of Saskatchewan where he was known as a singer and appeared in leads in such productions as "The Red Mill" and "The Student Prince," both staged by the university at Saskatoon's old Capitol Theatre.

He began his public service career in 1949 with the Saskatchewan government, first with the public service commission, then the provincial finance department, finally as member of the Local Government Board, and eventually its chairman. Simply to list his government appointments does no justice to Haney's participation in the public service of the province. He had the ear of cabinet ministers and indeed of the premier, then Tommy Douglas, and his advice was often sought and heeded.

Bill often spoke about his parents as grass-roots socialists; intellectually he would have described them as agrarian socialists, a persuasion to which he was also attracted. But Bill often found himself at cross-purposes between tenets he had learned from his parents and his intellectual persuasions. Above all he knew what it meant to be a public servant and he strove always to meet that objective; sometimes the conflict produced an inner torment he seemed unable to shake. Bill was able to improve his living standards as his position advanced and became especially disturbed when he compared his lot with that of his parents he said had struggled so hard and had so little to show for it.

I well recall lengthy debates about revising local government in the province and the proposal that a county system replace rural municipalities. Haney took to the road with others to support the proposal at local town meetings. He recounted one such occasion when others who spoke before him droned on and by the time his turn came he knew most had had enough. Instead of his prepared presentation Bill said he thought he'd just sing and broke into some rousing songs everyone knew. He told me later "all left the hall that night with a smile on their faces no matter which side of the argument they supported."

Bill was married in 1950 to Marjorie Allen (B.Comm. 47), a fellow university student who came from Wilcox SK; they had a family of four: MaryAnn, John, Susan and Bill. Just before Bill died they had their first grandchild.

His first job with the federal service was in Ottawa in 1966 with the finance department but he moved on to several different kinds of responsibility in the Privy Council Office, including assistant secretary to the cabinet and a number of senior positions related to federal-provincial relations. He took formal retirement on December 31, 1983 and served several years with the Hon Eric Neilson, deputy prime minister, on his task force on program review. After that assignment, Bill withdrew from public life and devoted his time and interests to his family, his garden, friends and church.

Bill and I met through Dan Cameron after we had both moved to Regina and our families became good friends, spending many happy times together at our summer cottages and wherever each of us happened to make home. With our spouses we made several trips abroad.