Ken Cheveldayoff looks like what one might expect a politician to be. His hair is neat and styled, he’s always clean shaven and typically he’ll be wearing a suit or an outfit best described as business casual.
Country superstar Garth Brooks, on the other hand, is well-known for his wide Stetson, cowboy boots and a belt with a big buckle. So it might be a surprise to learn in the 1980s Cheveldayoff won a Garth Brooks look-alike contest at Craven.
“On his first album, he had a black and white-checkered shirt so I went out and got a custom shirt made shirt, I had the shirt and the mic, thank goodness they didn’t ask me to sing, but I did win that contest and that is something that gets a few laughs when I talk about it today,” Cheveldayoff recalled.
The similarities don’t end there. Cheveldayoff is married to Trish, Brooks to Trisha.
When the musician came to Saskatoon for a charity event for the Children’s Health Foundation, Cheveldayoff regaled him with the tale and they finally got a picture together side-by-side.
Cheveldayoff is well known in Saskatchewan. First elected in 2003, he has served in numerous positions in cabinet as well as government house leader.
Acknowledging both his strengths and weakness, he believes he is the right person to replace Brad Wall.
“I feel like this is like a job interview, I have to prove to the people of Saskatchewan that I have the background, that I have the experience and the passion and the want to be the next premier of the province,” Chevelday maintained.
“I value myself as the grassroots candidate, somebody that’s going to be on their doorsteps and talking to them when door-knocking, and I think that’s been very well received by Saskatchewan voters.”
Cheveldayoff admits that striking the right work-life balance can be difficult sometimes and is something he needs to remember to do.
“I get very focused sometimes and it is all about balancing your life. I try to ensure that I am a good husband and father and family person as well, but I do get very passionate about my work and about politics,” Cheveldayoff said.
His passion and interest in politics started early. He met John Diefenbaker while in school. The late prime minister was the MP for the Blaine Lake area, where Cheveldayoff grew up.
“He would come into our school by helicopter and that was a big deal for a kid like myself. So I tell the story that I’d run out there and I’d be the first kid to shake his hand and I’d get so excited that I’d run to the back of the line so I could shake his hand again and he’d say, ‘hey, hey I saw you before’ you know,’” Cheveldayoff remembered. “And then when you’re a kid, you’re wanting to do a story for school on somebody like that so I really researched and admired John Diefenbaker.”
Cheveldayoff went on to work as a page in the House of Commons and met several other politicians including Tommy Douglas.
Cheveldayoff’s life is not just politics though. He has a love of hockey and his brother Kevin is the manager of the Winnipeg Jets.
“I look at the hard work that he’s done in his life and some of the hurdles he’s faced and you know being a player drafted in the NHL and then going on to be a manager and senior manager, he always has a long-term look at things,” Cheveldayoff explained.
“We were sharing some stories over Christmas how in hockey a lot of people want you to make short-term decisions, trade this person, or do something for the short-term gain and he is really a long-term thinker and that is something I learned from him.”
But it is of little surprise that life eventually circles back to politics for Cheveldayoff, even creeping into the sort of TV shows he likes.
“I like Designated Survivor, House of Cards, Billions and Homeland, everything with a little bit of political intrigue seems to be something that I like to watch,” Chevdalyoff said. “I guess I do have my sports as an escapism, but when I’m sitting down at night, I like those political intrigue shows.”
It would seem though Cheveldayoff’s downfall rests on the dinner plate, there isn’t a perogie that he doesn’t like.
“My eyes light up,” Cheveldayoff joked. “I’m kind of a traditionalist, some of the dessert perogies have captured my attention, but then I find myself going back to the traditional, but you know if there is cottage cheese or potato or cheddar I will probably take a couple of each, so as not to offend anyone right.”
Despite the grind of the leadership campaign, the perogies that have been eaten, the thousands of kilometres on the clock since it began, Cheveldayoff is glad he entered the race and the opportunities it has provided him.
“This is such a special place and I know politics runs deep, it’s just going to be a wonderful opportunity for the next premier of the province to put his or her stamp on things, and I’m going to be a part of it in some way,” Cheveldayoff maintained.
“If I am not the premier I am committed to running in the next election and running alongside the team of wonderful candidates that we do have.”