Former Wood River MLA and cabinet minister D. F. (Yogi) Huyghebaert has died at 74, the Saskatchewan Party has announced.
In a news release sent out late afternoon Thursday, Premier Scott Moe expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the retired Lieutenant-Colonel.
“After a long and distinguished military career, Yogi could have chosen to enjoy his retirement, but instead, he decided to continue his public service as one of the first members of the Saskatchewan Party,” Moe said. “He was a four-term MLA in opposition and government, a minister and always a strong voice for his Wood River constituency and rural Saskatchewan. He was a good friend and I will miss him.”
Huyghebaert joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1961. He was selected for pilot training and received his wings in 1968.
He served as a squadron pilot in West Germany and a member of the embassy staff in Washington, D.C. before being selected to fly with, and later lead, the world famous Snowbirds.
In 1987, Governor-General Jeanne Sauve invested Huyghebaert with the Order of Military Merit for his exceptional service with the Canadian Forces.
After retiring from the military, Huyghebaert and his wife Phyllis lived on a small ranch near Glentworth.
Huyghebaert was a prominent early member of the Saskatchewan Party, joining the party shortly after its creation in 1997 and then running in the first Saskatchewan Party leadership race in 1998.
Huyghebaert ran for the Saskatchewan Party in the 1999 provincial election, losing by a single vote. That result was overturned a short time later, and Huyghebaert won the 2000 byelection with a large majority.
He was re-elected in 2003, 2007 and 2011, winning 82 per cent of the vote in his final election campaign in 2011. Huyghebaert decided not to seek re-election in 2016.
“As Public Safety minister, Yogi made significant improvements to the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program, which at the time was too slow and ineffective in responding to people whose homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by natural disasters,” Moe said. “Yogi greatly improved the coverage levels and reduced the turnaround time, so Saskatchewan people received the assistance they needed a lot more quickly.”
The flags at the Legislative Assembly will be lowered to half-staff until Huyghebaert’s funeral.