REGINA — With 100 triathlons under his belt and three ironman competitions to his name, Mark Docherty knows a thing or two about perseverance.
The trait has come in handy in recent years as Docherty — one of Regina's new Saskatchewan Party MLAs — deals with the symptoms that accompany multiple sclerosis, a diagnosis he received in 1998.
That persistence also helped him endure the rigours of this fall's election campaign, one that resulted in a big win for the Sask. Party in Regina Coronation Park. Prior to Docherty's victory, the constituency had been held by the NDP for 25 years.
"You need to put an awful lot of preparation into triathlon and you have to really know yourself and you have to know your body. It's helped me just in my tenacity. I don't quit," said Docherty, who today relies on a swimming regime to help him stay fit.
The 50-year-old Docherty holds three degrees from the University of Regina and has a history of serving on behalf of youth, including a previous job as director of the youth facility Dales House.
Currently on the board of Regina's Street Culture, an organization for children and youth, he recently taught two SIAST courses — a sociology course to licensed practical nursing students on reserve and another course in the youth care worker diploma program.
While his self-described commitment to "supporting and helping the most vulnerable" may sound more like a NDP mantra, Doherty said it's an aim that transcends political stripes.
"I think that every political party to a degree has a responsibility and an obligation to ensure that citizens can potentially enjoy full citizenship. Good social policy isn't the last bastion of just the NDP," said Docherty.
He added that he appreciates Premier Brad Wall's statements about the importance of trying to ensure no one is left behind, and the party's commitment to furthering growth and employment opportunities.
But it was the Saskatchewan Party's plan to fund clinical trials for a controversial treatment that some believe holds great promise for MS patients that first got Docherty interested in joining the party as a candidate.
In 2010, Wall said he would put $5 million toward trials of what has commonly been referred to as the "liberation" procedure, which involves angioplasty to open veins in the neck to increase blood flow from the brain and spinal cord. It's based on a theory that links MS symptoms with the vein blockages.
"Being the first premier or the first province in the country that actually stepped forward and wanted to take a leadership role in this, I found that to be very important," Docherty said.
He travelled to Bulgaria in 2010 to have the venous angioplasty and also to California earlier this year for another procedure related to vein blockages. While it may not be a cure, Docherty said he has experienced symptom relief.
"Everybody that knows me has seen change," he said.
He applauds the provincial government's latest plan, which is to partner with U.S. researchers out of the Albany Medical Centre in Albany, N.Y., so that some Saskatchewan patients can participate in liberation trials there.
But MS research isn't top of mind as he prepares to represent his constituents, Docherty said.
"The most important issues are going to be in relation to the people of Coronation Park," said Docherty, who noted concerns about the affordability of housing came up frequently during the campaign.
"No. 1, my responsibility is to the people and what they brought forward as issues," he said.
"MS is on the list, but it's far down the list."