Romanow became provincial secretary (1971-72) and attorney general in the Allan BLAKENEY government in 1971. In 1979 he added the portfolio of intergovernmental affairs and played a major role in the federal-provincial negotiations that preceded the patriation of the Constitution. Romanow's close relationships with both Jean Chrétien and Ontario attorney general Roy McMurtry were instrumental in working out the final package. Although defeated in the provincial election of 1982, Romanow was re-elected in 1986. He succeeded Blakeney as NDP leader in Nov 1987, and in 1991 led the party to a crushing victory over the governing Conservatives, winning 55 of 66 seats in the legislature.
In office, faced with dwindling revenue and a rising public debt, he cut departmental budgets and public-service jobs and capped public-sector wage increases. Romanow was again prominent in the negotiations that led to the CHARLOTTETOWN ACCORD (see CHARLOTTETOWN ACCORD: DOCUMENT). Drawing upon his past constitutional experience, he was a moderating influence in the discussions.
Romanow was able to avoid the public resentment of the Accord, largely due to his reputation and his success at controlling the deficit. In 1995, following the first balanced budget in Saskatchewan in 12 years, Romanow won a renewed and massive majority, taking 42 of 58 seats and 48% of the popular vote.
The 1999 election was not as successful for Romanow and the NDP. Instead of obtaining a majority government in the election as polls had suggested, the NDP was overlooked by disgruntled farmers struggling through their worst economic crisis since the Depression. The NDP took almost every urban seat, but lost almost every rural seat. As a result of nearly losing the election to Elwin Hermanson and the Saskatchewan Party, Romanow's NDP formed a minority-coalition government with the Liberals and their four seats to avoid vote splitting.
On 26 September, 2000, after a lifetime of public service and nine years as the premier of Saskatchewan, Romanow anounced his retirement from provincial politics. He was succeeded by Lorne CALVERT on 27 January 2001.
In 2001, shortly after his retirement, Roy Romanow was asked to the head the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. In 2002 he released the report, dubbed the Romanow Report, that included recommendations described as a "roadmap for a collective journey by Canadians to reform and renew their health care system," one of which was that the federal government provide an additional $15 billion for health care to provinces and territories over the subsequent three years.
Author J. L. GRANATSTEIN