Wednesday, 16 August 2017 13:40

Stepping down maybe not so surprising

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Many people may have been caught off guard by Brad Wall’s announcement on Facebook he would be stepping down as premier. After sober second thought, it may not be as surprising as it seems.

It is unfair and harsh to say, after years of extreme popularity and being Canada’s most popular premier according to public opinion polls and after some adversity in the past year or so, that he just didn’t want to deal with it anymore. It would be more fair to say he just felt it was time to move on.
After being elected as MLA in 1999, following his father’s longtime civic political service, Wall took over as leader of the fledgling Saskatchewan Party in 2004 and then premier in 2007. In both cases, Wall took over the reigns from leaders who didn’t have presence and who didn’t seem to instill confidence in voters.
Wall was elected and instantly was a breath of fresh air from the NDP which had become stagnant in their “vote for us or else” mentality.
Wall was able to make the business and energy climate more favourable without selling out and Saskatchewan began to prosper. All along the way, Wall’s demeanor and social visibility lifted a cloud off the province and he kept telling residents that no matter what, be proud of the province.
Of course the cynics pointed out all the rough patches — the overpass near Regina where there was talk of bad dealings and the unfortunate and embarrassing situation with Don Morgan’s drinking and driving conviction. With the global economy sinking and oil and gas starting to slide, the economy was going into the tank causing some panic. Provincial budgets weren’t balanced and the Sask. government was going into debt. He tried bringing in an American company to find inefficiencies in health care called the Lean health care project which cost the province $35 million. There was overestimations on how much potash was going to be produced and post-secondary students complained they had to pay more in tuition.
Where the conservative political philosophy sometimes gets into trouble from a popularity sense is that of their “cut first” mentality when an economy goes bad.
Hence after looking at some of the old Saskatchewan standbys and traditions, the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (cut); library funding (cut, but then delayed) and the planned selling off of Crown corporations, residents took it personally, especially those in rural areas who aren’t well off financially or depend on those services and saw some of those Saskatchewan traditions being sold for the sake of instant easy money.
This went against what people had built Wall up to be — a champion of rural Saskatchewan.
The health regions have been amalgamated into one, thus taking out more localized connection. The Regina-based government and school divisions were also considered. Not touched were regional rural municipalities.
As far as who steps into Wall’s shoes? Only those within the Sask. Party really know because from a voter’s perspective,Wall has been the only visible leader. Whether there is someone there who can be dynamic, has fresh ideas and can be a leader, only time will tell. Wall was the Sask. Party, either by design or by practicality.
Even in Swift Current, who will run as MLA? There are some obvious names which come to mind and will probably come to light soon. In the meantime the provincial political landscape has both parties scurrying for positioning as a major change, no matter who gets in, comes down the pipe. There will be a lot of grooming of potential leaders to battle the NDP who need to figure out how to tap into “confidence building” though their own leadership race.
To his loyal friends, Wall is a stand up guy. No two ways around it. His popularity in Swift Current is not just because a local “made it” and his buddies think he’s cool. He is someone who is extremely personable, truly loves Saskatchewan, his hometown and his family:all noble qualities to be sure. He is a huge Saskatchewan Roughriders’ fan, he is into antique cars and his son is a fast-rising country music sensation who was featured in the famed Rolling Stone magazine.
While everyone has an opinion on what Wall’s legacy is. It’s not new infrastructure such as a new hospital, senior care centres, a new school in Swift Current, or the improved provincial highways.
It is that Wall was able to take advantage of resurgence in the world economy and brought Saskatchewan along with it. No longer is Saskatchewan looked down upon as a have-not province. Wall gave citizens some self-confidence that Saskatchewan can accomplish a lot on the world stage and with that came pride.
Sadly for him what people may remember is how it started to unravel near the end. In a “what have you done for me lately” world, citizens expressed displeasure. Wall decided new ideas were needed.
What he will do next is anyone’s guess. Would he be interested in the federal Conservatives? The betting says no. After all, he knows the federal stage and the hypocrisy that goes along with federal politics. A guess would be he will enter the private sector, probably in energy where he did his best as premier to ensure Saskatchewan’s interests were protected.
It will be a lot easier on him although probably not near as easy on the Saskatchewan Party’s administration who, after more than a decade of riding Wall’s engaging personality and popularity, now has to figure out who the next leader will be.
It is a given Saskatchewan has interesting politics and it gives ammunition for those on coffee row. In the next year, there will be a lot of shrapnel.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with comments about this opinion piece at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor