Popular premier retiring after a decade of leadership
It’s the end of an era.
Canada’s most popular premier and outspoken opponent of Ottawa, Brad Wall, announced his retirement on Thursday morning with a video shared online.
“I think renewal and a different perspective will be good for the government, and I think renewal will be good for my party as well,” Wall told reporters later the same day. “Whatever I do after this, and I currently have no leads or prospects, whatever I do after this, this job will be the honour of my working life. It has been a great honour and a wonderful privilege to serve as the Premier of Saskatchewan.”
Both of Moose Jaw’s MLAs are members of the Saskatchewan Party as well, and both expressed their gratitude for Wall’s leadership, as well as their best wishes to him in the future.
“It’s a surprise,” said MLA Greg Lawrence on Thursday afternoon, adding that he understood the premier’s reasons. “We’re in a better place than we were 10 years ago. He’s done a great job.”
MLA Warren Michelson said that being a politician, especially one as high-profile as Wall has been — takes its toll on a person.
“At some point you have to say, ‘I’ve done what I can,’ and hand it over,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in the Saskatchewan Party. A lot of talent, and certainly people who would make good leaders.”
Wall said he and his wife Tami Kildaw came to the decision towards the end of June and that he asked for the wheels to be set in motion to begin the process for the election of a new leader. A statement released by the party said its provincial council will meet within 30 days to decide things like the leadership convention date and location, voting system, and campaign expense limits, among other things.
“The new leader will be chosen by Saskatchewan Party members in a one-member, one-vote election, as outlined in our party constitution,” it read.
The chief electoral officer will also be announced after that meeting. Wall will remain premier until a new leader is elected.
While Wall’s political opponents acknowledged his long service to his province, some also questioned the timing of his announcement. NDP leader Nicole Sarauer said her party continues to hear from Saskatchewan residents about the “heartless cuts” to things like the education department and public transit.
“We knew that eventually he was going to step down,” she told reporters. “Although the timing was maybe a bit surprising for everybody, we knew this was going to happen eventually, especially with the feedback that I know we’ve been receiving and I’m sure the government has been receiving, about some of the decisions they’ve been making in particular, it’s not overly surprising.”
When asked whether this changes the strategy for the NDP moving forward, she said the party would continue to listen to Saskatchewan residents.
Other provincial parties weighed in, including the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party which released a statement asking Wall for transparency regarding some of his government’s decisions.
“The PC Party wishes him well in his future endeavours but also expects before he leaves office he will bring to a definitive conclusion some very large issues which developed under his leadership as Premier of the province,” it read.
The Liberals, for their part, thanked the premier for his service to the province but also pointed to changes made under his leadership that were not always well-received.
“While the best intentions of Premier Wall cannot be questioned, unfortunately his government has left behind a long list of lost opportunities that will have a long-term impact on every Saskatchewan citizen,” said Saskatchewan Liberal leader Darrin Lamoureux, “After squandering every last dollar of resource revenues during the boom, building costly mega-projects, and being responsible for scandals such as the GTH, we are now faced with the consequences of that government mismanagement, including rising taxes and cuts to critical government services affecting the most vulnerable citizens.”
While Wall admitted to some mistakes in his tenure, including the decision to cut funding to public libraries that was reversed earlier this year, he said he has left the province in better shape than he found it. He cited growth in population, jobs, and an improved credit rating among some of improvements he has overseen.
“Do I wish the budget was balanced?” he asked. “Yeah, of course. And we’re going to get there. You’re going to hear from the finance minister that the three-year plan to get back to balance is on track.”
Wall was first elected in Swift Current in 1999 and has served as premier for the last decade, over periods of growth in the province, as well as most recently, an economic downturn. He said he has no plans for the immediate future and that while he values his work, there are other things in life as well.
“Whenever you leave, there’s gonna be things you wish you could’ve got to. So that better not be the reason you’re deciding to stay or go,” he said. “I really believe that Saskatchewan will benefit from a different style and a different voice, and so will our party.”