Brad Wall’s provincial problems finally trumped his national stature - Macleans.ca
 

Brad Wall’s provincial problems finally trumped his national stature

The Saskatchewan premier’s exit, after nearly 10 years in power, follows a familiar pattern


 

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s announcement today that he’s resigning landed as a surprise for Canadians from elsewhere who like to follow politics, but are only vaguely aware—inevitably—of what’s really happening in provinces other than their own.

For such engaged yet casual observers, Wall hardly seemed likely to leave anytime soon. He has been running Saskatchewan without serious challenge for almost a decade, but he’s still just 51 years old, and only last year his Saskatchewan Party won a crushing 51 of 61 seats in a provincial election.

Among Conservatives, Wall stands tall. His decision to sit out the recent federal Tory leadership race disappointed many of them. They admired him particularly at moments, like this one, when his was indisputably the most prominent voice opposing the carbon-pricing policy pushed by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to combat global warming.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall problem

Typical of his knack for bucking up Conservatives when they’re feeling low was his speech in 2014 to the annual right-wing family gathering that is the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa. At the time, the then-ruling federal Tories felt a growing sense of unease (for good reason, as it turned out) about their chances in the coming 2015 election.

Wall wasn’t above setting a tone that day by screening video of Canada’s Olympic gold-winning women’s hockey team singing O Canada. He took an easy shot at Margaret Atwood—boo, lefty Toronto cosmopolitans!—and wondered aloud why Liberals and New Democrats, as he portrayed them, begrudged Canadians getting rich by selling natural resources.

But the national fan base that ate up this stuff didn’t count for much as Wall’s poll numbers at home took a recent beating. Low prices for oil and other resources hit his government’s bottom line, prompting Wall to table a deeply unpopular belt-tightening budget last spring. Among other measures, he cut library funding (he admitted today that was a mistake), while hiking the province’s sales tax, and extending it to cover previously exempt purchases, like kids’ clothes and restaurant meals.

But would that angry reaction to austerity measures prove fatal? When Maclean’s published a guest column a few weeks ago pointing out Wall’s deepening woes, one of his top lieutenants took umbrage. “He is esteemed in Saskatchewan and across the country because he provides effective, courageous, inspiring leadership,” Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty said in a letter.

RELATED: Letter: ‘Brad Wall deserves better’

Doherty plausibly called Wall “one of the most respected political figures in Canada today,” and said Saskatchewan had, under his leadership, attracted record investment, posted record exports, and recorded its fastest population growth in more than 80 years.

In politics, though, that sort of big-picture defence tends to fall flat when more immediate, palpable issues begin to annoy voters. And this is especially the case, as a rule of thumb, when a premier approaches a decade in power—the rough duration at which successful premiers as varied as Manitoba’s Gary Doer, Saskatchewan’s Roy Romanow, and New Brunswick’s Frank McKenna all decided to call it quits.

Now Wall joins their ranks. He leaves behind a gap in major policy debates, particularly when it comes to the mandatory carbon price that Trudeau seeks to impose sometime next year under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. But that is a national matter, and the reasons behind Wall’s surprise move makes it more appropriate today to dredge up the old maxim about all politics being local.


 

Brad Wall’s provincial problems finally trumped his national stature

  1. Thank goodness he’s gone…..he had entirely too much to say for himself….yet he couldn’t run one simple province.

  2. Just to be clear to the MSM, Wall wasn’t the most popular premier in Canada, he was the most popular premier in his province in Canada, i would say the money ran out for this guy, he blew his load with the money, and like Harper, he is now on the run..History will not be kind to this guy, what’s his legacy, Deficits. All the premiers that had a field day when the oil prices were through the roof, now they hit rock bottom and i will bet the treasury of Sask has been sucked dry. Wait for that big hangover coming Saskatchewan..your going to be NL., taxed to the hilt to pay off this guys debt.

    • NL. will be paying for Danny Williams “we got it by’s, we got it”, NL. moment, for generations to come. Newfoundland Got it all right, right up the chocolate highway.

    • NL. will be paying for Danny Williams “we got it by’s, we got it”, NL. moment, for generations to come. Newfoundland Got it all right, right up the chocolate highway.

    • Do you think we could convince Mr. Selfie to go on the run before he bankrupts the country?

      • Who is Mr. Selfie, you talking about Andrew Sheer, just watch him when he goes on the road, and watch how he becomes partial to selfies. Andrew Sheer is in big trouble, no one knows him outside of Ottawa, only his base knows him, so selfies are going to be back in fashion, and your is going to have to hop on the selfie train if wants or desires to become PM in this country, like the old saying, don’t knock it until you try it. Andrew Sheer is like Tom Mulcair, he is a dead man walking, the hope he has is, if Trudeau makes the flub of his life, he may have an opportunity to win, but not if the NDP has anything to say about it, other than that, Sheer is just another blow hard politician.

  3. Typical western conservative … live high off the natural resource hog without looking out for the inevitable downswing … then leave when the going and the polls get tough. At least, unlike his soul-mate Harper, he had the common decency to step aside, and the guts to actually tell his constituents to their face, unlike Stevie who hid from his loyal followers on election night. Do us one last favour Brad … convince the nitwit next door in Manitoba to leave also.

    • Well said.

  4. Canadians do not mind if people get rich off our resources providing that it is done in a environmentally friendly way and the wealth is shared.

    When Brad proposed cleaning up the abandoned oil wells with federal money that really was the beginning of the end. It is stunning that companies do not have to set aside money to clean up their mess and when it comes to oil and gas or potash or uranium there is a big mess. That is unacceptable.

    Further more when it comes to sharing the wealth that also means sharing the pain. To call industry a partner and then exempt them from cuts, putting it all on the people of Saskatchewan especially the poor was a real eye opener that showed the true colors of this government. No I dot not believe that history will be kind.

    • Agreed, good points.

  5. Just because the Liberal feds wouldn’t pay for the wall to keep Toronto leftist interests out he has a big snit – typical.