Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall retiring af­ter decade in of­fice

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

One of Canada’s most high­pro­file pre­miers who rose to na­tional promi­nence for his down-to-earth style, sharp wit and, more re­cently, his will­ing­ness to lock horns with Ottawa is retiring from pol­i­tics af­ter a decade in of­fice.

Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall said he made the de­ci­sion at the end of June af­ter talk­ing it over with his wife Tami.

“It’s a hard thing to even just start to talk about,’’ Wall said Thurs­day. “We de­cided now was the time for me to end my ca­reer in pol­i­tics.

“I think re­newal will be good for the prov­ince. I think re­newal and a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive will be good for the gov­ern­ment. I think re­newal will be good for my party as well. What­ever I do af­ter this _ and I cur­rently have no leads or prospects _ this job will be the honour of my work­ing life.’’

Wall said he will stay on un­til his suc­ces­sor is cho­sen.

“And un­til then, there’s still a lot of work to do,’’ Wall said. “This was such a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to make ... but it is time.’’

Wall and his Saskatchewan Party have won three con­sec­u­tive pro­vin­cial elec­tions, the last in 2016 where they took 51 of 61 seats. The party, which formed 20 years ago out of an al­liance of dis­af­fected Tories and Lib­er­als, took more than 50 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote in each of the con­tests.

Wall, who is 51, rou­tinely places high in opin­ion polls rank­ing the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar pre­miers and his knack for the zinger sound­bite has made him a na­tional po­lit­i­cal fig­ure.

But he’s faced head­winds in re­cent months, es­pe­cially af­ter his gov­ern­ment tabled an aus­ter­ity bud­get this spring.

With a bot­tom line bat­tered by low re­source prices, the bud­get cut li­brary and ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing, as well as grants to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, al­though cash for li­braries was later re­stored.

It raised the pro­vin­cial sales tax and added it to things that were pre­vi­ously ex­empt, such as chil­dren’s cloth­ing and restau­rant meals. The gov­ern­ment also shut down the pro­vin­cial bus com­pany to help tackle a $1.3-bil­lion deficit.

In May, a Main­street Re­search poll sug­gested Wall’s party had dropped steeply in voter sup­port and had fallen nine points be­hind the lead­er­less Op­po­si­tion New Democrats.

With trou­ble at home, Wall has been train­ing his po­lit­i­cal guns afar, rail­ing against op­po­si­tion to pipe­line projects that would see cen­tral Canada’s crude oil pumped to the coasts and mar­kets over­seas.

He’s also waged war with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau over the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s plan to force prov­inces to put a price on car­bon, pledg­ing to fight the move in court if nec­es­sary.

Wall said he is leav­ing the prov­ince in bet­ter shape than it was in when he first took of­fice.

When de­lib­er­at­ing his re­tire­ment, Wall said he told a se­nior ad­vi­sor there were still things he would like to ac­com­plish. The ad­vi­sor told him no mat­ter when he chooses to re­tire, there will be items left on the to-do list and that “bet­ter not be the rea­son why you’re de­cid­ing to stay or to go.’’

“I re­ally be­lieve that Saskatchewan will ben­e­fit from a dif­fer­ent style and a dif­fer­ent voice and so will our party,’’ Wall said.

Wall grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan with a de­gree in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion and has spent much of his time since in pol­i­tics.

He was a back­room guy at first. In the 1980s, he worked in Ottawa in the of­fice of Swift Cur­rent Tory MP Ge­off Wil­son. He re­turned to Saskatchewan and worked as a min­is­te­rial as­sis­tant in Grant Devine’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment.

He was first elected in 1999 un­der the ban­ner of the newly formed Saskatchewan Party and made a suc­cess­ful bid for the party’s top job af­ter it lost a 2003 elec­tion many felt it should have won.

CP PHOTO

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall an­nounces he is retiring from pol­i­tics dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the Leg­isla­tive Build­ing in Regina, Sask., on Thurs­day.

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