Some notes from an eventful summer in Saskatchewan politics

Editorial | by Stephen Whitworth

For a lot of reasons, this month’s news that Brad Wall will resign from politics shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone.

First off, even very popular premiers wear out their welcome after a decade. And that’s no fun for the type of person with the passion (and ego) it takes to become a successful politician.

In the last election, Brad Wall nailed down his spot in Saskatchewan history by winning a third term. Why would he chase a fourth? What would be in it for him? The depressing inevitability of losing power, either through election defeat or a coup by his own caucus? The ever-growing fatigue that comes with watching your middle-age slip away along with your hair? No one gets younger, and being premier isn’t an easy job no matter how much someone loves it. And since the number of people who hate your stupid face grows every year, it was all but guaranteed Wall wouldn’t stay on until 2020.

Reason #2: Saskatchewan’s economy is trending (plummeting) downwards.

The Sask. Party fought the 2016 provincial election without tabling a budget. They had to: there was no good budget for them to table.

When a government facing re-election has a good-news budget (and re-elected political parties often do, because they spent their term cunningly shuffling cash in preparation for election-year spending), they’re going to want to run on it. That the Sask. Party didn’t show voters a budget until after they beat up Cam Broten’s under-staffed and arguably uninspired NDP was a clear sign the economy was in big trouble — so much trouble that no amount of fudging and fancy footwork could make a budget look good.

What did this brewing bad economic news mean for Wall? It meant he’d likely face unprecedented criticism throughout his third term. And that is not Brad’s jam.

Just two budgets into the government’s third mandate, we’re starting to see just how bad things are. We’ve lost province-wide bus service, which hits small communities, First Nations and the North. Program cuts are targeting culture, poor people, seniors and the disabled. Education and healthcare are facing cuts, while SaskTel and SGI — which Wall vowed not to privatize — appear to be for sale. And then there’s the fact that, oops, the government forgot to save so much as a dime during the Saskaboom.

Remember the Saskaboom? Brad Wall became premier in the early days of an unprecedented economic surge. It must have been amazing for him. Despite his conservative inclination to cut taxes and, arguably, slash programs, he had the cash to do it all — and he and his government did. Tax cuts? You bet! Boosted spending? Why not? Money for weird health care consultants? Samurai are cool! Here, take a bag of cash, we’ve got plenty of the stuff!

How do you go from that to a collapsing resource economy that may never recover? You don’t. Best to bail, and leave others to clean up the mess.

Hey, it worked out okay for Saskatchewan Order of Merit recipient/University Of Saskatchewan governor Grant Devine.

Then there’s the brewing scandals, the soon-to-be-revealed true colours of a nasty right-wing government, and the fact that every dollar of deficit makes the lame, tired NDP of yesteryear look like they were bang-on when they accused Brad Wall of being a nasty and incompetent political party’s sheep suit.

Oh well. I should’ve signed up for a Brad Wall retirement pool. It’s too late now, and there’s no one to blame but myself.

At least I’m not the only person in Saskatchewan with regrets. ❧