It was wall-to-wall Brad Wall as premier exits, stage right, before wheels fall off Saskatchewan Party bus

Posted on December 08, 2017, 2:17 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, smiling like old times, says farewell in this video screenshot to an adoring media on his last day in the provincial Legislature in Regina yesterday. Below: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Alberta Trade Minister Deron Bilous.

Political coverage was wall-to-wall Brad Wall yesterday as mainstream media said farewell to their beloved posterboy for Western Canadian austerity.

Saskatchewan Premier Wall – once known as the Mr. Congeniality of Canadian politics, but lately an increasingly cranky figure as recession and persistently low oil prices exposed the cracks in his government’s austerity and privatization agenda – gave his last speech in the province’s Legislature in Regina.

In response, media really poured it on.

CTV alliteratively recounted yesterday’s “tears and tributes” in Regina.

Postmedia’s reporter seemed to suggest Mr. Wall got his inspiration from Abraham Lincoln, leastways, the Disney version of the Civil War U.S. president. The story didn’t actually say Mr. Wall was born in a log cabin, but it came close.

To the CBC, he was “Just Brad.”

You get the picture.

What you didn’t get from the media was much of what Mr. Wall actually said – which from the few quotes provided by reporters mostly seemed to be the usual anodyne platitudes uttered by exiting Canadian politicians on their way out the door.

Well, give the man his due. The Swift Current MLA was premier for a decade, led his Saskatchewan Party to three big majorities, and was very popular with voters through most of his career.

The rebranding of the Saskatchewan Progressive Conservative Party was made necessary by the mid-1990s corruption scandal in Saskatchewan that saw more than a dozen PC MLAs convicted. Mr. Wall made it work.

While Mr. Wall’s mood turned sour with the onset of low petroleum prices, the defeat of the Harper Conservatives in Ottawa, and the reluctance of some provinces to see bitumen pipelines from Canada’s Prairies running through their real estate, he had the wit to get out before his reputation was in tatters. Some other Saskatchewan Party premier will now have to take the blame as the provincial economy moves further south.

The election of an NDP government in Alberta seemed particularly to get up Mr. Wall’s nose. He showed up in Calgary from time to time to complain petulantly about Premier Rachel Notley to conservative-dominated oilpatch audiences.

This hostility may be what’s driving Saskatchewan’s nutty ban on Alberta licence plates on highway construction worksites. Indeed, Mr. Wall took time out from his round of farewells yesterday to insist Saskatchewan won’t be backing off the Plate War any time soon.

This prompted jeers from Alberta’s government. Trade Minister Deron Bilous called him “desperate to change the channel from his bad-for-business budget” on the CBC’s morning radio show yesterday. Premier Notley told the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce that “what’s really going on here, we know full well, is the Saskatchewan government decided to slap a 6 per cent tax onto the construction industry and people are hurting and they’re trying to distract from it.”

She got laughs when she joked that “if any of you drove here and have a Saskatchewan licence plate, you might want to move your car, because we are towing.” And she got a standing ovation at the end of her speech.

The late stages of Mr. Wall’s political career cast some useful illumination on the problem for neoliberal ideologues who want to move democratic societies like Canada’s toward full-blown austerity and privatization, a process that requires an economic boom sustained by high commodity prices to succeed.

As with the schemes of Margaret Thatcher, Stephen Harper and Ralph Klein, revenue from the export of petroleum products was supposed to pay for huge tax cuts and (temporary) maintenance of public services to buy social peace during the transfer of wealth to the richest classes and transition to privatization.

For years, the oil money pouring into Saskatchewan sustained Mr. Wall’s distracting slight of hand, which was necessary to fool voters into thinking they could have both neoliberal austerity in government and a booming civil economy.

Alas for him, the boom ended too soon to complete the work of weaning Saskatchewanians off government services and redirecting the taxes that pay for civil society into the pockets of the government’s wealthy patrons. It turns out it was easy to be the most popular guy in the West when your coffers were overflowing. When they weren’t? Not so much.

When the cracks started to appear, it wasn’t just Mr. Wall that got cranky. So did significant numbers of former Saskatchewan Party supporters, particularly in the province’s urban areas. Not all of them, it turns out, blame the government of Alberta for their problems, presumably contributing to the timing of Mr. Wall’s prudent exit.

The Saskatchewan Party will choose a new leader on Jan. 27.

At 52, Mr. Wall is still a young man. So he’ll probably find a way to continue to be a public nuisance.

20 Comments to: It was wall-to-wall Brad Wall as premier exits, stage right, before wheels fall off Saskatchewan Party bus

  1. Dino

    December 8th, 2017

    Elected in 2007.
    11, not 14 years.
    I mess up math as well

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 8th, 2017

      Thanks for pointing this out, Dino. Math is famously hard, but it’s not that hard, not arithmetic, anyway. This is an error of another category, a typo, probably suggested by the quickly fading memory of the fact Mr. Wall was the 14th premier of Saskatchewan. Anyway, it’s been fixed. DJC

      Reply
  2. Bill

    December 8th, 2017

    good one… ouch!.

    “At 52, Mr. Wall is still a young man. So he’ll probably find a way to continue to be a public nuisance.”

    Maybe – to stay out of trouble the retiring premier could spend his free time making license plates.

    Reply
    • Jerrymacgp

      December 9th, 2017

      You mean like some former PC MLAs in that province …

      Reply
  3. J.E. Molnar

    December 8th, 2017

    It was no secret that Jason Kenney and Brian Jean were fanboys of Brad Wall, often parroting him on economic matters. Until of course — the Saskatchewan economy nosedived south. Then the duelling duo of Kenney and Jean abruptly turned their praise towards B.C., which changed again once the reviled socialists pried power from the neoliberal elite led by Christy Clark. Nothing but crickets now.

    In the end, Wall will be remembered on the left as the eternal skunk at the environmental garden party. His legacy will be mark by political intransigence, inflexibility and utter distain for Alberta and Ottawa’s progressive shift to the left.

    The economic destruction he leaves behind in Saskatchewan is a testament to his blind ideological beliefs that only neoliberalism can solve the ills of recessions, past and present. He will not be missed by anyone on the left. May he RIP — rest in purgatory.

    Reply
  4. Farmer B

    December 8th, 2017

    Austerity and privatization? Really? If you look at a per capita spending comparison between Alberta and Saskatchewan in the 2017-2018 budget you will find Alberta at $12787 per capita and Saskatchewan at $12715. Those numbers come from total operating expenses as reported in both budgets. In Alberta’s budget there is a separate section on capital spending which is not included in the operating expenses. This is a $9.2 billion dollar expense of which $6 billion is borrowed and never seems to be included by either the media or the government, but I digress. As for privitization Saskatchewan still lists 21 crown corporations including companies like Sasktel, Saskwater, and Saskpower. Looks to me like he didn’t do enough privitization lol.

    Realistically I think spending is what got Brad Wall in trouble. The carbon capture technology utilized by Saskpower went way over budget and the money he spent on the new football arena certainly didn’t help. As for lacklustre economic growth in Saskatchewan, I remember reading an article that if Albertan’s payed the same level of taxes as Saskatchewan the Alberta government would have a revenue increase of $9 billion dollars. So I would say the high level of taxes and lower commodity prices in oil and potash have certainly hurt. One positive in 2006 the population of Saskatchewan was 968157 people, today it is 1163925 people, a 20% increase over 11 years. Say what you want but many who left Saskatchewan under the NDP looking for work went back home under Brad Wall. Enjoy your day☺️

    Reply
    • David

      December 8th, 2017

      I am going to have to remember those per capita spending figures you gave. When Alberta conservatives regularly complained about our high per capita spending, they strangely have never mentioned figures for our eastern neighbour, but instead only compared to our western one, which has much of its population concentrated in a small area. I suspect the distribution of people actually has a big effect on per capita cost – serving many small towns and communities spread out all over can not be cheap.

      I don’t think voters minded those years when Wall was able to both spend and keep corporate taxes low due to the bountiful resource economy, but now I get the feeling the party is over. For Wall it is not so bad, at 52 he has plenty of time to afford to wait for another Conservative government in Ottawa and perhaps be appointed as Senator or as something else.

      Reply
    • Keith McClary

      December 9th, 2017

      “In Alberta’s budget there is a separate section on capital spending which is not included in the operating expenses.”
      It is usual to have separate capital and operating sections in budgets. Are you sure Sask does not do this?

      Reply
      • Farmer B

        December 9th, 2017

        Keith, I dug a little deeper into Saskatchewan’s budget and you are quite correct there is a separate capital spending budget. Saskatchewan is projecting to spend $3.7 billion on capital spending of which $1.1 billion will be deficit financing. So if you add the deficit from Saskatchewan’s operating budget of $634 million and their capital budget of $1.1 billion the total projected deficit is $1.734 billion. Now let’s compare that to Alberta’s projected deficit. According to the budget the deficit from Alberta’s operating budget will be $9.844 billion(this has risen since the budget was announced in March) and a $6 billion dollar deficit in the capital budget for a total projected deficit of $15.844 billion! I do not understand why the deficit reported by governments cannot be 1 number including all deficit spending. It is still debt which taxpayers must make payments on!

        One other note, Alberta is puffing it’s chest out at this years economic growth numbers of just over 4%. In 2015 Alberta’s economy shrank by 3.6% and in 2016 it shrank again by 2.7% for a total of 6.3% over 2 years. After this years growth Alberta will only have to grow another 2% to get us back to where we were in 2014. In Saskatchewan’s case their economy shrank 1.3% in 2015 and .8% in 2016, so this years growth of just over 2% will get Saskatchewan back to where they were in 2014. So yes Alberta’s economic growth outpaced Saskatchewan this year but a deeper hole was also dug in Alberta that needs to be filled. Enjoy your day

        Reply
    • CL

      December 9th, 2017

      I feel that Saskatchewan’s 20% population increase had eveything to do with the “Saskaboom” (booming oil, potash and other commodity prices) and little to nothing to do with Brad Wall and the Sask Party’s governance. People came to the province for the booming job opportunities and economic prosperity the boom brought on, not because of the Sask Party.  All the government did (and does) was/is pull out their green and yellow pom-poms and “cheerleader” the Saskaboom, yet took full credit for the boom’s existence (or the electorate give them full credit for it).  If one really looks at the boom and population increase it started prior to November 2007 when the Sask Party took over from the NDP.

      Reply
  5. conrad

    December 8th, 2017

    Wall should be commended for providing a true conservative, ideologically-driven government. This is what people want and why so-called “conservative” governments lose. He will be difficult to replace.

    Reply
    • December 10th, 2017

      Conrad, using Farmer B’s numbers above, Alberta’s deficit would be all but non-existent if we taxed at the same levels Brad Wall taxes resident of Saskatchewan. Would you then support Alberta’s raising its taxes to that level?

      Reply
      • Bob

        December 11th, 2017

        And we also would eliminate the deficit overnight if we didn’t pay $2,000 more for public services thanks to the greedy union bosses and the lazy workers they support. Would you then support Alberta paying the same wages for public services like the rest of the country?

        Reply
        • Ken

          December 11th, 2017

          “Greedy union bosses and lazy workers” – perhaps you could keep to facts and leave the name-calling and generalized stereotyping out? Your argument would be stronger. And yes, I would support paying Sask-level taxation as public services in this province are faced with the same higher cost of living as those of us working the private sector.

          Reply
  6. brett

    December 8th, 2017

    Mr Wall did something that too few politicians do. He realized that the gig was up and it was time to exit stage right while he was on his game.

    I suspect that the right in Alberta might stop pointing at the Sask. experience now that serious cracks are appearing and their is indeed much voter unhappiness.

    The writing was on the wall for the Sask. Party. They are pros. Change the leader prior to the next election and don’t focus on past results. It this not the mantra of most political parties. Just take a look at how many Conservative Premiers we have had in Alberta over their last few years in Government. Alas, they were unable to change the channel so to speak.

    Reply
  7. Scotty on Denman

    December 8th, 2017

    Whoever tries to stop time runs out of time enough to pull it off.

    Is that really true?

    Neo-right governments have had almost four decades to make the world of stateless corporatocracy a reality, at which point, presumably, they’d stop the clock so to render their hegemony-plus dystopia immutable. But, either they couldn’t quite get their dream world right enough — there are still revivable political rivals and apparatuses for them to resume (potentially) ethical governance, despite determined effort to slay them for good — or they can’t quite make time stand still when they do.

    The nominal, quasi-right — or neo-right, to distinguish it from real conservatives or Tories — is a mine-canary diorama of the dilemma of our time, showing what will happen to us if we don’t mend our ways, and run out of time. Time of course waits for no one.

    Jumping into the story at Harper, we note how Con theology proclaimed the Liberal Dragon slain by St Stephen, how his order of the cross wreaked holy havoc to regulatory and environmental assessment processes, made pilgrimages to the American neo-right and sought sovereignty subverting trade deals while displacing Canadian workers with foreign ones, suitably temporalized for his immigrant-hating, Bible-thumping beserkers in reserve. And just as his crusade was about to descend the windward side of the continental divide, Idle-No-More stopped his pipe-laying klutzkrieg to bake in its armour, entrenched under the alpine sun. Failing to achieve the work he wanted, he tried with futility to slow time with an extra long election campaign and by dismissing JT: “he’s just not read, yet” — it was late, but still too early to stop the clock, before the bitumen punched through the hostile territory of BC.

    But he ran out of time to stop time; rather, time stopped him; his rump party now advances by advocating a retreat to a former time.

    Prentice ran out of time waiting for oil prices to rebound, Christy while waiting for LNG prices to rise, and now Wall who only needed the clock to stop when goo-royalties were still oozing in, but of course ran out of time, too.

    Kenney wants to affect the illusion of suspended time by marching backwards as fast as reality does forwards, the only balanced part of his platform. Naturally, that won’t last very long, if indeed he’s afforded the time to prove it. Time waits for no one.

    Trump is still wriggling as yet. Although it’s hard to characterize him (his caricature surrogates for that) as anything but a xeno-rightist. Naturally, he wants to both return to a time that never was and stop the clock right there, forever, by — it looks like — ending time with a nuclear halocaust. Considering the failure rate of his neo-right comidiots, maybe he’s onto something there. Quackgrass, cockroaches, and water-bears can’t tell time — so, how long the illusion will last, it’s a big maybe.

    The point is, real conservatism — or Toryism — which has been with us since dinosaur burgers first sizzled on prehistoric campfires, does not want or need to stop time, slow it down, or make it run backwards. Of the forms of the right, it alone goes with the flow, so most of its adherents have migrated to other parties while the nominal right/ neo-con/ neo-liberal/ xeno-right — collectively the neo-right — runs around their clock tower like deafened, harried Quasi Motos.

    I always suspected they weren’t real Motos, either.

    Reply
  8. tom in ontario

    December 9th, 2017

    Jason Kenney refers to Brad as “the real leader of Western Canada”, a compliment not to be sniffed at. Since Mr. Wall will soon be out of a job and looking for work, he and Jason could form a perfect pair. Jason wants to be the next premier of Alberta and will need talented people at campaign rallies. A born entertainer, Brad could warm up the crowd by juggling balls in the air or performing body bending acrobatics including the splits. What better way to shake off his Mr. Peepers image while helping his pal to “Make Alberta Great Again.”

    Reply
  9. prairie observer

    December 10th, 2017

    Brad cannot add. A weakness his administration shares.

    Reply

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