PHOTOS: No press releases about Texas plates? Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall didn’t used to have a problem with out-of-province tags on work trucks, at least when they were being used to undermine publicly owned Crown corporations, as this photo posted on social media by Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President Larry Hubich illustrates. Below: Mr. Hubich, Mr. Wall (Photo: Jake Wright, Wikimedia Commons), and Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association President Shantel Lipp (Photo: CBC).

Whatever can Premier Brad Wall be up to with his bizarre War on Licence Plates, in which he and his Saskatchewan Party henchmen have vowed to ban trucks with Alberta tags from provincially financed highway construction jobsites.

As Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President Larry Hubich posted to social media Thursday, the province’s beleaguered lame-duck conservative leader didn’t have a problem with trucks with out-of-province plates back in the days when their operators had been hired to undermine Saskatchewan’s Crown corporations.

On Friday, Mr. Wall doubled down on his government’s peculiar Dec. 6 press release declaring war on work trucks with Alberta plates.

The premier published a long screed on social media, with copies to favoured Alberta journalists, explaining several new reasons for launching Wall War III. Each new explanation was different from the reason Mr. Wall’s government gave in the original news release, which was that “Saskatchewan operators feel forced to register their vehicles in Alberta if they want to do business there.”

This was a surprise to puzzled highway contractors on both sides of the border, none of whom seem to have been aware of any such thing. Other than Shantel Lipp, that is, president and chief lobbyist of the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association, a group that has frequently donated to the Saskatchewan Party. She was quoted in Wednesday’s government news release.

Fact: There is no Alberta government policy to make the operators of vehicles from Saskatchewan working on Alberta government contracts register their vehicles in Alberta unless they have lived here for more than 90 days as per longstanding vehicle registration laws in both provinces.

Mr. Wall’s rambling post on Facebook gave four additional reasons for the declaration of war, two of which are false, one of which unclear, and one of which is both silly and contradicts a previous official statement. He claims that:

  • Alberta contract tender packages are not available to Saskatchewan contractors. (Fact: They are.)
  • Alberta takes measures to protect its construction industry from out-of-province competition. (Fact: It does not.)
  • At the premier’s meeting in Whitehorse in July, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley sought a 20-per-cent set-aside for Alberta-based companies for government contracts. (Fact: Alberta has no such set-asides. If Ms. Notley wanted them, there is no public evidence of it. However, someone did call for it, because one news commentary piece mentions the proposal at the time of the meeting without indicating whose idea it was.)
  • Alberta beer taxes and grants to small, locally based craft brewers were found by a Agreement on Internal Trade panel to be unfair to brewers from other provinces, and Alberta is appealing the ruling. (Fact: That’s true.)

So, in the end, the only point Mr. Wall makes that holds any water – or, rather, beer – is that Alberta is appealing a trade panel decision that went against it. And the problem with this is what?

It says something about Mr. Wall that he is having a public tantrum because Alberta is properly using a process Saskatchewan signed onto, which includes the right of appeal.

It also says something that this particular claim runs directly counter to Saskatchewan Infrastructure Minister Dave Marit’s statement Wednesday the plate war had nothing to do with the 2016 Alberta-Saskatchewan beer feud.

The rest of Mr. Wall’s points seem to be either outright falsehoods or based on unattributed claims by unidentified people.

Whatever can it mean? Several theories have been advanced, among them:

  • Saskatchewan contractors residing and working in Alberta just want to hang onto their cheaper government vehicle insurance.
  • Mr. Wall is so cranky about the state of the Saskatchewan economy and the Sask Party’s resulting troubles he can barely think straight.
  • He is trying to do a favour for his United Conservative Party buddy Jason Kenney in Alberta, who is running in a by-election in Calgary on Thursday.
  • He is trying to distract Saskatchewan voters from the RCMP investigation into inflated land sales involving people with Sask Party connections at the Global Transportation Hub, the so-called inland port near Regina.

In the latter case, the RCMP said 10 days ago the investigation of the GTH deal by its financial crimes specialists is complete and their findings had been handed off to Crown prosecutors in Manitoba. Are charges pending?

It’s probably not any single thing that prompted this, however, Mr. Hubich told me yesterday. “They might be attempting to distract and change the channel on a whole host of issues, like their failure to get buy-in or public sympathy for their proposed 3.5-per-cent public sector wage rollback, like the closure of the provincial bus company, like their dismal budget … They haven’t been having a very good last couple of years, and they’re feeling it.”

However, Mr. Hubich observed, “it could be as simple as Brad just taking a parting cheap shot at Rachel. He’s such a petty little person, and he really hates being upstaged – especially by a woman, and an NDP woman at that!”

Mr. Wall has until Jan. 27, when his resignation takes effect, to try to skate through this mess. After that, some other Sask Party premier will have to carry the can.

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  1. Funny how Brad Wall on his last day of work in the middle of winter is suddenly concerned about the unfairness of Alberta licence plates and how it affects the poor road construction contractors in Saskatchewan.
    This was never a problem during his entire term(s).

  2. Brad Wall and Jason Kenney are birds of a feather. They both talk out of both sides of their respective mouths.

    Neither of them let the facts interfere with a good political speech or promise.

    It does not make sense so I have to assume that there is a reason for this. Some data behind why is missing. Hopefully it will become clear in the passage of time.

    Brad Wall has nothing to lose. He is on his way out….he saw the writing on the wall.

  3. Where’s the standing-up-for-Alberta support from the UCP Wall “Fanboys Club” chastising the Earl of Bluster? Fanboys Jason Kenney and Brian Jean have not weighed in on the controversy. Once again, they’re just a pair of crickets in the political wilderness when it comes to Western Canada’s noisiest provocateur. Typical.

  4. I don’t think that Wall has done any favours to the UCP, as he has painted them into a corner. As has been noted elsewhere, how does Kenney respond to such an obvious sideswipe at Notley without looking as though he supports this nonsense to the detriment of Albertans? He could stand up on his own two legs and reject it, at the risk of alienating his Wall-loving base, or he could side with Saskatchewan knowing full well that the government benches will tar him as anti-Alberta. I think the third alternative is more likely: Kenney will say nothing about the fracas in the hope that it will blow over before he has to pick a side.

  5. This Licence Plate spectacle is a strange hill to die on, even for this government.

    It would be interesting to know what this government spent on out of province consultants over its time if office, and whether they too had to buy Saskatchewan plates.

    Now it appears one of the candidates for Brad’s job has done a bit of cheating at a candidate’s debate, Hillary Clinton style.

  6. As the Saskatchewan economy faltered, Mr. Wall desperately looked around and find external enemies to distract the attention of the voters. I think at first he settled on Mr. Trudeau, but Trudeau didn’t entirely take the bait and as a Federal Prime Minister, he could relatively easily ignore Wall, whose province is neither pivotal to his electoral fortune or large enough to warrant much national attention.

    I think Wall then settled on Premier Notley as his next option. Yes, there were genuine and clear ideological differences as well as perhaps a bit of antipathy in Saskatchewan towards its larger neighbour. However, the Alberta government did not entirely take the bait either, seeming to mostly prefer to take the high road, so Mr. Wall became more desperate to create a controversy or a confrontation. I don’t think this spat will benefit the UCP much, who may want to cheer on the departing Saskatchewan Premier, but who also have to be careful not to appear anti Albertan. If anything, this is somewhat awkward for them.

    I really wonder if this spat will survive much past the final days of the Wall regime. I think the next Premier of Saskatchewan might want to try start off on a good note with relationships with the next door neighbour. Mr. Wall perhaps can afford to be very belligerent at this point as he will not be around to live with the consequences. However, he is not doing his successor any favours by creating another mess, they will ultimately have to try deal with and fix, in addition to the big economic and political messes he is leaving them.

  7. Our neighbours to the immediate east look like a bunch of hillbillies. More tattoos than teeth.

    Funny, have not heard any response from Jason Kenney? Has he lost his voice”

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