Brad Wall’s announcement that he plans to step down as premier of Saskatchewan signals one of the largest changes in provincial politics in a decade largely defined by one of the winningest politicians in Canada’s recent history.
Joe Garcea, a professor of political science at the University of Saskatchewan, said he wasn’t entirely surprised when he saw Wall announce his impending retirement Thursday morning via a video posted to Facebook and Twitter.
“The reason I was expecting it is that I could see the premier tired and frustrated on television and in pictures in the newspapers,” Garcea said.
While the Sask. Party garnered more than 60 per cent of the popular vote in each of the last three provincial elections, both the party and Wall saw their popularity take hits amid an economic downturn followed by an austerity budget introduced in March 2017.
Garcea said he got the sense Wall felt a duty to run in the 2016 election.
“That if there were going to be consequences, he would face them. But he managed to win 51 of 61 seats and feels he’s done his job and can pass the torch on to someone else,” Garcea said.
Wall stated he would stay on until the Sask. Party picks a new leader. Garcea said that leaves potential leadership candidates to manage a balancing act in the coming months.
“People better be careful how they engage in that battle, I guess, or in that process to replace him and ensure that they don’t make him feel that he’s already yesterday’s man,” he said.
The premier will be staying on in the role until a new leader is chosen. He told Gormley in an exclusive interview Thursday, the party will likely make the pick in December or January.
“I hope that it is a robust campaign. I hope we have women and men from within the caucus, from outside perhaps, running,” he said.
Wall said he hopes the new leader will be part of the budget finalization process in February.
‘Field is wide open’
Gordon Barnhart was lieutenant-governor of Saskatchewan when Wall first won the premier’s job in 2007.
He told Gormley he recalled Wall mentioning at his first swearing-in that a 10-year career would be about right.
With Thursday’s announcement, Barnhart said it appeared Wall was keeping his word.
“I admire that in people when they know its time and they want to go on with their lives.”
No stranger to public life himself, Barnhart said he respected Wall’s commitment to a job requiring tremendous sacrifices of time with loved ones.
“It requires a lot from a person in that way,” he said.
With Wall still fairly popular as he makes his exit, Barnhart said he suspects potential candidates to replace him would have to get started quickly, given there didn’t appear to have been any shadow campaigns to replace him.
“The jockeying (for leadership) will start. Clearly, it hasn’t started up until now and I think that’s out of respect for Brad Wall. I guess time will tell who comes forward and who would like to lead.”
Barnhart said the next Sask. Party leader could easily be a figure from within the party ranks, but he said there could also be interest from elsewhere in Canada’s conservative political sphere.
“I’m sure the field is wide open,” he said.