Political scientists weigh in on Brad Wall’s retirement announcement
As the dust settles after Brad Wall’s retirement announcement, the province is now looking ahead to its future.
Wall’s announcement sent shockwaves through the province Thursday morning. He has been the province’s leader for nearly a decade, which makes him the longest serving Premier of all the sitting Premiers.
“It’s not just about the bad poll numbers after the budget,” Jim Farney, political scientist and professor at the University of Regina (U of R), said Friday on Global News Morning.
“Ten years is a long time. It’s an extraordinarily demanding job and people in governments get tired, and I think watching his presser yesterday, that’s really where he was coming from.”
Over the years, Wall was consistently popular among voters and enjoyed large majority governments throughout his premiership. That popularity fell, however, after the latest budget saw a massive deficit and major cuts. Despite this, experts say his legacy will be positive.
“His brilliance has been as a communicator. You saw it in the election victories over the NDP, you saw it in the stance on the national stage as a really significant voice for the conservatives in the country,” Farney said.
“I think his legacy will be in how we talk about the province and how we think about it, which is a huge legacy.”
Tom McIntosh, head of the department of politics and international studies at the U of R, agreed.
“Brad Wall’s success was in creating an image of a positive, optimistic, ‘We’re growing Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan’s strong’, forward-looking, entrepreneurial government,” McIntosh said.
As for who will take the Sask. Party leadership, McIntosh speculated on a few candidates.
“There’s no obvious successor. That’s clear, that there hasn’t been somebody standing in the wings,” McIntosh said.
“If I had to think about who, probably Dustin Duncan might make a run for it, Tina Beaudry-Mellor might make a run for it. I think there would be great pressure to have at least one female candidate put their hat in the ring.”
Both the Sask. NDP and the Sask. Party will be in leadership races in the near future. As for how this may shape the NDP’s future, McIntosh had this to say: “If you’re sure you’re not going to have to run against Brad Wall, suddenly the NDP leadership might look more attractive to some people.”
“Brad Wall was a pretty formidable political figure in this province. (…) This may change the dynamic for the NDP and it also may change the kind of person they’re looking for depending on who the Sask. Party comes up with,” McIntosh said.
Farney echoed that sentiment.
“I think it opens up their leadership race. I think it gives them definitely a fighting chance in the cities in a way they didn’t,” Farney said.
“(They won’t be) trying to push this walk out of the way that was Wall. They have a chance at being stronger.”
Wall will continue to lead the Sask. Party until a new leader is chosen, which will likely be in December or January. No official date has been set for the Sask. Party’s leadership convention.
“What happens next is we will be convening a meeting of the party’s provincial council, which is structured with a representative from youth, the party leader, the president of the party and one representative from each of the 61 constituencies,” Sask. Party executive director Patrick Bundrock said. “We expect that meeting to happen in the next 30 days but probably a lot sooner, at which point we’ll be putting together the mechanics of the leadership: the ground rules, membership deadlines, paperwork and all that stuff.”
“The leader will be chosen by one vote per member. Traditionally, we’ve used mail-in ballots and in-person voting on the day of.”
Ministers who decide to run will likely step down from cabinet, McIntosh said, which will prompt a cabinet shuffle.
Wall said he will remain neutral during the campaign for his successor.
“There’s a great group of women and men inside the caucus. There’s some interest from outside the caucus that I’m aware of notionally and it’s going to be a great field,” he said.
Education minister Don Morgain said he will not seek the leadership.
Health minister Jim Reiter said he has received calls of support since Wall resigned, and he will take the coming weeks to carefully consider a candidacy.
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