If the rumor mill is to be believed, Brad Wall reign as Premier of Saskatchewan may be drawing to a close.
The current theory is that Wall will resign in 2018, allowing him the opportunity to lead the SaskParty through its 20th anniversary in September 2017, and celebrate his 10th anniversary as Premier in November 2017.
It also leaves the new SaskParty leader ample time to sell us on his or her abilities in order to be elected as Premier in what is looking like it will be spring of 2021.
Recently a new poll revealed levels of support, or lack thereof, for the SaskParty government that shocked even the most grizzled of political veterans (whether they’ll admit it or not).
The Mainstreet Research poll, commissioned by Postmedia, showed that 49% of decided and leaning Saskatchewan voters would support the Saskatchewan NDP, while only 40% would cast their ballot for the SaskParty.
Seriously – does Brad Wall really want to go out like this?
Contrary to what the government and their surrogates are desperately trying to spin, this isn’t just a knee-jerk reaction to The 2017 Budget (which deserves it’s own formal title, like The Bowling Green Massacre). The SaskParty have slowly but steadily been losing support, with the NDP seemingly picking it up, for the last twelve months, with the trend consistent across gender, age and even demographic (urban vs. rural).
It would be a cold day in hell when the SaskParty would deliberately put forward a budget, knowing its impact would put them behind the NDP by ten points.
Like, really – do they think we’re stupid?
Yet that’s what Brad Wall tried to sell us.
“As I indicated around the time of the budget being tabled, the nature of the difficult decisions required meant that we would likely see a decline in popularity with Saskatchewan voters.”
he said in his Facebook response to the poll results.
He knew this was coming, because sometimes parents have to do things their kids don’t like, knowing it will result in a tantrum, but not caring because it’s what’s best for them, and kids are kind of dumb anyway.
“This budget ensures we can continue to provide the core public services you and your family rely on for the short and long term. I remain confident that we made the right decisions…”
In other words, everyone who doesn’t agree with his “right decisions” is wrong. He knows what’s good for us, even if we don’t.
Now eat your vegetables.
Herein lies the problem, and it has nothing to do with The 2017 Budget:
Brad Wall used to get us, and now he doesn’t.
In the early 2000s, the fortunes of the newborn Saskatchewan Party turned when Brad Wall took the lead.
In 2007 he ran a campaign against the beleaguered Saskatchewan NDP. The theme of that campaign was hope; specifically, that Hope Beat Fear.
Remember that guy?
I met that guy many times, and can personally attest to the fact that he was awesome. Humble, funny, joyful, a loving husband and dad – a bit self-deprecating but a lot principled.
And man, were we ready for him.
Lorne Calvert was a perfectly lovely and practical Premier, but he wasn’t… cool. He was a Ford Taurus, and we traded up for a BMW 3-series.
There’s no doubt Brad Wall got very lucky. As he said in his speech on the 2007 election night, Saskatchewan was on the cusp (really, already in the midst) of an economic boom; he was simply in the right place at the right time to catch the cash. The Saskatchewan Roughriders, led by the equally charming Kent Austin, won their first Grey Cup in almost two decades. The Opposition Saskatchewan NDP would go on to tie its own noose, climb up on a stool and kick it out from underneath itself by electing Dwain Lingenfelter – his sneering, unlikeable ying to Wall’s fresh-faced, jovial yang – as its leader.
Suddenly it was amazing to be from Saskatchewan. It was the place to be, not the place to be from. Brad Wall was the Most Popular Premier in Canada, the Riders were winning, and both of them were all ours.
To the SaskParty, Brad Wall was everything. The party brand was secondary, with a firm grip on his coattails. Wall was in every SaskParty ad, his image and voice splashed across every commercial, billboard and pamphlet. If there was a crisis, he was put in front of it, which in itself was remarkable (and even added to his popularity), where he handled it with something like “We made a mistake, we’ll fix it, and we’re sorry.”
As Brad Wall’s fortunes and popularity soared, so did the SaskParty’s.
Which is why there really isn’t a SaskParty anymore… it’s been the BradWall Party for over a decade.
Linking the two fortunes was a huge gamble, and the SaskParty went all in.
A gamble, because the higher you put someone on a pedestal, the farther they have to fall. With his popularity ratings reaching impossible heights, Brad Wall’s descent – party in tow – wasn’t just a risk, it was a guarantee.
It’s hard to pinpoint the first cracks in the façade, but the fissure split wide open last year. The SaskParty ran an arrogant, albeit successful third-term campaign based on fear – hope wasn’t on the table. Then they confirmed those fears, and more, by revealing the sickening state of Saskatchewan’s finances and releasing a mediocre budget.
The GTH land deal was an albatross around Wall’s neck by the end of 2016, not because of the nature of the scandal, which has yet to really reveal a smoking gun, but because of his jaw-dropping response to it.
Gone was the Brad Wall we all knew, the one who would humbly own up to a mistake and then promise to make it right. Instead, he was replaced by Angry Brad Wall, who indignantly defended it, despite the fact that pretty much everyone with eyes and a Grade 8 education thinks the GTH land deal is at best immorally incompetent, or at worst, criminal.
In fact, Wall insisted that instead of Saskatchewan residents getting scammed, they got a great deal.
Adding to these out-of-character woes, a Mainstreet Research poll in November 2016 showed that Saskatchewan residents were overwhelmingly against a number of donor-practices coveted by the SaskParty, including out-of-province donations.
Wall’s response? A shoulder shrug and an insistence that he was right, and the vast majority of Saskatchewan was wrong.
Earlier this year, when Wall became the last Premier in Canada to receive a political party salary top-up, he once again dug in, hiding behind Saskatchewan’s so-called Conflict of Interest Commissioner and stating he had “no intention to change the practice.”
Within a few weeks he was backpedalling on that, but humble, contrite Brad Wall was nowhere to be found.
“If there’s any misperception at all about what this means and what it doesn’t mean, it’s just not worth it,” he told reporters petulantly. “I don’t want it to reflect poorly on the government or the party.”
Are you f**king serious?? Not only Saskatchewan, but the entire country had a “misperception” of donor money flowing into an elected official’s bank account?
And forget about doing it because it was the right thing to do – we’re just all too stupid to understand, and our ignorance might hurt him or his party politically, so the extra cash wasn’t “worth it”.
The list keeps growing: an ill-advised pitch to oil companies in which he held shares; liquidating the Crowns, even piecemeal, despite admitting he knows Saskatchewan residents don’t want it (perhaps because they know any sales are fuelled by the need for quick cash, not any kind of business savviness); an unrecognizable air of arrogance, and yes, a gong show of a budget that would see his government – including every single Regina MLA – punted out on its ass if the vote was held today.
Now go back and watch the above YouTube link again. That Brad wouldn’t even recognize today’s Brad.
Indeed, poll results are nothing more than a snapshot in time. With a provincial election four years away – centuries, politically – what people think now is almost absurdly irrelevant to that outcome.
If he does leave next year, however, Brad Wall doesn’t have the same luxury.
The good news is that he likely has enough goodwill stored up that if he can find himself again, and start taking steps so Saskatchewan residents recognize he’s back, he could still turn this ship around and exit Saskatchewan politics with his legacy intact.
Because Brad Wall’s legacy was never going to be what he did for Saskatchewan’s economy… it was what he did for Saskatchewan’s spirit.
So I’m asking again, Brad: do you really want to go out like this?
For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert. I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in media and public relations. Email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
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