By Peter Lozinski, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Outgoing premier urges for party unity, attacks the NDP and reflects on the province’s strengths in final goodbye
Brad Wall took the opportunity in his last speech as Saskatchewan Party leader to call for party unity, decry what he sees as the NDP threat and celebrate what he sees as the province’s strength.
Wall was greeted by a crowd on their feet and a throng of reporters as he approached the podium for one last speech.
“Political leaders usually give their last speech on election night and it’s usually a concession speech. Thank you all very much that I never had to give that speech,” he said to loud applause.
“I’m going to ask a few times tonight that you come around and behind whoever wins tonight, and make sure they never have to give that speech. The party has been so encouraging and supportive of myself and my family. What I would do is ask that you tender that same generous encouragement and support to whoever is successful tonight.”
Wall thanked the party for its hard work on the ground. He thanked the leadership candidates and their campaign staff and he thanked those who have supported him for the past ten years.
His speech then took a turn.
“This speech is a little more partisan than speeches I’ve been giving lately. There’s a reason for that,” he said.
Wall reminded the convention that the leadership race is a family competition. He also said that while Saskatchewan residents may not like certain elements of the budget, people are happy with the plan.
“We’re probably the only province in the country facing a deficit that actually has a credible plan to get it back to balance within the life, within the term of the government,” he said.
The outgoing premier wanted to stress that point before warning his supporters of what may lie ahead.
“Today’s NDP in Saskatchewan, and I would argue in Alberta as well, there is very little resemblance with the NDP of Roy Romanow,” he said.
“At least that era of NDP gave a nod to fiscal responsibility. They made some very difficult decisions in the 90s to get back to balance.”
Wall credited the NDP of Romanow’s day of standing up for, and being comfortable with, oil and gas development, mining and modern agriculture. The fringes were always uncomfortable with it, but the leadership supported the sectors.
Not so with the modern NDP, Wall said.
“This iteration of the NDP in Sask. and Alberta is different. I think they would feel more at home in downtown Toronto, in a coffee house talking about political issues than they are in a coffee shop in our home,” he said.
He referenced the Alberta budget. Annual deficits of $10 billion, he said, with no plan to balance the budget.
Then he turned his ire on the NDP at home.
“(They) promise more than has ever been in the budget and even in a difficult decision want to spend more and more and more, because the current NDP have lost touch with their fiscally responsible roots you can see from just a couple of decades ago,” Wall said.
“How do they feel about modern agriculture, about oil and gas and pipelines and uranium mining? How do they feel about resource development?”
Wall criticized Alberta’s premier, Rachel Notley, for calling the energy sector Canada’s “embarrassing cousin (that) no one wants to talk about” when it comes to the environment.
He then brought up the Leap Manifesto, the document endorsed by federal NDP members that calls for an end to oil and gas development, as well as to free trade agreements.
Here, Wall gave Notley credit for rejecting the document.
But in Saskatchewan, he said, party leaders, including sitting MLA Cathy Sproule, supported the document and the discussion it brought about.
“The Leap Manifesto could not be more anti-Saskatchewan if it were the We-Hate-Bunnyhugs-Perogies-and-Vico Manifesto,” he said to laughter and applause.
Wall criticized the NDP’s rejection of the provincial climate plan, which does not include a carbon tax.
Wall said the NDP asked, “did you check with the feds?”
He didn’t take to the suggestion kindly. He decried the federal government’s attempts to force a carbon tax on the province, and the approaches of both Trudeau leaders.
After he finished his broadside attack against the NDP, he compared what, in his mind, the parties mean.
He recounted during his time in opposition, during the 100th anniversary of the province, government leaders telling a story about a canoe race, where the leaders stopped and waited for everyone to catch up so they could cross the finish line together.
The government leaders at the time called it a quintessential Saskatchewan story.
“No, it’s not,” Wall said.
“It is a heartwarming story, it is a good story, but to make it a Saskatchewan story, how about they win the race.”
In Wall’s story, they win the prize, start a business and donate back to Telemiracle and the Children’s Hospital. In his story they created jobs and improved the province.
That, Wall said, is the difference between what Saskatchewan is now and what it used to be.
“In this province, it’s okay to win. Win with grace, honour and dignity, give back if you do, if you don’t try again,” Wall said.
“That’s Saskatchewan values, that’s new Saskatchewan values. Let’s not risk it ever going back.”