Local officials were surprised to hear of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall's sudden resignation Thursday. Most commended the premier for his accomplishments in his long 10 years in his role. Many also acknowledged the premier had a tough job bringing in this year’s austere budget.
Wall had said he had decided to retire from politics after reaching the 10-year mark serving as premier.
Town of Battleford Mayor Ames Leslie said he didn’t expect the Premier would retire now.
When looking back on this year’s budget, Leslie said he isn’t holding out that any changes would be brought in with a new leader in the future, adding by the time a new leader is in place “it will almost be time for the new budget to come out.”
“No matter if you agree or disagree with the Sask Party and Brad Wall as the leader, I want to definitely commend him for his 12 years of service and his 10 years as leader of Saskatchewan,” said Leslie.
“I think Brad Wall as a leader listened to the small person, the average person of Saskatchewan, and has made a difference in some of those lives,” Ames added.
On this year’s tight provincial budget, Leslie commented while the budget “was hard for everybody to understand and hard for everybody to accept,” he believed through his time "[Premier Wall] has done some good things for Saskatchewan.”
Leslie commended Wall for two projects in particular that benefitted the Battlefords area – the Highway 4 twinning project through Battleford area, as well as the new Saskatchewan Hospital replacement project.
City of North Battleford Mayor Ryan Bater said the province has a history of long-serving premiers.
“When one makes a decision to resign, it’s a big deal for the province. It will be very interesting to see within Saskatchewan how that changes the landscape,” said the mayor.
Bater was reflective on the premier’s decision to retire. He said he didn’t expect to see a turn-around in the province’s latest budget with a new leader in place in the future however.
“The city had been vocal about our opposition to the loss of the payments in lieu from our Sask Energy contract, but I’m not holding out that that’s going to change,” said Bater. “I don’t think that should be the focus right now.”
Bater pointed out he is a non-partisan mayor. “Our council is committed to working with whoever the premier is. We will be spectators in what will be a leadership race to elect a new leader of the governing party, and a new premier. We’re prepared to work with whoever that may be.”
He acknowledged being a political leader is no easy feat.
“This is obviously a personal decision of the premier to make,” said Bater. “People who serve at that level, whether you are a cabinet minister, or the premier, or even people I work with on city council, it’s a big commitment. I’m sure that the premier had his family in mind when he was making this decision.”
Battlefords MLA Herb Cox said he appreciates Wall’s contributions in attempting to bring the government into better financial shape with this year’s budget.
He added Wall deserves due credit for the work he has done, including trippling the seniors’ income plan and doubling the income for people with disabilities.
Cox added building the new Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford has been “the biggest infrastructure ever in this community.”
“Those are things we didn’t have 10 years ago, and we have them now. [We have a] new children’s hospital in Saskatoon, and on and on it goes,” said Cox.
Cox said he appreciates how the premier had to make some hard decisions for this year’s budget.
“We’ve made a commitment we’re going to get back to a balanced budget in three years time,” he said. “The good news is we’re on track to do that. We’re not going to get there without some pain. Those decisions have been made and I think for the most part they were the right decisions.
“I’m hearing that from constituents,” Cox added. “We know it’s unpopular but it had to be done. We’re not going to pass a deficit down to the next generation.”
Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison tweeted after the announcement: “@PremierBradWall Thank you, Boss. Serving you has been the great honour of my life.”
Battlefords-Lloydminster MP Gerry Ritz commended Wall for the job he did as premier bringing Saskatchewan back to the global stage.
“He (Premier Wall) did an excellent job shepherding Saskatchewan over the past 10 years,” added Ritz. “In my travels throughout the Pacific rim, Europe and South and Central America, Saskatchewan was actually known rather than a place you just flew over.”
Ritz believes Wall’s legacy will be of a leader who was up to the challenge.
“He will be known as a leader who wasn’t scared to make the tough decisions including the last provincial budget, which was tough to swallow,” Ritz said. “Saskatchewan rolled along fairly well under his stewardship, but at the end of the day you have to make the tough decisions and he proved he could.”
Ritz also recognized Wall’s gifts as an orator and statesman, which he said will be hard to replace.
Next ahead, there will need to be a leadership race sometime in the future and then the new premier will be sworn in. Wall will remain as permier until a new leader can replace him.
The Saskatchewan Party has announced it will begin the process to select a new party leader through a party member election. The party provincial council will be releasing further details about the process after it meets within the next 30 days.
On Twitter: @battlefordsNOW
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