Alanna Koch closest to Wall legacy
January 8, 2018, 2:59 pm
As the Saskatchewan Party chooses a new leader later this month—the winner to be sworn in as Saskatchewan’s 15th premier—an interesting and often confusing divide has emerged between SaskParty members and some commentators in the chattering classes.
The pundits’ narrative goes like this: Brad Wall defined the SaskParty. His brand is the party’s brand. The candidate who will stand the best chance of changing the SaskParty and ensuring its political success is the one who can shake-up the party and be the most unlike Wall.
This analysis sounds like someone’s been tucking into a July 1st pot stash in advance. While the Wall effect matters, the formula for the SaskParty’s electoral success pre-dates him.
When non-NDP voters coalesce into one party they will beat the NDP nearly every time. To be precise, only four times in 75 years the NDP has received over 50 per cent of the votes in an election, although they’ve won 12 campaigns, generally because of vote splitting between competing non-NDP parties.
The big tent works when a single, non-NDP alternative party broadly accommodates conservatives, moderates and voters who put diversity and the maintenance of political power ahead of handing the province to socialists.
And, no one has been more successful at this moderate, self-aware governing style than Brad Wall, whose personal stamp is all over his party and province.
Under Wall, Saskatchewan’s economic and population growth—including a remarkable turnaround in attitude —have been unparalleled in the last century.
So, why would anyone want to deliberately depart from Wall’s policy focus and governing style?
From a strict policy insider’s perspective Alanna Koch’s campaign is closest to Wall. Her professionalism, experience and knowledge—and decades of close personal and political ties to Wall—closely align her to the successes of his government.
Scott Moe, a strong performer in Cabinet and popular among SaskParty MLAs, would also hew the Wall line.
The main difference between Koch and Moe is style and the sales job: who can most effectively turn the next chapter’s pages and not drop the book?
Gord Wyant takes a slightly different tack. The urbane, smart and capable lawyer speaks of bringing his party to a more moderate place, which seems to imply that Wall, as the architect of the SaskParty, somehow lurched his own creation wildly to the right.
Ken Cheveldayoff, for his formidable organizational strength, has not performed well in Cabinet. While a hardworking local MLA, his influence and responsibilities have declined from the powerful Minister of Crowns in 2007 to, in recent years, Minister of Sports and Culture.
Tina Beaudry-Mellor, the impressive and intelligent newcomer to politics, lacks the organization and political credibility to lead her party, this time.
As Koch is closest to the accomplishments of the Wall brand, she is also near the government’s two most unpopular initiatives, the deficit-fighting austerity budget and the foot dragging over conducting an investigation into allegations over land costs at the Global Transportation Hub.
While any leader, including Wall, is hamstrung until the RCMP concludes its investigation of the GTH, nothing less than a timely and full investigation will suffice.
The same willingness to revisit budget decisions will be important.
As the SaskParty begins its next step, many of the 27,000 voting members know something the pundits don’t—their party is strong and no one’s running to the exits with their hair on fire.
Internal party polling shows a 20-point SaskParty lead over the NDP, strong numbers with young voters and an overall better position today than the SaskParty had when it was first elected in 2007.
No leadership candidate (or smart party member for that matter) should take anything for granted. In politics, credibility and respect are hard earned.
But the SaskParty’s challenge of renewal and a fresh perspective will come from keeping the Brad Wall train running; not derailing it—despite what the pundits say.