Scott Moe well suited as premier
February 5, 2018, 1:55 pm
Scott Moe was sworn in Friday as Saskatchewan’s 15th Premier, and it is worth pointing out, first, what the new SaskParty leader is not: a surprise winner; politically inexperienced rural rube; light on policy; or a guy dragging the SaskParty hard to the political right.
With the backing of nearly one-half of the SaskParty’s large caucus, MLAs—urban and rural alike—saw Moe as the top contender in the leadership race and, consequently, his win is neither surprising nor divisive.
In the leadership race, Moe ran a well-organized and determined campaign that hit every corner of the province.
Most importantly, as preferential ballots often reward, he was the strongest second choice of voters; or, in blunt terms, the least disliked, which helps unify a party after the natural tension of a leadership race.
As the six-month campaign wore on, a significant “ABC —Anybody But Cheveldayoff” movement emerged. Next in line was Alanna Koch, who was resented by some who saw her as the choice of the elites.
Gord Wyant’s early strategy of highlighting his federal Liberal connections irreparably harmed his down ballot potential even after the ill-advised move was quickly abandoned.
Moe didn’t come with negatives, either on personality or policy.
When he was 18 years old he was convicted of drunk driving (a fact well aired during the 2016 election campaign) and, five years later, was in a fatal highway crash where no alcohol was involved.
When Scott Moe was first elected in 2011, a political insider remarked that he was “worth watching,” a guy who used his hulking size, slow bass drawl and unassuming smile to mask a bright mind that reveled in policy and processed a lot of information quickly.
As he was promoted to Cabinet, similar observations were made—a genuinely nice man who enjoyed letting others think they were the smartest person in the room, until he quietly demonstrated they weren’t; and he seemed to specialize in being underestimated.
As Environment Minister, Scott Moe quietly and effectively drew a line in the sand with Ottawa over the Trudeau carbon tax and was a constant thorn in the side of Gerald Butts, the environmental activist who is the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary.
Like hockey great Gordie Howe, whose geniality and smile kept your eyes off his elbows, even the way Moe entered public life raised eyebrows among political veterans.
Prior to the 2011 election, a long-time and low profile SaskParty MLA from Spiritwood was challenged and defeated at his own nomination which is uncommon and even rarer in a governing party.
The MLA was brought down by his own membership chairman, a young farmer and businessman from the neighbouring town of Shellbrook who quietly organized the coup. That was Scott Moe.
With his swearing-in as Premier there is clearly a departure from Brad Wall, most obviously on style. Few people have Wall’s charm, versatility with a microphone and ability to have a crowd of thousands feel like they’re sitting in a family room.
Premier Moe will be more reserved and cautious than his predecessor. But the battle for voters’ hearts and minds will be waged deliberately and purposefully.
On policy, Moe will depart little from Wall and, already, his more conciliatory approach to Alberta’s NDP government is an attempt to put his own stamp on the way that business gets done.
It is worth noting that, like Premier Moe, Brad Wall was often labelled by the same pundits in the same way; small town, rurally-based leader of a party of right wingers lurching Saskatchewan away from moderation.
The SaskParty’s success as an alternative to the NDP has featured a broad coalition of supporters, united and determined for three elections, to keep the NDP out of power. And the message has resonated in each of those elections with 51 pre cent, 64 per cent and 62 per cent of voters.
Scott Moe inherits a strong political base. How he leads it will define him and Saskatchewan.