Brad Wall's Horrible Mistake
Brad Wall has made a horrible mistake. I wrote An Open Letter to Brad Wall last December, warning Wall about pointless austerity and he decided to play the tough guy and bring in a 90’s-style budget. The Saskatchewan Party probably figured that if they bring in a tough budget now, they’ll have 3 years for people to get over the initial shock and, by 2020, the party will be applauded for a balanced budget and a recovering economy. Since so many Saskatchewan Party people had their formative years in the 90’s, they think the population will reward them for these tough choices with another election win and a pat on the back.
It won’t happen and here’s why…
#1. The Saskatchewan Party has been in power for 10 years. That’s a long time for any government. Usually in democracies people get hankering for a change around the 8 year mark. Wall was able to ride a long commodity boom and take credit for it. Now that times are tough he needs to own that too. I’m hearing people ask why the Saskatchewan Party didn’t plan for this downturn. A relative of mine used to work in Saskatchewan’s news media and when she attended a budget a few years back the politicians presented rosy predictions for massive resource royalty revenue. When she asked them what would happen to their budget if a commodity bust occurred, she was told that it won’t happen.
Why not? It always happens. Why is Saskatchewan the grasshopper instead of the ant? How is this the fault of the NDP? The Saskatchewan Party owns this situation and their austerity budget is a hallmark of mismanagement, not strong priorities.
#2. The second big problem is that a broad range of cuts has now created thousands of unnecessary enemies. Think back to when the Saskatchewan Party decided to destroy the film industry in the province. They did it, because the industry was perceived to be a highly partisan NDP pet project. The cuts caused an uproar among industry workers, but they weren’t numerous enough to cause an effect at the ballot box.
This budget hits everyone and as a result a tipping point has been reached. People with previous reservations about Brad Wall will now feel emboldened to speak out against him. People who are directly affected by these cuts will now become hyper-NDP-partisans. The worst part is that apolitical people will begin to mindlessly reform their views simply because they are reacting to the social cues from everyone around them. The conservative-Saskatchewan Party will become the province’s villain.
#3. As mentioned above, most of the Saskatchewan Party professionals had formative years in the 90’s. They believe that what worked in the 90’s is a timeless lesson. The problem is that people (voters) in 1997 aren’t exactly the same as people in 2017. The Chretien Consensus that brought in the era of balanced budgets and fiscal conservatism is over. It existed for a brief moment in history and only survived as long as it had to. Voters today have very little respect for fiscal conservatism, either in their own lives or the lives of their government institutions. Don’t be fooled by the old canard of, “I’m a fiscal conservative, but a social liberal.” The truth is that Canadians are exactly the opposite of that!
When voters taste austerity they will be as likely to reward Brad Wall for a balanced budget as they were to give Stephen Harper a second majority.
Solution: The only way to salvage the party and the province now, in order to avoid a nightmare scenario of a far-left resurgent Ryan Meili-led NDP victory, is for Brad Wall to step down as Premier and as leader of the party sometime this year. If he announced his resignation within the next six months, he’ll be providing a new leader with a solid three-year runway to establish a new impression in the hearts and minds of voters. He’ll also be positioning himself for future endeavors politically, because his capital is still so high. The party can clean itself up a bit and reintroduce itself as new and improved. Austerity can go away and the party reputation will be repaired. (While still benefiting from the austerity introduced in the 2017 budget)
The alternative is to stick around and hope the economy picks up and future budgets can be full of more gravy and everyone gets back on the Brad Wall bandwagon. But this isn’t going to happen. The downturn is likely to stick around for awhile. The timing for a cyclical national recession in both Canada and the United States is likely to occur before 2020 as well, and Saskatchewan will be in for a double whammy. If Brad Wall sticks around through that, he’ll be not only unloved, but despised. An early stepping down will be good for Brad Wall, good for the new leader and good for the province. It will breathe new life into the party and position the Saskatchewan Party as the natural governing party of the province. We can avoid a far-left NDP future and renew and refresh the political landscape in the process.
Line up some post-political jobs Mr. Wall and move forward, before things get all Grant Devine in the land of the living skies!