And the Wall came down: U of S students react to change in provincial leadership

By in News

Approximately 1,200 Saskatchewan Party members gathered on Jan. 27 at Prairieland Park for the leadership convention that would decide the next leader of their party — and the next premier of Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan Party was established in 1997, and 10 years later, Brad Wall won a majority government in 2007.

Leadership candidate and sitting MLA Scott Moe was ultimately elected the new leader of the Saskatchewan Party after winning 8,075 votes — or 53.87 per cent of votes after the fifth ballot redistribution — beating out fellow candidates Alanna Koch, Ken Cheveldayoff, Gord Wyant, Tina Beaudry-Mellor and Rob Clarke.

Moe replaces long-serving Saskatchewan Party Leader and Premier Brad Wall, who retired after more than 10 years in both positions. Wall will also be leaving his position as MLA for Swift Current.

Wall’s retirement is the first major shift in provincial politics that many University of Saskatchewan students have witnessed, as the last change of power took place in 2007 with the Saskatchewan Party’s defeat of Lorne Calvert’s NDP government.

For Tye Hapke, a second-year political studies student and president of the Saskatchewan Party Youth, Wall’s departure is a significant one. “He’s been here forever, and he’s very beloved in the party. Everyone respects Brad Wall,” Hapke said. “He’s kind of been a lot of people’s icon, in a sense. It’s going to be weird having someone else in charge.”

In addition to being a political mentor, Wall also served as a personal mentor for Hapke, making the transition even more unwelcome.

“It’s kind of bittersweet, because I am from Swift Current, so I do know Brad pretty well. It’s kind of hard seeing him go, especially because he’s the first guy I met that got me into politics,” Hapke said.

Fourth-year political studies student Bronte Prosser believes that Wall’s biggest legacy will be the foundation that he has laid for young people who wish to pursue involvement in politics. Prosser is both the communications director for the Saskatchewan Party Youth and a former president of the Saskatchewan Party Campus Club.

“I think he’s provided a really good base and opportunity for youth to get involved, so I’m excited for the next leader, to see what momentum they provide to get more youth involved in politics, regardless of partisanship,” Prosser said.

With party members as young as 14 allowed to vote in the leadership race, young people undoubtedly had a strong role to play in the selection of Saskatchewan’s 15th premier.

According to the party, the number of memberships nearly tripled between August and December of 2017, increasing from 9,500 members to 27,125. At least 1,800 of those memberships belong to young people under the age of 25.

For Reid Sneddon, a first-year international studies student, the prospect of getting to help elect the next premier of Saskatchewan was enough motivation to not only purchase a membership but also volunteer on leadership candidate Gord Wyant’s campaign.

“I kind of realized that, no matter what, there would be a Sask Party candidate as the next premier, and I believe Gord Wyant is the best choice,” Sneddon said.

Sneddon explains that change is necessary and that Wall’s retirement is part of that.

“It’s good. I always believe that we’re in an ever-changing world, so you always need to be changing. And, I know we don’t have term limits, but it’s always nice to see a fresh face, regardless of who it might be,” Sneddon said.

When asked about the policies they hoped the new premier would implement, all three students emphasized educational support, strong employment and youth engagement in politics.

“A lot of people want to be able to stay in the province — so they want jobs after their education,” Hapke said. “A lot of [young people] are professionally oriented. They want to have a successful career in Saskatchewan. They don’t want to have to leave to go to Alberta or Ontario.”

Moe’s achievements as premier remain to be seen. However, he offered an optimistic vision of Saskatchewan’s future to young people, when responding to questions during the post-election media scrum.

“What we want to do is … have that fiscal sustainability here in the province — to continue that investment but not to continue it on [young people’s] backs — to be fiscally responsible,” Moe said. “Our economic policy’s aim is … to continue with those opportunities for that next generation.”

Emily Klatt

Photos:

Top: Victoria Becker / Outreach Director

Bottom: Nykole King / News Editor