Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 9, 2016
Fresh off picking up another solid majority in Saskatchewan, the chorus attempting to draft Premier Brad Wall for leader of the federal Conservative party will reach a crescendo, whether or not he finally expresses interest.
Ever since Stephen Harper stepped aside following his party’s drubbing at the hands of Justin Trudeau, names have begun to float around as to who his successor would be. Peter MacKay, Jason Kenney and Lisa Raitt all have been batted around as potential candidates, but none has garnered the fervour for Mr. Wall.
He is the most popular premier in the country, and to the conservative movement, he represents plenty of opportunity should he ever choose to cast aside his premiership for a run at the Tory top gig.
He is well spoken (although apparently not in French), fiscally prudent and most of all, a person who represents the opportunity to embrace the roots of conservatism in Canada as they were prior to Harper’s reformation of the brand.
Before the party merger in 2003, plenty of contrasts existed between the old Progressive Conservative brand and the Western-based Reform party, and as we know all too well, Harper was tasked to maintain the peace between two increasingly different ideologies.
Harper was there for the birth of the Reform mindset and he presented a shift for Canadians that, at the time, made sense — especially in the West where the party would find their basis of support.
A national divide was forming, and Harper and his new-found Conservative brand would capitalize on that chasm that existed between East and West.
The problem now, however, is the Liberal party has again been able to unite a country under one flag, albeit at the expense of the NDP and Conservatives — a fact that causes hardline western Conservatives to experience palpitations as a result.
By having party brass woo Brad Wall, it shows the conservative brand is trying to stave off the impending split that could happen should anyone other than Wall assume the role of leader.
Gone are many of the “Harper Conservatives” who rose to power in the last decade, potentially giving way to more moderate, old-fashioned Progressive Conservatives trying to eke out an existence in a sea of red nationwide.
The feeling is that Wall could again unite the party under one tent before a split would send the right-of-centre vote into relative obscurity for the foreseeable future, and at the same time put successive Liberal governments in power for years to come.
The Conservatives are clearly worried about the alternatives should Wall not want to take a look at the job. Under a leadership contender like Peter MacKay, the party would surely be headed for splitsville, as history is not kind to MacKay’s ability to keep a unified front moving forward.
<t-1>Jason Kenney, another alternative, would present the closest resemblance to the former prime minister,
but even he may not be electable when stacked up against an incumbent Liberal government. As well, Kenney presents a spoil of opportunity for rival spinners to tie him to the final years of the Harper regim<t$>e.
Others, such as Lisa Raitt or Maxime Bernier, have expressed interest as well, but both would be a veritable long shot for the leadership, especially if heavy hitters such as MacKay, Kenney or Wall were to step forward.
Closer to home, you have to know the Saskatchewan premier, as well as Conservative party brass, are keeping a close eye on the Manitoba results and whether a true blue Conservative shift will come to fruition here in Manitoba on April 19.
If Brian Pallister and the Progressive Conservatives are able to successfully garner the solid majority they are cruising toward, it would further indicate that Wall’s chances are good in the West, only increasing the number of people coming forward to prod the premier into acting.
In capturing his third majority government with 51 of 61 seats, Wall was mere points shy of the best-ever finish in Saskatchewan’s history, and proved as a leader he had the ability to win an election even during an economic downturn like Saskatchewan is facing.
Incumbent premiers are often in trouble getting elected during lean times, so Wall’s win does little to silence the throngs of Conservatives frothing at the mouth to get him to reconsider his previous indications and agree to run federally.
Brad Wall is in the driver’s seat. The job is clearly his if he decides he wants it.