By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 4/05/16 (Tue)
Whether you know it or not, the province of Saskatchewan, just to our north, has a rich political history, just like North Dakota.
Third-party candidates have won elections, shysters have been voted in as premier (the equivalent to governor) and there has been plenty of controversy from one corner of the province to the other.
But since Nov. 21, 2007, Brad Wall has been the premier and has generated a cabinet that has turned the economy of Saskatchewan around.
Monday night, the voters told him they want him to stay in office. Wall defeated challenger Cam Broten by a whopping 267,238 to 129,530 vote total.
That’s a big margin of victory for someone running a third time.
Not so long ago, Saskatchewan was known for nothing more than wheatfields and grain elevators. Mr. Wall has changed all that and Saskatchewan has caught the attention of unemployed people from around the country who have been moving there in the past 10 years. Since 2011, the population of the province has increased by 128,000 people.
It is likely his popularity comes from his interaction with the voters that is fairly well known across the border.
Brad Wall isn’t afraid to drop into a small town and address a Rotary Club, a farm convention, or appear on a TV sitcom.
He’s delivered some controversial remarks to the media since he became premier but that all became second nature when most people realized he kept his word on election promises.
In 2004, Wall released “The Promise of Saskatchewan: A New Vision for Saskatchewan’s Economy.”
That was revolutionary and resonated with just about every voter, including the premier at the time Lorne Calvert.
So why is Brad Wall’s re-election important to North Dakota?
Most people in North Dakota probably don’t even know who Brad Wall is, let alone why is he important to our state.
He knows a lot about our state primarily because North Dakota and Saskatchewan are close neighbors, just as we are with Montana.
When the Souris and Des Lacs Rivers were flooded in 2011, Brad Wall was here in North Dakota, touring many of the sites with then Gov. John Hoeven. There were a number of times in which he spoke with North Dakotans who were flooded, and he seemed as concerned as Hoeven was about the 2011 disaster.
He also talked about North Dakota’s disaster on national television in Canada.
Wall has also gone to Washington, D.C. and met with congressional leaders about trade between Saskatchewan and the United States, most notably with North Dakota, which continues to get stronger.
Three dams are located near the North Dakota border; Rafferty, Alameda and Boundary, and each one has an effect on both the Souris and the Des Lacs rivers.
Because Wall saw the devastation in North Dakota, and those dams were partially responsible, he continues to have a pulse on how they are monitored and managed.
There are two coal generated power plants east of Estevan very near Columbus, N.D. called Shand. Prior to the Wall adiministration, there were issues with fly ash, PCBs and other harmful substances that were drifting across the border and affecting people in Burke County. That’s all changed.
Four-laning Provincial Highway 39 from Regina to the border at Portal was announced by Brad Wall himself in 2014. Federal dollars were promised to get that gargantuan ball rolling and it is now in the process.
Saskatchewan has its oil meccas in Estevan and Weyburn, just as we do in Williston and Watford City. He understands the oil industry and how it has impacted Williston Basin communities.
Wall grew up in the small town of Swift Current, which is about the size of Jamestown or Wahpeton so farming, and how small towns work together are a way of life for the 50-year-old premier.
There’s also the concept of Wall being in the “third” political party and how it has changed the province just as the Non Partisan League changed North Dakota 100 years ago.
Most importantly, the communications between Saskatchewan and North Dakota are always open and that hasn’t always been the case. That’s just how Brad Wall is. He gets his energy from interacting with people, including those of us North Dakota.