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In wake of nixing BHP, Wall keeps touting Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall speaks to an economic luncheon in Toronto on Oct. 29, 2010.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

With Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams stepping down, British Columbia's Gordon Campbell not far behind him, and Quebec Premier Jean Charest's tenuous hold on his province, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is emerging as a politician with a strong hold on his province and a man to watch on the federal-provincial scene.

His latest venture is a two-year, $2-million national marketing campaign - on television and the Internet - to attract new workers and investment to his province.

The campaign was unveiled on the very day (in mid-November) that BHP Billiton announced it was withdrawing its $38.6-billion takeover bid for Potash Corp.

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The Premier calls this "serendipity" and a "happy coincidence" because it does show that, despite keeping the Australian company out of his province, Saskatchewan is still open for business.

And there was more serendipity: The province bought advertising spots to broadcast their new ads during Sunday's Grey Cup game even before it knew the Roughriders were in the final.

While it "sucks" that his beloved Roughriders lost the Grey Cup - Mr. Wall lost his voice as well - at one point during the game 40 per cent of the country was tuned in. "What a great chance to feature our ads," he said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Wall talked to The Globe and Mail about the new ad campaign, the fall-out from Ottawa's decision to block the BHP bid, and the departures of Mr. Williams and Mr. Campbell.

What's the Saskatchewan campaign about?

We had planned on an advertising campaign before the potash takeover bid happened, but it was a happy coincidence, serendipity. We needed to make sure we were reinforcing our brand as a great place to live and a great place to invest in the wake of that decision and it happened that we were ready to basically launch this campaign - a television campaign and also very much a web-based campaign. I'm going to be following it up with more speeches and so are our ministers.

Why is it important now, after the decision to deny BHP Billiton's bid?

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There was some criticism, mostly from the financial punditry, about what this would do to the brand, for the country and our province in terms of being open for investment.

A couple of things happened right after the announcement, though, that were also a welcome development. We had Vale from South America announce they were going to go ahead with their work on a 'greenfield' potash mine and then a German company, KNS, announced a friendly takeover of a junior company. It showed that you can have these two things co-exist: Sometimes the country will need to say 'No' for strategic reasons in takeovers and that principle can live side-by-side with the fact that we're still going to be welcoming foreign investment and still going to be able to attract investment.

Does Saskatchewan need workers?

We've rarely in the last several quarters been south of 6,000 postings on a website called www.saskjobs.ca, which companies use to post job opportunities - everything from the service sector to the mining industry, oil and gas and the innovation industry. Everything is on there. So that's an indication we have jobs to fill and from an investment standpoint, there obviously isn't, there's not a limit, but we just need to continue to grow.

What does the departure of B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell mean for the West?

I just hold Premier Campbell in the highest regard. At the Council of the Federation table, Premier Campbell was obviously there fighting for British Columbia, working for B.C. But he was also a clarion voice for Canada at every single turn and obviously a pioneer in what we call the 'New West.' This New West partnership, a free-trade zone between our three 'have' provinces and one of the largest free-trade zones on the continent, we have that because of Gordon Campbell and his leadership. We're going to miss him.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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