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Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall gets going while the going is good

Andrew MacDougall, a former director of communications to Stephen Harper, is a communications consultant based in London.

If the government of Saskatchewan was given a dollar for every time Brad Wall mentions the province's "decade of growth" in his farewell video, a second decade of growth would be assured.

Alas, generating revenue isn't so simple, which is likely why Mr. Wall announced his intention to step down as Premier after nearly 10 years of service.

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Mr. Wall has every reason to be proud. Saskatchewan is no longer a place people look to leave; there are more people, working more and in better jobs, and enjoying better services than under previous governments.

But after a long stretch of solid growth, Saskatchewan faces significant challenges thanks to a slowing resource sector. A great politician – a description certainly affixed to this Wall – knows when the mood is about to shift and gets ahead of it or, failing that, gets out of the way.

Gary Mason: Saskatchewan's popular Premier Brad Wall picked as good a time as any to go

By stepping down and citing the need for renewal, Mr. Wall is timing his own exit and accomplishing what so many politicians fail to achieve: a graceful departure at a time of still-considerable popularity.

The admiration isn't sure to continue. This year's budget was the Saskatchewan Party's least popular yet. After years of surpluses, the province slipped into deficit. Some polls even showed Mr. Wall's party trailing the NDP, the same NDP Mr. Wall dusted in his historic 2011 landslide, when his party swept 49 of the province's 58 seats.

Of course, those were glory days for Canadian conservatives, with Stephen Harper enjoying his new majority in Ottawa, Christy Clark coming to office in British Columbia and the Alberta PCs still years away from their downfall.

More importantly, they were also glory days for the natural resource sector. The windfall generated by oil, gas, potash, uranium and other resources paid for so many of the accomplishments listed by Mr. Wall in his swansong: more nurses, better highways, new schools, and lower taxes.

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Fast-forward to the present.

Resources are no longer flying out of Canada's ground, and with the NDP in power in Alberta and Justin Trudeau lording over Canada, the economic situation in Saskatchewan isn't likely to improve in the short term. Ms. Notley and Mr. Trudeau both support a carbon tax on emissions, something Mr. Wall burned the midnight oil fighting on behalf of his province, not wanting to add another tax onto his own increase to the provincial sales tax.

By stepping aside, Mr. Wall is giving less-weary fighters a chance to continue the argument with Mr. Trudeau, while also giving his party its best chance at holding onto government in Saskatchewan.

Even if it is the smart political decision, there will be no shortage of admirers who are sad to see him go.

So successful is Mr. Wall, many Conservatives had hoped he would trade provincial politics for a life in Ottawa. But a lack of French-language knowledge, coupled with the recent selection of fellow Saskatchewanite Andrew Scheer as Conservative Party leader, have shut that avenue down, likely for good.

This leaves the still-young Mr. Wall to a career in the private sector. His economic credentials, sharp political instincts and smooth manner portend a personal future brighter than that of the province of Saskatchewan.

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That's no fault of Mr. Wall's. There are no easy solutions to what ails his province, something his successor will soon experience first-hand.

By milking his signature achievement – Saskatchewan's remarkable decade of growth – in his farewell, Mr. Wall was only doing another thing all good politicians do: taking an early pass at cementing his legacy.

Video: Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall calls retirement a chance for renewal (The Canadian Press)
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