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Opinion ‘Brand’ Wall is going to be an extremely tough act to follow in Saskatchewan

Following in the footsteps of a revered political leader is never fun for the person taking over the job. And certainly that predicament applies to the man or woman who will assume control of the Saskatchewan Party on Saturday – a political institution that has been mostly associated with one name.

Brad Wall.

Mr. Wall has been The Brand. And none of the five candidates vying for his job – Tina Beaudry-Mellor, Ken Cheveldayoff, Alanna Koch, Gord Wyant or Scott Moe – possesses the outgoing Premier's charisma or oratorical skills. Then again, history is littered with the names of candidates who didn't look like much on the campaign trail but blossomed in office.

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So there is hope.

Gary Mason: Brad Wall was a premier who let Saskatchewanians know it's okay to win

Read more: Brad Wall laments the 'less united' state of the West as he prepares to leave office

After nearly six months of wooing delegates, there does not appear to be a clear favourite heading into the convention. Many anticipate that Mr. Cheveldayoff, who has a long and colourful history in Saskatchewan politics, will be atop the results after the first round of voting. His challenge will be growing in subsequent balloting – nobody is predicting an early knockout – something many believe he could have a problem doing.

There aren't huge policy differences among the candidates. A few are intent on retiring the deficit in three years, a couple in four. There isn't any enthusiasm among the group to roll back public-sector wages and remuneration by 3.5 per cent – something the government announced it was intent on doing in last spring's budget.

The only candidate who ventured into dangerous terrain during the campaign was Mr. Cheveldayoff, a 20-year veteran of Saskatchewan politics. He is staunchly anti-abortion, and at one point told The Canadian Press they should only be allowed for women whose lives are at risk – and not for victims of sexual assault. He later amended that last statement, saying sex-assault victims should have a choice.

Why any candidate would want to wander down that path is beyond me.

It may be too early to speculate about what this leadership contest will mean beyond the province's borders, especially for neighbours such as Alberta and British Columbia. Mr. Wall's political feud with NDP Premier Rachel Notley will come to an end. The question is, will his successor rejoin the battle, and if so, with as much vigour? Or will this changeover at the top allow Saskatchewan to press the restart button in its relations with Alberta?

Former Saskatchewan NDP premier Roy Romanow is one person who was mystified by Mr. Wall's unrelenting focus and criticism of Ms. Notley's government. He didn't quite understand what was in it for Saskatchewan.

"I found it really difficult to figure out," Mr. Romanow told me. "There has been a long history of co-operation between Saskatchewan and its neighbours. And we don't see that now. I always found that if there was a regional concern arise, the cause could be more effectively advanced as a union. So I hope that is something that perhaps changes soon."

While Mr. Wall has mostly aimed his rhetorical bazooka at Ms. Notley, he's also made it known he doesn't care for the ideological underpinnings of the NDP anywhere – including B.C.

It's difficult to imagine that whoever emerges as premier-designate after Saturday will want to get straight into it with Ms. Notley, or B.C. Premier John Horgan either, for that matter.

I think there are many who hope that the next Saskatchewan premier, whoever it is, might see this as an opportunity to do some bridge-building, or at least some fence-mending.

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But we shall see.

For what it's worth, I asked Mr. Wall what he considered the biggest dilemma his successor would be inheriting from him. Not surprisingly, being the true fiscal conservative that he is, Mr. Wall said the nearly $700-million deficit – it has to be slayed.

"You have to have a plan to get rid of it," he told me. "And you have to have a plan that gets rid of it in the next few years. Anything beyond one election cycle is meaningless because you have no control over what could happen after the next election.

"We've seen what happens in this province when governments let this sort of thing slide and it's not pretty. So, I hope my successor takes this very seriously."

Perhaps the first priority of the new leader should be to tell the people of Saskatchewan that things are going to be just fine – even without Brad Wall.

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