As he strode purposefully toward the door of the legislative chamber Thursday with Deputy Premier Don Morgan by his side, Brad Wall said it was a good day because he was with friends.
The walk was the last he would take as premier in a legislative session.
He still faced the usual procedures: petitions, member statements, question period. Then Morgan rose to lead a series of tributes that started with laughter and often ended with tears.
Morgan, the resident prankster in the Saskatchewan Party caucus, recalled leaving a three-foot poster of himself on the wall of the private washroom housed in the premier’s office.
In return, Wall and his assistant Everett Hindley put a giant picture on the side of the car of the unsuspecting Morgan who drove to the local Tim Horton’s unaware his own face was evident for all to see.
Don McMorris, who became a politician in 1999 alongside Wall, laughed that there was a time when they were the two youngest MLAs in Saskatchewan. Now, 18 years later, each has famous sons in their own right — Colter Wall in music and Mark McMorris, an Olympic medal-winning snowboarder.
McMorris remembered in opposition that Wall was appointed justice critic.
“We mustn’t have had any lawyers,” McMorris joked, to rousing applause.
Colleague Donna Harpauer said she was better for knowing Wall. Through tears, Nancy Heppner explained how her father, the late Ben Heppner who help found the Saskatchewan Party, would often tell Wall how proud he was of the up-and-coming politician.
Dustin Duncan was a student at the University of Regina when Wall was elected, and said the premier inspired him to begin the youth wing of the Saskatchewan Party.
“Some people get elected to be something and others to do something,” Duncan said, referring to the latter with Wall.
Surprisingly, it was NDP interim leader Nicole Sarauer with the classiest tribute. While rivals politically, and ideologically so opposed, the NDP caucus gave a nod to Wall and the legacy he was leaving.
Sarauer noted the loyalty shown to Wall, saying he was the true brand of the Saskatchewan Party and a premier who “wouldn’t be so easily forgotten.”
With humour she referenced the tribute Wall had given Premier Lorne Calvert on his last day in the legislature and the nod to Looney Tunes’ wolf and sheepdog cartoon that ultimately ended their daily battles as friends.
“Goodnight Sam, goodnight Ralph. And we can say thank you Mr. Wall and goodnight Brad,” Sarauer ended to rousing cheers.
Then Wall stood for the last time.
He began by saying when you enter the legislature, you cease to be “just Brad from Swift Current. You become the member from Swift Current.”
In his case, he became the leader of the official opposition and then premier in 2007.
He referenced his predecessors, premiers Romanow and Calvert, and said the test should be, “have you left things better than you found them?” It is a mantra Wall has worked under for the 18 years he served.
So ingrained is it in his personal ethics, that Wall had a plaque made which now hangs above the door of the cabinet office.
He told reporters he hoped it will serve as a reminder to all who follow to put Saskatchewan people first and in doing so, “there will always be progress.”
Wall maintained his time as premier had not been perfect, but felt he had succeeded in leaving the province in a better place as there are now more nurses and doctors, wait times are shorter, and more money is being provided to seniors and those with intellectual disabilities.
As for the attitude in Saskatchewan, Wall said the change didn’t come from government, but the people who call the province home.
“It is okay to be a winner if you do it with grace, humility and for the betterment of others. It is okay to want to be a winner and that Saskatchewan is a winning province,” he said.
As his tears welled up, Wall talked about returning to being “just Brad,” saying he looked forward to what lies ahead.
The premier added he was blessed and grateful for the last 18 years and said, “I didn’t deserve any of it.”
As he sat, everyone around him stood in applause. When the session ended, and Wall walked out of the legislative chamber for the last time as premier, security officers stood in line to honour him as he went by.
Wall remains premier until Jan. 27.