SASKATOON — With little fanfare Canada’s newest premier will be chosen in Saskatoon today.
The province’s governing Saskatchewan Party has been involved in a low-key leadership campaign since former leader Brad Wall announced his plans to step down after 10 years as premier.
With his government hurting from an unpopular budget and stung by scandal, he pitched his departure as a chance for renewal.
The winner will become both party leader and Saskatchewan’s next premier with the next provincial election due in 2020.
Four former provincial cabinet ministers and a senior civil servant are seeking the job.
The front-runners to replace him are widely thought to be former advanced education and environment minister Scott Moe, the premier’s former deputy minister Alanna Koch and Ken Cheveldayoff, who has served in different cabinet portfolios since the Saskatchewan Party formed government in 2007.
All of the candidates acknowledge that Wall will be almost impossible to replace.
“Nobody’s going to fill his shoes, but somebody’s got to take the torch from him and run with it,” said Cheveldayoff, who has known him since high school.
“I think people realize Premier Wall has earned his right to retire and move on from this political career and somebody has to take his place.”
Koch said there’s no doubt that Wall, who will speak at the convention this evening, has left a legacy.
“He’s the most popular premier in the country and probably the most popular premier we’ve ever had in Saskatchewan and so of course that is quite a legacy to try and follow,” she said.
The new leader is being chosen in a one member-one vote preferential ballot system with voters able to either mail-in ballots or vote in person. Voters rank the candidates in order of preference which are factored in until a majority is reached.
Observers have pegged former justice minister Gord Wyant and former social services minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor as long shots.
Tom McIntosh, head of politics and international studies at the University of Regina, admits there has been very little fireworks during the campaign.
“It’s been a very clear attempt by the party to manage this leadership … in such a way that it seems to blunt any of the sharp edges that might be there.”
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press