Political panel weighs in on tough week for Sask. Party

Political panel weighs in on tough week for Sask. Party

Premier Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party have had a rough ride in the last several weeks.

With mounting opposition to the province's austerity budget, including rallies against the closure of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company and cuts to provincial libraries, many are wondering how these tough political issues will affect the Saskatchewan Party in the long-run.

University of Saskatchewan professors Charles Smith and Greg Poelzer sat down to talk to Saskatoon Morning host Julianne Hazlewood about the budget, as well as Wall's public spat with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

"I think the closing of the STC has surprisingly mobilized a lot of resistance, especially from people in rural communities," said Smith. "It's sort of the Sask. Party's bread and butter, it's the base of their support."

There have been some political consequences from the budget. A recent poll showed Wall's popularity had dropped six per cent since October, now sitting at 46 per cent. However, given the premier's popularity, it's unclear how serious the decline is.

"I think Premier [Kathleen] Wynne in Ontario would love to have the approval ratings that Premier Wall has right now," said Poelzer. "Overall, Premier Wall is still doing well, especially in light of the kind of budget that came out."

Towns and cities across the province have also started to speak out against the budget, with the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association coming out as critical of the ending of $36 million in grants-in-lieu from SaskPower and SaskEnergy.

"SUMA's opposition has been interesting," said Smith. "They're an organization that has traditionally tried to work co-operatively, and not really hard-hitting in terms of their opposition."

In non-budget-related news, Wall's decision to approach Alberta oil companies to relocate to Saskatchewan has also proved controversial, especially considering he holds shares in three of those companies.

"This is not new, going after markets within Canada, both for labour force and business," said Poelzer. "However, the timing is a bit awkward, particularly in such a politically charged environment, and so aggressively."

Ultimately, it's hard to predict how these issues will affect the next provincial election. While the NDP might be able to capitalize on the budget, Poelzer said three years is a long time, especially in politics.

"There is a difficult budgetary situation," he said. "This government has chosen, and the premier himself, has chosen to take the challenge head-on, and do some things that may be unpopular, which the government believes is in the long-term interest of the province. I think that's actually going to pay dividends come election time."