SASKATOON — Immediately after he was chosen as the next premier of Saskatchewan Saturday night, Scott Moe threw down the gauntlet on the threat of a federal carbon tax by using a line from the prime minister’s late father.
“We will not impose a carbon tax on the good people of this province,” Moe said after winning the Saskatchewan Party leadership.
“And Justin Trudeau, if you are wondering how far I will go — just watch me.”
It took five ballots in the preferential system for the former advanced education and environment minister to take the party’s top job. He beat out three other provincial cabinet ministers and a senior civil servant to win the leadership.
As a former environment minister, Moe has been a central figure in Saskatchewan’s battle to resist the federal government insistence that provinces put a price on carbon. As the lone holdout among the provinces, Saskatchewan has said it will take the matter to the courts if necessary.
The “just watch me” line was used by Trudeau’s father, Pierre, during the October Crisis in 1970, when he was asked by a reporter how far he was prepared to go to maintain law and order in Quebec.
Moe was raised on a farm in the Shellbrook area, about 140 kilometres north of Saskatoon, where he still lives with his wife Krista. The couple has two children. Moe has a bachelor of science in agriculture from the University of Saskatchewan and was first elected as a member of the legislature in the 2011 provincial election.
Twenty years ago, he was involved in a car crash that left one person dead. He was given a ticket for driving without due care and attention, and he has since said the crash has shaped who he is as a person today.
Moe takes over from Brad Wall, who has consistently ranked as one of the country’s most popular and well-known premiers.
Wall surprised many in August when he announced he was calling it quits, as public anger lingered over an austerity budget that both raised taxes and made deep spending cuts.
Wall pitched his departure as an opportunity for renewal within the Saskatchewan Party, which has been in power since 2007.
Moe will lead a province in a very different fiscal and political position than the one Wall enjoyed for much of his tenure.
Low resource prices have led to large public deficits, despite a recent increase to the provincial sales tax and deep program cuts.
An investigation into a government land deal is in the hands of out-of-province prosecutors and could lead to charges.
Moe has promised a plan to balance the Saskatchewan budget by 2019. He’s also promised to add 400 educational assistants and other educational professionals to classrooms across the province.
While Moe won the leadership, it was Wall who gave one of the most firey addresses of the night.
On his way out after 10 years as premier, Wall delivered a final podium-pounding speech, taking aim at the Opposition NDP in his province and the governing New Democrats next door in Alberta.
“It’s like their ideology has become an orthodoxy,” Wall said. “It’s like a church. You can picture it, can’t you, this church — thick orange shag rug in the aisle and lava lamps at the altar.”
He blasted Alberta’s government for running a $10 billion deficit with no immediate plan to pay it back, and he warned the NDP in Saskatchewan would do the same.
“Look next door,” Wall said. “They’ll add $30 billion to the debt of future Albertans in just three years, with no path to balance … at least none in the life of the current government.”
At the same time, Wall heralded his government’s achievements around economic development and population growth, as well as its steadfast resistance to a carbon tax called for by the federal Liberal government.
He also took a shot at the federal NDP and its anti-fossil fuel “Leap Manifesto.”
“This thing could not be any more anti-Saskatchewan if it were called the ‘We Hate Bunny Hugs, Perogies and Vi-Co Manifesto,'” he said, referring to the uniquely Saskatchewan terms for hoodie and chocolate milk.
The next provincial election in Saskatchewan is set for 2020.
The Saskatchewan NDP, which will pick its own new leader later this year, congratulated Moe on his win, then went on the attack.
“For the people of Saskatchewan, it’s going to be the same bad management and cruel and heartless cuts,” interim leader Nicole Sarauer said in a statement.
The Canadian Press
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