You don’t get to be the most popular premier in the country by being shy of the spotlight.
And Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is hardly shy ... although that certainly doesn’t make him unique among politicians.
Consider last week where Wall could be seen just everywhere from the Juno Awards in Regina to the press conference to announce Sir Paul McCartney’s August rock concert at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium to the Legislature’s question period and many press conferences in between.
Of course, this isn’t always a bad thing … or even something a reporter should necessarily be complaining about. There are, after all, plenty of reporters in this country that don’t have quite the same accessibility to their premier.
However, there are also times when a premier to step aside and let others tell the Saskatchewan’s story.
One such story is the success of Saskatchewan exports that grew to $32.6-billion in 2012, putting this province ahead of British Columbia for the first time.
To his own credit, Wall credited others for Saskatchewan’s export success ... and rightfully so. It really, has had precious little to do the politics.
Wall aptly described it as being “blessed with what the world wants” and pointed to the 2012 export numbers: $11 billion form oil, natural gas and coal, $11.2 billion form grains, oilseeds, livestock and other meats, $6 billion; potash, $1 billion; manufacturing, lumber and wood products, and $600 million from uranium.
But there’s more to this story than just numbers. It’s many, many stories about people, perseverance, adjustment and change.
It’s stories of ranchers that survived the BSE boycott, pork producers that endured the ups and downs of the industry and farmers that changed from growing wheat to growing lentils or canola because of growing market demand in Southeast Asia.
It’s stories that start in rural Saskatchewan with producers and business entrepreneurs. They are not always happy stories, given that not every farmer or entrepreneur made the adjustment.
However, those who did manage to hang in there during the tougher times and are now reaping the rewards now.
Wisely, Wall invited one such rural entrepreneur to his export news event to tell his story — Brian Olson, president of PowerPin Inc. of Fort Qu’Appelle.
With 95 per cent of Powerpin hitches finding their way to markets outside of Canada, the one-time Tompkins area farmer’s systems that makes various implement brands compatible is truly an international export story.
But Olson’s story is also one of perseverance that allowed him to survive the tough economic times so that he can prosper now.
A great story teller, himself, the local businessman has a tonne of tales of a Saskatchewan farm boy taking his imperfect prototype to farm trade shows and implement manufacturing conferences across North America.
“Was I ever stupid!” Olson joked in a recent interview. “I didn’t have a clue about manufacturing costs or mark-ups or anything ... My first trip to John Deere (in Waterloo, Iowa), I thought I’d go down there and get a cheque.”
Eventually, Olson did develop a cost-effective prototype that he would sell to John Deere — one in which about $500 of hoses and hydraulic rigging could be replaced by a non-hydraulic hitching system with a $2 trigger.
“We never always had the right product, but we always tried to do the right thing,” Olson said. Adding that the key was learning and never thinking that you were the smartest person in the world.
For the rural Saskatchewan entrepreneur, it was a decade-long lesson in humility and listening that wasn’t always enjoyable.
But he patiently persevered, producing a commercially viable product by 1997.
His is but of Saskatchewan’s many export success stories — stories that should be told by the rural people that wrote them.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.