Success in politics is sometimes no more complicated than getting in front of a popular idea.
Take Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s decision a few weeks ago to get on board with the abolishing of the Senate.
Obviously, it was not Brad Wall who came up with the idea of abolishing the Senate.
The NDP has been advocating it about since coming into existence 50 years ago. And their federal leader Thomas Mulcair was certainly re-igniting the abolish-the-Senate campaign long before Wall got on board.
In fact, the Saskatchewan Party position had favoured an elected and reformed Senate … or at least it did, until Wall’s recent pronouncement that resulted in the party issuing a mail-in questionnaire that brought party policy in line with Wall’s musings.
For another thing, if anyone truly deserves credit for giving momentum to the recent abolish-the-Senate movement it surely is the Senators themselves, whose questionable expense and housing claims have clearly angered a nation.
But while it’s the job of a leader to lead, it’s also sometimes the job of a leader to follow — even if that means a rather sudden departure from previous positions to better reflect the view of his voters. And given a recent poll of 803 Saskatchewan voters in the second week of June by Insightrix Research, it is clear that Wall’s new position on the Senate is reflecting public sentiment.
According to the polling, 58 per cent of Saskatchewan people now support doing away with the Upper House. And while younger people seem somewhat less eager to see it abolished, the abolition sentiment has grown especially strong among the 55-years-old-and-older crowd that was 75-per-cent in favour of abolishing it.
Of course, many of you might argue that it doesn’t make much political skill to go along with a popular idea and — to a large extent — you would be right. Given that Sask. Party does internal polling on just about everything, one suspects that Wall’s change of heart wasn’t necessarily because he is psychically in tune with the Saskatchewan voters.
But even if this is the case, this may still be telling us something about why Wall has remained as popular as he is.
Another recent poll by Angus Reid in late May and early June shows that Wall remains Canada’s most popular with 67 per cent satisfied with his performance.
Wall easily led the pack, with recently re-elected British Columbia Premier Christy Clark a distance second at a 45-per-cent approval rating. No premier in the country other than Wall received a majority approval rating. Others were as low as 27 per cent for Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and 26 per cent for Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
But while Wall’s popularity hardly constitutes news — he’s been the country’s most popular premier since Newfoundland’s Danny Williams retired in December 2010 — his most recent numbers are interesting for a few other reasons.
To begin with, to have remained as popular as he has with a rating most other premiers could only imagine suggests there’s more going on here a premier riding a good economic wave.
After all, previous NDP premier Lorne Calvert also benefited from a strong economy. And while he likely didn’t have Wall’s charisma, he was personally likeable. Yet he never quite achieved the popularity Wall has.
Interestingly, Wall’s 67-per-cent score was actually slightly higher in this last quarter that included a tough session where the government has had its share of problems.
Moreover, newly elected NDP leader Cam Broten registered a respectable 44-per-cent approval rating, so this is about more than Wall being contrasted with an unpopular Opposition leader.
Simply put, Wall’s popularity has as much to with making smart choices that relate to voters as it does with anything else.
And his latest position on the Senate seems a prime example.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.