OTTAWA -- Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is leaving provincial politics, he announced Thursday, but will stay on as premier until a new one is chosen.
At a press conference following the announcement, Wall, 51, said he has no job prospects yet. He said there are some things he's interested in doing, but wouldn't say what they are.
Whatever he does next, Wall said, being premier will be the "honour of my working life."
Wall has been premier for nearly 10 years. The Saskatchewan Party took office in November, 2007, and Wall consistently polled as the most popular premier in the country.
"Now is the time for renewal…. It’s time for me to retire from politics, " he said in a video posted to his Facebook page.
It's also important, he said at the press conference, to give lots of time for Saskatchewan to get to know whomever replaces him.
"I think this is the right time for me to step aside," Wall said. "It's also time for me, and for my family, perhaps to do something else."
The departing premier seemed to tear up during his press conference, particularly when talking about his family and the staff who have served him for his decade in office.
"I'm very blessed to have a family like I do and parents like I do," he said.
Popularity dipped following budget
The Swift Current, Sask. resident has been a member of the legislative assembly since 1999.
Wall's time in office coincided with a rise in Saskatchewan's political pull within the Canadian federation, as oil prices skyrocketed. More recently, with a Liberal federal government and the NDP running Alberta, his importance as a conservative voice grew.
"It is easy to forget the questions we used to ask in this province just 10 years ago. We really did wonder, would we ever get to a million people and then stay over a million people? Could we ever add enough jobs to the economy?" Wall said.
"I know it takes way more than government to achieve any of those things. Maybe government's the smallest part of it, but government is a part of successful economic growth."
The Saskatchewan Roughriders fan was rumoured to be a contender for the 2017 federal Conservative leadership, although he repeatedly said he wouldn't run. Wall stayed out of the contest that ultimately chose Regina MP Andrew Scheer.
Last spring, Wall's government tabled a deeply unpopular budget that proposed cutting funeral benefits for the poor, shutting down inter-city bus service, cutting library funding by more than half, and raising the provincial sales tax from five to six per cent.
His government subsequently dropped the proposal to cut funeral benefits and library funding.
The retiring premier saw his polling numbers drop following the budget, though they remained relatively strong at 46 per cent.
He spent some of the last year fighting with the federal government over its plan to impose a carbon price on provinces and territories that didn't implement their own carbon tax or cap and trade plan.
Mistakes made, Wall allows
Wall admitted to having made mistakes over his time in office, citing labour changes his government made, as well as some of the proposals in the 2017 provincial budget.
"The decision around libraries was a mistake, and we made those changes as well," he said.
"You might be hearing from us, from me, in the next number of weeks about some further adjustments that we need to make."
He spoke at length about the province's growth over the last 10 years and said there's much left to do.
"But those fundamental questions about the future viability of the province we all love? After this decade of growth, we don't ask them anymore. Saskatchewan is growing and vibrant, and strong," he said.
"And I will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to play some small part in all of that."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Wall for working “tirelessly” to promote Canadian exports on the international stage and for “many years of service to Saskatchewan and our country.”
“I have had the privilege of working closely with Premier Wall for more than a year and a half. In that time, we have made important progress on the issues that matter most to middle class Canadians, including pensions, health care, growing our agricultural industry, and promoting our natural resources to the world,” Trudeau said in a statement on Thursday.
“Sophie and I thank Premier Wall for his many years of public service, and we wish him and his family the very best in the future.”
Scheer praised Wall as a powerful voice for Saskatchewan and a champion of the conservative movement, in a statement released shortly after Wall's announcement.
"Under Premier Wall's leadership, Saskatchewan grew and expanded as never before. Reversing a decades-old trend, Saskatchewan now attracts people from all over Canada and the world, offering jobs, opportunity and growing communities to people from all walks of life."
"Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast have appreciated his leadership on the national stage, particularly his opposition to a national carbon tax. He has always been a strong voice for resource development and job creation, and the prosperity and opportunity these industries offer to hard-working families."