REGINA — Brad Wall has vehemently opposed a national carbon tax, called for the abolition of the Senate and championed pipeline projects in the face of protests from politicians further east.
With the election of a Liberal government in Ottawa, the Saskatchewan premier has become one of the loudest voices for conservatives in the country.
And while his Grade 6 teacher doesn't remember Wall as such a "rabble rouser'' in school, he does remember a kid with a passion for politics at an early age.
Dave Spencer says he can remember a young Wall once expressing the view that Saskatchewan perhaps wasn't benefiting from Confederation.
"I thought what was really interesting about it at the time was how he thought at that early age about issues in Saskatchewan and in Canada, and thought about ways to address those issues, and he saw political processes as a part of that,'' says Spencer, who taught the future premier in the mid-1970s.
"That was fairly mature at that early stage of his life to begin to think that way.''
"I thought what was really interesting about it at the time was how he thought at that early age about issues in Saskatchewan."
Wall, 50, was born and raised in Swift Current, Sask.
"In junior high, he and I both ran for the vice-presidency of the students' union,'' longtime friend Ed Carleton, who first met Wall in Grade 5, recalled in a 2011 interview. "He had buttons made and everything and gave out candies and stuff. It crushed everyone.''
In high school, Wall worked at a radio station where he spun records under the handle "The Wall of Rock.''
Carleton shared an apartment with Wall while they went to the University of Saskatchewan together.
"He was very messy,'' Carleton laughed. "He makes a big mess when he cooks.''
Wall spun records under the handle 'The Wall of Rock.'
Wall graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in public administration and has spent much of his time since in politics.
He was a backroom guy at first. In the 1980s, he worked in Ottawa in the office of Swift Current Tory MP Geoff Wilson. He returned to Saskatchewan and worked as a ministerial assistant in Grant Devine's Progressive Conservative government.
Wall was first elected in 1999 under the banner of the newly formed Saskatchewan Party, an amalgamation of former Liberals and Conservatives.
He made a successful bid for the Saskatchewan Party's top job after the party lost a 2003 election many felt it should have won.
In 2007, Wall led the Saskatchewan Party to victory in the provincial election.
A tape from his time in the Tory backrooms came back to haunt him soon after he was elected. The provincial NDP unearthed a video cassette of Wall yucking it up with fellow Tory staffers, criticizing NDP leader Roy Romanow in a thick Eastern European accent. Romanow is of Ukrainian heritage.
Wall apologized and said he wasn't trying to slight a particular group. The controversy didn't stick.
Four years later, he cruised to his second mandate as the Saskatchewan Party took more than 60 per cent of the popular vote along with 49 of 58 seats in the legislature. The largest popular vote before that had been 57 per cent by the Liberals in 1912.
Away from politics, Wall is a huge football fan.
In the National Football League he backs the Oakland Raiders, but his heart bleeds green for the Saskatchewan Roughriders north of the border. He does a segment called "Premier's Picks'' on a Saskatchewan radio station during Canadian Football League season.
Spencer recalls Wall having a love for sports at a young age.
"Although he wasn't that big, so he maybe wasn't as prominent in sports as he thought he could be or should be, but loved it,'' Spencer recalls. "He was popular in his class. He wasn't boisterous. He was a good friend to his friends and I remember that.''
Wall's other love is classic cars, specifically his 1967 Dodge Coronet.
"He was a good friend to his friends and I remember that.''
Spencer has remained a family friend, largely through Wall's parents.
The former teacher says Wall "values relationships and friendships,'' noting that friends that Wall had in Grade 6 continue to be his friends to this day.
Wall and his wife, Tami, still keep their home in Swift Current. Their son Colter and two daughters Megan and Faith aren't children anymore. Still, Wall makes the two-hour trip home from Regina most nights.
"You're quite likely to see him in the grocery store on Saturday morning, for example. It's not unusual at all,'' Spencer says.
"That's kind of who he is, I guess.''
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