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Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, energy industry advocate, to resign

Premier Brad Wall, who led his center-right Saskatchewan Party to back-to-back victories amid a resource boom in the province, has announced his resignation.

Wall will retain his position while the party selects a new leader who will become premier of the province until the next election. Wall said in an Aug. 10 news conference that he will also resign as member of the Legislative Assembly for the southeastern Saskatchewan riding of Swift Current.

During Wall's tenure, Saskatchewan's economy boomed, adding 67,000 new jobs while the population soared to almost 1.2 million from less than 1 million. A tip of the Bakken Shale that extends into the province provided an economic boost as oil prices surged, and Saskatchewan's potash, uranium and coal resources pushed prosperity in what had been a predominantly agriculture-based economy. He said the province's performance in his tenure exceeded his own expectations.

"If someone would have told me, by the way, at the start of my term that at the end of my time that we would be 1.16 million, that there would be 67,000 more jobs, that we would have gotten around to build a children's hospital and psychiatric hospital, and 40 brand-new and replacement schools, and new long-term care facilities, I might have doubted all that," Wall said. "I would have taken any part of that as success."

Wall, 51, was a vocal supporter of resource development. He was an active promoter of TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL and Energy East pipeline proposals, improved the province's internal pipeline structure and energy links with neighboring North Dakota, and opposed a so-called national carbon tax that has been threatened by the federal government. Province-owned SaskPower has also sought to extend the life of coal-fired power plants adjacent to large mines in the province's southeast through the use of carbon-capture technology.

Recent events have hurt the province's finances and also the Saskatchewan Party's fortunes. The party retains a lead in polls, Wall said. Lower commodities prices have hurt the province's finances. forcing the government to introduce budget cuts and predict a deficit in the current year. Wall, a fiscal conservative, said despite the downturn, the province is still on good financial footing and his party could win another election.

"Sometimes we'll be hearing that the budget is unpopular but we need to stick to this plan to get back to balance," Wall said. He predicted resources will continue to play an important role in the province's future. "We have this amazing story to tell, and products and resources to sell to the world, but we need to be in those regions where there is a current market and a growing market," he said.