REGINA — After a campaign throughout the summer, members of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party have voted unanimously to welcome new leader Jeffrey Walters to the helm
Walters, a sociology and justice studies instructor at the University of Regina, is the party candidate for Regina Northeast riding, a mantle he took on just over a year ago.
He ran unopposed in the leadership race, and was voted in by acclamation — after a membership vote that came back 100 per cent in favour.
“It feels nice,” said Walters, of the result. “We spent a good four months for this moment, a lot of blood, sweat and tears and a lot of people volunteered to make it happen, so it's nice to have it turn out how we wanted it to.”
Walters takes over from interim leader Robert Rudachyk, who served for the past year and campaigned as the face of the Sask Liberals during the 2020 election cycle.
For Walters, looking ahead to the 2024 election, the strategy will start with a reintroduction of the party’s image on a provincial level.
He feels there’s some confusion about the separation between the Saskatchewan Liberal Party and the federal Liberal Party that needs addressing.
“We’re not beholden to the federal Liberal Party in any way, we don’t walk in lockstep,” said Walters. “We’re a separate entity, and our focus is the province, not the country at large.”
Following those efforts, the next project is to present the Sask Liberals as a true centrist option for voters, who Walters said are languishing in the current unofficial two-party system.
“In many ways, our decisions are made based on partisan politics, rather than what’s good for the province,” said Walters. “And our vision is to get back to the idea that any idea is a good one, and it shouldn’t matter where it comes from if it helps the people of Saskatchewan.”
Walters said he feels as though the entire province is in a defining moment in history, and he intends his leadership to reflect that.
“In the end it's not about me, it's about making the province better,” said Walters.
Pandemic strains highlighting a health care system under strain, repercussions of climate change, limitations of the education system, and an economic model that’s falling behind — Walters said he wants to see change that will better the province.
“The size of the challenges we have right now in the province have outgrown the capacity of our politics to actually solve them,” said Walters. “We have this status quo that is not necessarily sustainable for the future.”
Walter said moving forward, the Sask Liberal Party will represent “the party of common sense” on Saskatchewan ballots for voters.
“What I see in the future is a 21st-century Saskatchewan,” said Walters. “We really need to take that new step, in a new direction, in a new way forward into a new era to bring us up to speed.”
Walters said he is looking forward to the challenge, and he feels there is a bright future for the Sask Liberals ahead.
“I think people are searching for a way forward, and just aren’t seeing it in present politics, and that's something we can provide, so I am extraordinarily optimistic,” said Walters.