The two big knocks against Brad Wall before and since becoming Saskatchewan Premier have been as follows:
* He's too young, inexperienced and immature for the job, and;
* He's too much of an old Grant Devine Progressive Conservative tied to its philosophy and record.
There's not exactly a lot Wall could do about the first criticism. In both life and politics, you can only be as old as you are and can only have as much experience as you have.
As for the second criticism, as a young man Wall decided to invest some of his formative years gaining experience in the Devine government as a ministerial assistant. It was hardly, a major role, but Wall was nevertheless, forever branded as part of that regime.
Alas, this is just the reality of the game of politics. But the rules of the game also provide that a political leader gets ample opportunity to prove his critics either right or wrong. When it comes to the addressing these knocks, Brad Wall has had both his successes and failures in his three years as premier.
His successes have obviously been his promotion of Saskatchewan and several policy decisions like using resource windfalls to pay down debt and fix deteriorated infrastructure.
However, Brad Wall has also had his failings as Premier, as well, first and foremost has been that horrible miscalculation of potash revenue in 2009 that has resulted in two consecutive deficit budgets now. It's these two deficits and the projected increase in public debt that now has the Fraser Institute ranking Wall in about the middle of the pack of economically successful Premiers.
But perhaps most problematic for a Premier deemed too young, immature and too much of a Grant Devine Tory was the re-surfacing of that embarrassing 19-year-old videotape showing Wall and other young Conservative ministerial assistant making arses of themselves at a party. Although Wall handled the fallout incredibly well, it didn't exactly help him shake his knocks.
However, one now wonders if Wall's handing of the potash takeover might be the turning point in which he puts much of those past criticism behind him.
Of course, one needs to be a bit careful when assessing the importance of his recent speech explaining his reasons for opposing the attempted $38.6-billion hostile takeover of PotashCorp. by Australian mining giant BHP Billiton. There's been too much hyperbole swirling around this speech already, with various pundits calling Wall everything from Hugo Chavez to Winston Churchill.
But while this speech might not exactly be the coming out party for a Brad Wall's run at the federal Conservative leadership as some have called it, it did seem to show a Brad Wall coming of age.
This was clearly a tough, tough issue for Wall whose natural free-enterprise tendencies likely urged him to support the takeover bid. Notwithstanding Grant Devine's glowing endorsement of Wall for taking the position he did, the Sask. Party premier's position is a departure from his philosophical roots.
It's also certainly arguable that supporting the BHP Billiton bid would have eliminated the grief Wall is taking for from those now criticizing him for abandoning his free-enterprise principles. And such a stance would have avoided an ugly fight with Prime Minister Stephen Harper over this issue, something that seems a direct possibility.
But the assessment, analysis and thought process Wall took before arriving at his decision was a solid one. He listened. He did his homework. And he made the kind of tough decision that requires a lot of fortitude and maturity to make. Wall appears to have been able to set aside his pre-conceived notions and take what appears to be the right position for the province. And by making his choice in the way he did, Wall may have addressed some of the past knocks against him.