'Farm kid with a wicked slapshot:' Scott Moe seeks first public mandate
REGINA -- Some leaders have a reputation for political strategy, others for charisma.
Scott Moe may be best known for being ordinary.
The leader of the Saskatchewan Party has been in elected politics for less than a decade and only stepped into the spotlight a couple of years ago, when he replaced outgoing Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall.
Moe was the oldest of five children in a community-minded farm family, not a political one.
He worked selling farm equipment and has owned gas stations and a pharmacy. He fishes, snowmobiles and golfs.
As unlikely as Moe's career rise may seem, the 47-year-old's appeal lies in his roots. And he'll be putting that to voters when he seeks his first public mandate in the Oct. 26 election.
Moe was raised near Shellbrook, a town of 1,400, 140 kilometres north of Saskatoon.
"Scott would have been a tough farm kid with a wicked slapshot," says Greg Otterson, who grew up with him.
Moe was also "a friend to everyone." Once while golfing, Otterson dislocated his shoulder. It was Moe who took him to hospital.
"Even though I wasn't in his inner circle of close friends, I didn't consider myself to really be outside of it. He wasn't that kind of person."
Another time, Otterson says, he and Moe were on vacation in Maui at the same time.
"Scott -- he looked just like a typical Saskatchewan farmer ... had the big farmer tan going on and, I remember, like deathly afraid of sharks."
Iain Hughes grew up best friends with Moe. They played ball together and later AA Midget hockey.
Moe was a down-to-earth kid who helped his dad on the farm, while his mom worked as a teacher, @Hughes says. The summer after finishing high school, in 1991, Moe and Hughes headed to Yellowknife on their first adventure away from home and landed jobs building houses.
By Christmas, homesick for his high-school sweetheart, Krista, Moe had returned.
The couple married and attended the University of Saskatchewan together. Moe studied agriculture; she studied pharmacy. Two kids came along: a son Carter, and a daughter, Taryn.
"It was pretty rough going at the start, when they had an infant child and both of them in university plus trying to farm a little bit on the side," recalls Hughes.
Before he was 30, Moe had made some mistakes.
He was convicted of impaired driving in 1992, went bankrupt after a failed farming business and killed a woman in a collision.
One morning in May 1997, Moe was driving his truck on a gravel road near his family's farm and didn't completely stop at a highway intersection. He crashed into another car.
Newspapers reported at the time that a woman in her 30s had died. Her teenage son, a passenger, survived.
Moe says he wishes he hadn't made those mistakes.
"But on the other side, who I am today, I went through those challenges," he said in a recent interview. "I've learned from each of those.
"I can't change the past and so they are part of who I am."
Moe says his interest in politics began while living in Vermilion, Alta, where he was selling farm equipment in the days of former Alberta premier Ralph Klein.
"If you look at where Saskatchewan was in 2000, where Alberta was in 2000, there was a marked difference," Moe says. "I started to realize what impact politics had on the growth of communities."
After moving back to Saskatchewan in 2003, Moe became a member of the Saskatchewan Party.
He was first elected to represent Rosthern-Shellbrook in 2011 and won again in 2016. Two years later, after Wall announced he was retiring from politics, Moe won the party's leadership race and moved into the premier's office.
Moe had gone into the race with an overwhelming backing from caucus and won on a fifth and final ballot.
He has not shied away from his somewhat unexpected journey. In one of Moe's first public speeches, he joked about a text he received from a brother-in-law.
"The text went something like this: `Scott, are you the premier of Saskatchewan? WTF?"
Moe has common sense and is good with people, says Hughes. "He was just a normal guy" who went into politics.
Hughes has younger kids and says Moe tells him how important it is to be around while they're growing up.
During the summer, as the government was months into dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, they spent a day on the water fishing in northern Saskatchewan with another childhood buddy.
Hughes says when it was over, Moe let him know what the day meant to him.
"It's just really important to him, when he gets maybe one day ... where he can just actually sort of unwind and we can talk about old times."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept 29, 2020.