The sound of his mother’s dying breath still haunts him.
It was a May morning in 1997. Steve Balog was 18 and sitting beside his mother as she drove down a rural Saskatchewan highway when their car was hit.
Now 42, Balog and his younger brother say they have recently learned the identity of the man responsible for the collision. And they have questions.
The other driver’s name: Scott Moe, the leader of the Saskatchewan Party and incumbent, who’s running for re-election in the Oct. 26 provincial vote.
“My deepest question that I would want answered is: why did it happen?” Balog told The Canadian Press in a phone interview.
“Why, on a clear day in a flat prairie stretch of highway on a morning with no fog, no nothing, would someone cross a highway at full speed without stopping? It makes no sense to me.”
Balog and his half-brother Dan Bulmer think Moe has not been held accountable.
Moe has not shied away from his involvement in the crash. He was 23 at the time and received a ticket for driving without due care and attention and for failing to come to a complete stop.
Moe disclosed the accident when running to replace former premier Brad Wall in the 2017 party leadership race, and he’s talked about it publicly a few times since then.
He addressed the crash again Tuesday morning at a campaign stop in Saskatoon, when asked by reporters about recent comments by Balog on social media.
Moe offered an apology to the family, and said he plans to give one to them directly.
“Words are just not – I’m just not able to express in words how truly sorry I am,” said Moe.
He said the collision has stayed with him.
“I’ve also understood and respect that there’s another family that experienced far more loss than I did on that day and have always been aware of that and very respectful of that.”
Balog, who lives in Saskatchewan but works out-of-province, said he found out earlier this week that Moe was the driver who caused the crash that killed his mother, Jo-Anne Balog.
Someone alerted him to a website where an old news article about the crash was posted, he said.
“I feel ironically foolish in a way … because I didn’t know, (Moe) being such a prominent figure.”
He said he is not a member of a political party and has no political motivation in talking about the accident now, during the election campaign.
Although his family lived in a small community near Moe’s home in Shellbrook, north of Saskatoon, and the crash was in local newspapers, Balog said he didn’t know the name of the other driver. And when Moe has talked about the crash, he hasn’t mentioned Jo-Anne Balog’s name.
After his mother’s death, Steve Balog said he fell into a depression and months later, moved away.
People he asked about the crash – police and Saskatchewan Government Insurance – wouldn’t tell him the name of the driver, he said. “They didn’t want me to approach him being angry.”
He then gave up searching, he said.
“I couldn’t go down that path anymore. I had to try to move forward. And I didn’t look into it because I knew that the anger and pain it would bring to me.”
Bulmer was 12 and living in British Columbia when the crash happened.
He had lived with his father and was in foster care, and was three months away from returning to his mother, he said. She wrote him letters and told him a day didn’t go by that she didn’t think of him.
The crash ruined his life, said the 36-year-old, who now lives in Alberta.
“I promise you I’d be a different human being today if my mom was still kicking around,” Bulmer said, adding he doesn’t know how he feels about Moe, but wants answers.
“I don’t know if I’m angry. I don’t know if I’m vindictive. I don’t know if I’m vengeful. I don’t know if I’m just curious.”
Balog said his mother was a strong, independent woman who did correspondence schooling to become a lab tech.
She was driving him to a hospital appointment in Saskatoon the day of the crash.
“I could see the vehicle coming on our left down the grid road,” Balog recalled.
“I could tell he was travelling at a fair speed and … all I could recall was that he’s going to stop. Like, there’s no way he’s not going to stop.
“Then he didn’t stop.”
Balog said the crash happened in an instant. He lost consciousness and woke up to find the car in a ditch. Paramedics were there and they loaded him and his mother into an ambulance.
“All I could hear was her body trying to breathe,” he said.
“She couldn’t speak to me. I don’t think she ever regained consciousness and I never actually saw her again.”
(Stephanie Taylor/Canadian Press)