Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Quick Break from the Provincial Race to Bring You...

A few quick words on the provincial NDP race, and then we'll broach some Federal news that I have let languish in limbo for far too long.

Firstly, I should make note that Ryan Meili had a book reading at McNally Robinson on Saturday evening; I was unable to attend due to other commitments that evening, but I am sure the event went well for Meili; who has been using his increased profile from his book to do some jet-setting around the province and the country, including a stop over in Alberta for sitting on a panel with Niki Ashton and Brian Topp.

And of course, a reminder of the Erin Weir digital town hall tomorrow evening. I'll do my best to get questions and answers posted tomorrow evening, but we may have to wait until Tuesday.

The Broten campaign has picked up two endorsements from Jerry and Joan Hammersmith. And also, as noted, the Broten campaign will have their campaign office opening this coming weekend, but I'll be out of town on Thanksgiving weekend commitments and sadly won't be in attendance; and the Wotherspoon campaign has continued to send Trent out across the province to different events, namely the India Night and the Run for the Cure events in Regina.

So, let's talk some Federal politics, shall we?

There's a lot worth talking about, but there's two specific issues I'd like to mention specifically, and those are the entrance of Justin Trudeau into the Liberal Leadership race and the coming cuts to the Department of National Defence.

Since we've spent a lot of time talking about leadership on the blog, let's stick with that and discuss for a moment what the entrance of Justin Trudeau will do for the Liberal Party.

Full disclosure, there was a brief year in my life when I thought I was a Liberal. I never carried a party membership, but I did volunteer on one Liberal campaign in my life time. Of course, over time, I came to realize the foolishness of my decision and finally settled down in the NDP. (In case anyone is actually curious, I opened my eyes to the fact that the Liberal Party basically lacked a backbone and would say anything that sounded popular enough to garner them support, and that is mostly why I left that path.)

Trudeau has been on a Liberal wishlist for leader since he was first elected as an MP; it's actually possible he was on the wishlist long before then as well, too. Either way, there is a certain flutter in the hearts of Liberals when the name Trudeau is mentioned and a blind belief that it would take someone like him to lead his party out of the political wilderness.

However, there are several problems with this scenario.

The first problem stems from the fact that like his father, Justin is a little bit rough around the edges. That isn't to say he lacks political savvy, but rather that he seems to have a quick temper. After all, who could forget when he called the Minister of the Environment a "piece of s**t" on the floor of the Commons? There's nothing wrong with having a bit of a temper, a little anger here and there is good for you, but there's also a time and a place to let it out. And I say like his father, because I'm sure most of us are familiar with Pierre's "fuddle duddle" comment.

While that kind of brash nature might appeal to certain voters, it will also turn off numerous others. Someone auditioning for the top job in the Canadian Government is expected to carry themselves with a certain level of decorum; we don't want our PM yelling something like that at a foreign head of state if things get a little too heated during a trade summit, for example. And unless Trudeau can prove, amply, that his temper has fallen into check it's going to weigh at the front of some people's minds.

And while we've mentioned his father, that brings us to the second problem: His father's legacy is still tainted across the country. While Eastern Canadians may have fond memories of Pierre, Western Canadians still remember the NEP and the flipping of the bird to farmers. Hell, the NEP has been used for years as a reason not to vote for the Liberals out west under new leaders from Chretien to Ignatieff.

If the Liberals actually want to rise above their current placement, they need a leader who will be able to grow their party. And part of that growth means actually breaking through in the West, not just reclaiming Ontario and Quebec. Trudeau, based on name alone, has an uphill battle on this front and would likely not be able to overcome some of the negative images conjured by his father.

Finally, there is a problem of ideas over people. Like many political parties, especially like the Republican Party in the US, there is an idea that it is the person over the policy that is more important. Trudeau has name recognition and a bit of a 'star' candidate profile; but so did Michael Ignatieff.

It is not simply enough to put forward a popular politician and hope that the electorate will follow you blindly. That had been the case in some elections, I will not deny that, but circumstances will determine whether or not that is the strategy a party needs. It may work in a province, like Saskatchewan, where there is a smaller number of voters to win over; but nationally, it's harder.

Even Jack Layton, who arguably has earned a title of one of Canada's most popular political figures, was unable to form a government despite his popularity. He lead the party to a breakthrough in Quebec, but even the most seasoned political commentator will tell you it was one part Layton and one part policy that won over Quebec voters.

In the last cycle for the Liberals, they rested their laurels on Ignatieff and spent little time developing clear policy. They are doomed to repeat this situation with Trudeau; and if they do, it will only once again create this idea that the Liberal Party has a sense of entitlement and feels that they should naturally be in power, regardless of what they bring to the table.

Effectively, it's not people, but ideas that are needed to bring the Liberal Party away from the brink of destruction. And, as a New Democrat, I'm fine if they continue to miss this lesson. But, as a supporter of democracy, it's always better to have more voices affecting the way the country is governed; and for all their faults, perhaps the Liberals still have a role to play in Canadian democracy, even if it is just in opposition.

The final issue I want to talk about today, is the report that has come out suggesting that the cuts current being thrown around Ottawa could result in as much as $2.5 billion being scaled back from the Department of National Defence.

So, while the government has seen fit to spend upwards of $25 billion on jets no one real wants (other than Lockheed Martin, that is), a whopping number of cuts are coming to the department. I think this is particularly significant because the Conservative Party has always tried to portray itself as the party of military spending.

I mean, if you look back into their roots, you see questionable decisions like the scrapping of the Avro Arrow under a Conservative Government; but they have always suggested that they would be the party that stood up for a stronger Canadian military.

And while buying jets is all fine and dandy, one does have to wonder where these cuts are going to come from. Yes, some of it will come from the Conservative push to find redundancies and improve cost efficiency within the department...But at the same time, one can help but know something else lies just below the water.

After all, this is a government that spent $750,000 on a legal battle with disabled veterans over their pensions.

I guess what I'm saying is this: Even though the party has presented themselves as the 'friend' to the military, it seems pretty clear that they are anything but. Now, I'm not a big fan of ridiculous defence spending; in this day and age we do need a military, but we need to invest wisely and ensure that we're spending money on equipment that meets the needs that we have.

Furthermore, it seems like this government is only a friend to the military provided you are still serving. It seems that the moment you're out of the service, the government doesn't care about ensuring mental health services or even your pension and will fight tooth and nail to keep you from it.

If they claim to be a friend to the military, and in fact they are not, it makes you wonder which other 'friends' should be keeping a closer watch.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wotherspoon Campaign Update

As mentioned in my previous post, today will be a look at what I gleaned from attending a Trent Wotherspoon event here in Saskatoon the other day.

For the most part, it was a pretty standard event. It was fairly well attended, coffee and tea and treats were served, and people had an opportunity to speak to Trent one-on-one. Also, Trent stood up to take questions from the group and speak for a few moments as well. So, we'll post some of the answers to the questions that were presented; and we'll also add some analysis from myself as well.

First, let's start with a bit of analysis. As I've mentioned before, Trent has really hit the ground running when it comes to reaching people across Saskatchewan. As he spoke about the many places he's been thus far, despite only being in the race for a little over two weeks, it was already an impressive feat to behold. As of now, he is the most traveled of the candidates; and whether or not that will translate into snagging support in areas outside of his primary base in Regina remains to be seen, but it should help to give him an inside edge.

I'm reminded of some early advice I was given when I first started door-to-door canvassing, and that's that people remember when they met a candidate or a candidate's representative; and it's always better to be the first one to the doorstep than the last. On that front, Trent is doing very well to get out his candidacy and message to as many people as he can across the province on a personal level.

Before we get to the answers from questions, there's a few highlights from Trent's speech that I think are worthy of noting. I took drama in high school, and I was alright at it in my opinion, and as such I tend to rate speeches based on hitting certain points; such as a good, memorable line.

And Trent hammered a good line home, while talking about his experience in politics and his decision to seek the leadership, when he said the following: "I learned the most from those with the least." It's a pretty good, and memorable, phrase. And I think it also highlights some of the clear motivations for Trent's campaign, and further works on his "Forward Together" mantra.

Trent talked about the conditions he's seen in Regina, (conditions which span across Saskatchewan's largest centres, I can assure you), and really reminded all of us in the room that in this time of so-called financial prosperity there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people being left out in the cold (in some cases, quite literally.)

And of course, he built on it from there and went on to explain how the failings in addressing the housing situation affect other sectors like education, though this was a brief part of the speech. More so, the bulk of Trent's speech concerned rebuilding the party and the province through the creation of stronger partnerships with those within and outside the party.

It was a message of working together, regardless of political stripes, to achieve the best result; something the current government doesn't quite understand, locked as they are in the 'with us or against us' mentality favoured by American Republicans.

Trent also touched on a valid point that I think some of the other campaigns haven't mentioned yet (or at least, haven't mentioned in fullness), and that is the realization (or rather, realism) of the fact that this rebuilding will not be an overnight process and will not be accomplished simply when a new leader is selected.

The selection of a new leader is the first step, but we must continue to rebuild and restructure; and we must be ready, prior to an election, to present our ideas and vision for Saskatchewan to its people.

All in all, it was a strong speech (if not slightly brief), but I think it really helps solidify where the Wotherspoon campaign is coming from and what they hope to accomplish over the coming months.

Now; that brings us to the highlights of the questions that were asked. I did my best to copy down responses, but I can only write so fast and remain legible, so I don't have the complete word-for-word answers that Trent provided. However, I think we'll stick to as much of what he said as possible and try to avoid adding too much of my own interpretation or summation of his answers.

Please note, this is not all the questions that were asked or presented, but rather these are 'highlights' that I think help expand on what Trent's campaign is hoping to work towards during the leadership race.

1.) A question, well several, were presented over the closure of the PFRA Farms and the likely selling of their land properties. (* I must admit, I'm not too well versed on the PFRA Farms, but my understanding is as follows: The program was nixed by the Federal Government, who has basically shuffled down costs onto the Provincial Government, who in turn, is letting the project die and will sell off lands and equipment to the highest bidder. If that is incorrect, someone please let me know.)

Trent's Answer: The NDP has a good record of creating economic balances, and needs to work better in the future to create a similar system for the environment. We need an approach that examines and explores the effects that our decisions today will have on future generations. People who use the land (specifically cattlemen) are against the sale of the lands, since they will lose out to larger corporations, who will give little thought local economy and environmental protection.

2.) A question was presented over the decision to close the regional park in Leroy, SK.

Trent's Answer: Decisions were made behind closed doors and then the agreements were announced to the public as policy, regardless of what the people thought. A local board sold the park, with the provincial government signing off on the sale, but as a park taxpayer dollars went into it and no consideration was given to these taxpayers in the process. Instead, a handful of commitments were given to those interested in purchasing the land; and we all know how well those commitment deals worked in the past through SCN.

3.) A question was presented over the safety of our Crowns.

Trent's Answer: Our Crowns are not very safe. The government has been signing away agreements and developments to private industry, and these agreements are creating a future problem where the government's position in future negotiations with these private industries will be very weak. Things are being outsourced outside of the Crowns, denying them revenue, while at the same time the government scrapes as much revenue from the Crowns as they can to balance their own budgets.

Also, take the loss of the Sasktel rural broadband internet frequency. The government said they had fought to keep this frequency, but we never heard anything about it until it was too late to do anything about it. The government had been vocal before when it came to defending something in Saskatchewan, and was very public about their fight with the federal government, yet we heard nothing on this issue until it was too late. So, how exactly did they fight for it?

4.) A question was asked about the accuracy of the current government's financial picture.

Trent's Answer: It is not being accurately reported. We don't provide summary financial reporting, as other provinces do; and this government has taken $4 billion from both the Crowns and the "Rainy Day" Fund. They committed to not taking a dividend from SaskPower, yet at the last minute, they changed their minds and took $125 million from SaskPower. They claimed that this cost was covered by record rainfall that enhanced hydro throughout the province, but that rainfall only makes up $40 million of the cash that they took. Now, SaskPower is adjusting rates to make up $90 million; which directly passes the cost onto the consumer and the taxpayer.

The financial picture is worsening, as this government has not been good financial managers and are playing a 'shell game' by moving cash around to make things look rosier. This is a major concern in the coming year, as it will leave this government to with difficult decisions to make regarding programs and services and their funding.

5.) A question was raised about political funding and government transparency.

Trent's Answer: Government needs to be principled with how they deal with corporations, and right now this government is not. I support the removal of corporate and union donations from the political process; if you look at the last election, a CEO from Alberta donated $37,000 to the Saskatchewan Party. Out of province interests are having undue influence in our democracy and that must be addressed.

Government should also be more straight and transparent with the people, and be guided by facts rather than ideology. There is a worry that this government is becoming more arrogant, and not doing the things that they were elected to do. While this is important for us to highlight, we must also build a message that focuses on our strengths and solutions as opposed to the other side's shortcomings.

I think that about does it for the question highlights; I am worried that I had to restructure some answers and do some rephrasing to fill in gaps in my writing, but I don't think I've changed the meaning and truth behind the answers that were provided.

As noted, come Monday evening, I will be taking notes from the Erin Weir digital town hall; so expect a recap of answers from there to appear either late Monday or early Tuesday.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Brief Update

Sometimes, there's just not enough hours in the day. I attended a Trent Wotherspoon event in Saskatoon today; highlights and discussion points will be posted tomorrow.

Also, I will be attending the Erin Weir digital town hall and will post highlights from that event.

Sadly, I will not be attending the Broten Campaign Office opening, due to heading out of town for the Thanksgiving weekend...but I'm sure there will be a Broten event to make up for it in the future.

And no Meili campaign events in the near future that I can see posted, but I will keep my eyes peeled for that to change.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Slogans, Logos, and Thoughts: 4. Trent Wotherspoon

Trent Wotherspoon

Slogan: Forward Together

Initial Thoughts: Again, due to the similarities with Ryan's "Better Together" slogan, some of the impact is diminished with this slogan. However, despite the similarities, there are also some differences. Whereas Ryan's slogan suggests bringing people together, Trent's slogan seems to suggest more that no one will/should be left behind.

Perhaps I can explain that better. Trent's slogan more or less suggests that his approach to leadership would be to create policy that ensures that all people in the province move ahead in good times with no one left behind; whereas Ryan's seems to suggest more a bringing of people together to work together, Trent's is more about ensuring that everyone lifted up by government policy, as opposed to defining the way to achieve it.

Logo:

Initial Thoughts: One can debate whether or not the actual text of Trent's name is included in the logo, but either way, I've included, but will focus on the actual logo part more than anything else. The first time I saw this logo, I was actually blown away by it. Beauty in simplicity, I suppose. It's a good juxtaposition of Trent's initials, but of course, emphasizing the line that looks like a ballot check mark. So, while there's nothing to interpret, it's a very good logo.

Campaign Approach (Thus Far): 

Trent's main approach has been to get across the province as quickly as possible and meet with members in many communities. Trent's also been quick to organize meetings of his own in various communities, as opposed to simply 'piggybacking' on already organized events. Like Cam, Trent has been hammering home some of his own personal story into the campaign, but has also been building on the reputation he has built inside the legislature; mostly by focusing, and at this point winning, the endorsement battle and garnering the largest amount of current and former MLAs from the Saskatchewan caucus on his side.

Final Thoughts:

So, despite similarities with words, I think we've argued well enough that Ryan and Trent's slogans are just different enough if you scratch behind the surface and try to glean meaning from the words other than their face values. But still, one can't help but feel the slogans have been diminished all round due to the similarities. As for the logo, Trent kept it simple and really knocked it out of the park; a very strong round of kudos to whoever designed it.

And finally, for his approach, Trent has been doing well with the battle for endorsements; especially when compared to those in and formerly of the Saskatchewan NDP caucus. Erin's garnered a lot of support from economists, and that list alone gives him the most endorsements; but in terms of elected or formerly elected officials, Trent is leading the pack.

However, like Ryan's approach, Trent is taking a less visible course at the moment by engaging directly with members. The only advantage he has in this approach is that with the fall session of the legislature coming, he'll be able to become more easily visible, and show the people he's met with what he's capable of inside the legislative chamber.

Slogans, Logos and Thoughts: 3. Ryan Meili

Ryan Meili

Slogan: Better Together

Initial Thoughts: Unfortunately, the Meili Campaign has fallen into the same problem as the other campaigns; in that the slogan being used is very similar to another, in this case to Trent Wotherspoon's "Forward Together". However, the approach is very different than Cam or Erin's. Whereas those two campaigns are focused on helping to define the candidate, Ryan is taking a grander approach by defining what the party and province would be like with him at the helm.

Effectively, Ryan's slogan suggests that his campaign is about bringing people together, regardless of their political stripes and inclinations. It suggests that he is focused on leading the province, not just as an NDPer, but as a uniting figure that thinks the best approach is the one that brings the widest bunch of supporters to it. It's a message of inclusion, more or less.

Logo:

Like Erin's, Ryan's logo is mostly based around his name and slogan, though with a bit more artwork to it. And like Cam's, there is a bit of subtlety here. If we assume that the orange half circle in the logo is the sun, and the sun rises in the east, this is a rather clever suggestion that a "new day is dawning". It's actually pretty clever, if one stops to take a moment to think about it.

Campaign Approach (Thus Far):

Ryan's approach thus far as been pretty relaxed; if only because unlike the Erin (the other non-sitting MLA candidate), Ryan's profile is already pretty high given his last stab at the leadership. Ryan's main approach thus far seems to be about getting in touch with as many people as possible and building policy and momentum from there and building an 'inclusive democracy' right from the start of the campaign.

Final Thoughts:

Again, I've got to be a little harsh on the slogan, which I think most stems from just being astonished with how close all of them are to one another. It's a good message, and it comes across, but it comes across better when explained directly by Ryan rather than by a slogan. As for the logo, it is a bit of a thinking man's logo. It's subtle that some people might miss the implications upon first viewing, but also surprisingly blunt when you get it that there isn't much room for interpretation.

As for Ryan's approach, it's a good approach but it is also a risky one. Directly connecting with members isn't as flashy as some of the other approaches, especially once the legislative session gets started, and there is some worry that the campaign could make the least splash in terms of remaining visible. However, this could also be a boon if it is indeed Ryan's intention to remain outside the legislature until the next election. By building on the notion of a candidate who is out and connecting with voters, he could be hoping to be seen as a leader who would continue to keep that alive; and it's a very good position to be in.

Slogans, Logos, and Thoughts: 2. Erin Weir

Erin Weir

Slogan: Principled, Pragmatic, Progressive

Initial Thoughts: As I mentioned in Cam's post, the leadership race is a little bogged down with similar campaign slogans. Cam and Erin both use the three word punch to get their slogan across, and both use the word principled. The two slogans differ the most in the last word, as Erin keeps to using P while Cam switches to R. Either way, one does worry that two similar enough slogans in the race might have a net effect of simply cancelling each other out.

Like Cam's slogan, however, Erin's approach likely stems from a hope to get people to further look into Erin's past work. So, it's yet another use of buzzwords designed to generate interest and make the voter do a little more research into the candidate outside of the campaign.

Though the main point of Erin's slogan is to impress his key values to an electorate who will not be as familiar with him as some of the others seeking the job; which I think is the main reason for the inclusion of the word "Progressive", as it's one of those words all New Democrats love to hear and makes us feel more at ease.

Logo:

Now, this is where I might run into some trouble. Despite my perusing of the site, I haven't exactly identified a 'logo'. The best guess I have is the one below, which may or may not be the actual logo for the campaign. If it is not, then by all means, someone let me know and I'll update this section as needed.









Now, the commonality seems to be the use of a blue background and Erin's name in white text; either including the 'for Saskatchewan NDP Leader' footer or not. Now, as far as logos go, this approach is a pretty standard one. It gets the point across pretty quickly and doesn't beat around the bush with interpretative readings; which is inherently neither a good nor bad thing, just different.

Campaign Approach (Thus Far):

As one of two candidates without a seat in the legislature, Erin's approach has been about rising his profile as much as possible. Primarily, Erin's campaign has been playing the long media game and doing very well with that approach. It seems like since entering the race, Erin's name has popped up in the media every week with either a policy announcement or the announcement of a major event that Erin is involved in. Another part of this has been to keep his focus on Brad Wall, which in turn helps keep his campaign in the media.

Also, by focusing on Wall, Erin is setting himself up from the start as the man who is capable of going toe-to-toe with the Premier. The other campaigns have left Wall and the government mostly out of their campaigns, there are references but no direct challenges or call for action, and on that front Erin has staked out a territory that makes it appear he'll hit the ground running as leader.

Final Thoughts:

Like Cam's campaign, the slogan is only just alright. It may work at getting more people to do research into Erin's campaign, but the similarities to Cam's lead the odds that both slogans might just get lost along the noise of the campaign and not get paid much attention outside of these posts. The seeming lack of an actual logo is an interesting choice; especially if the foregoing of a logo is meant to show that Erin has more important concerns during the campaign then the creation of a logo.

Erin's campaign approach is solid and is definitely working at raising his profile in the province and even nationally, which is something that most of the other campaigns can't lay claim to. The only concern is that right now he is the main campaign taking on Wall; when the legislature is back in session, it's a guarantee that Cam and Trent will keep a lot of pressure on Wall and the government. As such, if Erin's campaign hasn't reached 'critical mass' for keeping pressure on Wall, there's a chance his campaign may just be another voice in the Wall crowd come the legislative sitting as opposed to the one that started the charge.

Slogans, Logos, and Thoughts: 1. Cam Broten

Despite what the title of the post might say, this is not going to be a close examination of the nuances of the campaigns; rather, as promised, this is going to be a very base look at the banalities of the campaigns. By banalities, I refer to slogans, logos, and other campaign tools that are used to reach out to voters quickly.

I want to preface this with one of my standard boilerplate warnings; I'm not a professional 'ad man', I've only got my knee-jerk reactions to these, but as a voter, I think it's still good to acknowledge what catches the eye and repeats on the brain.

We'll do this alphabetically by first name. Since these can get long winded, we'll break them into different posts.

Cam Broten

Slogan: Proven, Principled, Ready


Initial Thoughts: One of the problems with this current leadership race is the fact that all of the campaigns are pretty close slogan-wise. Cam and Erin both use the three word 'punch' slogan, and even both of them use the word principled. And then you have Ryan and Trent both using the word Together; so, a lot of commonalities. One wonders whether the behind the scenes machines are working on churning out any newer slogans to slowly replace the ones currently in the race; if so, hopefully they can avoid stepping too close to another campaign's.

As for the slogan itself, I think it does hammer down Cam's campaign pretty well.It gets the three main facts Cam wants you to know about him quickly, and sticks to a number of buzzwords that are ubiquitous enough that you want to research them. Take "Proven", for example. If you don't know much about Cam's experience in the legislature, you might look into just how well proven fits to his campaign.

The slogan effectively challenges the hearer/reader to do more research on Cam; and the more they do, the more they're likely going to like what they find, and see that the slogan is telling the truth.

Logo:  










Initial Thoughts: Thankfully, unlike the slogans, the logos tend to be quite a bit different. Now, I must admit that I have some ignorance here. I don't believe Cam or his campaign have quite explained the meaning behind the logo above, but I will attempt to derive meaning from it if the campaign hasn't put that out yet. There's a number of meanings one could glean from this logo, and I think we'll talk about three of them.

The first is "seeing the forest for the trees". That's an old phrase I like, which basically comes down to how we perceive things. Some people will look at a forest and see a forest; others will look at a forest and see the individual trees that make it up. What this seems to be suggesting is that Cam sees a bigger picture for the province, but he also wants us to know that there are individual parts that make up this bigger picture. So, there is an emphasis on looking at the big picture, but remembering that there are smaller things that make the big picture possible in the first place.

The second reading of this would be continue on the thought-line of the first, but identify the pieces. Whether it is supposed to represent the three levels of government (municipal, provincial, federal) working together; or whether it is supposed to be something as wide in scope as community, family, and individuals is also possible.

The third reading of it goes back to the slogan; each piece represents one of the buzzwords, and the combining of those words creates a whole piece. This is probably my least favourite interpretation, if only because it is devoid of any real symbolism, but I felt we needed to put it out at at least.

Either way, it is a nuanced logo which is open to interpretation. Whether Cam's campaign steps forward to identify the actual meaning behind it, or if they have and I simply missed it, remains to be seen. There is also the chance they'll just leave it and allow people to draw their own conclusions.

Campaign Approach (Thus Far): 

Cam's campaign approach thus far as been about focusing on telling his own personal story; to approach the race as a person rather than a politician. But at the same time, Cam was the first in the race and the first to release a very comprehensive plan regarding the broad strokes he would undertake as leader and Premier.

Final Thoughts:

Shall we use a rating system, or is that a little to cliched? Also, I suppose it's completely subjective from my point of view...So, let's forgo the rating system and instead focus on the facts. The slogan is alright in that it forces people to do more research on Cam, but the similarity with other campaigns might hamper this. The logo is interesting, and open to interpretation, and might be better left undefined. And the approach taken thus far is a good indicator that Cam's campaign is gunning to be the 'everyman'/'approachable/accessible' candidate in the race.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Night Campaign Updates

Since we talked a bit about Trent Wotherspoon's campaign stop in Prince Albert, we should take a moment to talk about what the other campaigns are up to.

Cam Broten scored an endorsement from former NDP MLA Len Taylor, and spent sometime in and around The Battlefords.

Ryan Meili's campaign put their idea of campaign involvement to the street, literally, as part of Parking Day event in Saskatoon. The campaign collected numerous "ballots" from citizens who marked down issues and policy ideas; the event is still going, as far as I know, and the number of ballots already collected is only guaranteed to grow.

Erin Weir's campaign meanwhile is touting Erin's involvement at the 2012 Banff Forum; where he'll have the chance to rub shoulders with (and perhaps challenge) Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and other provincial Finance Ministers; as well as Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney.

The Weir Campaign is also gearing up for a digital town hall on October 1st and are looking for questions to be submitted through their campaign website and Facebook page.

That about wraps up the most recent campaign developments; our next post will be an op-ed piece, so look forward to that.

Taking it to the Streets

Source: Prince Albert Herald

Of the candidates thus far, it seems that Trent Wotherspoon is getting the jump on having the most public appearances; as the candidate sat down with a group of people in Prince Albert this week, and will be heading to Saskatoon this coming week.

While all of the candidates have been taking their own approach to meeting with your average Saskatchewan residents, by my view, Trent has certainly taken the widest approach and has been jumping across the province to attend events. (It is possible that I have missed some news from the other campaigns regarding event attendance, so if I am wrong and any of the other candidates have been as travel happy as Trent, please let me know.)

And it was in Prince Albert that Trent began to outline a bit of his vision for Saskatchewan, if he were to be elected as leader. Essentially, it was Trent expanding on his campaign's motto of "Forward Together" (which is quite a bit similar to Ryan Meili's "Better Together". There is going to be a point where I discuss the mottos, logos, and other banalities of the campaign and score them based on what they've put forward thus far, so stay tuned for that.)

So, how did Trent expand on his vision for the province? By reminding us, that much like the song, we're all in this together. He highlighted the need for housing in this province, and more importantly the need for affordable housing. He expanded, however, showing how the ridiculous cost of housing has an impact on other areas of the province.

Trent explained, very well in my opinion, that families are choosing between the cost of living and the cost of other essentials, like food. And a child growing up in a home where food isn't readily available in turn affects our education sector, which in turn affects that child's and the province's future prospects. You'd think it would be a common mindset that what we do today will affect what happens tomorrow; but some people often lose the big picture and can't see the forest for the trees.

I've spoken before on this blog about how some politicians are purely creatures of the Id, caring only for what happens today and the immediate gratification that comes with it. As such, it's nice to see someone in the race immediately extolling the virtue of long term planning and realizing that a decision in one area will have an impact elsewhere as well. That government decisions are not an island, and cuts or increased spending in one sector will impact another.

I'm sure it's a mindset that all of the candidates can agree to; and depending on how future policy developments and fully fleshed out platforms develop, it will be interesting to see which candidate puts the most emphasis on creating a plan that is not only clear vision for the province, but one that understands how the actions contained within will affect areas outside of those sectors.

And I'm sure as Trent continues to move across the province, we'll begin to see that principle in effect in the policies that are brought forward by his campaign.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Enter the Twitter War

Ah, time for some personal opining, as opposed to direct reporting and coverage of what has developed thus far.

Now, back in the day, I was one of those people who mocked Twitter. I thought the concept of it was a little silly, and that it was basically another means for self-centered people who wanted to let the world know every last little detail that was going on in their lives. And while some people may use twitter for that, I think it has at least evolved into a good communications tool for getting messages and slogans out, especially for political campaigns.

However, there has been a question over whether politicians should even dive into the murky waters that is the Twitterverse. Many, especially American politicians, have condemned the use of Twitter simply due to it being a place for users to attack, condemn, and otherwise bother those politicians who have a twitter feed. And then, of course, there's American politicians who use it to throw around questionable material...

As Canadians, we like to think that we're a genteel sort; wouldn't hurt a fly and ever so polite. Well, that assumption kind of goes to the wayside if you've ever viewed a flame war online. For those of you not too familiar with the term 'flame war', effectively it's just an increasingly hostile conversation between two or more online commentators.

Now, having said that, I stumbled upon a bit of a flame war myself that I think is worth talking about.

Several of the people I follow on twitter have taken to attacking some of the NDP Leadership candidates over the notion of removing corporate and union donations from political campaigns. The problem isn't that people don't support the idea, rather the problem is that people think this slate of leadership candidates should lead by example and exclude union donations from their leadership bid.

The problem here is a matter of delicacy. I don't like gossip, it's just too tawdry for my tastes, which is why I'm going to do my best to keep this as anonymous as possible. Effectively, as far as I can see, a supporter of one campaign started the whole ball rolling by actively asking a different campaign about whether or not they were taking union donations during their leadership bid.

The campaign responded by saying that they weren't going to effectively handicap themselves during the leadership race, and that the policy that was brought forward is much more meaningful when held to the scope of the entire province.

Needless to say...I don't think that was the answer the original questioner was looking for, as it evolved into a greater level of bashing with more people (one of whom I would argue is incredibly high profile) joining in to condemn the response and attempt to tout a 'mightier than thou' attitude towards their own supported candidates.

I imagine this will continue until the campaign at question stops attempting to reply, and even then, I imagine a few others will continue to jump on them in the name of supporting their own candidates.

Now, some of this might sound like gossip, rather than something that needs to be talked about. I must disagree and now explain to you all why I've decided to talk about this at all.

For those of you who haven't seen this photo, it comes from the most recent Saskatchewan Young New Democrats gathering. At the convention, all four leadership candidates met for the first time and managed to be pretty cordial to one another. I mean, that photo sort of says it all, don't you think? Four men, all of them committed to social values and positive change for Saskatchewan, all able to sit down with one another and not come to blows or a heated exchange.

I know that candidates can't take responsibility for the actions of their supporters; but I do think we can at least expect our candidates to remind supporters that at the end of the day we're all on the same team. If you've picked your candidate, then by all means, support them by donating money or volunteering...But you probably shouldn't take to twitter or facebook or anywhere and start attacking a campaign.

It's bad form. Yes, there are questions that can be asked of any campaign, but there must also be tact.

There was a level of discourse set by these four men, and most of them have already spoken about the need to change politics and the hostile approaches taken in the debating of policy. They have called on us all to step up and change the way we do politics; so it's rather disheartening to then see supporters of one campaign involve themselves in the old school attacks and vitriol that has existed in politics for far too long. 

On a technical note, I can't speak to the finances of any of the campaigns. I don't know which have received money from unions during this leadership bid and which have not; having said that, I would venture to guess that in some form or another all of the campaigns have received or will receive donations from union, corporate, and personal sources before the leadership campaign is through.

Yes, we can aspire to be better. And all of the candidates have spoken in favour of getting big money out of politics; so, before we start attacking one campaign for turning away from this ideal for the leadership contest, let's be sure that all the other campaigns haven't already done the same. In the end, civility is always better than hostility any day.
 


A Look at Unemployment

Source: Star Phoenix, Labour Market Getting Tighter

First post for today, though there is another one coming shortly that will be a critique post rather than an information post; but let's get facts and news sorted first, shall we?

Most of the campaigns seem to have developed their approaches to the campaign over the last couple of weeks. The Broten and Wotherspoon campaigns seem to be focused on reaching out to current members first and will likely evolve to expand past that scope as the race goes on. The Meili campaign seems focused on reaching out to past Meili leadership supporters and reaching out to bring new members into the party. And the Weir campaign, which we will focus on in this post, seems to be going for the widest public message by keeping the most pressure on the Wall Government.

That theme has continued with the Weir campaign going after the Wall Government and their responses to employment in the province. We all know that Premier Wall likes to talk about their being a labour shortage in the province, so much so that he feels the need to reach out to places like Ireland to find workers. But recent numbers, and Weir has pointed this out, suggest that the inverse of this assumption is true.

Now, I'm not the strongest numbers guy; so I won't bog anyone else who doesn't like too many numbers down, but I will throw out the important ones. Basically, it comes down to this: The number of people seeking work in the province (and I include myself in this number) are 27,000. The number of job openings in the province are 14,500.

The astute among you will have noticed that the number of unemployed is almost double the number of job openings.

Now, I will admit to some bias here, as I mentioned I include myself in the number of those seeking employment. I've talked about this a little before on the blog, though I do try to avoid getting too personal, I just want to say that it's at least somewhat gratifying to know that my misfortune in this area of finding employment isn't all my fault.

However, and this is a bit of editorializing, there truly is not enough being done by the current government to help people like me. After all, when you have more unemployed than jobs, it becomes a corporate market. Those doing the hiring can be a bit more, rigid, in who they want to hire because there is literally thousands of applications to choose from.

Meanwhile, hundreds if not thousands of those people will continue to fall through the cracks. And yes, gutting the public service as the Wall and Harper Governments have done over the past few years have contributed to this. I mean, to be honest, I have a degree in political science; I was basically trained to be a civil servant, and now careers in that field are less and less available.

But enough personal, let's get back to business. As it stands now, the Weir campaign is continuing to keep pressure on the Wall Government. And it should prove to be an effective strategy, as Mr. Weir has popped up in editorials and newspapers quite a bit more than the other candidates have thus far in the campaign. Of course, some might argue that the others (has sitting MLAs and a former leadership candidate) don't need to raise their profile as much as Weir does. And while that does have a ring of truth to it, I think it would be a mistake to write this off as simply a means to raise Weir's profile and nothing else.

The longer the other campaigns leave Weir as the only candidate standing up against the current government, the more likely it may look that he's the one who's up to the challenge.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dissemination 4: Trent Wotherspoon

Source: Trent Wotherspoon Campaign Website

Trent's website at the moment is also a little bare-boned, but it's not surprising given that he and Ryan Meili are the two newcomers to the race at only a few days ago; so I imagine we'll see some growth and some expansion to the sites in the days ahead.

What we can take from Trent's website at the moment is that he's focusing on inclusion of people into the party, but also ensuring that people have access to their political representatives in general (through his condemnation of only special interests being able to reach the Premier's office, for example.)

He also seems to be calling for an approach to dealing with problems based on factual solutions, as opposed to ideological ones.

The biggest difference, if one can call it that, that I can see on Trent's site is his long list of endorsements from current and former Saskatchewan MLAs. With the exception of Erin Weir, Trent is the only other candidate who is putting an emphasis on the list of people who have endorsed him for the top job. (Cam's campaign mentions the two current and former MLAs who were with him when he announced, but there is no dedicated list of endorsements; and Dr. Meili's campaign seems to be pushing for an open endorsement page, where anyone can sign on [like a guestbook] as a show of support, as opposed to an actual endorsement page.)

So, much like the Meili campaign, we'll have to sit back for a moment and wait for some of Trent's campaign platform planks to make their way to the forefront.


Dissemination 3: Ryan Meili

 Source: Ryan Meili Campaign Website

As it stands, the Meili campaign website is a little bare-bones at the moment. As such, this will likely be the briefest of the 4 dissemination posts. However, I do look forward to adding more information as it is received.

Effectively, at the moment, there are no real campaign announcements or platform policies on the website at the moment. As such, there's little to discuss right now.

However, and the philosopher in me loves this, the website currently talks more about how the Meili campaign will be approaching the leadership race and to a degree how Dr. Meili would serve as a leader and the thoughts behind his decision making process.

Primarily, the Meili campaign has announced that it will be seeking 'innovative ways for developing progressive, practical, innovative and evidence-based policy ideas geared towards building a healthy society.' On the face of it, it seems that Dr. Meili is taking an open approach and waiting to see what some of his supporters are calling for before making any substantial policy announcements.

The major development on the website, at the time of this posting, was the call for evidence based politics. Dr. Meili condemns the current political system as one where ideology and popularity are decision makers are opposed to what is the best course of action and what is supported by fact.

With that as a guiding point for his campaign, it should be interesting to see what policy developments come out in the weeks ahead.

Dissemination 2: Cam Broten

* I'm going to point out that this post is a little longer than the last one on Erin Weir; I want to assure readers that this is due to their being more information to look at on Cam's site at the present moment rather than some perceived bias.

Source: Cam Broten Campaign Website

Alright, so let's move this along to Cam Broten's campaign.

Cam's developed a fairly comprehensive platform right out of the gate, at least in terms of developing core ideas that he would approach as leader. At this point in the race, like the other campaigns, the thought process is there and we'll wait to hear later on on the exact specifics of how Cam will achieve what he's laid out.

So, let's start with Cam's 'vision for the party'.

Reviving the SK NDP


Firstly, there is the call for improving the way the party communicates with members. Broten's strategy is a revamping of the NDP newspaper, increased web presence, increased web communication, and enhancing communication with grassroots members to various levels of the party machine. All of which sound like a good idea, but the specifics will determine whether it will work in practice as well as theory.

Secondly, Cam calls for a new way of training New Democrats. Effectively, Cam seems to be calling for two things here: First, that the party work throughout the time prior to election to train campaign workers and ensure that people feel comfortable volunteering for a campaign. And second, that the party work almost as a mentor to younger and new candidates who will be seeking election in the future. Again; good concepts, but it will all come down as to how this 'New Democrat Academy' operates to determine whether or not it is a viable plan.

Thirdly, Cam calls for the way provincial council operates to be reformed. Now, some people might not be too familiar with the idea of council; I know that when I first started out in politics, I didn't know about it, so allow me to explain. Each constituency selects two members, usually from the executive or those willing to serve, to sit as councilors. Council meets a few times a year to discuss policies, practices, and other things of importance.

Cam seems to be suggesting that this process be expanded, to allow more input from councilors into the inner-workings of the party. His coupled this with approaching policy from a more open perspective, which I will discuss now.

Developing Party Policy


Moving slightly away from the vision for the party, Cam's called for a new approach to developing party policy by being more inclusive. This is unsurprising, given how Cam was the pointman for the party's policy review roundtables that took place prior to the last election. The policy review program was a good idea, and I think it produced some good ideas, so keep it in place only seems right.

More importantly, Cam is calling for the policy adaptation to be moved from a single yearly convention to a year-round process that takes place on multiple levels. Furthermore, several key policy committees would be formed to meet and present monthly updates in the build up to adapting said policy, or dismissing it, based on votes by the members.

As I've said, an inclusive policy development program is a good idea, and Cam seems to be on the right track with developing policy as a leader. However, one does have to worry slightly that it will hamper his chances in the race, if only because it will prevent him from announcing grand policy planks for a future campaign. One could argue he could still do this, footnoting that it would be subject to the approval of the party, and perhaps that would take away the problem...But we shall see in the weeks ahead.

Women in Politics


Next, we come into an area where Cam and Erin are likely to find a lot of common ground, and that is increasing women in the legislature.

The first major difference in their approaches is that Cam seems to have a clearer strategy on how to bring more women into the legislature; which, I must say, had to have had some help from fellow MLA Danielle Chartier, as I have had the chance to see her speak to the role of women in politics a few times and a lot of what she has covered seems to be present here.

Firstly, Cam is proposing the creation of a one-year study to establish a strategy to get more women to run for public office. I think if Cam's approach to leadership thus far could be summarized, it would be that he is very pro-committee and study, which is a good trait for a leader to have. That paper would then be amended as needed by the party members and used as the backbone for drawing more women to political life; I imagine it will also try to identify the reasons why more women don't get involved in public office, and that alone would be interesting to see.

Secondly, Cam is calling for female candidates to be matched with experienced candidates; which include current and former MLAs. This is a good idea, not just for female candidates, but for any candidate. Perhaps this will be included with his idea of a New Democrat Academy, but we'll see how it forms.

Thirdly, like Weir, Cam is calling for the legislature to be made a more family friendly place; which includes considering hours of sitting and the availability of childcare. But Cam has also called for caucus meetings and other work functions to consider the use of video-conferencing and other technologies to keep MLAs at home and with their families more often.

Finally, Cam has called for a higher level of debate in the legislature. While he hasn't laid out exactly what he intends to do, I think all of us can who have ever watched CPAC or the Saskatchewan Legislature Channel or in person, can agree that we need to raise the level of discourse beyond name calling and questionable statements.

Increasing Communal Representation

Cam wants the party to reach out to segments of the population who should have a lot of common ground with the NDP, and who can play a role in growing the party for the future.

Firstly, through engaging with young people by increasing the roles of campus NDP organizations on all campus across Saskatchewan; but also by reaching out to youth wings of other organizations, such as the Saskatchewan Youth Parliament.

Secondly, by reaching out to Aboriginal and M├ętis communities and establishing good relations with them and better addressing issues that concern their communities.

Thirdly, by reaching out to new Canadians and encouraging them to become more involved with the party.

Finally, by winning back supporters who have left the party by acknowledging past shortcomings and mistakes.

Effectively, the standard NDP lines we've heard for a few years here; as the party has worked for a long time to reach out to many of these groups. So, Cam's more or less towing the line on this approach, but we'll see if any of his suggestions to engaging these groups are more successful than what has been done in the past.

Increasing the Party's Fortunes in Rural Sask.

Again, for the most part, Cam isn't rocking the boat with his approaches to what to do with rural Saskatchewan in terms of gaining support, with one notable exception you'll find under the secondly discussion area.

Firstly, taking our mea culpas and just reaching out to the rural areas and reminding them that they are not being adequately represented by the Saskatchewan Party.

Secondly, the creation of long-term candidates. Effectively, in rural areas, a candidate who was defeated (but would run again in the next election), can be blessed upon approval by the constituency executive and membership to remain as a candidate up to the next election. It's an interesting thought, and one wonders whether or not it would work in urban areas as well. I'll have a lot to say about this when I start actually providing opinions on the policies.

Thirdly, Cam's bringing back the mentor program and suggesting that rural candidates should be given some insight by previously successful candidates in rural areas.

And finally, as I'm combining the last two, making better use of and maintaining party resources to keep 'boots on the ground', if you will.

Enhancing the Legislature

A few retouches here, namely raising the level of political discourse inside the legislature; but Cam also brings forward the idea of opening up the political process through regular involvement with communities; through the use of things such as town hall meetings and an enhanced online presence.

He's also calling for more time to examine legislation, and budgets, as they are brought forward.

Equality

This will likely be an area where all of the leadership candidates agree, so it will be interesting to see the different approaches each bring forward on how to achieve what they are laying out.

Firstly, working with community partners to reduce poverty.

Secondly, government investment in social housing and tax benefits to increase the number of rental units and housing options across Saskatchewan.

Thirdly, revamping our school systems to enhance retention of students and staff, while also addressing funding issues.

Fourthly, protecting the rights of workers and indexing the minimum wage while also developing economic community development.

Finally, fairer approaches to taxation and resource royalty rates.

Health Care

Again, this is likely an area where the candidates will agree to most of the broad brushstrokes of improvement, but will differ in how they hope to achieve it.

Firstly, expanding health care to include more primary health care teams that focus on the whole slate of medical practitioners. 

Secondly, expanding home care delivery services.

Thirdly, better assisted living, long care, and end of care facilities; including the creation of long term assisted living wings.

Fourthly, reigning in drug costs through partnerships with the federal government and other provinces to create a national drug plan.

Fifthly, increased work on preventative medicine.

Sixthly, building more efficiency into the public model.

Finally, expanding care in Northern Saskatchewan.

Environment

Again, another area where candidates are unlikely to disagree...Though in truth, pretty much all of these areas are unlikely to see too much disagreement from the candidates. So, I'm going to stop indexing that, and just present what Cam is proposing.

Firstly, developing a Saskatchewan Natural Index to gauge the health of the province's environment.

Secondly, using the Crowns to spearhead development of environmentally friendly business practices and green technologies.

Thirdly, the creation of a smart grid that allows users to generate their own power and feed excess power back into the grid for a credit.

Fourthly, better protections through development of research with community partners.

Fifthly, the creation of more green-based jobs in Saskatchewan.

Finally, an increased approach to watching water consumption and conservation.

Rural Issues

Considering thus far that all of our candidates are 'urban' based, it'll be interesting to see which campaign brings forth the best plan for addressing concerns of rural voters.

Firstly, better tracking of indicators (such as food import levels VS food export levels).

Secondly, the creation of a strong local foods movement.

Thirdly, a call to increase levels of organic farming.

Fourthly, revamping of the current crop insurance system with public input.

Fifthly, the creation of a generational farm transfer program.

Finally, opportunities for farms to produce more power; likely tied to the creation of the smart grid previously mentioned.

********************

That about does it for the campaign information put forward by Cam's campaign thus far; and by-golly, there is a lot of information there to go through. I've done the broad strokes here, so, if you're looking for more detail I'd encourage you to check out Cam's website (link is at the top of the post).

As Cam brings forward the specifics on how to achieve these goals, I'll post those as well, much as I will for the other campaigns.

Dissemination 1: Erin Weir

Alright, a flurry of posts are about to go up here on the blog. With reporting on Erin Weir's campaign proposal to eliminate corporate and union donations to political parties within Saskatchewan, it seems only right that we should take a look at the proposals that have come out thus far.

As such, there will be four main posts; broken into each candidate, and these four posts will be used for the purpose of helping those voting determine which leadership candidate is right for them. I will permalink these pages to the sidebar for ease of finding them as well.

Also, since I don't think it's suitable to go back and edit each post every time something new gets added, we shall be taking advantage of Blogger's tagging system.So, to the right hand side of your screen, you'll see a new gadget called 'labels'. Each candidate will have a label assigned to them, and all posts mentioning them will be tagged, so you'll be able to keep up to date with information from/about them as we update.

Also, as these profiles will have a link to the candidate's main webpage, it will be a handy reference for that as well.

Easy as pie, I think. So, without further ado, let's start by looking at the campaign information that has come out from Erin Weir's campaign. Also, I am going to hold my tongue a bit for the moment. These are simply highlights from the platform that has been presented thus far, with little to no feedback from me. The feedback will come en masse eventually, but for now, I'd prefer just to get the information out there.

*********************************

Source: Erin Weir Campaign Site

Representative Democracy


Firstly, as mentioned, Weir's campaign has hit hard with the idea of campaign finance reform and the banning of corporate and union donations to political parties. Weir's campaign has done well to include this in a unifying theme of 'representative democracy', as it turns less people away than the term 'campaign finance reform'.

Weir has also hammered the Saskatchewan Party's approach to excluding under 18 year olds from report data that was used to help determine the redistribution of constituencies throughout Saskatchewan. It's a move the NDP has condemned since the determination was made, so its good to see that he's sticking to the party's guns on this matter.

Finally, under the representative democracy label, Weir has addressed the need to establish legislative time tables for the appointment of officials; namely mentioning the jockeying that went on at Elections Saskatchewan after the SK Party refused to appoint a new Chief Electoral Officer, despite a candidate being proposed and supported by the legislature.This is an issue that I think has fallen off the wayside, as I don't think many people give too much thought as to legislative appointments (with the exception of egregious ones that reek of partisanship), so it will be interesting to see whether or not this notion gains any political traction during the campaign.

Women in Politics


Weir has also stressed the need for getting more women involved in politics; and if you look at the seats of the legislature, you can see the point. This is another NDP staple of many years, but Weir is approaching it with strengthening the mechanisms in place through allowing tax receipts for donations to the Bessie Ellis fund and modifying nomination rules to promote equity-candidates.

Weir's campaign hasn't quite defined whether equity-candidates would extend only to increase women in the legislature, or whether it will apply to various people such as Aboriginals and LGBT candidates as well. I imagine it would, but it would be nice to indeed hear that that will be the case.

Finally, Weir has called for the legislature to be respectful of the needs of the people who sit within it, mainly by promoting reasonable hours and childcare facilities. A reasonable request, no doubt, but also one that has been kicked around the provincial party for a few years. I do worry, however and this is just my opinion, that this is too simplistic an approach.

By which I mean, it seems to suggest that fewer women seek office in Saskatchewan for these two reasons, which essentially boil back down into time spent with family and children. I do worry that it comes off as too simplistic an answer, rather than addressing the real reasons why fewer women seek public office in our province, but that aside it is a good idea to address none the less; if only because as gender roles have changed in our society, fathers could also use the space to bring younger children to work and have time to spend with their families.

Tuition


Finally, Weir's campaign has also called on the need for the province to implement a tuition freeze, though his campaign has yet to incorporate the idea into his platform, I imagine it will only be a matter of time until it is official policy though.

He is right to point out that wages have dropped and tuition has gone up; furthermore, tuition rates have gone up higher and faster than the SK Party projected when they eliminated the tuition freeze during their first term in office.

And that, in a nutshell, is what has been brought forward by the Weir campaign thus far. This post will not be modified to include new policy developments, but future posts will be tagged for ease of finding under the subject of Erin Weir.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Opening Salvo

Even though the Saskatchewan NDP race is barely a week old, we've already seen some interesting developments come out it. While it does seem like this group of four will be the only contenders for the position, I'm still not ruling out a last minute entrance by either a sitting MLA or an 'outsider'...Though, I think we can agree that based on Buckley Bellanger's approval of the four candidates running, he will likely be sitting this race out; so, that question I think has an answer.

What's more interesting is the fact that we already have a significant policy development at this point in the race; I refer to the idea to ban corporate and union donations to political parties within the province. The idea popped up thanks to Erin Weir's campaign, as it was his first major announcement, and now all four candidates have identified themselves as agreeing with the concept.

Federally, this isn't that new of an idea. Contributions from corporations and unions have been barred for a few years now, though like any donation law there are ways around it for those who truly want to find a way, on ALL sides of the political spectrum.

So, the first measure of which campaign will be the most successful with this concept is the team that manages to draft a proposal for the ban that will have some teeth behind it. Weir's campaign likely has the inside track on this proposal, so we'll have to wait and see what exact details they have to accompany the announcement and how it will be enforced and what sort of punishments there will be for those who flaunt the law.

Of course, there is now increased heat on the Saskatchewan Party over the proposal. As more and more facts start to come out with regards to the ban, including the fact that the SK Party raked in over $3.1 million in corporate donations, people are going to start paying more attention to this as an issue and may demand that something be done about it sooner rather than later.

As such, Weir's campaign has scored a pretty good opening hit not only against the other leadership candidates but also against the sitting government as well. If Wall's government is forced to respond to this, and bring in debate and discussion prior to the NDP Leadership Convention, Weir will have a pretty large feather in his cap.

On the reverse, if Wall does nothing and says nothing, there's a chance to take some the wind out of Weir's sails and leave him scrambling to try and bring another issue to the forefront. 

As far as opening salvos go, this was was a humdinger, and I think establishes that Weir might be a candidate that more people are going to want to pay attention to as the race develops.

But of course, the race is still quite young, and who knows what new policy developments will come forward. And as said before on this blog, it seems like we're going to be in for quite the interesting race in the months ahead.

Friday, September 14, 2012

And Then There Were Four

Well, talk about a busy afternoon, or rather perhaps more accurately mid-morning.

As of today, Dr. Ryan Meili and current Regina Rosemont MLA Trent Wotherspoon have thrown their hats into the race for leader of the Saskatchewan NDP.

So, that brings us four: (in alphabetical order by last name):
Cam Broten, MLA Saskatoon Massey Place
Ryan Meili, Physician
Erin Weir, Economist
Trent Wotherspoon, MLA Regina Rosemont

It seems more than likely that this will be where the entrances stop; though, I'm not ruling it out. In April or so, we heard musings from Saskatoon Nutana MLA Cathy Sproule that she would be mulling over a decision to run or not, and as of yet, I don't believe we've heard a firm answer either way. There's also always the off chance that another non-MLA candidate could step forward in the weeks ahead.

Either way, as most of the candidates have said themselves, we've got a strong slate of candidates and it's going to be interesting hearing from them all and about their visions for the province and the party in the months ahead.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

What To Expect.

With the announcement of Erin Weir as the official second candidate in the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race, it would seem that the race will be getting interesting fairly soon. So, that makes Cam Broten and Erin Weir as our two candidates thus far; but there's still a few 'expected' candidates (Namely, Trent Wotherspoon), and few will they or won't they candidates (Ryan Meili, and Cathy Sproule come to mind in that category).

What can be said is this: The blog, as it has done in other leadership races, will try to remain objective and fair minded. Those of you who have kept track of comments on the blog recently, will notice that I'm not going to put up with any hearsay or fingerpointing over past events...Or at least, I won't if they're not supported by factual evidence.

Objectivity is the name of the game here; as is trying to help inform those who will be making the decision to select the next leader of the Saskatchewan NDP.

With that in mind, I've been reaching out to the campaigns with a series of questions to be posted on this blog as they are received. Hopefully, they provide some insight into the candidate as not only a politician, but a person as well. And, ideally, that will help us all make the best decision when it comes time to select a new leader.

The questions will be the same to each candidate, with no alternating questions or 'specialized' questions or the like. The answers will be posted unedited, save for grammar and spelling checks by me, and there is no limit on the length of the answer provided. The candidate is free to provide as much as they need to say to answer the question, whether it be a longer answer or shorter.

So, it's a good chance for you to see the candidate through their own words. Other than that, I think it's safe to say that there won't be any endorsements flowing from this blog. This is for a variety of reasons, chiefly the objectivity I talk about; but also slightly because I don't think I've developed the political swagger for an endorsement to matter. So, no illusions of grandeur here, just good ole' fashion objectivity.

Well, that being said, there is one last thing I want to mention. In my previous reflections on what we could hope to see from a leadership race, I made a few predictions and some of them have already gone out the window. Perhaps the most important of which is the fact that Danielle Chartier is supporting Cam Broten's campaign, rather than mounting her own campaign to become leader.

It was a surprising move by all accounts, not in that she would support a fellow caucus member or Cam in particular, but more so just her bowing out of the run. So, that choice alone already makes the race an interesting one.

The other prediction, or rather this was more of a recommendation, was the role of an outsider running for the nomination. Erin Weir, who is not a current MLA, is already one of those outsiders. And we may yet see more, if Ryan Meili or Yens Peterson take another stab at the job. In fact, it could be rather possible for this race to develop into a majority of outsiders...If both Meili and Peterson enter, then we'd have maybe only two sitting MLAs and 3 non-MLA candidates running for the job.

I'm still not sure on whether a non-MLA candidate is the best choice for the party right now, but I'm certainly willing to listen to those who are approaching the race from that position. And Weir also has a benefit in that he avoids the pratfall of trying to secure a Saskatoon riding; as his campaign is based in and around Regina and he would likely seek to represent that city.

After all, there are one or two MLAs in Regina who I think would be willing to step aside for the new leader; as opposed to maybe only one here in Saskatoon.

But, we can save the speculation for another day; hopefully one when we know who all the candidates will be and what we can expect from their campaigns.


On a side note; I do know that there are a lot of things to talk about federally (the ongoing Enbridge review, Harper's cuts to Aboriginal spending, as well as a few other things) and we will eventually get back into the swing of the Federal issues. We may even go back to cover those issues above, as they are very worthy of discussion.

But until then, expect the blog to try and stay a bit more provincially minded for the time being.






Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Few Things to Talk About

As the post title implies, we have a few things to talk about today.

Firstly, I think we need to discuss the events that unfolded in the aftermath of the PQ victory in last night's election. As you should all be aware, an individual opened fire at the PQ Party, killing one and injuring at least two others. While media reports have been slow, other than identifying the shooter, there does seem to be some evidence that this was likely politically motivated.

Now, as a political commentator and some would say a political partisan, I know that there are times when we don't see the result we want from our democratic process. But, we must always respect the choices that are made by the democratic process. While we may disagree, as is our right, there are other avenues to express our disagreement. Violence has no place in politics, if it even has a place at all in our society, and what occurred in Quebec last night has no excuse and hopefully will never happen again.

As many of you who read the blog know, I've put emphasis on words as the best way of dissenting from a political standpoint. Language and discussion are our best path forward when it comes to political disagreement; Mao Zedong famously said that political power comes from the barrel of a gun, but he also said politics is war without bloodshed. When even Mao Zedong condemns violence as political action, you know that we've taken a misstep somewhere as a society to see it occur in our own country.

Our hearts go out to those who have been touched by this tragedy, and the actions of this individual, and I think we can all say that this has shocked us all and all of us condemn this action.

Now, moving towards Saskatchewan news.

Firstly, let us talk about Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent coming on down to Saskatoon to talk about some new emission standards. Awhile back, some reports came out that Kent was going to get a bit tougher with coal power emissions; rumours abounded that we'd see a restriction of 375 tonnes of CO2 emissions per gigawatt hour and that coal plants would have 45 years to make their plants meet this standard.

Ok, so maybe the term getting tougher was a bit broad there...

But of course, as is a Conservative's want, Kent introduced regulations that were worse than expected. Instead of the lower 375 tonnes, coal energy emitters have been given 420 tonnes. This is in addition to an extra five years to make the upgrades, so a grand total of 50 years instead of 45.

At this point, we really should just call Kent Minister for the Destruction of the Environment. I've talked before on this blog about how Conservatives are creatures of Freud's psychological Id, that they are creatures of the now and care only about fulfilling wants and desires rather than long term consequence.

I'm 25 years old. In 50 years, when these upgrades are supposed to be done, I will be 75 years old. That is practically my entire life time.

There is no denying that coal is one of the dirtiest forms of energy still in use today; many scientific inquiries point to that, and on top of which, we can look to the history of the Industrial Revolution to see what sort of effects mass burning of coal had on the environment around it.

There is talk of 'clean coal', but this is no more achievable than 'dry water'. We can make coal less dangerous to the environment, but we can never make it clean. As such, if we do actually care about emissions and clean power (which the Conservatives have made damn clear they don't), we should be slowly curtailing forms of energy that are outdated while working towards transitioning workers and jobs into clean energy sectors. (See my post, Evolution of the Economy for more on that line of thought.)

Effectively, these new regulations are about as useful as a fork is to someone trying to eat a bowl of soup. It doesn't accomplish anything, and in the end, it's just going to create a bigger mess.

Finally, that brings me to the start of the Race for Leader of the Saskatchewan New Democrats. Earlier this afternoon, Cam Broten announced his intention to seek the leadership; making him the first declared candidate in the race.

Now, I've touted Broten as a likely contender, so it's nice to see some of my pundit skills paying off. In the coming days, we'll see how many other 'predictions' I've gotten right with regards to who will run.

But as for Broten; he's a good first candidate and he's got a charm that should take him pretty far in the race regardless of who else enters it. If he can couple that with a good clear vision for the party and the province, Broten should remain one of the frontrunners in the campaign.

But of course, we'll have to wait and see how the race unfolds.Up next for the race, it seems likely that Erin Weir will announce his candidacy sometime this week; and then who enters the fray after that will be anyone's guess. Either way, it looks like we're going to have some high-quality candidates who stand a chance of reinvigorating the party and an interesting race to look forward to.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Putting It All Together

Since I'm outside of Quebec, some might find it odd that my evening consisted of sitting down in front of the TV and watching the provincial election results. After all, as an outsider to the province, I'm not familiar with every constituency and candidate, nor every issue of importance in the election.

However, given the opportunity for history in this election: The potential return of the Parti Qubecois, the first woman Premier in Quebec history, and the potential end of Jean Charest, it seemed like something a political junkie needed to watch.

For those of you who didn't, the result was both a hit and miss of what was expected. The CAQ, under former PQ Minister Francois Legault, underperformed in some regards but still managed to finish respectfully considering the age of the party. The Liberals staved off annihilation, surprising many, and remained a strong opposition party. And as of writing this, Jean Charest has been defeated in his own home riding of Sherbrooke.

Meanwhile, to some, the Parti Quebecois has also underperformed in this election. Considering the tainted record of the Charest Liberals, many expected the PQ to cruise to an easy victory regardless of the election timing. However, the election results remained close throughout the night and in the end it looks as though the PQ will only be governing Quebec with a minority government.

This has a few implications outside of Quebec that we will talk about in a moment.

Firstly, I'd like to focus on Mr. Charest. Like his Federal Party namesake, Charest found himself embroiled in a massive corruption scandal. There's a number of things politicians can do that ensures difficulty in future elections, and corruption is one of the bigger ones. As such, many people were expecting the Liberals (and Charest) to be on a major losing end in this election.

However, it seems that only Mr. Charest and a select few cabinet ministers were on the receiving end of the public's boot. Now, there will be a lot of political punditry over the coming weeks about why this was. The simple answer is that Anglophones in the province had no choice but to support the Liberals, yet there was still a desire to punish those near the top of the party.

As such, Charest's defeat in his own riding is seen more clearly through the scope of understanding that the public are directly punishing Charest, not the Liberal Party, for their corruption. Since the Liberals remain the only 'viable' option for federalist Anglophones, the party was likely never in the dangerous ground of being decimated in the province; but it seems that the people were unwilling to 'hold their nose and vote' for many in leadership positions.

In many ways, this will likely end up being a good thing for the party. Charest will step down as leader, allowing the party to find new directions and footing under a new leader; and provided that the leader is someone without direct ties to the Charest era, the corruption scandal that weighed down his final tenure as Premier should be put to rest.

That way, people can feel that the Liberals have been punished and they can perhaps see them as a viable option in future elections.

That brings us to the PQ win and the question of what this means for sovereignty.

As of writing this post, the PQ had around 32% of the popular vote in Quebec. This is well below some of the PQ's previous support numbers that led them into government; not to mention well short of the clear majority mandated by the Clarity Act for a future referendum.

Furthermore, the fact that a minority government was elected is also interesting in and of itself. I mentioned before in discussing Mr. Charest, on how voters were unwilling to hold their nose and vote for a party embroiled in scandal. But that raises the question on whether voters were willing to hold their nose and vote for the PQ as a means of pushing out/punishing the Liberals.

After all, there wasn't a majority PQ government; despite some polls suggesting that it was a strong possibility. Furthermore, with a minority, the PQ is going to find it hard to undertake actions moving towards another referendum. After all, the Liberals and the CAQ can outvote the PQ and the two Quebec Solidare members in the National Assembly, if they can work together on the issues.

As such, it would seem that a new referendum (and perhaps even the PQ's plans to strengthen Bill 101 and other actions) might be forced into the background until the PQ thinks they can have a new election and gain a majority. So, it would seem possible that we will see a PQ government that will have its hands tied and be unable to focus on sovereignty for a good chunk of their first term as government.

Now, I said that this election has some implications outside of Quebec, so let's talk about those.

In 2011, when the 'Orange Crush' threw the bulk of the Bloc Quebecois from Ottawa, there was a question about the future of Quebec sovereignty and whether or not we were on the verge of a more 'integrated' Quebec.

Obviously, some are going to say that tonight's election result shows that sovereignty in the province is alive and well.

However, there are some problems with this assumption. Firstly, we need to keep in mind the role the Liberals played in their own downfall. As noted, when embroiled in accusations of corruption, it is hard for a government to plead for another term. As such, with the CAQ being a 'light' separatist party, people were presented with few options for a Federalist, not quite Anglophobe party.

The fact that the Liberals weren't decimated and reduced to third party status behind the CAQ, which the PQ suffered under Andre Bosclair and the then ADQ in the last election, suggests that those with pro-federalist leanings are at least alive and well; and also willing to vote for a party that is less than perfect simply because they have no other option.

Secondly, the PQ minority elected with only 32% of the vote shows that people don't seem to be too much behind the PQ. There are two factors that lead to an advantage of the PQ over the Liberals and they are as follows:

The Liberals had to be punished in the mind of the electorate for their ties to corruption; and we can see that punishment through the defeat of Charest and senior cabinet members. Secondly, the PQ is able to court voters from the left of the political spectrum.

For the most part, the Liberals and the CAQ are entrenched firmly in the centre to centre-right political spectrum. So, people looking for left-leaning ideologies can really only look to the PQ as their political option during an election. As such, the question of how many left-leaning voters supported the PQ because of their approach to social issues (such as addressing tuition costs) as opposed to their hardline on separation is worth noting.

As such, in my mind at least and from looking at the results, I would not say that this is proof that separatist sentiment is doing well in Quebec. From what I can gather from the results, it would seem that this outcome is more about turfing the Liberals for their misdeeds.

This is further supported by the fact that the CAQ underperformed in this election. As noted, the CAQ is a 'separatist' party, but takes a slower approach than the PQ. Given that they languished in 3rd place behind the Liberals, it seems safe to say that separatism was not a guiding factor in the PQ victory.

While many will suggest that this could be the start of a new separatist movement in Quebec; and don't get me wrong, depending on what Marois does with the time she is given and who the Liberals select as a new leader, it is possible that this could GROW into a new separatist movement; as of this moment, this election was more about the need for change and accountability in government than it was about the desire of Quebec to leave Canada.


Locally; the Saskatchewan NDP has kicked off its leadership race and the expected candidates should be stepping forward shortly. As an 'undecided' NDP member, I'm going to try and cover the candidates as best as possible; some of which I have already explored in previous posts. So, hopefully that will become a useful tool for my fellow undecided people out there.