Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Word on the Second (Humboldt) Debate

For all those interested, the video for the Humboldt Debate can be found here: LINK

Please note, the Humboldt video seems to have some audio problems near the front end of the video; as such, all of Erin's opening statement (and some of Trent's) cannot be heard. The audio varies for the rest of the video, but for the most part, it is listenable. 

It also includes a few other videos, namely the other three debates that have been held thus far, and I suspect it will soon showcase the Swift Current debate from tonight and the debates that will happen in the near future.

Going into this post, I thought to myself that it might be a little odd to reflect on the second debate now that we've already discussed the third debate in great detail. As such, I won't be doing candidate profiles for this debate; but we will talk a little bit about what we've seen from the candidates during this debate.

For the most part, it was a continuation of the status quo. All the candidates stayed pretty close to messages that they have presented at the other forums, although there was special consideration given to the rural questions given that this was the first 'rural' debate of the race. As such, the debate is very much worth giving a watch to for those who want to know where the candidates stand on issues that are affecting rural Saskatchewan.

As I lamented in the posts for the third debate, a bulk of the candidates reused opening and closing statements from the Regina debate. It's with that in mind that I ponder a serious question: Why haven't the debates been framed around particular issues?

I've noticed a lot of overlap in terms of questions and answers, and can't help but think that if we had some sort of firmer structure to the style of the debates we could have avoid that. I suppose the fact that we're having fourteen debates in various areas of the province is the answer to why that route wasn't taken; as we want to make sure that those areas get a chance to hear about all the issues and not just a select few...

Either way, I can certainly understand why it's been done, but I can't help but wonder if there was some kind of middle path that could have been taken in order to increase variety and lack of repetition during these first few debates.

I will note that this was the first debate to use the Candidates Asking Candidates Questions format, which is a welcomed addition and something I'd like to see more of in the coming debates; if only as an antidote to the problem of repetition which I've mentioned.

Also, the takeaway from the third debate continues to stand. There was no clear winner in this debate, as all the candidates conducted themselves well and managed to get their points across quite clearly. I will note that Erin seemed much less on the offensive during this debate, and I can't help but wonder why the adversarial tone came back for the Saskatoon debate (I have some thoughts on this, and perhaps we will discuss them in the future, but we'll leave it alone for now).

All in all, the debate was a good first opening for us to hear a bit about how these candidates plan to interact with rural Saskatchewan if they become leader. While all of the other standard issues, from education to housing, were touched on; the candidates did well at shaping their answers within the rural lens and adapting their policy visions to include their plans for both rural and urban Saskatchewan.

Other than that, I think we've touched on the other issues that were brought up when we talked about the third debate.

As mentioned, the Swift Current debate was tonight and there will be one in Melfort on the First of December, which is the last debate before a break for the holiday season. I'm sure I'll have some things to say about those debates, and we may see a return of the candidate profiles for them as well.
 


Monday, November 26, 2012

Third Debate: Trent Wotherspoon

As per the last round of individual reviews, I'm including this disclaimer. I'm worried some of this might sounder harsher than I mean it to. I want to assure you all that I am by no means belittling or attacking any of the candidates; rather, I'm offering my perceived take and ways to address what I see as problems from the first debate. If I offend anyone, I offer my apologies ahead of time, and assure you that my intention was not to offend; I suppose it is hard to discuss legitimate criticism, but I feel that we need to in order to really get the best out of our candidates.

Positives

1.) Like Cam, I thought Trent managed to loosen up a lot more during this debate and also managed to sneak a bit more humour into this debate than he did in Regina.

2.)Also, while talking about improvements from the first debate, I thought Trent did a much better job at staying on topic in this debate and he stayed away from trying to fit all his answers within the education-inequality scope. It's allowing him to show off more of his platform and the policy he's crafted, which is always a good thing.

3.) Trent also came across very cordial with the other candidates on stage; his chance to ask questions of the other candidates was very much taken on the high road, and he continues to be one of the candidates who is always quick to acknowledge a good point raised by another.

Negatives

1.) Like Ryan, I think Trent reused the bulk (if not all) of his closing statement from Regina. Again, this is a missed opportunity to start raising more issues and crafting your argument for the home audience. Trent did well at expanding on his platform planks during the debate, and this would have been a good place to fit in a few more of those planks that weren't discussed.

2.) Trent is one candidate who always seems to have a bit of trouble crafting his answers within the time limit. I know it speaks to the passion he has for particular issues that he has so much to say about them, but I think he would benefit (and the audience would as well) through a better crafting of keywords and phrases to get across before the moderator cuts the mic.

Areas for Growth

Like Ryan, I think Trent needs to work a bit more at modifying and using his closing statements to a fuller effect. We've got a long debate schedule ahead of us, and I think some difference in the statements at each would be enhance his policy proposals and help members see where Trent stands on a variety of issues. Also, getting his answers down to the bare bones to ensure that he's getting all of his words heard by the audience when he responds would be a plus.

Final Thoughts

Again, I think Trent showed great improvement in this debate when compared to the first. He was more relaxed and was able to let a bit of his care-free side come across, which I think will resonate well with those in attendance. I think there's still a bit of room to start promoting some of the other planks in his campaign's platform, but he took a good step in this debate in approaching numerous topics with ease.

Third Debate: Ryan Meili

As per the last round of individual reviews, I'm including this disclaimer. I'm worried some of this might sounder harsher than I mean it to. I want to assure you all that I am by no means belittling or attacking any of the candidates; rather, I'm offering my perceived take and ways to address what I see as problems from the first debate. If I offend anyone, I offer my apologies ahead of time, and assure you that my intention was not to offend; I suppose it is hard to discuss legitimate criticism, but I feel that we need to in order to really get the best out of our candidates.

Positives

1.) I noticed Ryan looking around the room and into the crowd a lot more often than I did during the first debate; which increases his own connection with the audience and really helps forge a stronger connection with the people listening.

2.) Ryan also addressed his 'indoor voice' issue during the debate; and while he continues to speak in a mild-mannered way (and as noted before, it's a strength for him and would perturb people if it changed) he did a much better job at emphasizing key words and points during this debate.

3.) Ryan found himself the subject of all the questions by the other candidates in the first questions round; and I thought he handled himself very well and was able to effectively address the concerns that were put forward; with one possible exception...

Negatives

1.) That exception being his answer to Cam's question about remaining involved in the party if he doesn't win the leadership and whether or not he would seek a seat in the legislature. I think there's a lot riding on this particular question, and Ryan's answer was both affirming but also non-committal at the same time. I don't think you can say that you would provided you were welcomed in, which suggests that there's concern you wouldn't be; then turn around and say that no one on the stage seemed like they would exclude you. It seemed like a non-answer, and I think, it doesn't quite defuse the worry of Ryan dropping out of the limelight if he doesn't become leader.

2.) From the sounds of it, though I could be wrong, it sounded as though Ryan completely reused his closing statement from Regina (though in fairness, he wasn't the only candidate to do so.) I think over the course of fourteen debates, it's important for the candidates to use the time provided to them wisely. A reusing a closing statement seems like a wasted opportunity to add to the debate.

Areas for Growth

I think the first thing Ryan's campaign needs to do is fully defuse the 'will he or won't he' question of what happens if Ryan doesn't become leader; by fully putting the question to bed, and not hemming and hawing about what ifs. I think there is also tremendous growth for Ryan to tailor his closing statements at future debates. His website has been very good at getting in ideas from supporters, so whether he wanted to use his closing statement as a 'testing pool' to get a feel for how those ideas play or even as just a way of getting those ideas into the debate, I think would be an improvement over reusing a similar closing statement.

Final Thoughts

I think Ryan did well in this debate; his mannerisms while addressing the crowd improved and he remained pretty calm and composed while under question by the other candidates. I think he does have some room to grow in firmly answering questions, as well as ensuring the best use of his time on stage to enhance the debate; whether that is fleshing out more details about his SaskPharma or Bank of Saskatchewan ideas, or simply introducing topics provided by supporters through his website.

Third Debate: Erin Weir

As per the last round of individual reviews, I'm including this disclaimer. I'm worried some of this might sounder harsher than I mean it to. I want to assure you all that I am by no means belittling or attacking any of the candidates; rather, I'm offering my perceived take and ways to address what I see as problems from the first debate. If I offend anyone, I offer my apologies ahead of time, and assure you that my intention was not to offend; I suppose it is hard to discuss legitimate criticism, but I feel that we need to in order to really get the best out of our candidates.

Positives

1.) Erin continued to use humour incredibly effectively, as he was (by my count) the candidate who delivered the most cut-up lines throughout the course of the debate.

2.) Erin also continued to do very well in highlighting his policies, especially with regard to his proposals being costed.

3.) Erin's closing argument continued to focus a lot on his past involvement in the party, but also included a strong mention of his plans and policies, as well as calling on a plan to completely erase the provincial debt.

Negatives

1.) Again, Erin came across as the most aggressive candidate on stage, especially in his exchanges with Cam Broten. As I stated previously, this wouldn't be so bad if the other candidates were as hard on everyone on the stage, but when it's just one candidate and the back-and-forth that creates it doesn't stand out in a positive light.

2.) Erin seemed to be ahead of the questions, as he twice answered questions prior to those specific questions being asked. While he did get a good joke out of the situation, I think it restricts his ability to answer those questions in a way that people will recall when the debate is over. It takes away the chance to contrast his policies with those of his opponents, and that's a useful tool when try to woo supporters.

Areas for Growth

As mentioned above, I think Erin would benefit from keeping his answers more confined to question posed; if only, so that he can provide that exposition when the question regarding it is asked. Sometimes it's good to be ahead of the eight ball, but not always when you want people to be able to see the differences between you and another candidate.

I also think that Erin would be better served by toning back his challenging during the debate; but, if he simply must continue to be the 'contrarian' on stage, he should at least ensure that he directs his challenges to every candidate. He did challenge Ryan's economic plan during the debate, but the main exchange was his blasting of Cam regarding the Legislative Advisory Committee. It's worth noting that he didn't actually mention Trent by name with regards to that issue, which really made it seem like more of a personal jab against Cam. As such, I think if Erin is going to continue to be the candidate who provokes spirited exchanges, he needs to ensure that he's doing so in a way that doesn't come across as personal.

Final Thoughts

Even with a cold, Erin managed to leave an impression. I thought he did a good job at focusing on his own policies in this debate, and spent less time focusing on the other candidates' policies. At the same time, he needs to be sure that his challenges to the other candidates come across on a professional level, rather than seeming like personal vendettas. He did justify being the more aggressive candidate by saying it was to ensure that policy was rigorously debated; and as such, he needs to be sure that he's sticking to policy debate when using this tactic. 


Third Debate: Cam Broten

*A previous entry of this post had it listed as the Second Debate; while it is true that it is the second debate the blog is reviewing, it is the third debate between the candidates. As such, we shall update it to reflect the party schedule.

As per the last round of individual reviews, I'm including this disclaimer. I'm worried some of this might sounder harsher than I mean it to. I want to assure you all that I am by no means belittling or attacking any of the candidates; rather, I'm offering my perceived take and ways to address what I see as problems from the first debate. If I offend anyone, I offer my apologies ahead of time, and assure you that my intention was not to offend; I suppose it is hard to discuss legitimate criticism, but I feel that we need to in order to really get the best out of our candidates.

Positives


1.) Cam seemed a more at ease than he did during the first debate, and I noticed an increased use in humour as well. 

2.) Cam did very well at staying on message and highlighting the key points that he's been campaigning on since entering the race.

3.) Cam's closing argument stayed pretty close to the statement he used in Regina (he wasn't the only candidate to reuse their statement), with the exception that it included a section about rebuilding the province as well as the party; which was something I felt he lacked in Regina, and it's good to see it included here.

Negatives


1.) One thing I noticed, and perhaps its just because it's now I imagine the third time it has happened, is that Cam does seem to be a bit visibly frustrated when challenged by Erin. I suppose it doesn't help that it's on the same issues each time, but I thought I saw a bit of a flash of frustration during the debate when challenged by Erin. 

2.) Also, during Cam's closing statement, I noticed a slight moment where his words sort of got away from him towards the end. It's not a major problem, as having a time limit and trying to stay on message can fluster the best of us, but it was just an observation that he didn't quite stick the last few sentences of his statement. Of course, Cam did mention that he seemed to be fighting a cold, so perhaps that might have been what caused this slight hiccup; if so, then I suppose we can ignore this point.

Areas for Growth 

Cam showed marked improvement from the first debate in terms of staying personable and using humour. I think the one area that he can expand on is highlighting more of his experience as an MLA and as the co-chair of the Policy Review. Another thing Cam might want to work on is being ready to deal with the challenges coming from Erin Weir; as I noted, there was a moment where I thought I could read the frustration through his expression. While it's good that Cam kept his cool, I think he needs to come up with an effective retort since it's now plainly obvious that Erin is going to continue to keep the other candidates (and particularly for some reason Cam's) feet to the fire.

Final Thoughts

I think Cam had a better showing in this debate than he did in the first. He was concise, kept on message, and managed not to be thrown for a loop by an aggressive challenger. Having said that, though, Cam would benefit from finding a method to if not stop the challenges being leveled at him, at the very least defuse them from being repeated in future debates. Whether that is a strong rebuke, or a turn of the tables, is up to the campaign; but they need to find an effective way of dealing with it.

Campaign Update: Third Debate

In addition to the brunch of that was held at the Avenue Community Centre on Saturday, we also saw the third NDP leadership debate here in Saskatoon.

As is the third debate, there is some marked differences between the what we've seen in the first debate. Obviously, the second debate that occurred in Humboldt I can't say anything about as I wasn't there for it, so we are not going to talk much but the second debate.

Since we have no data to draw on we will focus on the third debate and the styles and the sense that we got of the candidates preparedness and how they've improved and so forth. As with the last debate I covered, we're going to do a general overview posting referring to the debate itself and then we'll do individual candidate profiles to look a bit closer at the performance of the individual candidate and what his they've improved, and what further improvement I can humbly recommend.

If I could say anything concrete about the third debate in the NDP leadership, it's that this debate hasn't really been a game changer in terms of substance from the first debate. All four candidates stuck pretty close to the messages and policies that we've heard before, so there were no surprise announcements or changes in direction; rather it a steady as she goes sort of approach to the debate.

What I can say is it was nice to see the format changed; my understanding is that the format changed in the second debate in Humboldt, where each candidate was given an opportunity to directly ask two questions to another candidate and have a brief follow-up exchange directly with that person. This changed the flow of the debate from a conversation with the moderator, as we saw in Regina, to an actual debate with increased exchanges and participation between the four candidates.

It just felt like more of a debate.

As mentioned the candidates stuck fairly close on message there was no real straying from the sort of general guidelines that have defined the campaigns so far. Cam stuck very close to the message of revitalizing the party in order to revitalize the province; Erin stayed close to the theme of having the plan that not only has a grand scheme for the province but also a method to pay for that for that plan; Ryan stuck close to the theme of fighting inequality and enhancing social justice within the province; Trent continued to hammer home the idea of also combating inequality through enhancing education and ensuring equal opportunities.

For the most part, it felt as though not a lot of new information came out during this debate, but that's not necessarily bad thing. This is the first debate in Saskatchewan's largest city, as such it's not surprising to see the candidates sticking to their general talking points and camping themes seeing that they would still be working on defining themselves to the city and province. The debate, as such, served as a good chance for them to reestablish what their campaigns stands for, what their grand vision is, and what they hope to achieve by running in the leadership race.

Yet again, it felt as though there was no real adversarial component to this debate. While the questions being posed during question period, by the candidates to other candidates, did allow for some wiggle room for there to actually be a slight amount of conflict that defined differences between the candidates, it was still a mostly tame affair with more agreement and common ground found between the candidates than any real differences being highlighted. Even the question, posed by the audience, that asked the candidates to define themselves and how they stand out from the other candidates fell a little flat and failed really generate any substantial difference between the four candidates.

But rather than this being a negative, I think this speaks to the quality of the caliber of the candidates who decided to run for the leadership. They're all fine exemplars of social values and the sort of mentality that we expect to find in an NDP leader; they're all committed to stamping out inequality; they're all committed to ensuring a more equal province; they're all committed to making sure that a economic boom time is a boom time for everyone, not just a select few. These commonalities are what makes them great candidates, but it is also what makes it hard for someone who is undecided to determine which candidate best represents them.

Effectively, much like the first debate, there was no real knock out punch in this debate. There was no real winner or loser, you did not walk away from the debate saying so-and-so want or so and so was miles above the rest. You left, or at least I left, the debate feeling even more conflicted and questioning which candidate would be the best choice to lead the Saskatchewan NDP into the future.

What I do hope to see in the future debates, or at least once I am able to get out to, would be to see this question format expanded. There needs to be more candidate-on-candidate questioning in the future debates so that the audience can begin to highlight some of the differences that exist between them. Questions from the audience are fine and well, but come debate five or so (if not earlier) we're going to see the same questions asked in different communities and it becomes less of a debate and more repetition.

Candidates need to be pushed outside of their comfort zone; we need to see them on edge on and on the defensive and really standing up for their policies and their beliefs. When that occurs, we truly begin to see the passion and conviction that they have for these values.

We don't need the candidates actively attacking each other on stage; but all of the candidates have spoken of the need to have open and frank discussions. Right now, when they're only responding to questions that come from the audience or the moderator, we aren't having the open and frank discussion that all of them have said we need. We need to see them interact with each other, we need to see who is capable of not only defending their policies and their values, but also who is capable of doing so in a manner that shows true leadership.

We need to give the candidates a chance to dominate the stage and right now the simple question answer format doesn't provide for that. It becomes, as I've said prior in this post, repetition when we see candidates constantly talk about policies that they've already talked about in prior debates, and they leaning on the crutch of familiarity. We don't see them ever pushed outside their comfort zone and we need to achieve that if we want to see who truly has the qualities necessary to not only rebuild the party, but who has the qualities to regain the trust of the general public and who will lead the party back into government.

And that's the million dollar question. We need a candidate with not only bright ideas, but those skills. And right now, the debate format hasn't allowed us to see which candidate has the best combination of these requirements. Only when we can see that, will we know for sure which choice is the right choice for our party and our province.






Sunday, November 25, 2012

Leadership Update: Candidate's Brunch

In addition to the leadership debate that was held here in Saskatoon (which we will be talking about in a bit), the NDP Leadership candidates took some time to attend a brunch held at the Avenue Community Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity. For those unfamiliar with the Centre, it is a non-profit organization here in Saskatoon that addresses LGBT2Q issues throughout the province, and that works with other organizations such as AIDS Saskatoon to raise awareness of issues related to sexual health and education.

As such, the bulk of people in attendance had a keen interest in finding out where the candidates stood with regards to LGBT2Q issues and asked some hard hitting questions that one doesn't typically here during a leadership; or even during an election, in a province such as Saskatchewan. I have to commend all the candidates for attending the event, and for providing thoughtful answers to the questions asked by those assembled.

I won't be 'critiquing' the performance of the candidates here; as they all did a damn fine job and I don't have any real notes on that front. However, I will be posting questions and answers because these issues are important, and I think we should know where our candidates stand on them. So, for those who were unable to get to Saskatoon (or unable just to attend the brunch), this is as faithful a transcription as I could make.

As with all written notes, there is a degree of shorthand; which means I've written down the key statement rather than all the words, so there's some editor's liberty with some of the answers and questions, but the spirit of the response will be accurate.

To help make things a little more navigational, I've bolded the candidates names' when used, so you should be able to find what they had to say more easily; as such, questions are UNDERLINED.

Like the debate, the candidates were given a brief moment to introduce themselves and explain a little bit about why they were running for leadership of the NDP.

Cam stayed on message with this question; talking about revitalizing the party and moving towards the creation of a more equal province.

Erin used the time to talk about his federal run in Regina-Wascana, wherein he was aided by an Iranian refuge who came to Canada and just happened to be a member of the LGBT2Q community. Erin also stuck to his message of providing a policy alternative to the SK Party, and not just being an 'echo'.

Ryan talked a bit about growing up in a different time, and how the word gay was used to describe everything that was bad and something someone didn't want to get called. He talked a bit about his involvement in social justice, and how he came to see that people in that community were in his family, circle of friends, and mentors that he had had in medical school. He talked about some of the improvements we've made as a society, but also was keen to note there was still a lot of work to do.

Trent talked about some of the community outreach and contacts that he's made with the LGBT2Q community in Regina, and also agreed with Ryan about the different mindset he saw when he was growing up. He talked about the need for us as a province to have a more open and frank discussion when it comes to LGBT2Q issues, and how it was a good first step in moving forward to a fairer and more equal province.

Question: What is your plan and take on Transgendered issues in Saskatchewan? 

Erin:  We've made progress on gay & lesbian rights in the province, with the legalization of same-sex marriage, but we need to talk more about transgendered issues. In truth, I don't know as much on this issue as I should; but I've come here today to learn more about the issues facing the community.

Ryan: Three things that we need to do: We need to recognize transgendered people in our human rights codes; we need to allow people a legal process of self-identification with regards to gender; and we need to cover medical procedures for transgendered people.

Trent: I think we need to increase understanding across the province to enhance knowledge about the transgendered community and the challenges that they face. We need to allow transgendered people to self-identify their gender, but we also need to work on things as simple as creating gender neutral washrooms in our buildings; we need to enhance education so we can fight ignorance as well.

Cam: I'm also not as well versed in these issues, but I'd like to learn more so that I can be an effective advocate for the community. We need to educate better and we need to have an open discussion of the issues facing the transgendered community so that we can inform the people of the province better than we are now.

Follow-Up Question: Right now, you must undergo gender reassignment surgeries in order to be legally classified as your gender; would you change that?


*All candidates agreed that everyone should be able to legally self-identify their own gender; Ryan had one addition to add:

Ryan: Also, we need to ensure that physicians aren't discriminatory towards transgendered patients.

Follow-Up Question: Also, people undergoing gender reassignment need two diagnoses; they have to get diagnosed here in Saskatchewan, then go to Toronto (since the surgeries aren't performed in Saskatchewan) and often have to get re-diagnosed upon arrival. What would you do about that?


Ryan: We should be able to increase communication between medical professionals to avoid that; a person shouldn't have to be diagnosed twice before receiving the proper care.

Follow-Up Question: As a mother with two children, one who identifies as transgender and another who identifies as two-spirited, how strong are you willing to fight and stand up for transgendered children?


Trent: Schools are publicly funded and need to reflect the diversity of our population; we need to have a backbone on these issues to ensure that no child is being discriminated against, and that's why I support installing Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in all schools to increase awareness of issues and enhance education of that diversity.

Cam: There needs to be standards, but we also need to find allies within the school system who are willing to fight and help guide these changes in our schools. We need to be smart about how we move forward, to ensure that we don't end up moving backwards and burning bridges within the educational community. This is especially true in the Catholic School system, since people see a value to having a Catholic system, and we can't ignore the values in that system either.

Erin: We need to reach out and work with people; we should use our spending power to have the public and private school systems address these issues and ensure that they adhere to a framework and standards set up by the Ministry of Education.

Ryan: There's no soft answer on discrimination; we need to work with the Catholic system to create GSAs that don't push back or cause problems within the separate school system. We need to also do more education when training teachers in order to prepare them to understand the needs and issues facing a diverse group of children in their classrooms.

Question: Members of the LGBT2Q community face a higher rate of health issues, including shorter lifespans and people receive little education about the needs of LGBT2Q patients in the health sector. On top of that, education is done by the Avenue Centre here in Saskatoon, but it receives little funding to address the needs of the province. What will you pledge to do about this?

Cam: Simple answer: We need to increase the funding to the centre. The amount you quoted is less than the cost of a car to drive a minister for a year, and the return on the work done here is worth the value we put into it.

Erin: We need to improve our health care education, but also address the problems that are creating these health problems. I imagine a lot of it stems from the result of discrimination, whether that is in finding employment or housing, and that in turn can cause more health problems. So we need to address poverty and discrimination in the province to improve health.

Ryan: We need downstream services. I've been involved in community led organizations, like Station 20 West and SWITCH, where a need was identified by the community and then the community took action on it to achieve results. I think there's already talk of doing so, but there should be exploration of the creation of a clinic that serves the LGBT2Q community.

Trent: I agree with everyone; we need to address finances, discrimination and inequality itself and the injustices that exist in our current social structures. Workers rights and unions, I think, have a role to play here as well as unions have done very well at addressing the needs and rights of workers who are in the LGBT2Q community.

Follow-Up: With some regards, the LGBT2Q umbrella is a bit far reaching. Some members of the transgendered community experience discrimination from within the LGBT group, as do people who identify as bisexual. As such, our needs are not always met within the wider view of the community umbrella.

Cam: As an outsider, it's not my place to decide what the best response to that would be. But we do need to be willing and ready to listen to everyone who wants to speak to us. We need to have an open door policy and ensure that the needs of all are being addressed.

Erin: I agree; if the transgendered community want to continue to work within the framework of the LGBT2Q community umbrella, or whether they would prefer to establish their own organizations and community, we need to ensure that we're prepared to assist in that and help build that.

Ryan & Trent: Both agree.

Follow-Up Question: Getting back to the schools a bit, would you mandate a curriculum that is more reflective of the LGBT2Q Community?

Erin: We need to have provincial standards and need to do a better job educating students, which I believe, would help address some of the discrimination that we see in our schools.

Ryan: Yes, but we shouldn't stop at sexual orientation; we need to include gender, race, and poverty in these types of discussions. Studies have shown that having schools with wide diversity doesn't increase awareness or decrease discrimination; students don't blend, they break into cliques that tend to reflect their race, economic standing, and so forth. We need to support inclusion, but we also have to have open discussion.

Trent: Education is transformational, and we need to work in schools; but we also need to educate everyone, not just the next generation. So that means working to educate employers and the community at large as well.

Cam: Yes, we should be including LGBT2Q teaching in our classrooms. I know I'd like my daughters to receive more education on these issues than I did growing up.

Question: How will you change the "silos" that exist in the civil service and ensure that departments are working together?

Ryan: I think having an overall focus on a health lens is a good first step and provides the impetus to foster greater co-operation between departments. Also, we need more projects like Station 20 West that bring together a wide and diverse group of people to foster discussions and increase advocacy.

Trent: Agreed; we need to have an inter-disciplinary approach, for which we'll need strong leadership to foster real change in the environment. The will has to come from the leader, so that it can flow from the leader and cabinet into the departments.

Cam: I agree with the focus on a health lens, but we also need a 'long-term thinking' lens. We make too many decisions based on the short term and don't think too much about the consequences in the long run. It's a bit off topic, but with refuge health care in the province, it is cheaper for us to provide the care needed now than it would be if and when that person ends up in the hospital.

Erin: I think there is a knee-jerk reaction to blame the bureaucracy for the shortcomings of our government. In our last government, we didn't get all the plans and dreams that we set out to do accomplished and part of that was due to lack of funding. We need to have political leadership that will step up and provide not only the vision, but the plan to get there.

Semi-Closing Statements

Trent: I fear budgetary pressures we're going to see in the future, especially since right-wing governments tend to see these kinds of programs and projects as not worth funding. We do need to work with the community, but we also need a broader discussion and to ensure that when we go out to meet with shareholders and those concerned, it's not just the NDP talking to these groups, but the province talking to them.

Cam: Right now, there are cuts going on on campus; and this is due to the government shirking its responsibilities and downloading debt onto the campuses. And when campus has to tighten its belt, it's optional programs and then course offerings that get slashed and dropped. We need to ensure that we have an involved community that is helping to keep us aware of these cuts so that we can hold the government to task and also try to ensure that cuts are not focused on one department or program.

Erin: I think we need to get to a place where we don't need advocacy, but rather a place where people who identify within the LGBT2Q Community aren't standing out from the rest of the province.

Ryan: We need community involvement and we need to bring people together; if we're bragging about being in a booming economy, why are there even cuts going on in the first place? We need to reset our leadership to ensure that we're embodying and living up to the messages that we put up and try to promote.

In addition to the questions, there were several comments from the gathered audience that are of particular note; so, here are those comments.

Comment: It's all fine and dandy to talk to experts and professionals when preparing a policy, but we need to ensure that government is also talking to stakeholders and the people who are there at the ground level and who are working as advocates.

Comment: I just want to inform the candidates about the need to address the problems facing LGBT2Q members in senior care; a lot of time, partners are separated from one another and very often unable to even visit each other. There are more horror stories when these kinds of senior care facilities are privatized, often into the hands of religious orders.

Comment: We need to ensure that we're keeping "Queer Men" in the province's HIV Strategy; the most recent strategy included nothing about men who have sex with other men, and its a staggering oversight. We need to ensure that any plan to deal with HIV in the province includes this group within the strategy.


I think that more or less does it for the reporting from the event; like I said, it's not a 100% accurate record of the event, but I did what I could with the speed of writing my hand could provide. I think all of the issues discussed are worth talking about here, if only because they're issues that aren't often discussed within the realm of Saskatchewan politics.

And knowing that all of the candidates are committed to an inclusive Saskatchewan, that includes members of the LGBT2Q community, is certainly a good thing to know.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Editorial Content: Riffing on A Leadership Idea

Taking a moment to step outside of the leadership race, I'd like to talk a little bit about the impact that it's been having on regular politics here in the province of Saskatchewan. Yesterday, Premier Brad Wall stepped forward and said the cuts to the refugee health provisions made by the federal government were "unbelievable" and shouldn't happen in a country like Canada, where we believe in helping and looking out for one another.

It's a noble sentiment, and one that I think most people would agree on with the Premier; however it comes at an awkward time.

I say this because while Brad Wall is finally standing up for refugee health coverage in our province, he's not the first Premier to do so; and furthermore his opponents in the NDP leadership race have been talking about this issue for months.

In fact, Manitoba was the first to lead the charge with its government saying that it would pick up costs for refugees were no longer covered due to the federal cuts. Furthermore, British Columbia and Quebec hopped onto the same bandwagon and promised to do the same in their own respective provinces.

This is not a new issue; the fact of the matter is that provinces have been stepping up to condemn the federal government's decision to make these cuts for months. And Brad Wall, in traditional Saskatchewan Party manner, decided to stay silent refusing to really take a stand against Ottawa one way or another on this issue.

Which brings me to the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race. Ryan Meili and Cam Broten are the two candidates I can think of who have actively talked about this issue for very long time. Ryan has done so in his capacity as a doctor, and through various community events, to call on the government to respect refugees in this province and extend the coverage that we've seen in Manitoba and British Columbia.

Cam has done much of the same in the legislature, through his role as a member, and through calling on the government to extend coverage to these refugees; while at the same time bringing forward specific cases of people who have lost coverage and are now in dire straits financially and medically.

So we see two strong candidates in the NDP leadership race mentioning this issue with regular frequency. And yet, up until now our, Premier has remained silent on the issue.

So why the sudden change in heart?

The answer is surprisingly simple. Brad Wall, like his federal counterparts in Ottawa, is a man who is very aware of his public image and how the public perceives him and his government. As such, he is very calculating figure (as is his party) in determining the best course of action to take in order to maximize public profile while at the same time decreasing public outrage.

The story of a man with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, and being denied antinausea drugs that would enhance his treatment, pulls at the heartstrings and would generally outrage anybody who couldn't believe that the government wouldn't step in to assist this person.

Hence Mr. Saskatchewan to the rescue, with Brad Wall suddenly taking on the role defender of the common person and the beholder of the Canadian Ideal of standing up and helping one another.

But where was this outrage from the premiere months ago? Where were the comments of it being "unbelievable" when the federal government first announced the plan to revoke coverage for these people in our country? As I mentioned, Manitoba and British Columbia were very quick to announce that their governments would extend health care coverage to these people; yet the Saskatchewan Government dragged it's heels and didn't commit to anything and didn't say anything.

Even Ryan Meili called on the government to cover people people weeks ago, the government continued to remain silent. It wasn't until Cam Broten stood up and related this specific case to the legislature, and quite literally to the public by putting a public face on the issue, that the government was finally willing to stand up and do something about it.

And yet this isn't even a full victory. As Ryan has pointed out, the government is committed to provide antinausea drugs for this specific individual but they haven't yet announced whether or not they will be expanding coverage to everyone who is been denied by the federal cuts.

So while we can commend the Premier for finally taking a stand and standing up to his federal counterparts, we also have to realize the true motivations behind this decision. If this were about doing the right thing, this decision would've happened months ago when the cuts were first announced. Instead, we've seen the government drag its feet and make no real hems or haws about the issue until it was raised by prominent leaders in the opposition.

So, while the Premier can say this is about doing the right thing and continuing the Canadian tradition of looking out for each other; we know instead that this is carrying on a new Canadian tradition, spearheaded by the Harper Conservatives, the tradition of saying and doing anything that is absolutely necessary to keep your public image ahead of the other team.

At this point, it is too little too late to truly applaud the Premier for making this decision; as it should have come far sooner and with less prodding by the opposition.

At the very least, this shows that the Saskatchewan Party is listening quite actively to what is happening in the NDP leadership race. Furthermore it shows, or at least suggest that their polling data is showing, that people are liking what they are hearing coming from the NDP candidates; which is why they feel it necessary to start taking action on some of the issues of these candidates are talking about.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

First Debate: Trent Wotherspoon

Standard Disclaimer: Also, I'm worried some of this might sounder harsher than I mean it to. I want to assure you all that I am by no means belittling or attacking any of the candidates; rather, I'm offering my perceived take and ways to address what I see as problems from the first debate. If I offend anyone, I offer my apologies ahead of time, and assure you that my intention was not to offend; I suppose it is hard to discuss legitimate criticism, but I feel that we need to in order to really get the best out of our candidates.

Positives

1.) One thing Trent has been very good at is achieving that "everyman" feel when he speaks; he's quick to mention communities across Saskatchewan, and really gets the point across that he's well-traveled and well informed of both rural and urban issues.

2.) Like Ryan, Trent is also pretty good at speaking in a rather hopeful way. To a degree, however, his statements tend to have a stronger sense of realism and less (for want of a better word) naivety about them. You get the sense that he is passionate about these issues, and that he has a realistic approach to dealing with them.

3.) Trent is also one of the candidates who frequently mentions other candidates and some of the policies they've brought forward; at the very least, it shows that doesn't feel threatened to give credit where it is due and is willing to listen to the good ideas and thoughts that are generated through the leadership race.

Negatives

1.) Trent has a bit of a tendency to wander off topic, at least he did in this first debate. He has created good policies regarding education and addressing poverty, but he seemed to always bring questions (regardless of relevance) back to these two topics. And while there is a case to be made for those two issues having an impact on numerous other issues, there was one moment in the debate where he wandered onto these issues from a question that was completely unrelated. (After solid hours of blogging, my mind is drawing a blank of the specific question, but I think it was in regard to the women in politics question.)

And while those are two great planks that he has put forward, I'd worry that an over-reliance to mention them for every question might present the perception that other policy areas aren't as fully fleshed out or prepared; regardless of whether or not they are.

2.) Like Cam, Trent didn't seem to be completely personable during this debate. While he does project a good 'everyman' image, I don't think he managed to completely step outside of his comfort zone during the debate (though I hear he corrected this during the SYND Party after the debate). Considering what I've heard from that, I think Trent would benefit a little from bringing that side of his personality out a little more during the next debate.

Areas for Growth

As mentioned, Trent has put out some very good policy planks and I think he would be well served in mentioning them more often. It's a shame that during his closing statements he didn't really mention too his policies towards reviving democracy or the party, but instead stuck to generalities. I think if he can work in references to his full policy spectrum, as opposed to sticking primarily to education and poverty reduction, he can express full comfort in discussing all the issues that will come up during the debates.

Final Thoughts

Trent is doing well in the public perception part of the race, and I think that it will continue to serve him well outside of the debates as he meets one-on-one with people. At the same time, I do think he didn't come across as personable as he could during this debate, and would benefit from loosening up a bit more during the next debate; effectively, he needs to get non-debate Trent, or at least a part of him, into the debate.

First Debate: Erin Weir

Standard Disclaimer: Also, I'm worried some of this might sounder harsher than I mean it to. I want to assure you all that I am by no means belittling or attacking any of the candidates; rather, I'm offering my perceived take and ways to address what I see as problems from the first debate. If I offend anyone, I offer my apologies ahead of time, and assure you that my intention was not to offend; I suppose it is hard to discuss legitimate criticism, but I feel that we need to in order to really get the best out of our candidates.

Positives

1.) Given the company he's in, Erin established himself as a strong speaker in the first debate; his past media appearances gave some semblance of the type of speaker he would be, and I think he's solidified himself as one of the more forceful voices during the debate.

2.) With Erin's preference to provide fully-costed policy platforms, he arguably came across as the most prepared of the pack.

3.) Like Ryan, Erin is pretty good at using humour to get some of his points across. Furthermore, he's not above taking a few humourous shots at himself; so while his policies portray him very seriously, its nice to know that he is capable of not taking himself too seriously.

Negatives

1.) As it stands now, it seems that Erin is the only candidate actively trying to provoke the other candidates. While this is a process that the debates will need to go through, if he's the only candidate criticizing the others, it stands out and not in a good way. For now, I think Erin's debate approach would be better served by pulling some of the punches until there is a situation where all the candidates are swinging.

2.) Erin's closing statement was, in my mind, out of place. I say this because the other candidates only vaguely mentioned themselves, if they did at all, and focused instead on the wider vision they had for the province or for the party. Erin's closing statement focused completely on his experience and his history. Perhaps this was a first debate approach to defining Erin a little more to members who haven't paid much attention until now, but it just felt out of place when compared to the other statements.

Further to that point, I don't think Erin's candidacy really needs to the extra definition. He's been very good at staying in the media, both traditional and social, and I think even members who haven't been fully paying attention have a good idea of who he is and where he comes from. It just felt like wasted exposition instead of a chance to contrast Erin's own vision to counter the other three.

Areas for Growth

I think one of the areas Erin has for real growth is to focus less on calling attention to the other candidates and focusing solely more on his own policy. That isn't to say that he shouldn't respond to a challenge from another candidate, but he should try to stay away from being the first one to throw down the gauntlet. He's proud of mentioning that his policies are costed and he's explored the means of securing the revenue for his proposals, so I think he should hammer those points home more firmly.

Final Thoughts

I think Erin put to rest any concerns that he would be drowned out by the other candidates, and he's started to highlight that he's fleshed out some good policies. Furthermore, he's also a candidate that gets a lot of mention from the other candidates with regards to some of his policies; as such, to highlight his policies more and keep up good faith with the other candidates, I do think he needs to be more cautious about being the first candidate to try and get a rise out of the others.

It's fine when everyone else is ready to move the debate into an area where the candidates actively challenge each other, but when you're the only one doing it it comes across as a little bit desperate to add your voice to the conversation. But, when the conversation does reach that point,  I think Erin stands a good chance of really distinguishing himself in the fray.

Monday, November 19, 2012

First Debate: Ryan Meili

I'm going to use this as a standard disclaimer for the posts in this series: Also, I'm worried some of this might sounder harsher than I mean it to. I want to assure you all that I am by no means belittling or attacking any of the candidates; rather, I'm offering my perceived take and ways to address what I see as problems from the first debate. If I offend anyone, I offer my apologies ahead of time, and assure you that my intention was not to offend; I suppose it is hard to discuss legitimate criticism, but I feel that we need to in order to really get the best out of our candidates.

Positives:

1.) The first positive I can think of for Ryan is the fact that he's very good at engaging with the audience, especially in terms of using humour.

2.) In general, Ryan has a sort of "hopeful atmosphere" around him; by which, I mean that when he speaks about generalities and an overall vision for the province, he tends to do with a sense of wonder and in a way that tends to win a lot of people over. Whether you can chalk it up to just natural charisma, or just being passionate about the issues, Ryan's speaking style serves him well.

3.) Ryan is well-read, and he likes to get that across; as he is quick to mention authors, researchers, studies, and a myriad of other references that underscore his general commitment to social democracy; it might not make him an authority on a particular issue, but it highlights that he is reading what the authorities have to say.

4.) This one might be phrased poorly, but in many ways Ryan comes across as the most humble of the leadership candidates. Even though he came in second in the last leadership contest, Ryan has managed to avoid any sense of entitlement to lead the party based on the past result, and is always quick to acknowledge the other candidates, and his campaign staff, ahead of himself.

Negatives:

1.) Ryan suffers a bit from some underdeveloped policy planks. And while he has brought forward some interesting policy suggestions, like the creation of a Bank of Saskatchewan, there are still a lot of potential policy planks that haven't been fleshed out and could cause some friction in future debates.

2.) I think Ryan comes across as personable, but there is always some room for improvement. For the most part, and I'm judging by web-footage so if I'm wrong please correct me, it seems like Ryan tends to answer questions directly back to the moderator. I think he would benefit from trying to directly address the crowd, as opposed to responding to the moderator or glances at his notes. Sir Ian McKellen explained that when he acts in a stage play, his goal is to look out into the audience and try to make eye contact with every single person in the house before the play is over; I think that's great advice, and it's something that could help Ryan connect a little more with the audience.

3.) Perhaps its just his soft-spoken tone, but there are times when Ryan doesn't always come across as particularly confident. With a slate of strong spoken candidates, I think Ryan needs to work at making sure the important points are hammered home in a more forceful (but still gentle) tone.

Areas for Growth

As mentioned in the negatives, I think Ryan has some room to grow in developing a more forceful personality during the debates. He doesn't have to lose his soft-spoken nature, and I think many people would be surprised or horrified if he did, but he does have to work on ensuring that the points he really wants to get across are delivered in a strong way. I can think of his mentioning of homelessness during his closing statement; it's a great point, but it gets lost through along the other issues mentioned.

Final Thoughts

Like Cam, I think Ryan's first debate performance was pretty much average. His passion for the issues, and his willingness to show that he's learning as much as he can from experts and from the average person, is his strongest suit and will continue to serve him well throughout the campaign. We know, given his past history (the last leadership, his book tour, a TED Talk, and other speaking engagements) that his speaking skills are there, and hopefully, they'll be a bit more fine tuned for the next debate. 

First Debate: Cam Broten

As promised, let's look directly at some of the campaign camp performances during the debate. I'll preface this by saying that I'm not a marketing guy, or an ad man, so any advice here should be taken with a grain of salt. Also, as noted, the video feed I've seen didn't include the opening statements, so sadly we're missing a few key parts of the debate. Should a new feed be put up, including those missing sections, I will revise accordingly.

So, we'll break this into the standard pro and con type of style, and hopefully managed to create something of substance. I want to try and not have one sided lists, or rather, have one side overpower the other; but we'll see what happens when we type it up.

Also, I'm worried some of this might sounder harsher than I mean it to. I want to assure you all that I am by no means belittling or attacking any of the candidates; rather, I'm offering my perceived take and ways to address what I see as problems from the first debate. If I offend anyone, I offer my apologies ahead of time, and assure you that my intention was not to offend; I suppose it is hard to discuss legitimate criticism, but I feel that we need to in order to really get the best out of our candidates.

Positives

1.) I think one of the positives, and this is one that can be ascribed to all of the candidates, is that Cam is a pretty good public speaker. He managed to stay on topic, with one exception, and more or less managed to get his points across very well.

2.) Having mapped out his policy directions from day one, Cam has a lot of policy guidelines that he can draw on for a variety of questions. Having such a mapped out campaign should help prevent a curveball question that might put a different candidate on the spot.

3.) As noted in the general post for the debate; Cam was the candidate who was most mentioned (by my count) by the other three candidates on the stage. While it's not overly reflective of any specific point, being talked about (or agreed with, or even challenged) more than the other candidates suggests some real viability in Cam's campaign position.

4.) Cam's closing statement was very good at calling attention to the party's current fortunes in the province, and highlighting the need for guided rebuilding. At the very least, Cam certainly came across the candidate most likely to rebuild the party's fortunes by addressing the party's structure. 

Negatives

1.) The downside to Cam's policy guidelines is the generalities of the statements; Cam tried to counter this in the debate by suggesting that it's not always up to the leader to determine the ways of enacting the policy, but they can set the policy they want to strive towards. For now, it's a good deflection; but overtime, if Cam doesn't have at least one or two policies fleshed out in greater detail, it will continue to be something that other candidates can call negative attention to.

2.) While Cam's closing statement was very good at focusing on the need to rebuild the party, it stuck too closely to that theme and avoided segwaying into a discussion about how a rebuilt party could revitalize the province. If anything, it was a missed opportunity to really hammer home the necessity of repairing the party before we can hope to repair the province in government. Without providing that context, it sounds like Cam is more interested than rebuilding the party than he is in leading the province.

3.) Cam was one of two candidates, Erin being the other, to have a proposed policy directly challenged. While Cam didn't fumble the rebuttal, I don't think he fully managed to address the criticism directed at him. As such, and this draws a little on the first negative, Cam needs to reflect on the areas of policy that he may be criticized on and figure out the best way of not just deflecting, but negating, the criticism entirely. 

Areas For Growth

As noted in the main post, I think one of the main areas for Cam to improve on would be in loosening up a little more on stage. I've talked with Cam numerous times in person, and face-to-face, he's a nice, personable guy. While you get a glimpse of that during this first debate, especially when he talks about his past and his family, it still doesn't quite completely come across.

One avenue of doing this would be to try and step up humour during his answers, or even just during his opening or closing statements. I know Cam is personable, he just needs to better portray that in the next rounds of debates.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I think Cam's performance in the debate was about average for a debate of this nature. While he would have benefited from a few more solidly mapped out policies, ones that contain direct action as opposed to study, Cam did very well at not getting bogged down and staying on topic. Should the debates reach a point where we see the contest become a little more adversarial, I think Cam has a good chance at staying above the fray and not being knocked for a loop.


Campaign Update: First Debate

Video Feed: LINK

Provided at the top of the post is the video link for those interested in viewing the debate, or watching it again, and it is what I used to form my opinions for this post. I'll just know, however, that there seems to be some cut footage from the video; as the candidates opening statements are missing and the video seems to start halfway through the first question on climate change.

While I wish I could critique the opening statements, it seems I'll be unable to do so (unless another video of the debate in its entirety is put up).

Now, I've given some thought at to what this post should be about. It could be a simple recapping of what was said during the debate, or it could just be my general impression from it. After careful reflection, I think it should be the latter. However, I will give some brief overviews regarding the content of the debate.

In many ways, this was less of a debate and more of a questions & answer session. I say this, because, for the most part the candidates avoided directly interacting with each other and focused more answering the questions that were presented by the moderator. This format isn't a bad thing, but I do imagine we're going to need at least one type of "adversarial" debate to highlight the key differences between the four candidates.

The debate consisted of seven questions, with follow up questions provided to each candidate after answering the primary question. The questions were, in broad strokes: Climate Change, Addressing Poverty, Engaging Youth, Party Direction, Generating Revenue, Women in Politics, and Child Care. For the most part, each of these questions have been answered by the candidates through various releases prior to the debate, and as such, I don't think we saw anyone really outside of their comfort zone during the debate.

For the bulk of the debate, it was a simple verbal restating of policies already brought forward and talked about by the campaigns. There was also, as noted by Erin Weir in his closing statement, a lot of agreement between the candidates on stage.

Which brings me to the three things I want to discuss specifically. I kept a specific note on three key points during the debate: Firstly, which candidate was being mentioned/referenced either positively or negatively the most by the other candidates? Secondly, which candidate 'brought the funny' to the podium? Thirdly, which candidate received the most 'applause breaks'?

The last two, I think, are important because its a good indication of how the candidate is playing in the room. If they're saying things that evoke laughter, or applause, it's an indicator of an emotional attachment in the room. It shows that people are engaged, listening, and feel connected to what the candidate is saying. As such, while it might not be scientific, I think it is at least an indicator of who is playing best in the room.

So, let's start with the first point: Which candidate was mentioned the most, either positively or negatively, by the other candidates?

The criteria I used to measure this is somewhat specific. I do not include passing reference (something like "Continuing on what Candidate X said...") but rather look for dynamic engagement ("Unlike Candidate X's plan;" or "I think Candidate X is right to say"). Also, we don't include doubles. For example, Erin's plan to issue tax receipts for the Bessie Ellis Fund is mentioned a few times by Trent; but we would only count it once, as opposed to twice, as it is the same issue being discussed.

By my count, Cam Broten was the candidate most of the others spent time making reference to in terms of agreeing to statements he had made and policy issues that came up during the debate.It's also worth noting that Cam, along with Erin Weir, were the only two candidates to be mentioned negatively by another during the debate.

Cam called out Erin's approach to the small business tax  as creating a tax increase of 600%; while Erin called out Cam's commitment to establishing a committee and undertaking a study of increasing gender parity in politics, as opposed to taking stronger action. It was the only real headbutting moment of the debate, however, it was also an incredibly short lived moment as well.

So, we'll make a final analysis about the first point once we've put the other two points with it. So, let's move onto the next topic of: Which candidate "brought the funny"?

As I've mentioned before, personality is a big part of politics right now in Saskatchewan; especially when you're facing a personable opponent. As such, being able to make a room laugh isn't necessarily a bad trait for a leader to have. Laughter puts us all at ease, and we all tend to remember a good laugh and what brought us to it for at least a few days. Therefore, I thought it was at least a tad important to focus on which candidate seemed to best bring that across.

In terms of laugh out loud moments, that honor goes to Ryan Meili. Ryan was quick to start, garnering the first laugh of the night with his 'wind-win' joke with regards to sustainable energy. By the end of the debate, Ryan had caused the most laughter overall, though every candidate managed to at least provoke some laughter throughout the course of the evening.

Also, since it fits well here, I'll also commend Ryan for the use of the term 'trolling'; as an internet savvy youngster, I was surprised to not only hear a politician use the word but use it correctly.

That brings us to applause breaks. This is a much harder category to declare a winner in, if only because there's a three-way tie for who garnered the most audience applause. The criteria for this stems from random applause, such as after presenting a point, and does not include "mandatory applause", as you would get at the end of the closing statement.

If we want to score it by who garnered the first round of random applause, then you'd give it to Trent Wotherspoon; who was met with applause while talking about labour laws and ensuring the growth of the middle class.

So, let's look at all of these things together and see what they mean.

Based on these three points, and the fact that the debate was apparently quite well attended, I think the debate process is off to a good start. With regards to the "bringing the funny" and the applause break sections, there is a lot of room for growth for most of the candidates. Cam and Trent, perhaps used to taking a more serious approach to debate due to the rules of the Legislature, were the least likely to include a joke or other 'icebreaker' approaches during their answers.

While they did present their personal histories very well, and that is an effective way of helping to connect with the audience, I think there is always room for a good dose of humour. As I mentioned above, a good belly laugh often leaves a lasting memory; and there's no harm in finding a way to create that memory.

As for the applause; well, I don't think the campaigns need to focus on the barnburner speeches that will have the audience leaping to their feet every other sentence, but again, its at least a good tool at showing that people are engaged with what the candidate is saying. If anything, the campaigns should be taking note to see what topics and issues (and their solutions or policies) are generating this kind of interest and take steps to make sure that they present those issues well during the course of the campaign.

Now the big one. Oscar Wilde said the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about; and in many respects, that is true in a leadership race. Ryan talked about framing the debate of the next election, and in many ways, that's what the candidates need to be focusing on right now. Getting a rival candidate to agree to a policy you've put forward is a boon, and getting them to continually mention it is even better.

Erin has done the best on that front, as Trent mentioned the Bessie Ellis Fund numerous times during the debate (not to mention the references to Erin being the first to call for an end to corporate and union donations to political parties), and its a good way of staying at the forefront even when someone else is speaking.

As such, the campaigns should be focused on ensuring that when their candidate isn't talking, at the very least some of their ideas are still being mentioned. This is going to get harder as more and more policies are put forward, and being the first with the grand idea is the only way to guarantee success on this front. However, at the same time, this is a double edged sword.

While it is good to be talked about, there's also the risk of being talked about negatively. As we saw with the brief exchange between Cam and Erin, there is going to be some friction between the candidates and some policies are just not going to mix well. Which is why there is a fine line between calling attention to something and being the sole contrarian in the room.

Disagree if need be, and believe me we will need some disagreement before the race is through, but always make sure that it isn't disagreement for the sake of disagreement.

Now, comes the complicated part. I'm thinking a lot about the closing statements, and whether or not a 'winner' can be crowned from the first debate. Personally, I don't think it's my place to determine that latter question; although I do feel that there was no 'knockout punch' that effectively propelled any one candidate over any of the others...

As for the closing statements; I fear I might be a little more harsh than previously on this blog. I say that because while the statements had their high points, they also had their low ones, and I think we should be able to discuss them freely.

As such, I will be posting closing statements reflections separately from this blog post and personalized by each candidate. I just hope that none of my 'objections' or thoughts will be construed as a bias, since as I've stated before, I am quite undecided in this race and want to remain objective while blogging about it. So, we'll start posting those reflections soon, likely starting tonight and should have them wrapped up before the next debate.

 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Campaign Update: Trent Wotherspoon

Trent's Website: LINK

Trent Wotherspoon's campaign has also put forward Trent's plan for renewing the NDP in the province today, so we'll take a look at it and see what's being proposed.

The first plank of the plan revolves around relationship building and presence across the province. Trent's plan calls for the party to adopt Nova Scotia's approach to a Leader and Caucus Tour of the Province within the first year of the next leader's tenure, with an emphasis on rural areas, small urban centres, and First Nations communities; working with the Saskatchewan Young New Democrats, develop a clear outreach strategy for the campus clubs, while also performing outreach to other post-secondary institutions and reaching out to young workers.

The second plank of the plan revolves increasing diversity in candidates. Trent's plan calls for an endorsement of Erin Weir's plan for a tax receipt for donations made to the Bessie Ellis Fund; adopt the federal NDP's policies that support the nomination and election of women; have the SNDW work with the leader and caucus to develop a network with female community leaders across the province and provide a framework for on-going dialogue between the party and these leaders to address women's issues and foster engagement; devote resources from Provincial Office towards recruiting, training, and providing logistical support for candidates from equity-seeking groups in nominations (Women, First Nations & Metis, youth, people with disabilities, visible minorities, LGBT2Q community members, etc); appointing a member of the NDP Caucus to be the critic, or spokesperson, for LGBT2Q issues.

The third plank of the plan revolves around encouraging membership involvement. Trent's plan calls for a regular 'pulse taking' of the membership through online, telephone, written submissions and face-to-face surveys and input on policy questions; create an advisory committee to work with a caucus member to address issues to importance and policy, who in turn would consult and present an annual report at Convention, with a focus on youth and rural communities; conduct regular digital and telephone town halls with members and the leader, while also including regular face-to-face meetings across the province to keep members in touch with the leader and each other; improve conventions and provincial council by including education workshops for party activists, 'bear-pit' meetings with MLAs, and opportunities to provide input into an election platform.

The fourth plank revolves around modernizing our election strategy. Trent's plan calls for a fact-finding report to review successful campaigns of other social democratic parties in Canada and internationally to determine successful strategies; and the creation of a council of party members, staff, technical experts, and a caucus member to enhance the NDP's social media presence while also reinvigorating and strengthening grassroots community presence.

Looking at the proposals, I think the major one that stands out is the Leader and Caucus Tour; but allow me to explain why.

The idea of nine members plus one has been floated by Ryan Meili and Erin Weir as their approach to how to deal with being non-members of the legislature. They have specifically called for the next leader to get out into the trenches and reconnect with the people of Saskatchewan; and I think the including of this plan within Trent's platform takes a bit of wind of the sails of the other two candidates.

I say that, because I think it was assumed that the current two MLAs would solely focus the bulk of their time within the legislature, as opposed to grassroots outreach. And I've spoken to the importance of the leader being out there, but also being in the legislature within a certain time frame. (LINK)

By including this as a plank, I think it's a good move to suggest a 'best of both worlds' approach; wherein we have a leader who will take the time to tour the province and rebuild, but who will also then be able to turn around and have their time in the legislature without facing a by-election to get there. On the face of that alone, that's why it is the policy that stands out the most to me.

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Video: LINK
Ryan's Policy Announcement: LINK

Lots to talk about as we head into the first leadership debate in the NDP Leadership Race; sadly, I won't be in Regina tomorrow, but I will do my best to make sure to catch the live-stream (though, I have some out of town guests coming in tomorrow evening, so there's a chance that I may miss it in general; hopefully, there will be a way for us who can't make the live stream to have a chance to view it...)

So, on the build up to the debate, Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon have put out some new policy releases. We'll focus on Ryan's policy, revolving around labour, here. Included at the top of the post are links to a video of Ryan speaking a bit about labour and the wider effects of a narrow view on labour legislation, as well as a link to the direct release to the policy plank.

Now, let's have a look shall we?

In addition to proposing three steps to achieving 'healthy employment' in the province, Ryan has also highlighted the role that labour unions have to play in helping to design the future, and called to mind the role that unions have played within forging the NDP as well. Furthermore, he's also called on the idea of retaining consultation and input from workers to change the discussion from "what have we done for you lately" to "what can we do together?"

The meaty portion of the release focuses on Ryan's three steps to achieving healthy employment in the province.

The first step is to increase access to collective bargaining. Ryan's release has highlighted the benefits, both to workers and employers, by having a robust system that allows collective bargaining to take place. Some of the direct solutions explored in obtaining more collective bargaining include: Repealing legislative changes that make it harder for workers to join unions and reinstate card-certification; expanding the policy of collective bargaining to all workers, by expanding the Trade Union Act; increase access to mediation and arbitration to both public and private sector workers; and overhauling the appointment process to the Labour Relations Board to ensure appointees have the full confidence of all parties.

The second step is to remove barriers to employment. Ryan's release bemoaned the reliance of 'precarious employment' that we've seen in the province, and has called for a community (business, public, labour, etc) to come together to find solutions to remove barriers to meaningful full time employment. Some of the solutions explored include: partnering with community organizations to create employment experience programs to help people transition into employment; working with First Nations, educational communities and post-secondary organizations to create a First Nations employment strategy; helping ease people on social assistance and disability into employment by ending benefit clawbacks and providing assistance with tuition, child-care, and other transportation allowances; ensure paid sick days for all Saskatchewan workers and a reasonable number of paid days off for personal emergencies; and create affordable childcare and early childhood education strategies.

The third step is to improve the balance between work and personal life. Ryan's release starts simply by declaring an adherence to the Decency Principle, that would ensure that no worker is being paid a wage that is insufficient to live on and is no subject to unfair working conditions (clawbacks of earned wages, or longer hours than reasonable). Some of the policy explorations in this area include: Amending the Labour Standards Act to ensure pay equality to women, First Nations, new Canadians, youth, and others; Reverse changes to the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program to allow people and their families to become permanent residents or citizens, not just temporary workers; Ensuring temporary workers receive fair wages, adequate housing, workplace protections, and other services; Indexing minimum wage to 120% of the low income measure, or another acceptable benchmark, to prevent workers from living in poverty; Expansion of the Labour Union Act, Worker's Compensation Act, and Occupational Health and Safety Act to all workers; Adequate resourcing to Labour Standards and Occupational Health and Safety Offices; and restoring the protection of human, and worker, rights by restoring an independent Human Rights Commission and Tribunal.

In addition to his release, Ryan picked up an endorsement from noted Regina Labour Law Lawyer Juliana Saxberg.

As per usual, looking at the information contained in the release, the one major plank that stands out to me is the community solutions to create employment experience for those looking to enter into the job market. I think there's a lot of room to expand on that idea, and to address some of the failures that have been taken on this front (I'm thinking especially of the government's GradWorks program for recent university grads) and make meaningful changes to help those transitioning from either learning, or time away from employment due to illness or disability, fully enter into the workforce.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Campaign Update: Another Month, More Numbers

Well, the financial reports for the month of October have come out and we're going to take a look at them. Stupidly, I didn't save the old PDF donor lists, so I don't think I can go through and subtract connected campaign workers and such as we did last time. A lesson for the future, perhaps.

So, let's take a look at what we can ascertain from the chicken entrails that these numbers represent.

We'll start with the big winner for the month of October, and that is Ryan Meili. Effectively, Ryan has doubled his donations from September, and the bulk of those (coming from memory) seem to be comprised of those who have donated under the $250 amount. I noted last time we talked numbers that compared to the other candidates, while Ryan raised the most once we removed those connected to campaigns, that his overall take-in was still a little underwhelming based on his profile and past infrastructure.

Well, this month's return seems to have shot that theory in the foot. Perhaps the campaign was just a little slow to start, but it seems that Ryan's behind the scenes machine is definitely still working.

That brings us to Trent Wotherspoon. Trent still has the unfortunate distinction of spending more than he's brought in, but he too has improved massively on the overall take-in front from September. He fell a bit short of doubling his first month's donations, and he inched a little deeper into the red ink this last month, but all in all he's slowly moving forward and I'd expect both his expenses to decrease and his donations to hit a balance in the near future.

But while Ryan and Trent saw their donations increase in October, Erin Weir and Cam Broten saw theirs decrease; and the decrease in Cam's donations has been quite dramatic when compared to the September.

Despite this, there is a silver lining for Team Broten. If I've done the math correctly (and we remember what happened last time, so if I'm wrong, please let me know), Cam's campaign is at least the most shrewd of the four campaigns. I say this because, again math, suggests that Cam has spent about 57% of the total donations received since September.

This is in contrast to 61% for Ryan, 80% for Erin, and (this one could be wrong) 121% for Trent.

So, now we can extrapolate a few things.

Firstly, in terms of 'monitoring momentum', it would seem that Ryan and Trent certainly seem to be in the front (at least, definitely in terms of fundraising for sure).

However, I would be quick to caution that money doesn't always equal a victory. If it did, we'd be cursing and grumbling about President Romney right about now. So, while we can see which campaigns are doing well at getting people to open their bank books; its not a for-sure guarantee as to which campaign is also getting people to commit their ballots.

Basically, in addition to this report, we'll also need to start hearing some more concrete numbers regarding support. According to the last poll, released by the Weir Campaign, Trent was a 'declared' members front runner; and I think a strong October financial showing provides a bit more proof for that.

Now that we've seen the financial numbers, we'll need to see some support numbers to truly start making any real predictions or estimates toward who is making the most head way on ballots.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Editorial Content: Hey Buddy, Spare Some Change?

One of the big issues coming out of the Saskatchewan NDP Leadership Race thus far is the idea of change; or at the very least, the idea of renewal. I was spurred onto this post after reading Jason's post over at Head Tale (LINK) regarding which candidate presented the best option for change within the Saskatchewan NDP. As such, I want to add my two cents to this notion of change.

Firstly, let it be said that I am a man who is fond of change. I like advancements and I like the world to move forward; if I could have various limbs replaced with robotic ones with no risk to myself or others, I'd say damn the consequences and go ahead and give it a shot. However, we must always be wary of the notion of change for the sake of change.

While those robotic limbs might be nice (and enable me to lift 200 pounds no problem), at the same time one would have to be careful to make sure that it was a change that was a net positive. And I think that's always something that we have to consider, especially in politics. It's with that in mind that I think Jason has wrongly written off Trent and Cam as agents of the least change for the party.

Personally, I think that every candidate is bringing something to the table with regards to meaningful change. Cam's approach in rebuilding the party at the grassroots level, for example, is a sound idea of change that would have a profound impact on the party. Every candidate has some aspect of their campaign that endorses them as agents of change.

Trent's mixture of reviving old NDP programs that have fallen by the wayside with new ideas and approaches to civil engagement is another good example. To write off these two candidates as harbingers of the 'status quo', I think, is a dangerous mistake to make.

Furthermore, I think there are some fundamental problems presented in Jason's arguments with regards to Trent and Cam. Just because Trent and Cam didn't support Ryan in the last leadership race doesn't necessarily mean that they are against renewal and changing the party. I think it's too easy to point to Trent's support of Dwain Lingenfelter, and Cam's support of Deb Higgins, and say that it's proof of the status quo.

Dwain and Deb were both experienced MLAs in a contest, much like this one, where two other candidates did not have experience as an MLA. Furthermore, especially in Cam's case, I'd imagine there was a mentality of caucus solidarity; by which I mean, supporting a candidate who is a co-worker and a friend. I think it's the equivalent of helping a friend move rather than helping the new neighbour you don't know. As such, I don't think it reflects badly on the desire for change or renewal, and I think chalking up past allegiances to prior leadership candidates is a non-starter.

I can't speak to Ryan's prior allegiances, as I don't honestly know the answer or even if he was involved in casting a ballot for leaders prior to his entry into politics, but I don't think we'd hold anything against him if he preferred Chris Axworthy or Nettie Wiebe to Lorne Calvert.

Also, allow me to play Devil's Advocate for a moment. There is this notion, more like gossip, that after winning Dwain Lingenfelter made a point of keeping Ryan Meili out of caucus and out of the legislature. Now, if Dwain was indeed actually that petty (as I've said, this is all second hand gossip, but it illustrates my point), would you want to be the caucus member who supported his strongest rival?

So ,whether Trent backed Dwain out of the experience factor, liking the policies he heard, or simply out of fear of what Dwain would do to the caucus member who supported his strongest rival; the argument of neither of them supported Ryan in the last race doesn't hold a lot of water. We've all voted for different leaders at different times, and to hold that against anyone and say that it shows a lack of commitment to improving the party, I think is an incorrect statement to make.

Effectively, on the first point, I don't think you can write off Trent or Cam because they're sitting MLAs who supported other candidates in 2009. They've both brought forward interesting policies and discussions that are already focused on change and renewal of the party, and they're valuable voices to have in the discussion.

That brings us to the second argument regarding Erin Weir.

Jason points out that Erin, as the youngest candidate and as someone who has spent time outside of the province, can bring change and renewal into the party. But then dismisses this notion by suggesting that Erin's been connected to the party for too long.

Again, we see an argument forming around the status quo.

Now, I think this is another dangerous argument to make, if only because it negates the role of long-term party members. Yes, it is true that if you entrench yourself in a culture there is a possibility of the culture changing you, rather than you changing it. Yes, there are people who prefer to say 'sit down, you're rocking the boat'!

But there's also people who want to challenge the status quo, and who will rock the boat. I don't think a person can enter a leadership contest without being this type of person; and some people point to that as one of the reasons why Brian Topp failed federally, because he stuck too close to already established NDP Policy that he had helped draft in the last election.

Right now, it's hard to say that ANY of the candidates are simply repeating policy. Everyone's brought something to the table, and I think that alone shows that this notion of the status quo is an incorrect one to hold.

As I mentioned, there is a worry that the longer you spend inside a 'culture' or 'mentality' the more likely it is that it will change you. But I think, and this applies to all the candidates, that we have a crop of people who are more likely to CHANGE the culture rather than be changed by it.

Effectively, on the second point, I don't think simply being involved in the party longer than another candidate means you're less passionate to change it. In some cases, it might actually make you more passionate about changing your party since you don't want to see it grow stagnant and languish in electoral hell.

As for Jason's third argument, I more or less have to agree with some of it. Ryan is a strong candidate, and he does bring a wealth of experience from outside of politics that would serve him well as leader. I also agree that Ryan has a hurdle in becoming leader due to his life outside of politics, but I think as the 2009 race proved, it might not be as big a hurdle imagined. By no means can anyone call Ryan the 'underdog' of the race.

Finally, let's talk a bit about Jason's final assertion. Members who don't want a major change may support Trent or Cam, but I still think that's a bit of a misnomer. Cam's behind the scenes of the party changes are pretty seismic, so calling him a candidate who will only 'tweak the party', I think is a little less than accurate.

As stated, I think all the candidates are bringing some form of change to the table; either for the party's organization or for the approach to crafting policy and engaging voters. In that way, I think any of them can easily make their case for being the candidate with the right ideas to reinvigorate the NDP in Saskatchewan.

But, now, I need to discuss something that we touched on but didn't explore: How much change do we need?

There are numerous answers to this question depending on how you interpret the last election. So, let's look at the interpretations:

1.) Saskatchewan has never had a 1 term government, therefore, it was unlikely that the SK Party was going to lose.

2.) The race was about personality; and Brad Wall's 'down-to-earth' approach came off better than Dwain Lingenfelter's 'gruff' personality.

3.) The province was doing well financially, and people didn't want to change hands on the wheel of the economy.

4.) The NDP ran a dismal campaign, and it was our lack of ideas that sunk us.

Those are pretty much the four major interpretations of why we lost in 2011, although some people hold some or all of those to be true in their own personal interpretations. Personally, I think 1  - 3 played a factor in the race, but I don't think number four did.

I've mentioned before on this blog, during and after the election, that I thought our policies were pretty strong in the last election. The potash review is a topic that the party is still talking about, and pretty much all of the current leadership candidates have endorsed the creation of a 'Bright Futures Fund' from non-renewable resource revenue.

Where we lost voters, as I've explained before, was the Revenue Sharing with First Nations. I was on the doorsteps and phones in several different communities during the election, and we had long time supporters telling us they wouldn't be voting NDP because of the Revenue Sharing plan. And the main reason, I think it happened, was because the plan wasn't defined by us. It was defined by the SK Party.

By throwing it out as an idea during the election, and not working on it before hand, we allowed the SK Party to frame the argument. They could throw out any number for cost, and we had nothing to refute them with. If the party had spent the time prior to the election meeting with First Nations leaders and discussing the plan and getting estimates on the cost of the program, I think it would have been a slightly easier sell.

It still would have kept the more, for want of a better word, 'racist' people of Saskatchewan from embracing the NDP, but it might have at least allayed some of the concerns that people had over the cost of the program and the cost on non-First Nations people of Saskatchewan.

Other than that, the policies brought forward by the party were strong (in my opinion) and it wasn't for lack of policy ideas that the NDP had a dismal showing.

So, why do I mention this?

I do so because I think there is this idea that we have to completely rebuild the party from the beginning. I don't think that is the case; we do have work to do, but this is a renovation project not a tear down and rebuild. So, while we do need to embrace some changes in our party, we need to remember our roots and correctly identify the problems that reduced us in the province. If we address non-problems, or misidentify what needs to change, regardless of who leads us we'll be in the same boat come the next election.

Change is good, but making the correct change is what we need.