Monday, September 19, 2011

Style over Substance

Once again, there's a lot of things worth talking about. We have the House coming back into session in Ottawa; the first session without Jack Layton heading the NDP in the House of Commons; and a question period that saw the opposition hound the government over their decisions to focus on 'law and order' bills at a time when the economy still needs a firm hand guiding it.

However, I'm going to keep it local this post.

As Saskatchewan approaches election day, the contrast between the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP is already very clear. It seems every other day, the NDP is coming out with policy developments and announcements while the Saskatchewan Party is staying mostly silent in terms of policy.

In fact, the only policies the Saskatchewan Party have really put forward have been in direct competition to what the NDP has said. For example, the cracked bridge in Prince Albert. The NDP have stated that the Diefenbaker Bridge will be repaired, and that a second bridge may be constructed to reduce the work load of the bridge and traffic congestion.

As such, the Sask Party was quick to play catch up when they announced that the province would absorb most of the repair cost to the Diefenbaker Bridge...No word on whether or not they would create a second bridge.

And yet, I've said that the Sask Party has been 'mostly' silent.

And that's because they are taking the path of least resistance, and least chance of ticking off voters, by sticking to sheer large amounts of advertising.

Rather than release policies, or detail what it is they would do if re-elected, the Sask Party has been focusing on massive ad buys. Look at billboards throughout Saskatchewan; numerous Sask Party signs (either for local candidates, or for Wall himself) can be found in cities and along the highways throughout our province.

Unlike previous billboards for Wall, which tried to tout the Wall Government's financial record (incorrectly, I might add), the new ads have no sort of policy announcement or track record for the government. Rather, it is just a picture of Wall with the Saskatchewan Party slogan.

But billboards are only the tip of the iceberg.

What is more obvious, especially to internet users like myself, are the large amounts of internet ads that have been purchased by the Saskatchewan Party. Numerous websites, ranging from Hotmail to the Internet Movie Database, are plastered with banner ads sporting Wall's image and the Saskatchewan Party colours.

Again, there is no mention of track record or policy; or any reason to support the Saskatchewan Party, just a simple ad that exists as a means of keeping Wall in the public view.

This really must be compared with the NDP's approach to the election campaign thus far. As noted, the NDP is coming out swinging hard with policy ideas and proposals. Furthermore, as previously mentioned on this blog, these policies have been crafted through public consultation with people across party lines throughout Saskatchewan.

As such, the NDP is running on a strong platform of ideas that were crafted by the people of Saskatchewan. Whereas the Saskatchewan Party is, at this point, running on the popularity of its leader.

So, as it is framed right now, the election is a choice between style and substance. It is likely that as the election continues, the Saskatchewan Party will bring out some policy ideas of their own; but by that point, the NDP will have staked out the policy development area of the election (and the Saskatchewan Party will be left to simply oppose NDP policies, or tweak proposed ones, as opposed to crafting their own.)

As it stands now, the NDP is clearly winning on the policy front. But whether or not that will translate into popular support remains to be seen.

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