I suppose with the writ dropped for the Saskatchewan election, many of you are expecting this blog to become a wildfire place for information and the like...
However, I must sadly suggest that this will not occur. Allow me to explain, before everyone starts throwing bricks or some other hard/blunt instrument in my general direction. I've gotten involved in this campaign, and as such, I'm going to be on the road a lot. As such, I will not always have the time to post regularly to the blog.
Furthermore, given my connections to the campaign, it seems odd but I may have to recluse myself from posting on a particular issue. After all, I don't wish to take away any of the thunder from my party and their announcements.
As such, should I find the time to post, it will most likely revolve around the major announcement of day/week AFTER it has been put forward. So, look forward to that.
That said, I think it's time for another 'Scott Muses' post...Maybe I'll start naming them like that for those of you who would prefer to skip the editorializing and simply read the facts.
I apologize if this sounds like a speech; sometimes in my head that's the way I imagine this blog being read out, just so you're all aware.
As Saskatchewan heads to the electoral polls, we find ourselves at the dawn of a new political landscape. The general assumptions of what we consider to be Canada's political machine have been thoroughly put to rest; a fact that many of different political stripes refuse to accept.
We rely on precedent. We look back to the past to see if we can glean from past generations the patterns that will predict future outcomes. As such, politics in Canada has always been something of a psychic with a crystal ball. After all, who could forget the last federal election? Pollsters had all but ruled out a Conservative majority government, yet that was the over all outcome.
Furthermore, the NDP rose to heights that were not expected. It was clear that the party was surging, but pollsters did not see the lengths to which that surge would go. As such, the crystal ball was shattered and Canadians were generally surprised by the outcome of the election.
But this has not been the only time the pollsters got it wrong. Let's look to some of our most recent provincial elections. For the longest time, doomsayers would predicting the downfall of the NDP in Manitoba and the Liberals in Ontario; at the gain of the Progressive Conservatives of those provinces.
Even Stephen Harper smiled at this prospect; going as far as to suggest that Ontario would be better served by a triumvirate of himself in Ottawa, Rod Ford in Toronto, and Tim Hudak in Queen's Park. After all, this is what the polls were suggesting. Even historically speaking, Canadians do tend to ditch governments when they get a little long in the tooth and too unpopular.
(Alberta has been the exception to this, but mainly by changing leaders regularly enough to prevent the electorate from letting the party get too unpopular.)
However, there has been another historical trend that Conservative politicians have been overlooking. There is something of a trend in provincial-federal relations that states that the provinces want to balance the power between the feds and the provinces. This is traditionally done by electing governments of different political stripes provincially than those federally.
Now, much like the other historical trends, this is something of a crap shoot. Not always do the provinces elect differently striped provincial parties..But they do tend to elect parties that are vocal about standing up for the province.
Take Newfoundland & Labradour for example. Danny Williams was a conservative, so was Stephen Harper. Yet Williams consistently stood up to the federal government for the sake of his province. In fact, he did it in such a way that the two had a very frosty relationship and you'd never guess that they shared similar political ideologies.
As such, the role of the provincial government has always been to stand up for the province when Ottawa comes a calling. In this manner, the historical trend suggests that the citizens of the province want a provincial government who is going to put the province's needs ahead of everything else...Including political ideology.
So, what does that say for Brad Wall?
Well, if we look at his track record of standing up to Ottawa...The record isn't good. The only thing Wall grew a backbone over was the potential selling of PotashCorp. And even then, he was the last provincial leader to condemn the sale, and only did so when it became public that the province would stand to lose billions in revenue if the sale went through.
One can't help but wonder that if the cost to Saskatchewan had remained in the shadows, if Brad Wall would have stayed there as well.
Then we have the fabled equalization debate with Ottawa that started before the last election in 2007. Wall was quick to surrender Saskatchewan's argument that the formula had robbed Saskatchewan of a sizable amount of money from Ottawa; and instead allowed the issue to die a quick death and never bothered to fight for money that Saskatchewan was entitled to.
As such, we've seen in Brad Wall a man who is not putting the province ahead of ideology. One has to wonder if this will be in the mind of the electorate, especially considering the Conservative majority in Ottawa.
We're standing at a crossroads. Harper has put forward his vision of Canada for the next few years, and it is a vision which many oppose. The dismantling of the Wheat Board, for example, is opposed by farmers yet Harper is hell-bent on continuing. And the Wall Government is silent on the issue.
As such, we could very well see rural voters (who have traditionally voted Saskatchewan Party) turn to the NDP, simply because they know that a provincial NDP government will fight against Ottawa to save the Wheat Board.
Then there's Harper's law and order agenda; which Justice Minister Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Towes have said will have significant costs to be covered by the provinces. Given Wall's enthusiasm only a few years ago to build a 'super-max' prison facility somewhere in Saskatchewan, we know which side of the debate he falls on.
Yet I imagine the NIMBY (Not-In-My-BackYard) principle will be alive and well. After all, what community would want to have a prison housing dangerous offenders from across western Canada? Furthermore, what Saskatchewan taxpayer would want to pay to have such a facility built with limited financial support from Ottawa?
There a myriad of small strings on this tapestry, and yet so few of them have been unraveled. Pollsters and 'specialists' have already suggested that Brad Wall is waltzing towards victory simply because of historical precedence and 'stage presence'.
But we've already seen that historical precedence is easily tossed to the wayside when the electoral decides to do so. Furthermore, Wall's 'stage presence' is easily chipped away when one considers how easily he curtails to Ottawa, provided it won't cost him dearly at home.
Now, I may be biased in my own political leanings; but, I feel that this election is not as easily written off as many have said it is. Many are saying that the electorate is slow to change current sitting governments because of economic uncertainty; but there is also another thread that many are missing.
All of these governments trailed their right-of-centre party for the bulk of the pre-election period. And despite looking as if marching towards defeat, centre-left and left parties performed admirably. All of these provincial elections have been a rejection of conservativism, thus far.
It does seem likely that the PCs will win in Newfoundland, but the NDP will rise to official opposition and likely receive their highest seat total ever in the province. As such, what does this mean for Saskatchewan?
Many are suggesting that not only is Wall going to win, but he's going to gain seats in this election. Again, this is all historical precedence speaking.
But if we look at voter mood, it's those on the left who are the most organized and 'riled' up at the moment. (Occupy Wall Street movement, anyone?) And that could very well propel left of centre parties into a better position than people are giving them credit for.
Effectively, to borrow a line, the only poll that matters is the one that happens on election day. Thus far, polls have proven themselves to be wrong more often than they were right. As such, no party can be written off.
But what can be said is that Canadians are not moving towards the right of centre; and this is a movement that is definitely going to have an impact on the November 7th election here in Saskatchewan.