Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Can You Say?

CTV News: Feds to put Attawapiskat Under Third-Party Management
CBC News: Attawapiskat Ordered into 3rd-Party Control
CBC News: Managers Axed at Sasktel

So, there's a few things that we need to talk about. The primary purpose of this post is going to focus on Aboriginal issues, both federally and provincially, with a small smattering of SaskTel news at the end of the post. There's also something we're going to talk about in the main body of the post that isn't covered by the sources above, and that revolves around the Sask NDP announcement that they will be back tracking on the resource revenue sharing idea that was put forward in the last election.

I want you to imagine for a moment. I'd tell you to close your eyes, but then you wouldn't know what you were reading and just what you were supposed to be imagining. I want you to picture yourself in a house. Now, most of us likely envisioned the house we live in now, or the house we grew up in, or maybe the house we'd like to live in if we had the money to...

Very few, if any of us, imagined a house full of imperfections. A house where every step on the floor results in a loud creak that makes you worry you're going to fall through on the next step. A house where the cold wind outside cuts through the walls in a way that makes you feel as though the walls don't even exist. A house where turning on a tap does not produce running water. A house where the walls are filled with noxious and health hazardous substances, like mold, which are threatening your health and your family's.

This is not some nightmare scenario. Rather, it is the accurate problems found with housing on Aboriginal Reserves across Canada. And it's the case with housing on the Attawapiskat Reserve in Northern Ontario; a case which is receiving a lot of media attention.

For the most part, many residents of the reserve are abandoning the houses that are too dangerous to live in in favour of makeshift shacks or tents that can barely stand the cold; if they can stand it at all. The reserve's leaders have even taken the step of declaring a state of emergency on the reserve, and the Red Cross has begun to help out the beleaguered community.

And the Harper Government drags their feet.

Despite intense opposition pressure, the Harper Government has done little to address the problems within the community. Harper himself as argued that the government has spent $90 million on the reserve since 2006. However, Liberal Interim Leader Bob Rae has suggested that this number is skewed. The reasoning being that the figure is including transfers to the reserve for the purpose of education spending, water and sewers, and other general expenses.

So, the Harper Government's response has been to order someone else to take control of the situation. The government has placed a third-party in control over the reserve and is also asking for a full audit of the reserve's finances to find out how the money received was spent over the past few years.

Now, an audit is not out of the question. It is important to make sure that money being put towards improving life on reserves is actually being used to improve life on reserves. It's much the same that money raised by the government and passed through Parliament is being spent properly; granted, that's a thing this government has a bad track record with, so it's a bit like the pot and the kettle...

So, while it is important to make sure money being received was well spent, it is also important to move quickly to address the current problems. The Red Cross has reported that temperatures are routinely around -15 to -20 in the area, and as we get deeper into winter those numbers are only going to get lower. As such, we have a responsibility to make sure that we minimize harm in the coming months.

The situation right now is bad, and it is a tragedy that is has reached this point in the first place. But it will be a source of national shame if we fail to act and the people living in these conditions are exposed to additional hardships over the coming months. As temperatures drop, the odds of people starting to die because of inaction by the government increases. These people have suffered enough without adding death of loved ones to the equation. And for that reason alone, if not all the problems mentioned before, is why we must act quickly.

Now, as I mentioned, these conditions are not unique to the Attawapiskat reserve. There are Aboriginal communities throughout Canada that are facing substandard housing, sewer and water system problems. Not to mention problems with education and health care access. Since many people probably failed to hear this point during the last provincial election, I'll say it here: In a municipality, education spending per child is around $1000 - 1200, depending on the size of the municipality. On reserve, that spending drops to about $600 - 800 per child.

These fundamental problems are what fosters situations like the ones we're seeing now. We are failing Aboriginals as children, and we continue to fail them as adults.

That said though, it is not only our responsibility to address these problems. Canada's problems with Aboriginal groups were a founding problem with this country. And the problem started by the newcomers attempting to dominate and control the every day lives of Aboriginal groups. And, sadly, that is the mentality that many people in Canada have held on to.

The idea that Aboriginals are still a 'lost child' that are the responsibility of the Federal Government and non-Aboriginal groups. That we have a responsibility to guide their lives and influence their day to day life. This is the same approach that created these problems in the first place.

Aboriginals are not a 'lost child' that need to be controlled and parented; they are (to belabour the metaphor) another parent with a different parenting style. That is to say, that Aboriginals are human beings like the rest of us. Just as deserving, and entitled, to the respect that the rest of us receive. And that also means allowing them to make their own decisions.

That means we need to have the Federal Government step back in the day to day life of Aboriginal Groups, and allow Aboriginals to take control of their own destiny. Yes, we do have an obligation to help Aboriginal groups in times of need and to help them lay the foundations of their own self-determinism; but we have to first raise them up to our level.

We have to accept that we are not the 'we know best' people we assume we are; the way our ancestors thought when they first came to this country. Rather, we must accept that we are both rational adult groups that MUST work TOGETHER, rather than have one side dictate at the other.

And that seems to be the best place to take us towards resource revenue sharing. I was at the Red Phesant Reserve when former NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter announced the NDP plan to begin negotiations with First Nation groups over resource revenue sharing.

And then the firestorm started.

The Saskatchewan Party was quick to condemn the plan, with Brad Wall mastering the art of the soundbite by arguing that 'Saskatchewan's resources belong to ALL people of Saskatchewan'. The spin began heavily from the Sask Party, and the true intentions of the resource revenue sharing plan were mostly lost to the masses and replaced with base rage and a tiny bit of blind racism.

So, the resource revenue sharing plan, let's break it down to what it truly meant.

As it works now, mining companies that want to develop mines or mills or what have you on reserve land have to work out deals with the respective band of that land. Which means, as it stands now, that bands already benefit from resource development on their land as they are paid a percentage already in exchange for the creation of that development.

What the resource sharing agreement would have accomplished was a unified percentage, which would have stopped negotiations between companies and Aboriginal groups and instead would have created a standard percentage rate.

So, let's say one Aboriginal group gets a 4% deal from a potash company for development on their land. Whereas a different group only received a 2% deal from the same company on a year or two earlier. The resource sharing plan would have eliminated these types of unfair deals and ensured that all Aboriginal groups with the same resource received the same amount of money for the same resource.

But that's not what the Sask Party told Saskatchewan residents. They told us that the deal would result in a percentage of the province's resource revenues being dolled out to Aboriginal groups. So, if the government made $25 million in potash, Aboriginal groups would be dolled out 5% of that $25 million.

It was a noble goal. But it was poorly defined by the NDP leadership during the campaign, and instead the issue was defined by the Sask Party who were able to use the program as an economic boogeyman that would give yet another (to borrow a term from Yorkton MLA Greg Ottenbreit) 'hand out' to the Aboriginals in Saskatchewan.

The Sask Party ran with the issue and was able to define it, while the NDP left defending the program to the local candidates and volunteers. The Sask Party even targeted NDP voters (through a massive phone campaign) by asking if they agreed with the program.

The issue became a nail in the NDP coffin, and was likely a factor in defeating several incumbent NDP MLAs and quite a few hopefuls who were almost shoe-ins for their constituency.

So, considering the impact that the program had on the election, it's not surprising that the NDP came out today and announced that they would not be including the program in future policy developments. Now, this announcement has received some condemnation from former candidates and long time NDPers.

Defeated Saskatoon Candidate Nicole White, used a quote from a friend on her Facebook to sum up her thoughts: 'There are times when it's important to do what's right rather than what is popular. This is one of those times.' Now, while it is a powerful sentiment; and there is much truth to the phrase...The NDP has to see the writing on the wall.

This program is a noble goal and something that we should work towards in the future...But, the issue itself was a political hand grenade in this election. As much as we'd like to deny it, there was a basis of racism that caused many to turn their backs on the NDP in this election.

Without naming names, I saw this first hand on the campaign. I traveled through Saskatchewan and knocked on many doors through the election, with various campaigns and candidates. And we had people who had been supporters in the past; or people who were identified as 'soft supporters' in this election cycle, who admitted that they could not vote for the NDP because of the revenue sharing plan.

It was always prefaced with the phrase, 'I'm not racist, but...'; and to borrow a phrase from Bill Maher, 'If you have to preface a phrase with the term, I'm not racist but...You're racist.'

We like to think we're above such things, but the sad truth is many people are not. There are stereotypes that all of us buy into. Yes, I have my own stereotypes about people, as I'm sure many people reading this blog do as well. Anyone who says they don't, is lying. We all have some little thing that we just instinctively believe about a certain group or people.

Granted, some of us (like myself) try very hard to overcome these stereotypes and views that many of us grew up with or have experienced in our lives; but some of us are content to keep the status quo.

Racism played a factor in the NDP record defeat; and it is embarrassing to admit but it is true. As such, the NDP really has no choice but to back away from this program for now. Maybe in a few years time, perceptions will have improved. But, there's no promise in that.

However, there is one way to defuse the situation. The NDP can recommit to this program, but there needs to be some changes to occur ahead of time.

Firstly, the NDP must define the program before the Saskatchewan Party has a chance to. They need to make it simple, explain what it does and what it doesn't do, and how it will impact non-Aboriginal Saskatchewan residents.

Secondly, the NDP needs a price tag. Lingenfelter was unable to commit to a price tag, as it would require years of negotiation with Aboriginal groups to determine how much the program would cost. The NDP has four years right now to being negotiations with Aboriginal groups and start getting numbers and costing details. While it may not create an agreement within four years time, it would be the first step in getting a cost for the program.

By having a cost, the NDP can counter any Sask Party claims about how much the program will cost. As such, the NDP should look into negotiating such a program with Aboriginals during their time in opposition in order to revive the program without some of the criticisms as before.

Of course, overcoming the racist part is going to be trickier. I'd like to think human beings could enlighten themselves over the course of four years...But, we've existed as a species for thousands of years. And during that time, we've always had trouble with people who are different than us. Look at the battle for civil rights for African Americans. Look at the battle for equal rights for women. Look at the on-going battle for civil/equal rights for the LGBT community...

I'm hopeful, but I'm not blindly optimistic. Humans have come far in our short time on this planet, but we haven't come far enough. And four years just doesn't seem like enough time to change that. I would love to be proven wrong on this point, but sadly, I think this point will still stand in four years time.

I think that more or less covers Aboriginal issues for now. I was planning on talking a bit about SaskTel's managers getting the axe today, but I will save that instead for tomorrow or later this week...As this post seems complete as it is.

I'd like to close on this thought: There are many of us out there to subscribe to the idea of a higher power. In the bulk of the teachings of these groups, human dignity and respect is often a cornerstone of these beliefs. We want to respect each other, we want to help each other, and we want to care for one another. Those are tenants that people claim to live their lives by. But when the going gets tough and we are called upon to care for our fellow man, many of us turn our backs on those tenants.

Some of us use excuses to justify our hypocrisy with our faith; while others simply remain blind to the problem.

Which brings me to a closing quote from Stephen Colbert:

"...either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blanket Posting

CTVNewsSaskatoon: City Admins Defend Tax Hike in 2012 Budget
CTVNewsRegina: Wall Fed up with SaskTel's Cellular Service Problems

So, despite the slim two topics sourced above, we'll see where this blog post goes. We'll start with the Saskatoon plan to increase property tax by 4.7% for next year. City officials have defended the plan by stating the new income into the city will be used to hire six more city police officers; while also boasting that other departments will not be increasing staff.

Here's the problem with this plan...As any long term resident of Saskatoon will know, there's some problems with the way the city is currently run. Let's take a seasonally relevant issue, such as snow removal, for example. A person I respect once referred to Saskatoon's snow removal service as 'snow moval' service, given the city's penchant for scrapping snow from the streets into piles which remain in the middle of the roadway until the near end of winter.

This process has already begun, as many streets (such as Central Ave, for example) have started to have snow moved from the sides of the street into piles in the middle. Now, one can surely understand the problem with this. It's hard enough making left hand turns in the summer, now imagine making one with a giant snowbank obscuring your view of traffic.

I've basically given up left hand turns for the past four winters, since the snow banks make each turn a game of 'Turn or No Turn' with my life as a prize. And yet, the city has never once talked about fixing this issue. Saskatoonians already pay a good share of property tax, and we've yet to see just what it is we are actually paying for.

I have no problem paying property taxes, provided that the services rendered for those taxes are worth what we are being charged. The snow removal is just one example of a service which is currently failing in in its present incarnation, yet one that the council is not talking about in terms of improving. Then we come to the issue of road repairs in the city as well...

A friend of mine lives on 106th St, and at the end of the road where it becomes Egbert Ave there is a massive patch of gravel that has been sitting there for the better part of half a year. The gravel was a stop gap measure to repair broken pavement in that area, and it has been a bane for any who dare to cross it. For almost three weeks, the gravel pit was a sinkhole that drivers had to avoid by basically driving on the right hand sidewalk. And the answer to this problem was not to repave the section, but add more gravel.

No one likes tax increases, I think we can agree on that much. But when we are subject to them, we expect that we're going to get a fair shake. Given the roads and other infrastructure services in this city, I can tell you pretty confidently that we aren't getting a fair shake right now. As such, should the city really be talking about raising property taxes?

Let's look at the other ideas, shall we?

Saskatoon's population has exploded and we've seen increases to our city. As such, this brings in new taxpayers to the system. Granted, it also brings some added costs. However, if you factor in the idea of new taxpayers to the system, plus a comprehensive review of current expenditures, I'm sure you could skip the idea of a tax increase altogether.

Our tax dollars currently are being questionably spent; (questionably as in 'how are they spending', not questionably as in 'illegally' spent.) and we deserve to examine how they are being dolled out before we commit to raising more money.

Any simple budgeting process will tell you that if you're having a spending problem, you don't fix it by spending more without addressing the problems in the system. Yes, we could raise more tax dollars, but if we don't address problems within the system it is a stop-gap measure at best. So, the city should be looking at ways to enhance its current spending and find more effective ways to spending current tax dollars, before committing to a tax increase.

The two problems with road infrastructure should be proof enough that our current tax dollars are not being spent in the best possible way; and as such, we should make an effort to ensure that the city will do more to examine current spending measures to enhance review, before they simply raise taxes as the knee jerk reaction.

In the long haul, a tax increase may be necessary. If that turns out to be the case, then that is what we need to do. But, it should not happen until the city has proven that there are no means of maximizing current spending to the best possible way.

And that brings us to Brad Wall.

Wall tweeted today that he is committed to addressing problems with SaskTel's cellular service. Now, I'm a SaskTel customer (surprise surprise) and must be one of the fortunate ones, because I've had no issues with my cell phone.

But apparently, there's been some issue with congestion and dropped calls. This prompted Wall to suggest that SaskTel doesn't have the capacity to handle the volume of calls that its customers are trying to make...

Now, the doomsayer in me says that that sounds like the first volley in excuses to privatize the crown. After all, saying that SaskTel can't handle the capacity sounds  alot like saying 'Other cell phone companies don't have this problem, let's open the market for them'...But we'll leave conspiracy theories alone...At least for now.

Wall has committed to the Minister responsible sitting down with the SaskTel President in the weeks ahead to discuss the problems and challenges ahead. So, how did SaskTel get in this mess?

Well, let's examine some issues around capacity.

For example, did you know that Rogers and Telus rent SaskTel's cellular towers? That means Rogers and Telus customers are using SaskTel's infrastructure to provide cellular service to their customers. Now, I'm not the biggest cellphone tech person...But I'm sure that having three different companies relying on the same cell phones towers is going to have an impact.

So, Wall doesn't mention the fact that SaskTel's infrastructure is being 'piggy-backed' by two of the other major providers in the province.

Then we come to my favourite part of this problem: This problem is Brad Wall's own.

Remember when the Saskatchewan Party took all of SaskTel's profits? In 2009, they took 80% of a $129 million dollar profit. In 2010, SaskTel posted a $155.2 million profit (source), and 2010 was the first year of the Saskatchewan Party government taking 100% of SaskTel's profits.

Now, that's a lot of money that was earmarked for improvement to SaskTel's infrastructure throughout the province. So, instead of having the money on hand to pay for these improvements SaskTel was required to get loans instead. Loans which likely did not cover the full cost of plans to fix up the infrastructure, and which will push the crown into debt. After all, it's hard to pay back loans when the government keeps taking all of your money.

So, the Wall Government made this mess (or at least made it worse) by robbing SaskTel of the funds necessary to pay for infrastructure development, upkeep, and expansion. So, if Wall wants to start talking about finding solutions to SaskTel's cellular problems, why doesn't he start with letting the corporation actually keep some of the profit they've been making?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cash-Back and Occupy This

This post is going to be split in to two subjects; though one will be longer than the other.

First, let's talk about election financing. Stop groaning and moaning, it's an important subject and it's the shorter of the two topics today. A long time ago, in a Parliament not too far away, it was revealed that the Conservatives had broken electoral financial laws by using a so called in-and-out scheme to transfer money from the federal party to riding associations for the purpose of having those ridings pay for national advertising BUT claim them as a local expense.

The Conservatives defended the practice, but Elections Canada refused to allow it to disappear into the background and took the Conservatives to court. Some high ranking Conservatives, including a few sitting senators, were named in breach of the Elections Act and were looking at some fines and even some jail time for their role in the plan.

However, the Conservatives (perhaps knowing that after losing the last couple of court fights they were going to lose this one) made a plea deal agreement where the party would admit wrongdoing in exchange for dropping the charges against the individuals. The court accepted the deal, and fined the party about $52,000 for breaching the Elections Act.

Now; it's been reported that the Conservatives used this practice to transfer $1.3 million dollars to local ridings. I'm going to repeat that with the connection you all should have made: They overspent in the election by $1.3 million dollars and were given a fine of $52,000. For a party that talks about making punishment fit the crime, it really doesn't apply to them or their lackies when they're the ones caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

Let's highlight a similar problem that was faced by the NDP. It recently came out that the NDP improperly used resources to fundraise for the Broadbent Institute, a left-wing think tank founded by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent. The party had reached out to members and encouraged them to contribute to the institute as a means of remembering Jack Layton.

And what happened when this came out? Believe it or not, the NDP was quick to admit that they were in the wrong and worked with parliamentary officials to see every dollar of those donations returned to the people who made them. In fact, parliamentary officials noted that there would be no further action against the NDP due to the level of cooperation they provided and their quick admission of wrongdoing.

Let's contrast that again with the Conservatives. Elections Canada says they overspent by $1.3 million dollars; the Conservatives will only admit to $668,000. Elections Canada had to use the RCMP to storm Conservative Party HQ back in the day in order to seize files that were relevant to the charges being laid. Elections Canada insisted that the in-and-out method violated the Elections Act; the Conservatives denied that this was true and had the audacity to suggest every party used in-and-out financing...

The list goes on and on. Some right-wing commentators have seized on the NDP using Layton's memory to illegally raise funds for the Broadbent Institute, insinuating that there is a darker side to the NDP and that they cannot be trusted in power. Yet, when they were caught/or made aware of the conflict, they admitted their mistake and worked with parliamentary officials to correct it. Whereas the Conservatives are hell-bent on avoiding admitting mistakes and even more hell-bent on not working with parliamentary officials.

So, out of those two parties, which one really sounds like the one we can't trust with the reigns of power?

That brings us out of campaign financing, and now we're going to talk a little about the Occupy Movement that has been sweeping the globe. Perhaps I'm a little late to join the party on this one, but I felt for awhile that it was best to stay silent about this movement.

Let's talk for a moment about why this movement exists. The movement was spawned out of the Occupy Wall Street event, wherein people in New York took to the streets and began camping in New York parks as a means of protest against corporate greed. Furthermore, the movement was to show (and remind people) that many Wall Street traders and companies were the recipient of bailout money from the federal government; and that that money was used improperly (Who else remembers Goldman Saks upper-uppers receiving bonuses for 'good work' with bailout money?) and only continued to contribute to the idea of corporate greed.

Well, despite many main stream media organizations basically ignoring the movement; it caught on and soon Occupy Movements were popping up all over North America. We've even got one here in my city of Saskatoon.

And it gained coverage, and support from celebrities and other left-wing supporters, but now the cities are starting to crack down on the movement. Saskatoon, Regina, and Toronto are the latest Canadian cities to issue orders of eviction from the parks these protestors are occupying.

American cities, such as Seattle and Atlanta, have already started to call in riot police armed with stun grenades, pepper spray, and other 'fun' riot gear to get the protestors out of the parks. And this is only getting worse.

While Canadian cities have yet to call in the troops, American cities are using this as a the first option. This is despite both countries having an enshrined right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Conservatives and right-winger like to talk about rights. They have a RIGHT to their guns. They have a RIGHT to privatize their property. They have a RIGHT to say whatever hateful, ignorant, and bigoted comment they want. They have a RIGHT to defend their faith as blindly as they like.

Yet when the other side exercises their RIGHTS, they immediately call for the police to come in and stomp that 'hippie scum' out.

Rights aren't rights unless everyone has them. And to borrow a phrase from George Carlin, 'You don't have any rights, you have privileges.' I say that, because our dear Mr. Carlin may have been closer to the truth than a lot of us want to admit.

A right isn't a right when it can be taken away. And right now, that is what municipal governments are doing. There is a difference between interceding when a peaceful protest turns violent; and attacking a peaceful protest claiming violence.

Yes, some protestors are going to do some stupid things. I'll again refer to the wonderful movie 'Battle for Seattle' (which dealt with the WTO protests.) An organized group of protestors called for peaceful protest; while a smaller bunch of protestors called for all out anarchy. Despite some protestors potentially being trouble makers, the larger group is sane and rational and do not deserve to be pepper sprayed for the actions of a few.

It's much the same that we don't expect to punish all police members when one of their members makes a mistake. Let's say that a cop is seen speeding, outside of duty. We may demand that that officer be punished for their actions, but we don't demand the whole force be punished. So, why do we have a double standard for individuals and groups?

There are going to be bad eggs in the group; that's true of any massive organization of people. But to punish all, even the peaceful protestors, is to create the greater evil by denying a group of citizens a fundamental right.

The Occupy Movements serve as a reminder that our current economic uncertainty is man-made. Sure, markets go through flux, but they are also manipulated by traders and bankers who are looking for a fast score regardless of the cost.

No one should have that much control over an economic system; especially when that control is for the expressed purpose of singular financial gain. These traders and bankers are responsible for the economic slow down; which in turn has led to people losing their jobs, homes, health insurance, and numerous other necessities of life through no fault of their own.

Yet, no one on Wall Street has been punished for their role. Instead, federal money was thrown at them to keep them afloat while the average citizen continues to struggle to hold their head above water.

The Occupy Movement exists to remind us that this situation is unfair and wrong. Many have attacked the group for lacking coherency, but how more coherent could that simple message be?

In short, the Occupy Movement is a necessary movement and deserves to be allowed to continue their occupation of city parks across North America. People need to be reminded that there are those in power and in the media, who are not telling us the truth and who are not interested in seeing the status quo change. Garth Turner once referred to some Canadian people as 'sheeple'; and in many ways he was right.

People don't like to be told that times are tough. That we have challenges ahead of us and that there are going to be sacrifices that we all will have to make. We like to be told that things are good; that there's a 'chicken in every pot' and a 'car in every driveway'. We'd rather buy the illusion of security, than the reality of uncertainty.

The Occupy Movement serves as a reminder of our reality, and for that reason alone it is important to let them continue. Otherwise, who knows what dream-state we may find ourselves in some time down the line.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

There's Got to be a Morning After

Well, election day has come and gone in Saskatchewan. All of you should be aware of the numbers, and the fact that the NDP has been reduced to historical lows, while the Saskatchewan Party has risen to new heights in terms of their own electoral success.

Going into the campaign, the NDP knew we were entering into an uphill battle. Wall's popularity, however unfounded it may be, was high. The same could not be said for Dwain Lingenfelter, who had suffered attacks against himself from day one at the hands of the SK Party. And now, as a new day rises after election day, the Sask NDP finds itself without a leader and with a reduced caucus. Before we talk about what that means for the party, and what the future holds, we should talk a bit about how we reached this point in the first place.

Now, I've decried the historical argument before on this blog; yet many news casters were quick to point it out. Saskatchewan has never been a province to toss out a government after only one term. Personally, I don't think historical precedent had much to do with the result of this election. Yes, it furthers that idea, but I don't know how much water it actually holds.

With that hogwash out of the way, we can focus on some of the more reasonable ideas as to why the NDP was unable to gain traction during this campaign.

1.) The personal popularity factor: As mentioned above, Brad Wall has been riding on levels of popularity not seen for other politicians throughout the nation. While I personally disagree with the reasons for his popularity, no one can argue that like it or not he is a well liked man. The same could not be said for Dwain Lingenfelter; for both founded and unfounded reasons.

Like any of us, Lingenfelter had a history and a record in government that he had to defend. The SK Party was quick to point out problems and missteps in Lingenfelter's record, though often left out the reasons why those decisions were made, and it was the first nail in the coffin of Lingenfelter's leadership. Lingenfelter did come off as an old school politician, and to a degree arrogant and brash; but he fought against this image in the campaign by promoting positive change.

The Lingefelter of old was very much as the SK Party portrayed him, but the one we saw in the campaign was indeed a different and changed man.

2.) The party popularity factor: For reasons I cannot fathom, the SK Party also shares in some levels of popularity. Perhaps it is the afterglow of having Brad Wall leading them, but the party itself has a degree of popularity that the NDP wasn't able to match during this campaign. Now, I could cite all the reasons why the SK Party doesn't deserve the laurels that it has been resting on; but we're only going to focus on the major one and that rests with the economy.

During 2005 - 2006, Saskatchewan became a have province and the boom of Saskatchewan began. It was a slow start, given that we'd spent 16 years working off debt and making difficult choices to right our economic house. But the boom began under the NDP, and we need to acknowledge that.

In four years, the only major success of the SK Party is that it hasn't completely destroyed the economy...yet. I am trying to focus on the election, so I don't want to get into topics about how our Crowns are in jeopardy, how local contractors are going to be losing bids left and right to those from Alberta and British Columbia, and how we will run deficits that are covered up by redirecting funds from other parts of the government's purview.

But for the most part, Saskatchewan's economy was touted as being in good shape. When the rest of the world continues to talk uncertainty, the SK Party was able to successfully suggest that our economy was in good shape. Granted, it depends on who you ask. We still have a high number of unemployed people in the province. We still have a record number of food bank usage. We still have people struggling to pay for the rising cost of rental units and permanent housing.

So, whether or not the economy is in good shape is fairly debatable. But, the SK Party was able to sell the idea that it was and that they were the ones responsible for the economy being in good shape. As such, this enhanced their own popularity in a fairly meaningful way.

3.) Collapse of the Liberal Vote: Saskatchewan has become more or less a two-party province, thanks to the collapse of the Liberal vote. And much like in the last federal election, small-C Liberals found themselves drawn to the nearest conservative leaning party.

Provincial Liberals flocked to the SK Party in this election, and it was their involvement that pushed the NDP to the edge and the SK Party over the top in this election; much like those Liberals in Ontario who pushed Harper's conservatives into a majority government.

However, that's only a fraction of the story. Given that there are going to be Liberals who couldn't 'hold their nose' and vote for one of the parties that was fielding candidates in their constituency. Now, I haven't seen any information on voter turnout as of yet. But, I'm going to guess that we were probably on the lower end. I could be wrong, but I imagine that a lot of those lost Liberal votes from 2007 (that didn't turn out to be SK Party supporters) include those who simply did not go out and vote.

4.) Uncertainty: Let's face it, all of the provinces and territories that have had elections have shown one thing that is the current trend in Canadian politics: Despite disliking the government in office, voters are unwilling to toss them from power when there is a lot riding on it.

Look at Ontario. No one expected McGuinty's Liberals to form another government, let alone a minority one. Doomsayers also suggested that the Manitoba NDP were going to be turfed from power as well. In both cases, the pollsters were proven wrong and both governments were kept in power, despite the suggestion that people were ready for change in the province.

As such, while one can toss out historical precedence, there's no denying the current trend of supporting the incumbent during uncertain times. That was one of the things the NDP was fighting against during the campaign, in addition to the popularity of Brad Wall and his party. In uncertain times, people are unwilling to change the route and would rather stay the course.

5.) Dwain Lingenfelter: I've talked a bit about personality, but now I need to be a little bit harsher. I have to admit, I didn't support Lingenfelter during the leadership race. I was skeptical about electing an 'old guard' leader, especially given the contrast it would have against Brad Wall. Despite my resistance, Lingenfelter won me over after the first time I saw him address a room full of NDP members.

Sadly, that Lingenfelter was absent from the election campaign. Despite a better debate performance than Wall, Lingenfelter never really seemed to capture the imagination or inspire those outside of the NDP already. Yes, he was able to win over members who were uncertain about his leadership. But he was not able to win over those who did not have the chance to meet him and get to know him.

Rather, he was defined to the public by the attack ads that were taken out against him by the SK Party. The public never got the chance to actually see Lingenfelter as he was; but only as the boogeyman the SK Party wanted people to see.

And yes, he had a history and some things he had to answer for from his past. I've written about that before on this blog, and I think we don't need to cover the same old ground again. Lingenfelter was never fully able to address the concerns the SK Party levelled against him, and that (in the court of public opinion) made all the accusations true.

There is an idea in politics that you can't address the claims of an attack ad, because when you do you let your opponent's message define the campaign. But in Lingenfelter's case, one can't help but wonder how things would have been different if he had addressed the charges against him in those ads. Yes, it would have involved going after Wall and his party's record (contrary to the campaign of positive change) but it may have also improved public opinion of Mr. Lingenfelter.

6.) Positive Campaigning: I've said it before, I don't like attack ads. I think it is the cheapest, basest form of politiking and any politician worth their salt should never have to run an attack ad to win a campaign. That said though, there is a difference between negative campaigning and focusing on a record.

The SK Party campaigned on their record and their attacks on Lingenfelter. The NDP meanwhile let pretty much everything slide and focused solely on their platform. If electors in a democratic society didn't live the age of the soundbyte, then perhaps the NDP approach would have produced a better result. But, since we do live in the information age; and have a mentality of wanting to cram complex subjects down into 3 sentences or less, this was an approach that couldn't work on its own.

I'm not saying attack ads should have been taken out against Wall. But I am saying ads should have been taken out about the SK Party record. Allow me to illustrate:

-SK Party literature loved to mention that Saskatchewan was a have province now. Yet, the NDP never publicly reminded voters that it was the Calvert Government who made Saskatchewan a have province.

-SK Party literature loved to mention that more people were working in Saskatchewan, and not in part time jobs but in full time jobs. Yet, the NDP didn't condemn the SK Party when reports came out that proved this wasn't true. In October, Saskatchewan lost thousands of full-time jobs and replaced only a handful of those losses with lower paying part time jobs.

-SK Party literature loved to talk about paying down the debt by 40%. Yet the NDP never mentioned how the debt was just shifted to the Crown Corporations; or how the surpluses the SK Party were running were generated not by prudent financial management but by taking money from the Crowns and the 'rainy day fund' to cover budgetary shortfalls.

-SK Party literature loved to talk about how more young people are staying in this province. Yet the NDP  never addressed the key reason why younger people are staying in Saskatchewan. (I'm a young man myself, so allow me to explain) After the tuition freeze ended in Saskatchewan, students were paying more for schooling. Many of those students are now unable to find work or careers in their chosen fields, while many more are unable to find any work at all.

It's not that the SK Party is making things better for young people to stay, it's that their making it worse and impossible for young people to leave. I'm in a fair amount of debt after 4 years of school; as is any other student. Compound that with the inability to get a job which can cover living expenses, debt payments, and other expenses and you have a generation who have stagnated and are unable to leave the province if they wanted to.

Sure, I could pack up and move to Manitoba or Ontario and find a job with a political studies degree there easily...BUT, like many other students, I simply don't have the financial means to do so. I don't have the down payment on a house. I don't have the financial ability to pay rent in a new place. Young people are staying in Saskatchewan, but only because they can't afford to leave.

(On a side note, I happen to like it here in Saskatchewan. So even if I was in a different financial situation, I doubt I'd want to leave.)

The SK Party campaigned on their record, but it was not a complete picture. But the NDP was too focused on positive campaigning that even mentioning that the record was flawed was considered 'negative' and not worth mentioning during a campaign. The problem, of course, is that a record is always open to scrutiny. There is a difference between calling a government's record into question and personally attacking another leader.

Those are some of the major reasons that brought about the colossal NDP defeat that we saw the other night. The party will lick it wounds over these next four years, and eventually will be ready to fight again and hopefully win.

Which brings me to the part of the post where we will focus on the future of the NDP in Saskatchewan. I'm not a fortune teller, but I'll tell you what I think. With regards to the leadership race, I think we're not going to see any outsiders. By which I mean, I don't think we're going to see any of the 9 step aside for a by-election to be held for a new leader. Furthermore, a party is not going to elect a leader and have them sit outside the legislature for two - three years.

As such, one of the current 9 MLAs is likely going to step into the leadership position. The question is a matter of who is going to step forward and who is ultimately going to win. There are 3 big names that I think most people would agree on: Danielle Chartier, Trent Wotherspoon, and Cam Broten. Of the current caucus, those three stand out as the most likely leadership contenders.

That isn't to say that any of the others are unsuited for the job; rather, it is just an assessment of who seems most likely (in my mind) to pursue the leadership. Of course, there's always going to be a chance of outsiders running anyways. Former second-place leadership contender Ryan Meili could always make another go of it, but as mentioned above, it seems unlikely that the anyone would step aside for a by-election or that the party/caucus would support someone who isn't currently in the legislature.

Of course, I could be wrong, I am not a psychic.

Of the three mentioned, it's possible that one may end serving an interim leader instead of making a full leadership bid. Or it's possible that one of the other six will serve in this post to allow these three candidates to make a full run at leading the party into the future.

Only time will tell whether or not any, or all, of them get involved in a leadership race. What I do know is this: Many will say that last night was the night that the NDP were destroyed in Saskatchewan. Many will say that we must abandon our ideals and our consciences and embrace populism politics in order to ever have a chance of forming government.

It is true that our party is broken and beaten at the moment; but wounds heal and bones set over time. With time, we shall recover from this and we shall recover in a way that only makes us stronger. From destruction can come two things: We can either accept the defeat and convince ourselves that nothing can be done. Or, we can stand up, brush ourselves off, and acknowledge that from destruction comes the chance for creation.

And it is this new incarnation of our party that will become a strong voice for the people of Saskatchewan. Ours is a party that seeks to include, not exclude. To unite, not divide. And by doing this, we shall rise from this defeat with the knowledge that ours is a party that seeks to do the right thing. We may not always choose the most popular course of action, but we will choose to do what is right.

And by embracing our principles, and championing our causes, we shall regroup and we shall rebuild. And most importantly, in four years time, we shall be ready.