Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Website: LINK

Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in! I should have known that when I said that last post was likely the last of post of 2012 that I was setting myself up for another post to have to be put up. This will be one of two posts, the second will be an editorial content on endorsements (in light of Cam Broten scoring the endorsement of MLA Doyle Vermette), though the second post will take a little while to get put up.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Ryan Meili released another campaign policy today, this time focusing on the similarities shared by those seeking to achieve social justice and those of faith. As such, Ryan is focusing on creating a plan to reach out to faith-based communities and use these similarities to foster areas of support.

As such, Ryan's plan calls for the creation of a Faith and Social Justice Commission, modelled off the federal NDP commission, to provide an open space to discuss faith and politics within the party; expanding on the guidance from this committee to develop an outreach strategy to engage faith groups, while listening to their concerns and striving towards finding common goals and egalitarian values shared by the NDP; and finally using these new connections and discussions to develop policy to bring back to the party.

The idea has generated some buzz, including high praise from former Premier Lorne Calvert, though I think there is a lot to be said in the quote from Calvert in the news release: "While the party is not and must not be shaped by religion, faith has inspired many of us to seek justice through political action." I think the intention is rather clear there, in that no one wants to see the NDP become guided by fundamentalist ideals of any religious group, and any discussion of faith and politics must not go too far.

Ultimately, it will all come down to the balance that the commission strikes between engaging faith based communities and the level of policy guiding that they ultimately achieve in the long term. I don't think anyone wants to see the party compromise on values that we've held for years in order to woo voters from the religious sphere; but I think we must also accept that religious voters who don't support us now will not support us until compromises occur.

It doesn't matter whether or not a person is a firm believer in social justice; if they vote based on a party's stance on abortion, it doesn't matter what you're planning to do with regards to social justice. We can have these discussions, but ultimately I think trying to woo single issue voters by offering more inclusion won't work unless the party compromises on the single issue.

The faith based communities who value social justice over other issues already stand with the NDP, most of the time, and they have a voice in the discussion. We don't have to win this group over, we just have to follow through with an agenda that includes social justice when the NDP is returned to power to keep them in our corner.

I fear I've editorialized this post more than I meant to, but I do think there are valid concerns to have over such a commission as this. There is nothing wrong with having a discussion, and attempting to do better to connect our values with those of faith-based groups throughout Saskatchewan; but at the same time, we must take heed to ensure that we are not crafting party policy that compromises on our own social values.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Campaign Update: General Recap

Financial Reports: LINK

Alright, a few things to talk about; this will likely be the last post before the New Year, barring any major announcements or things to come out...Or if I finally decide what to say on endorsements and produce an editorial content post regarding that. Either way, we'll see what the future brings in terms of posts prior to 2013.

Let's focus at the most recent financial reports; which deal with the month of November. For the second month is a row, Ryan Meili's campaign was the overall leader in terms of donations, taking in $18,002.53. Trent Wotherspoon came in second with $16,596.00. Cam Broten is in third with $12,659.90. And Erin Weir rounds out the pack with $8,079.00.

This also marks the first month that Ryan's campaign has spent more than it took in; though, he was well stationed from the month prior to do so without fear of running into overspending. As with the month before, however, Cam Broten is still stationed as the candidate with the most cash on hand heading into the New Year. 

It's with that in mind that I'd like to examine the fundraising tactics used by the four campaigns.

I'll start with Ryan, since his campaign has been the most 'aggressive' with fundraising (I assure you, aggressive is not used in the negative sense there). I say that because his campaign seems to have been the most engaged in promoting new fundraising approaches and putting out calls for donations and membership. Ryan's campaign saw donors over a certain amount receive a copy of Ryan's book, which I think was a good way of bringing in donations and also getting more information about Ryan out. Effectively, it was a good fundraising idea, and I think it certainly helped Ryan clinch the fundraising lead.

Trent's campaign has also been fairly active with their fundraising approach, most recently launching a 'themed' fundraising appeal. Trent's campaign has been calling for supporters to be ready for 2013 by pledging $20.13 to Trent's campaign. Last I checked, I believe the campaign was about two-thirds to their set target. It was another interesting approach, if only because it set the individual amount at a rather reasonable level that could appeal to numerous people regardless of personal financial situation. I think it was another good fundraising approach, in terms of accessibility and also affordability, and we'll see what kind of dividends it pays out.

Cam's campaign has also taken a very interesting approach to fundraising recently. As noted, Cam is currently the candidate most flushed with cash on hand, and that's put him in an interesting position. Instead of putting out a call for more donations to his campaign, Cam has instead called for supporters to donate money directly to the party. As we've talked about before, Cam's focus has been on getting the NDP's own house in order, and this appeal is only strengthening his claim to being the candidate most concerned with doing so. It's an interesting approach, though it could backfire should Cam's campaign require more financial support in the New Year which results in a direct appeal for fundraising; but given his current financial standing, I think that's likely not going to happen.

Finally, that brings us to Erin Weir. I have to say, and I could be wrong on this one (someone let me know if I am), but I haven't noticed any particularly active fundraising methods from Erin's campaign. I imagine that the campaign is taking the approach of putting forward policies that encourage people to donate, rather than actively soliciting donations; or may be focusing on securing institutional (union, business, etc) donations. I suppose Erin's campaign may also be focused on raising donations through campaign events directly, rather than through a general appeal online. And while a focus on policy to foster donation isn't a bad way to go about it, I think there is some room for growth and expansion here and I imagine we'll (or at least hope to) see a more concentrated and direct fundraising campaign in the New Year.

As for a direct analysis for what the numbers mean...Well, that might be better left to someone more qualified to look at that sort of thing, but I will throw in my own personal two cents. I'm hesitant to say that a two-month fundraising lead means that Ryan's campaign has the most momentum in the leadership race, if only because as noted his campaign has been the most aggressive when it comes to actively fundraising. It's one of those you get what you put into it sort of deals, and when you have a heavy focus on fundraising there's a good chance you're going to get a lot out of it.

Of course, I've discussed before how I don't think you can accurate predict momentum based on fundraising, so I might just be fitting my own bias towards dismissing fundraising as a leadership indicator...That's not to diminish the numbers being brought in by Ryan, or any of the other candidates, but more of a general belief that the cash game doesn't always show who is going to walk away as leader come March.

Campaign Update: Erin Weir

Erin's Website: LINK

In what has become a campaign staple for Erin Weir, he's taken a direct swing and issued a challenge to Brad Wall's government recently. Erin has called for the provincial government to stand up for the residents of Saskatchewan and be ready to address changes that the Federal Government is making to the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS).

He's called on the government to enhance the CPP as it is the best pension option for workers in the province.

Erin's also put forward a plan with regards to extending coverage of OAS, in the event that the Federal Government doesn't reverse course with regards to moving the OAS age requirement from 65 to 67. While Erin's first plan is to elect a federal NDP government in the next election that would reverse the change, he's also put forward a backup plan for the province to follow.

Erin's plan calls for the province to create its own benefit to cover those in the 65 and 66 age bracket until they reach the Federal OAS age requirement. Erin's also noted that such a plan could easily be paid for with the same cost that the SK Party's proposed 2% corporate tax reduction would cost. Erin's also advocated for a ten year residency requirement, much like the federal requirement, to prevent relocation to the province simply to collect the benefit.

It's an interesting concept, and one that I'm sure many on the verge of retirement are going to take a good listening to. And the fact that he's tied it to Wall's corporate tax cuts, in terms of value per cost, is going to put the Premier in an interesting position should someone in the media step up and pose the question to him. After all, it's hard to justify corporate tax cuts when there is a positive alternative that will affect workers and seniors in the province.

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Website: LINK

As promised, here comes our look at Ryan Meili's recently released environmental policy. The full policy can be found at the link above, and we'll take as close a look as we can at the policies that it contains. In addition to this post, we'll also try to get the latest news from the other campaigns (especially with regards to Erin Weir's CPP and OAS proposal) up today as well.

So, let's get started.

The first plank of Ryan's plan stems around Energy Production. Ryan's plan call for an investment in safe and renewable energy sources, akin to the way the CCF/NDP electrified rural Saskatchewan in the 1950s. This should focus on wind, solar, bio-mass, while reducing coal power production. The plan also calls for a feed-in tariff to allow community energy co-ops to sell energy into the grid, aided by a new mandate for SaskPower.

The second plank revolves around Energy Efficiency. Ryan's plan calls for the establishment of a body independent from SaskPower to focus on energy conservation, and establishing and ensuring guidelines for the construction and retrofitting of buildings to be more energy efficient. Couple this with increased safety for low-income housing by providing free energy and safety audits (carbon monoxide detectors, fall assessments, etc.) that aims to save energy and health care dollars. Create an energy efficiency plan for industrial users and ensure that these industries are paying a fair share for the energy they use.

The third plank revolves around Climate Change. Ryan's plan calls for a strategic plan with reduction targets for 2020, 2030, and 2050. The providing of tax incentives to landowners for maintaining wetlands, woodlands, and grasslands when maintained as natural carbon sinks. Investment in public research to identify and promote sustainable and resilient farming methods and crops that will be required as the climate changes.

The fourth plank revolves around Protecting and Preserving the Natural Environment. Ryan's plan calls for safeguarding our water by enforcing current regulations and conducting bottom-up watershed based planning that is supported by provincial legislation and action. Retain and protect all native grassland on Crown lands, including community pastures. Work with Northern Communities, conservation organizations, the forest industry, and First Nations to improve stewardship of the forests that cover half of Saskatchewan. Protect farm land and pastures by providing incentives for farmers who want to produce for local markets, use fewer pesticides, or diversify food production in the province; and to ranchers who want to raise grass-fed animals with fewer antibiotics. Establish a Citizens Ecological Health Monitoring Agency to monitor impacts of human activity on the environment, composed of a scientific advisory council and citizens data-gathering and monitoring program. Conduct regional strategic planning to ensure the Ministry of the Environment has both the information and tools to regulate and our activity and protect the environment.

Looking at the policies, as is my want, I'd say the one that stands out the most is the Citizens' Ecological Health Monitoring Agency. It's an interesting concept to have an independent body outside of the government that is propped up through scientific inquiry, and citizen input, to act as a guiding hand to assist government environmental policy. It's an idea that's definitely in line with Ryan's call for evidence based politics, and hopefully it's something we'll hear more about in the upcoming debates.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some Notes on the Melfort Debate

Better late than never, I suppose; but with the holidays, I do tend to find a bit less time for blogging due to being back home with family. That being said, we'll take a look at the Melfort debate and we will have a few things to add later on about Ryan Meili's environmental policy and Erin Weir's latest call for the provincial government to address changes to the CPP.; not to mention the latest from the financial reports.

Like the debates that came before it, a lot of the same issues were touched on and the candidates stayed fairly close to the basic messages that they have been promoting; for Erin, that means hammering home the idea of selecting a leader who has a clear and detailed plan. For Ryan, that meant sticking to the broader theme of changing the conversation/way politics is done in the province. For Trent, that meant a focus on moving everyone in the province forward and reconnecting with communities across the province. For Cam, that meant a focus on the need to rebuild the party and a focus on shared futures.

Being in Melfort, there was a good opportunity to have a discussion about rural issues and all four candidates continued to expand on ideas that they have put forward previously; from a leader & caucus tour to the creation of field agents in rural areas.

One of the more interesting questions hinted back to the resource revenue sharing plan brought forward in the last election, asking if the candidates were supportive of such a plan. While everyone agreed that we need to work towards ending the inequality that exists within the province, not everyone truly answered the question. Trent and Ryan alluded to supporting the position, but with a caveat of having greater consultation. Erin spoke to how this policy was a disaster for the party in the last election, and didn't come out of being supportive of it, and instead focused on closing loopholes to raise revenue that way. Cam was the only candidate to fully stand by the policy, and explained quite well that the party needs to stand by its values, even when they come across as unpopular.

While that was an interesting moment in the debate, it seems to me that there was still no real knockout moment during the debate from any of the candidates. So again, we've gotten a good chance to hear all of the candidates present the policies that they have been working on since the campaign started; and I still feel that most of them are doing well in terms of getting those policies across, though everyone can always benefit of ensuring they stay within time limits and present answers concisely.

I'm toying with the idea of some 'New Years Resolutions' the candidates camps should make with regard to the next debates, and I think we'll go ahead a do it here in this post.

We'll start with Cam Broten. I think the resolution from this camp needs to be to retire the 'Alphabetical Seating' remark when Cam poses questions to Ryan. It's been used in several debates already, and personally, I think it doesn't come across very well in the grand scope of things.

For Erin Weir, I think his campaign resolution should be to focus on the future, as opposed to his past. I've mentioned before that I think Erin's raised his profile since the race began, and there's less need to define his background, and instead should keep focus on the policies that he's put forward since the race began. I think there's more to be said by keeping to the big picture that minimizes a focus on self, and it would be a good chance to highlight a lot of sound policies instead.

For Trent Wotherspoon, I think his campaign resolution should be to focus on keeping his answers concise. Trent is consistently a candidate whose answers tend to run a little longer than the time allotted, which is a credit to his passion for the issues, but once the microphone is cut off we tend to lose the last few policy points or ideas. This also means that it denies Trent the chance to provide a final 'sound byte' that helps the answer really hit home.

For Ryan Meili, I think his campaign resolution should be to minimize anecdotes and focus on policy. Ryan spends a lot of time talking about his background and past experiences, which leaves his ability to talk about campaign policies as slightly stunted. Ryan was one of the candidates a few of the others focused on for having less fleshed out policy when entering the race, and now that his campaign has put out several policy releases, it's time to ensure that those planks are being talked about fully and developed more as the race goes on.

I think that more or less sums up my thoughts from the Melfort debate; and should the La Ronge debate make its way online, we'll give it a talk since I think it will highlight some really good northern issues worth talking about. As mentioned above, we'll also talk shortly about the recent Ryan Environmental release, Erin's call for CPP enhancement, and the most recently financial reports in the coming days.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Quick Federal Note

I came up with this when chatting with a friend about the F-35, so I figured I'd actually throw it together and get it out there into the public sphere.

Might not be the greatest at Photoshop, but I think it gets the point across.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Campaign Update: Latest News

A quick overview with regards to the last few major news headlines to come from the leadership campaign; while I'd usually do this in individual posts, I think there's not quite enough to justify four individual posts so we'll just do one major post covering all of the campaigns.

We'll start with Ryan Meili. Ryan released his education and childcare platform last week, which we talked about HERE, and also picked up an endorsement from the UFCW.

Erin Weir picked up an endorsement from the IBEW, and has also spent some time directly challenging Premier Wall to come forward and talk about what the federal approval of the Nexen takeover means for Saskatchewan. LINK

Trent Wotherspoon hosted a sold-out campaign event in Regina this weekend, and also picked up an endorsement Iron Workers 711.

Cam Broten also scored an endorsement from fellow NDP caucus member Cathy Sproule, member for Saskatoon-Nutana.

A lot of endorsements have been the bulk of the news coming out of the campaigns in the last few weeks, and I'm wary to mention the bulk of them for fear of missing one, so I'll just stick with the ones that have been listed above. I've been thinking of doing an editorial reflecting on endorsements, and I do plan on doing one, but that's to come in the future.

Also, as we're looking ahead, we'll see some reflections on the remaining debates that have occurred since we last talked about the one in Swift Current.

Hopefully, this more or less covers the big ticket items that have occurred as we approach the lull that will occur over the holiday season with the leadership race. If I've missed anything that really should be talked about, please let me know in the comments.

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Education Platform: LINK
Ryan's Early Childhood Platform: LINK

With the holiday season approaching, time for blogging tends to slow down a little bit though I will do my best to continue to post as regularly as I can.

As such, I'm a bit behind at examining Ryan Meili's recently released Education platform plank. In addition to focusing on education in terms of how the province interacts with schools, Ryan's policy as also included 'downstream' measures to enhance early childhood at the same time. So, let's start with the early childhood policies and then take a look at the education plan.

The focus of Ryan's early childhood revolves around  an integrated approach in dealing with childcare and early education programs; coupled with a focus on providing the resources needed by parents within the province.

Ryan's plan calls for supporting parents through learning classes and mentorship, with a focus on young parents and vulnerable populations and a re-establishment of the Teen and Young Parent Program in Saskatoon and across the province; improve maternity leave pay to the level seen in Quebec and other OECD countries and expand those benefits across the parental leave period; earmarking at least two months leave for fathers.

Ryan's plan for childcare calls for bringing in experts to examine the creation of a made-in-Saskatchewan "Quebec Model" of childcare; working to bring together childcare, child education, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten to ensure the best outcome for children; work with existing facilities and childcare co-ops to to develop capacity for expansion; ensure school boards have the resources to provide before and after school services; support training opportunities to increase the number of childcare workers and educators in the province.

Ryan's plan for working within the education model calls for the offering of half day and full day kindergarten options for all four year olds; provide funding for integrated age appropriate learn-through-play pre-kindergarten content for children 2 and up in childcare; ensure training for childcare employees provides includes a focus on education not just supervision.

We'll take a moment to talk about those ideas before we look at the remaining education planks. Of the policies brought forward, I think the one that stands out the most is the re-tooling of training to ensure that education is focused on as well as supervision. There is a lot to be said in making sure that children are being given a chance to learn prior to entering into the education system, and I think its certainly worth talking about addressing ways to provide those opportunities.

So, let's take a look at the education planks laid out by Ryan's campaign.

Ryan's plan for the K - 12 system calls for an expansion on the community school model and introduce community supports; allow local communities to set their own mill rates to ensure stable funding; partner with the Federal Government to address the gap in funding to Aboriginal Schools; involve rural communities in finding solutions that allow communities to address closing K - 6 schools; introduce the Roots of Empathy program into the curriculum to ensure students develop empathy, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution skills.

Ryan's plan for the post secondary education system calls for the establishment of a legacy fund from resource revenues to fund accessible and high quality post-secondary education; reverse underfunding of universities and reinforce the principle of public education as a public good; reinstate the tuition freeze and work towards lowing tuition fees as finances allow; increase the amount and number of entry and continuing education scholarships; make student loans simpler and more accessible with a larger amount being forgivable; create a student loan system that is more response to those who pursue their education part time.

Out of those planks, I think the appeal to the Roots of Empathy program is the one that stands out the most. Any part of real education reform means changing the approach to not just what we teach, but also how we teach the next generation. I think it's an interesting concept, and should stand as a good first step in addressing how we need to change the education system in the years to come.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Word on the Fourth (Swift Current) Debate

Debate Video: LINK

As always, those interested in watching the debate in full can follow the link at the top of the page.

With the fourth debate come and gone, and indeed the fifth debate as well (which will be talked about shortly), I think we can talk a bit about what was brought up. I've given it some thought, and I think we're going to abandon the individual candidate profiles for awhile.

I say so, because as of this debate, I can't really see any room for improvement for any of the candidates. I think they've all hit their strides and the future debates will reflect that; of course, I may change my tune after watching the Melfort debate, but we'll wait and see what happens. Effectively, I won't bring them back unless there's something specific I think we need to talk about with how the candidates are presenting themselves and their policies on an individual level; I think there's some collective things to discuss, and those will be addressed in this post.

I was looking forward to the Swift Current debate; if only because it's taking place in the Premier's backyard and those kinds of events are always interesting. For the most part, Brad Wall himself was left out of a good chunk of the debate; what was surprising was the way many on stage avoided specifically mentioning the Premier by name...

It was an almost Beetlejuice-ian (sometimes you have to create words, see Shakespeare) experience, that one must wonder if they thought saying his name three times would summon him into the venue. I don't know whether it's out of courtesy that the candidates avoid specifically mentioning Wall, but it is an interesting contrast to see many of the candidates simply refer to 'this government', 'the current government', or 'the Premier'.

Perhaps it has a little to do with trying to avoid the pratfall of personally taking on Wall's persona, but I think when we discuss his record and his government's record, we can be more specific. I say this, because I've heard some criticism that the candidates haven't said much yet about how they would run an election against Wall and how they would personally deal with Wall as Leader of the Opposition; and I think there is room for him to at least be mentioned by name so we can start to see some of the underpinnings of that dynamic moving forward.

So, I think there's room for the candidates to grow by being more specific when they single out things that this government has done. Whether that's by singling out Premier Wall, or the actions of a specific Minister, is something that we need to see to get a sense of which candidate is ready to stand toe-to-toe with the Wall Government.

As for the content of the debate, there were a lot of issues that had previously come up in the prior debates, and I think all the candidates did a good job with staying on topic and addressing the issues. Since we've heard a lot from the candidates on issues such as revenue growth, health care, and housing; I think I'm going to spend a bit of time looking at some of the less common issues.

In a chance to flex a bit of intra-provincial muscle, a question regarding free trade agreements came up. I think this was a good question for pushing some of the comfort zones of the candidates, as I think its one of those that doesn't come up often during a provincial debate. I thought all the candidates handled the question fairly well, and did a good job at calling for increased transparency and openness from all levels of government when these deals are discussed.

It was a solid question, and if anything, highlights the fine collection of knowledgeable candidates that we have running (and for undecided members, further increases questions of doubt and uncertainty over which candidate to support).

I felt that the candidate to candidate question period went rather smoothly; and was quite cordial; I didn't see any exasperated looks or glances, and there wasn't any undertones of being overly aggressive; which is good to see at this point. At the same time, however, I thought there were a lot of questions that weren't the general 'soft lob' ones that we've seen at some of the debates. There was a real debate on policy and questions of substance, and I hope that we can see more of these questions as the race continues.

Yet again, I think, that you can't really declare a winner in this debate. It's hard to say someone stood ahead of the others, when at one point or another, everyone is nodding in agreement to something someone else has just said. And judging that this is now the fourth debate where we can't call a TKO for one candidate or another, I think it's likely going to be the pattern that we'll see in all of the debates...With the possible exception being the final debate during the convention.

I think all the candidates still have a lot of room for growth in helping to distinguish themselves from one another, and doing so in a respectful way, and once we see development on that front we might be able to declare a winner to one of these debates.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

 Ryan's AMA: LINK

An analysis of the Swift Current debate will be coming in the next few days, now that the video has been posted online, but for now we'll focus on what we have information for already.

Ryan Meili took to Reddit today (which is, for those who don't know, a popular 'social news' site spurred on by user generated content and links) to take part in an Ask Me Anything session. The AMA has become a tool that some politicians have started to embrace, most notably American President Barack Obama. Ryan's campaign has billed him as the 'first Saskatchewan politician to do an AMA'; which, I do believe to true in terms of formatting.

One can make the case that Erin Weir's digital town hall produced the same kind of result; a forum where people could ask whatever they wanted directly to the candidate, though some detractors will say that since it was done through Twitter and Facebook it wasn't a proper AMA...Though, I suppose that might be splitting hairs.

In any case, it doesn't matter which candidate was the first to lay claim to any of these new mediums; rather, it's much more important that candidates are using them at all. While there is still a lot to be said for getting out and meeting with members face-to-face (and this will always be one of the most important parts of politics), online forums are definitely allowing candidates to reach people who might not necessarily go to one of the debates or to a campaign event.

It's a step in the right direction, I suppose is how we can slim down that. Now, I've included the link at the top of the page that can take you directly to Reddit to read the questions and answers. However, I'll also post them here, since I'm sure we'll call back to them at some point in the future.

As always, questions are BOLDED while answers remain in normal type. Also, I posed one question during the AMA and have since forwarded that question to every candidate; rather than leave Ryan's response to that question out, I will include it both here and when we talk about the responses from the other candidates as well. My question will be ITALICIZED.

Two last things; questions and answers have not been edited other than for formatting. I am only including Ryan's responses to the questions posed, and not including any responses that came from any of the other participants UNLESS the response was a follow-up question or rebuttal; general statements and so forth are excluded here, but can be found at the link provided.


Thanks for doing this. Going from being a family physician to a politician is a pretty significant shift. How do you think your experience as a physician will help you in your role as a politician?

I’ve had the good fortune to work as a physician in rural Mozambique, the Philippines, all over rural Saskatchewan, including in Northern communities, and most recently in the inner city at West Side Community Clinic.

Working as a physician gives me insight into the health and social challenges faced by individuals in the communities I serve. I’ve tended to work more with people who face challenges related to poverty and other elements of social exclusion. This gives me some unique insight into the way that political decisions play out in the lives of individuals.

I enjoy working as a physician a great deal. However, it’s also quite frustrating, as the work I can do is often treating the symptoms, not the causes. Recognizing that health care is quite far down the list of determinants of health is what has driven me to become involved in politics to try to make more meaningful, upstream change.

Hi, and thanks for doing this for us today Ryan. I'm not terribly informed on a lot of Saskatchewan issues, but I did follow and was extremely disappointed by Premier Wall on the Potash Corp. sale issue. What did you think of the federal government's decision to block the sale of Potash Corp?

In the October 22nd edition of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix it was reported that "Premier Brad Wall urged the federal government Thursday to reject BHP Billiton Ltd.'s $38.6-billion US hostile takeover attempt of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. to protect Canada's strategic concerns." This takeover has been estimated to lose Saskatchewan anywhere from 2 to 5.7 billion dollars in resource revenues over the next 10 years.

As a New Democrat it always pains me a little to praise the actions of a conservative politician. But to not do so is to miss an important opportunity because this represents a significant departure.

For the first time in a very long time we see a conservative party appearing to act as though government matters. The mantra has long been that governments must be run like businesses. While that may not be the most appropriate model (citizens are not customers after all), neither has it been followed. Conservative governments, including that of Mr Wall, have tended to indiscriminately decrease revenue and increase spending. What business would intentionally decrease its income while increasing its costs?
For the government to finally recognize that it needs to make money, that the needs of the citizens of Saskatchewan cannot be met by handing over all control of and profit from public resources to private interests, is a rare but important decision..

The natural reaction for the opposition when the government makes a wise choice is to cry "Too Little! Too Late. While these criticisms are fair, this is not the time for them. This is the time to take careful note of the meaning of this departure, say "Good job Brad", then use this example to pester him incessantly to do the right thing in other areas. We face serious challenges in this province: economic, environmental, and social. They can only be met by a government willing to take the necessary actions to secure and manage the resources necessary to do so. Until we have a new premier, which of course will be in the next general election, we have to recognize when this one does the right thing and use those examples to push him to do it more often.

I've heard a lot about the social determinants of health in relation to your campaign. Can you explain how you think the SDOH relate to politics in general, and why it is important?

Re-organzing our political system to focus on health, and using the understanding that the SDOH are the primary factors that influence health, gives us a way to move closer to (to steal from Canadian Doctors for Medicare) a politics that is "evidence-based, values-driven". It also offers us a means to measure whether we're being successful in reaching our political goals. This TEDx video will give you some deeper content on that answer as, of course, would A Healthy Society.

Hey Ryan, I really enjoyed your blog post today. As someone who's also from a small town, I was wondering if you could elaborate on how, as leader, you would reverse the NDP's fortunes in rural Saskatchewan? 

Thanks. The blog post talked about a visit to my home town of Coderre, one of many communities that has shrunk considerably in recent decades. It was great to get out and listen to my neighbours, and I think that's at the root of what we need to do do revive the NDP in rural Saskatchewan. That means going beyond one-off tours to developing a strategy for outreach that includes 1) field agents - based on the model used by the Wheat Pool - that are supported by 3 or 4 rural constituencies to do outreach through staff rooms at schools, on coffee row, anywhere people gather where politics can be discussed and 2) developing policies, and a vehicle for those policies (eg a Rural Issues Caucus within the party) that will allow us to reflect what we hear in rural Saskatchewan and send a clear message that we actually care and want to take action to improve life everywhere in the province, not just in the cities.

I'm looking forward to this; something I've been kicking around in my mind for awhile (and I will be posing this to the other candidates when I get chance) is the new low we seem to be reaching within the political sphere. You've talked a lot about 'changing the conversation' as part of your political mantra, and I'm curious as to how you would achieve that.

Would you support legislation that would prevent 'negative' ads from being ran by either party? Would you support legislation, that applied heavy consequences, that would make lying to or misleading the public more costly than it currently is to politicians? 

Is there a legislative method that we can use to not only keep politics more honest, but also ensure that politicians who do mislead the public face real consequences for their actions? Or, do you favour a non-legislative approach, and if so, what would that be?

Scott, this is very close to my heart. I really feel that changing the conversation means not only redirecting our political decision-making toward the goal of greater wellbeing, but also changing how we treat each other (within our own party and those across the floor). I haven't thought deeply about legislation as a barrier to negative politics, but it's an idea worth considering. The trick would be to set up (or tap into the existing) the arms length body that could make a clear judgment on whether the advertising was truthful, and establish clear criteria for what is considered too negative. Before we get to legislation, the first step is modelling better behaviour. I'm trying to do that in this race, keeping on the best of possible terms w my fellow candidates. I'm also committed to leading an NDP that leads by example, demonstrating first and foremost our commitment to decency and respect. I think that is what people want to see – thus there's some strategic merit – but more so, it's the right way to go.

*This add-on was added later, by Ryan, and its due time I put it here as well.

In follow-up, and after careful consideration and some discussion with friends in the legal profession, I edited my above response. While the need for a more positive politics is clear, and the temptation to use legislation to get there a real one, the risk of crossing the line into censorship is too great. The existing laws around defamatory libel should be enough to limit actual falsehoods. The onus for positive politics should rest first with those who practice the art, and legal recourse reserved for extreme circumstances.
Thanks again for the question, and I hope you understand the sober second thought on this one.

Ryan, Saskatchewan is scarred by racism. It is a problem the pervades much of the discourse in this province. How do you propose we work to heal the wounds of aboriginal people? What can you do as leader to help bring people (aboriginal, new immigrants, settler descendents) to understand and appreciate each other?

Thank you for this question. I work and live in an inner-city community. Most of my neighbours and patients are First Nations. Their current experiences of racism, combined with generations of marginalization and abuse (residential schools, reserve system, 60s scoop etc.), contribute greatly to worse health outcomes and worse life experiences.

As a province we need to recognize that as long as we're divided we can't truly progress. I would look to include, in all policy considerations, ways in which we can promote unity, heal existing racial divides, and generally work to address existing and potential inequities.

Glad to see you on here. You've been a vocal critic of the recent cuts to refugee health services. Why do you think this is such an important issue? Is there something that could be done at the provincial level to help fill in the gap for SK refugees?

The decision to cut refugee health care was very short-sighted. It's less fair and more expensive, and one can only think it was designed to flare up division among Canadians. I would far rather see us clamouring for greater coverage for all, rather than less coverage for the most vulnerable. Below are a couple of relevant blog posts that go into more detail.

Hi Ryan. I have a few questions, some, all, or none of which you may choose to address. Thanks.

New Democrats are sometimes stereotyped as starry-eyed idealists with no appreciation for the practical. The historical evidence is to the contrary. In Saskatchewan, it was CCF/NDP governments that created the first civilian air ambulance service in the world; brought electricity to farms that, as late as 1950, were lit by coal oil lamp; built a road system that, at the time, was studied as a model by engineers from around the world; etc. These are things you can see, touch, and use. Why don't New Democrats talk more about our practical accomplishments?

Dwain Lingenfelter was the first NDP leader who did not become premier. Why? What lessons do you take from this failure?

You've spoken and written about the need for government to embrace 'evidence-based policy.' Setting aside the fact that evidence is often ambiguous, contested, and contradictory, even the best/clearest evidence is descriptive not prescriptive. I prefer to think of evidence like a GPS: it can provide you with a route and keep you on track, but it can't tell you where you want to go. In politics, only values can provide a destination. What are your values? How do they differ from Brad Wall's?

The Wall government has undertaken to review and 'reform' Saskatchewan labour legislation. It has been suggested that the government may abandon the Rand formula and the roughly 60 years of relatively peaceful, predictable labour relations built upon it. What is your position on the issue? What are your larger views regarding the role of unions in society?

You've worked as a rural relief physician. Given your experiences in smaller communities, how would you balance the desire of rural residents to maintain their way of life against the increasing cost of providing services and maintaining infrastructure in sparsely populated areas.

Broadway Cafe or Park Cafe?
6 Qs = short answers 1. I classify myself as a practical idealist. We need to have a vision of the ideal, we need to be able to plan the steps to get there. Highlighting the practical successes of the past, and being clear about both the what and the why of future successes is key. 
2. There are a # of reasons. One clear one is the party chose, under Mr L's leadership, to go personally negative against a popular premier. This backfired badly. New Democrats are better served by an approach that is consistent with the values we represent. 
3. See prev answer. Evidence-based, values driven. Hence the mix of re-framing the db8 toward greater wellbeing, then using the best evidence available to guide our decisions. 
4. I'll direct you to the website for a longer answer and video on my thoughts on labour policy. Simply put, the worker's movement is key not only for our political success or the well-being of unionized workers, but for greater equality and better health outcomes for all. 
5. Tough challenge, using modern technology, greater sope-of-practice for non-physician providers, and over the long-term training more physicians from (and in ) rural areas are key elements. 
6.Park Café, no Q. It's a block away, the owners are good friends and supporters, and the food is great. I do enjoy a semi-regular breakfast with Roy Romanow at the Bway café, however, so it has a place in my heart as well.
You are back at your practice and off to go get a flu-shot for your patient when you hear a loud bang in the lobby. Once you investigate, you discover that a man with outdated fashion sense has appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Upon closer inspection, you recognize him as Tommy Douglas! He unknowingly opened a time vortex as he was writing his mouseland speech and has begun freaking out at all the advanced technology in your lab like computers and the internet. Once he calms down, you realize you only have a short period of time before Mr. Douglas has to return to his own time period to avoid a paradox.
You are given the opportunity to give Mr. Douglas three pieces of advice regarding healthcare so that he may have that knowledge when he returns to parliament. What advice do you give him?

Love it! 1) Don't let this unexpected interaction with the future disrupt the mouseland speech, it's gold. 2) Don't cave on fee-for-service, salaried or mixed payment is essential to allow docs to move beyond assembly line care to real patient-centred practice. 3) Don't, by any means, lose track of the fact that our goal is greater health, not better health care. Get to Phase II of Medicare as quickly as you can!

The film tax credit program was recently gutted under the Brad Wall government and SCN was sold off. What plans would you have for the movie and TV industry if you were to become leader?

I think this was a decision that really reflected the SK Party's excess reliance on resources as the sole opportunities for economic development. I see arts and culture, including the film industry, as key elements of a more diversified, boom-and-bust resistant economy and work work with film, TV, and other cultural industries to develop a new approach that would help these industries, and the talented people working in them, to thrive.

I have several questions:
1)You've been tossing around ideas like a Bank of Sask and SaskPharma. How do you plan to implement,pay and run them?
2) Yes or No, will you run in next general election, if you do win?
3)You seem to be spending most your time promoting your book. Shouldn't you be concentrating on promoting the NDP?
4) How does the social determinants of health meme differ from NDP core values held for decades?
5) Positive politics can also be used to limit and suppress debate by making criticism and differences taboo. Do you think that your campaign has,or will, reach this extreme end in order to promote your candidacy?

Hi there,

1) There are many sources of provincial revenue, from fine-tuning our progressive taxation system, to retooling royalty structures in key resource industries, to working to expand economic growth in key sectors outside these: eg co-ops, Community Economic Development, the film industry, renewable energy. The great thing about SKPharm and the Bank of SK is that they have the potential to increase provincial revenues substantially once established.

2) Yes, i'll run if i win. Funny question that.

3) The book highlights my political philosophy and the ideas of the SDOH, it also gives insight into my reasons for running and gives deeper perspective into the shift in political discourse that the idea of a healthy society offers. In that (as you say in Q 4) this is consistent w the values of the NDP, that shouldn't be seen as in competition. The book is a key element of my campaign, a great way to share ideas more deeply. It also will be, I hope, a part of a greater shift in political discourse not just here in SK or for the provincial NDP, but across the country and beyond. The response so far suggests that will be the case. In any case, I see it as deeply complimentary to the goals of this campaign and our party, not a source of competition.

4) It more clearly expresses these values in a way that is accessible, and connects with a drive (better health for themselves, their family, their neighbours) that extends across political lines and can increase our electoral success.

 5) I've never shied away from arguing about ideas. It is important to highlight differences and to let the best ideas emerge through that process. Nit-picking small details on policies during a leadership gets away from the point of a broader exchange of ideas. Trolling, personal attacks, or other forms of online or in-person goonery add nothing whatsoever to the political discourse.

I liked your comments in this video about how labor rights are being slowly rolled back.
The Sask Party seems to be taking a slow and steady approach to reducing worker rights. How will you counter this strategy of patiently chipping away at unions, and more importantly, how will you make this resonate with Saskatchewan voters - many of whom are not union members?

Thanks. I like the analogy to the fight for Medicare. The more we focus on defending what we have, the more it will be eroded. We need to expand and improve our universal coverage, getting people excited about the next steps rather than concentrating on the past. The same is true for the worker's movement. We need to propose the next wins that will excite people in and outside of the labour movement. These include ideas like pay equity, access to quality, affordable child care, a minimum wage that's indexed to be a living wage, or the expansion of occupational health and safety and labour standards to better cover non-union workers. I'm sure there are other win we could come up with together, and that's why I feel we need real consultation with the workers and public about current struggles and the available opportunities. 

We have four strong candidates, why are you the best one of the job?

I agree we have 4 great candidates, and each will have an argument (experience in the leg, experience outside the leg, professional experience, personal strengths) for why they should be chosen.

Ultimately members will have to choose, and I really hope they do so based on who they feel would best represent the party and its vision, that they go with their hearts on who they would trust the most, on who appeals to them the most. I hope that because it means our party will stay more true to its values, but also because voters outside the party will be looking for the same thing.

I do think there is a distinct difference in my approach, that with the other three you will get good politics, but politics that aren't much different than what we've seen before. With my candidacy there is a chance for a fundamental shift in approach (again see ). Again, of course, it will be the wisdom of the members that decides who will best represent the party in this rebuilding and growing phase.

I noticed in your Wikipedia article that you advocate that health care focuses too much on the current problem and too little on the issues that lead to the problem. 

Would you have any plans that you'd like to put in place to help inform the populace on what can be done to avoid issues in the future, such as school programs?

Do you think that living an active/healthy lifestyle could be a big money saver for hospitals and government healthcare, or could it lead to just as many issues but of a different variety such as bone fractures/injured muscles?

Thanks for this question. What I'm proposing is that we go beyond health care, or even what we tend to think of as prevention, to address the real determinants of health: income and its distribution, education, employment, housing, nutrition, the wider environment etc. Elements of that would involve school programs, but we're really talking about policies that seek to enhance equality and provide greater opportunity for people to thrive. As for exercise, it's an important element of good health, and while there are certainly health problems related to overuse or over-activity, they certainly don't pose nearly the threat to wellbeing or to health costs as sedentary lifestyles and poor diets.

With the (not so new) news that Canada is one of the world’s worst polluters—what is your plan for Saskatchewan that doesn’t involve green-washing?

And Saskatchewan w the highest GHG output per capita. While we have challenges related to our climate that make us use more energy, we could do so much better. I would focus on
1) moving away from coal, and not toward nuclear generation of power.
2) moving to renewable sources of energy: solar, wind, biomass, run-of-the-river hydro. We have among the best resources available to do this in the country, we should be early adopters and leaders, not laggards.
3) government – as representatives of the people and stewards of the land – playing a central role in setting and enforcing environmental standards.

Given an ultimatum, would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?

It's about time I got asked this question of immense importance to SK politics. I'd go w horse-sized duck. I hope to win this leadership race, and then work closely with my fellow candidates as a team. The same goes for horse-sized duck. How useful would it be, once beaten and tamed, as an ally in the fight for social justice!!!

1) How does it feel being the oldest this time around? But, seemingly most in touch with the youth?..
2) How will you effectively communicate evidence based politics, something seriously lacking at all levels of government, once becoming leader? 

1) It is funny to be the old guy this time (I'm 37). Last time i was 34 and the frequent comment was that i was too young, now all the other candidates are as young or younger than i was then. I don't think chronological age matters too much, there are differing levels of youthfulness and maturity in each of us. I do think, however, that it's a great thing that we're guaranteed a generational change in this race.

2) The analogy of evidence-based medicine is a helpful starting point, and one people seem to relate to. see for more
Using examples of evidence-based policy development (such as the health disparity report work referenced in this article will also help.

And, like any new concept that needs time to work it's way into the public discourse, rinse and repeat. The more we talk about this, the more people will come to expect it. I do believe this is an idea whose time has come, the appetite is there for a more rational approach, but it needs champions.

I connect deeply with the land and natural ecosystems within SK. Duck Mountain Provincial Park is one of my favorite places. Where do you like to go to connect to the land and forget human stress?

Lots of places.
1) The farm, 45 mi SW of MJ, wide open spaces, rolling hills.
2) Ile a-la-Crosse, about 5h N of Saskatoon. Huge beautiful lakes to paddle in the summer, several km of ski trails in the winter.
 3) Saskatoon, holiday park in the winter for skiing – it's amazing to see deer and feel far from the city so close to home – and swimming at Beaver Creek Boat Launch in the summer. There's nothing like swimming in a lake or a river to make you feel alive.

Favourite Book of All-Time?
Book You're Reading Right Now?
Favourite Book To Read To Your Son?
I'm nearly done, have to go at 4:30, so i'll end w a fun one. 
1) I read Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger every year or two. The writing is whipsmart and funny and the story quite profound. 
2) I just bought A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, but am only a few pages in. He's also very clever and a captivating writer. I spend a lot more of my time reading (and writing) policy these days, but fiction is a huge part of how I learn about the world and enjoy it too 
3) Abe's 15 months now. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb - he loves this one, especially where it says "hand picks an apple, hand picks a plum" and he picks the apple of the page and pretends to feed it to me. We both find this hilarious.

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.


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.


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.


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...


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.