Friday, September 28, 2012

Wotherspoon Campaign Update

As mentioned in my previous post, today will be a look at what I gleaned from attending a Trent Wotherspoon event here in Saskatoon the other day.

For the most part, it was a pretty standard event. It was fairly well attended, coffee and tea and treats were served, and people had an opportunity to speak to Trent one-on-one. Also, Trent stood up to take questions from the group and speak for a few moments as well. So, we'll post some of the answers to the questions that were presented; and we'll also add some analysis from myself as well.

First, let's start with a bit of analysis. As I've mentioned before, Trent has really hit the ground running when it comes to reaching people across Saskatchewan. As he spoke about the many places he's been thus far, despite only being in the race for a little over two weeks, it was already an impressive feat to behold. As of now, he is the most traveled of the candidates; and whether or not that will translate into snagging support in areas outside of his primary base in Regina remains to be seen, but it should help to give him an inside edge.

I'm reminded of some early advice I was given when I first started door-to-door canvassing, and that's that people remember when they met a candidate or a candidate's representative; and it's always better to be the first one to the doorstep than the last. On that front, Trent is doing very well to get out his candidacy and message to as many people as he can across the province on a personal level.

Before we get to the answers from questions, there's a few highlights from Trent's speech that I think are worthy of noting. I took drama in high school, and I was alright at it in my opinion, and as such I tend to rate speeches based on hitting certain points; such as a good, memorable line.

And Trent hammered a good line home, while talking about his experience in politics and his decision to seek the leadership, when he said the following: "I learned the most from those with the least." It's a pretty good, and memorable, phrase. And I think it also highlights some of the clear motivations for Trent's campaign, and further works on his "Forward Together" mantra.

Trent talked about the conditions he's seen in Regina, (conditions which span across Saskatchewan's largest centres, I can assure you), and really reminded all of us in the room that in this time of so-called financial prosperity there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people being left out in the cold (in some cases, quite literally.)

And of course, he built on it from there and went on to explain how the failings in addressing the housing situation affect other sectors like education, though this was a brief part of the speech. More so, the bulk of Trent's speech concerned rebuilding the party and the province through the creation of stronger partnerships with those within and outside the party.

It was a message of working together, regardless of political stripes, to achieve the best result; something the current government doesn't quite understand, locked as they are in the 'with us or against us' mentality favoured by American Republicans.

Trent also touched on a valid point that I think some of the other campaigns haven't mentioned yet (or at least, haven't mentioned in fullness), and that is the realization (or rather, realism) of the fact that this rebuilding will not be an overnight process and will not be accomplished simply when a new leader is selected.

The selection of a new leader is the first step, but we must continue to rebuild and restructure; and we must be ready, prior to an election, to present our ideas and vision for Saskatchewan to its people.

All in all, it was a strong speech (if not slightly brief), but I think it really helps solidify where the Wotherspoon campaign is coming from and what they hope to accomplish over the coming months.

Now; that brings us to the highlights of the questions that were asked. I did my best to copy down responses, but I can only write so fast and remain legible, so I don't have the complete word-for-word answers that Trent provided. However, I think we'll stick to as much of what he said as possible and try to avoid adding too much of my own interpretation or summation of his answers.

Please note, this is not all the questions that were asked or presented, but rather these are 'highlights' that I think help expand on what Trent's campaign is hoping to work towards during the leadership race.

1.) A question, well several, were presented over the closure of the PFRA Farms and the likely selling of their land properties. (* I must admit, I'm not too well versed on the PFRA Farms, but my understanding is as follows: The program was nixed by the Federal Government, who has basically shuffled down costs onto the Provincial Government, who in turn, is letting the project die and will sell off lands and equipment to the highest bidder. If that is incorrect, someone please let me know.)

Trent's Answer: The NDP has a good record of creating economic balances, and needs to work better in the future to create a similar system for the environment. We need an approach that examines and explores the effects that our decisions today will have on future generations. People who use the land (specifically cattlemen) are against the sale of the lands, since they will lose out to larger corporations, who will give little thought local economy and environmental protection.

2.) A question was presented over the decision to close the regional park in Leroy, SK.

Trent's Answer: Decisions were made behind closed doors and then the agreements were announced to the public as policy, regardless of what the people thought. A local board sold the park, with the provincial government signing off on the sale, but as a park taxpayer dollars went into it and no consideration was given to these taxpayers in the process. Instead, a handful of commitments were given to those interested in purchasing the land; and we all know how well those commitment deals worked in the past through SCN.

3.) A question was presented over the safety of our Crowns.

Trent's Answer: Our Crowns are not very safe. The government has been signing away agreements and developments to private industry, and these agreements are creating a future problem where the government's position in future negotiations with these private industries will be very weak. Things are being outsourced outside of the Crowns, denying them revenue, while at the same time the government scrapes as much revenue from the Crowns as they can to balance their own budgets.

Also, take the loss of the Sasktel rural broadband internet frequency. The government said they had fought to keep this frequency, but we never heard anything about it until it was too late to do anything about it. The government had been vocal before when it came to defending something in Saskatchewan, and was very public about their fight with the federal government, yet we heard nothing on this issue until it was too late. So, how exactly did they fight for it?

4.) A question was asked about the accuracy of the current government's financial picture.

Trent's Answer: It is not being accurately reported. We don't provide summary financial reporting, as other provinces do; and this government has taken $4 billion from both the Crowns and the "Rainy Day" Fund. They committed to not taking a dividend from SaskPower, yet at the last minute, they changed their minds and took $125 million from SaskPower. They claimed that this cost was covered by record rainfall that enhanced hydro throughout the province, but that rainfall only makes up $40 million of the cash that they took. Now, SaskPower is adjusting rates to make up $90 million; which directly passes the cost onto the consumer and the taxpayer.

The financial picture is worsening, as this government has not been good financial managers and are playing a 'shell game' by moving cash around to make things look rosier. This is a major concern in the coming year, as it will leave this government to with difficult decisions to make regarding programs and services and their funding.

5.) A question was raised about political funding and government transparency.

Trent's Answer: Government needs to be principled with how they deal with corporations, and right now this government is not. I support the removal of corporate and union donations from the political process; if you look at the last election, a CEO from Alberta donated $37,000 to the Saskatchewan Party. Out of province interests are having undue influence in our democracy and that must be addressed.

Government should also be more straight and transparent with the people, and be guided by facts rather than ideology. There is a worry that this government is becoming more arrogant, and not doing the things that they were elected to do. While this is important for us to highlight, we must also build a message that focuses on our strengths and solutions as opposed to the other side's shortcomings.

I think that about does it for the question highlights; I am worried that I had to restructure some answers and do some rephrasing to fill in gaps in my writing, but I don't think I've changed the meaning and truth behind the answers that were provided.

As noted, come Monday evening, I will be taking notes from the Erin Weir digital town hall; so expect a recap of answers from there to appear either late Monday or early Tuesday.

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