Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Leadership Questionnaire: Erin Weir

As previously mentioned on the blog, I've submitted a questionnaire to all of the leadership campaigns in hopes of helping readers get to know the candidates a little better.

Well, the first questionnaire has been returned and is ready to be printed here on the blog. I'll post the others when they are received, but for now, let's take a look at the answers provided by Erin Weir.

As noted, these answers were not edited for length or content, so they appear exactly as they were submitted. There may be minor grammatical corrections (removal of double spaces, capitalization, etc, etc, etc), but other than that they are the candidate's and their campaigns own words.

Questions asked are BOLDED, answers are formatted regularly.

Background/Personal Questions 

 Let’s start at the beginning; what was it that first drew you to politics and the desire to work in the public sector?

I joined the Saskatchewan NDP because I believe in the social democratic ideal of a fair society with a more equal distribution of wealth. I have always considered politics to be a high calling because public policy can improve so many people’s lives. 

Did you always know that the NDP was where you belonged, or did you do a lot of soul-searching before committing to joining a party?

I have been an active NDP member since I was 15. I have never been a member or supporter of any other political party.

I have several friends who started as New Democrats but left to join the Green Party after becoming disillusioned with the Romanow and Calvert governments. We need to reengage these activists by making it clear that the NDP stands for progressive values, including a specific plan to fight climate change.  

And the big question, what drew you to the leadership race?

I entered the leadership race because I believe that the Saskatchewan NDP must be more effective in articulating an alternative policy vision for our province. A personality contest against Brad Wall has been, and will continue to be, a losing strategy. A focus on public policy is needed to positively distinguish the NDP from the Sask. Party and engage people in our movement. 

What experience do you bring that you think would be a positive boon as the next NDP Leader?

I don’t just talk the talk about party renewal. I have walked the walk of grassroots involvement in our party. I was one of five members elected to the Saskatchewan NDP Legislative Advisory Committee to represent the party in government caucus meetings from 1998 to 2000. I served as president of the Saskatchewan Young New Democrats from 2000 to 2001 and as the federal NDP candidate against Ralph Goodale in 2004.

I also have experience developing and communicating progressive policy positions outside the party. Over the past five years, I have written more than 50 letters to the editor and op-eds in Canadian newspapers and done more than 40 interviews on national television. 

In 25 years, what do you hope your political legacy to be?

I hope that my political legacy will be Saskatchewan collecting a better return from our non-renewable resources and investing the proceeds in important public services, renewable power for a green economy, and a provincial savings fund for future generations. 

If you weren’t in politics, where do you think you may have ended up?

Prior to entering the leadership race, I was an economist in the civil service and trade union movement. I have worked for the Government of Saskatchewan (Municipal Affairs and Housing), Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy, Government of Canada (Treasury Board Secretariat, Department of Finance, and Privy Council Office), Canadian Labour Congress, International Trade Union Confederation, and United Steelworkers.

If I were not in politics, I would be working as an economist. As I acknowledged in my campaign kickoff speech, I became an economist because I did not have enough charisma to be an accountant: http://www.erinweir.ca/campaign_kickoff_speech 

What was the biggest learning experience you’ve had in your political career?

One of my biggest learning experiences was working in the 2008 federal NDP war room in Ottawa. I went on to serve in every federal budget lock-up with finance critic Tom Mulcair. Briefing him, seeing him work with caucus colleagues, and watching him address the media taught me a great deal.

I believe that we can learn much from our federal party’s success as we work to renew our provincial party. To effectively draw upon the federal NDP’s techniques, strategies and expertise, we need a leader with a strong connection to the federal party, extensive contacts in our federal organization, and a good relationship with our federal leader.

Policy/Procedural Questions

 If elected leader, you’ll hit the ground running as the new Leader of the Opposition; what three issues are the most important for you to address during your tenure in opposition? 

 Collecting a better return from our non-renewable resources and investing in renewable power.
  Reducing poverty, including by instituting Canada’s highest minimum wage.
   Banning corporate and union donations to Saskatchewan political parties.

Would those three issues remain constant if you were elected Premier, or would there be other areas that would demand more attention?

I would hit the ground running as opposition leader by addressing those and other issues, but we need to simultaneously reengage NDP members in the policy development process. A vibrant discussion about values, principles and ideas will also help to attract new members. Without this party renewal, we will not be able to win government.

Until then, we can influence government policy by setting the agenda. For example, just before Labour Day, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Larry Hubich and I wrote a joint op-ed in Saskatchewan newspapers drawing attention to the fact that our province has Canada’s lowest minimum wage. A month later, the government announced that it will raise Saskatchewan’s minimum wage to $10. Of course, we must keep pushing for further improvements.

The results of our policy renewal process, as well as the extent to which we may already have achieved some of our policy goals from opposition, would help shape my priorities as Premier.

What do you think is the central message of your candidacy?

The Saskatchewan NDP must articulate an alternative policy vision to positively distinguish ourselves from the Sask. Party and inspire people to support our movement. 

What do you plan to change about Saskatchewan’s NDP? And what do you plan to keep the same?

Too often, differing views within the Saskatchewan NDP have been misinterpreted as disloyalty. I would foster a more open policy debate in our party.

The Saskatchewan NDP has not elected enough women. I would make contributions to the Bessie Ellis Fund eligible for a tax credit, which would greatly expand the resources to support women seeking Saskatchewan NDP nominations. I would adopt the federal NDP practice of not holding nomination meetings until at least one member of an equity-seeking group has entered the nomination race. I would mandate a provincial organizer to recruit female candidates.

The Saskatchewan NDP has developed many democratic institutions that should be preserved and strengthened. A particularly innovative example is the Legislative Advisory Committee elected to represent party policy to caucus. Unfortunately, our caucus has stopped meeting with this committee. I would not only maintain the Legislative Advisory Committee, but also ensure that it has regular opportunities to meet with our caucus.

What one issue do you think is currently being underrepresented or underdeveloped by the current government? How would you change that?

The Sask. Party is ignoring climate change. I would draw attention to the fact that Saskatchewan emits the most greenhouse gas per capita of any province, but has tremendous potential for wind, solar, hydro and geothermal power. Fighting climate change is both an environmental obligation and an economic opportunity for our province.
 Finally, this isn’t a question, but more of a chance to add a personal appeal to those reading this questionnaire; so feel free to make an appeal to members, or just tell us anything else you’d like us to know about you and your campaign.

I and other candidates will be making policy announcements over the course of the campaign. However, the test is not only what someone says when they want to win a leadership race, but what they have said (or failed to say) over several years.

Party members deserve to know where their leader really stands on the issues and how they would govern. To find out where I stand, I invite you to read the papers, op-eds, letters to the editor, and blog posts that I have written on Saskatchewan public policy. Many of these documents are available through my blog: http://www.progressive-economics.ca/author/erin-weir/


Anonymous said...

White text on a black background on a bright orange background? One would have to be pretty motivated to actually read an entire post.

Scott said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment. It was about time the blog had an update to the design anyways; hopefully the new format is easier to view.