Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili Town Hall

The Meili Campaign has entered into the new media format this evening through their hosting of a live-telephone town hall meeting. The use of telephone ensured that disruptors, the like found at Erin Weir's online town hall, were kept from the event and I don't think anyone will say that this was a bad thing.

The event also used the opportunity to conduct three polls during the course of the evening, of which only one set of results were released to those present for the conference. It was an interesting step for the meeting, and one that I think worked very well (though, I do worry that given the nature of the call, the data could be skewed slightly; more on that later on in the post.)

So, we'll start by recapping the questions and answers segment of the town hall. Well, technically, we'll start with a bit of Ryan's opening statements, but the Q & A will take up the bulk of this post. Do keep in mind that I was furiously writing down questions and answers, as such as was the case in the Trent Wotherspoon Q & A posted here previously, answers are not 100% verbatim was what said by Ryan; but will be close in either content or meaning.

The town hall started with Ryan hammering home the foundational message of his campaign, which continues to build on his team of "Better Together"; by explaining in the style of John Donne, that "no man is an island", in that there is not a one of us out there who can strive and succeed alone.

He also used the opportunity to talk about what has changed since the last leadership race; including his marriage and the birth of his son, and some of the work he has done as an author and as a doctor. Building on the work done as a doctor, he's talked about the first hand experience of seeing levels of preventable illness in our province and knowing that this stems from poverty, and that the poverty often stems from short-sighted policy ideas.

He then explains that he sees the NDP as the best vehicle for fostering a change in our province. He also explained his view that the results of the last election were not a rejection of the NDP as a whole, but rather a message that people wanted a clearer message and vision for the future; it was a demand for the party to do better.

He touched on some key issues, such as ensuring that we create sustained and well managed growth and bring issues like climate change and clean energy back to the forefront, and expressed concern over current approaches to labour legislation being floated by the current government. He ended his opening statement by saying that we needed to not only change the leader of the NDP, but we needed to change the discussion in the province as well.

So, with the opening statement covered, let's explore some of the questions and answers. As always, questions are BOLDED while answers appear in normal text format. 

Q: What are you thoughts on the recent Saskatchewan Party attack ad against the four NDP leadership candidates?

In Ottawa, Conservatives are worried about Thomas Mulcair. In Regina, the Saskatchewan Party is clearly worried about these four young and intelligent candidates. At the same time, the ad doesn't seem particularly effective for the amount of money it would have cost to air it. Part of me wanted to send a thank you note to Brad, for spending a lot of money to put me on TV.

Q: The last campaign focused a lot on the idea of a royalty review in our province. What are you thoughts on the issue?

We've blown things out of proportion on the language behind conducting a review and how we approach our economy. A boom is a big noise that is explosive and brief, it isn't something that you can count on in the long run. Instead, we need a bloom in our economy; something that is long term and ensure development that not only affects us but continues to positively affect our children.

A review is important, in the short term to ensure that we are receiving a fair return. The current deal on potash, for example, expires in 2016; shortly after the next provincial election. That would be a perfect time for us to review our royalty rate.

Q: With some of the extreme weather conditions we've seen across the world, would you bring green energy back to the forefront?

We've seen extreme weather in the province as well, from droughts to floods, and this is another chance for us to create a 'bloom' in our economy, by investing in green energy. By developing the capacity for businesses to succeed in producing the tools needed to develop green energy, from wind turbines to solar panels, we can have a positive impact on both our own energy needs and growing our economy.

Another idea would be to develop energy co-ops in communities. These co-ops could produce energy for local needs, while at the same time providing energy back into the power grid and generating a profit for the community.

Q: Farmland throughout Saskatchewan is being bought up by large multinational corporations; what is your opinion and idea to ensure that we keep track of something as simple as land ownership within our province?

If we can't control something as basic as land, we lose the ability to understand what corporations are doing on that land, and the ability to contribute to the future development of that land. We have to protect what we already have and should require residency for the ownership of farmland. But we should also push for greater transparency from companies that being to develop land in Saskatchewan.

Q: What are you thoughts about indexing the SAID (Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability) Program, and thoughts on expanding the program?

As the opposition party, we shouldn't always criticize the government and their programs, and the SAID Program is a good example of that. This is a program that has helped people with disabilities rise out of levels of poverty. Indexing the program prevents it from eroding away over time and becoming less effective. There is a worry that the program could be a way of preventing advocacy for those affected by disability, since the program limits the need for advocacy since it gives them something, but that doesn't mean we should stop advocacy for causes.

There is an example of this in equal justice. Equal Justice for All was a community based program that was run by people with disabilities, and it recently had its funding cut and the suggestion is this was because of their role in advocacy programs.

Q: What is your policy on affordable housing?

Politics should be about building a healthy society, and when looking at the social determinates of health, housing is a major part of that. We need to push for a provincial strategy on housing, if not a national strategy, and we need to increase the amount of social housing units in the province. We should also look at co-op housing; as it is often more affordable and easier for people to gain access to. At the same time, it provides that sense of pride in home ownership and gives the resident a better chance of overall success.

The Housing First model, which is being explored in Saskatoon, addresses the need to ensure that homeless people are provided with housing as the first step in lifting them out of poverty.

Q: We seem to be seeing a greater level of economic disparity these days, and the gap between richer and poorer is growing. What are you plans to foster greater economic justice?

Countries that are less equal are shown to have worse health across the board than countries where equality is higher. In fact, Canada's inequality rate is now growing faster than the USA's. We need to be able to talk about increased equality from the top (lawyers and doctors) to the bottom (people who are on social assistance programs) and look at both redistribution and predistribution.

Redistribution is the system we have generally used, where we tax a person's income and use that money to fund programs. We need to address this system more progressively to ensure that someone with a large income is not paying less in taxes than someone with a lower income.

Predistribution addresses money before taxes. We need legislation that protects middle and upper class jobs, and ensure that minimum wage jobs and social assistance programs aren't keeping people trapped in poverty.

Q: What is your mental health plan?

A healthy society doesn't just include physical health, it includes mental health as well. Sufferers of mental health often have challenges in securing an education and an income, but we often don't talk about this. We have prisons full of people who have mental illnesses, and while they may have done something to end up in prison, we're not providing them with the care they need to address their illness.

We need a provincial mental health strategy, and we need to get over the taboo of talking about mental health. 10% of the adult population suffers from a mental illness, while 50% of people will experience depression or another mental illness in their life time. We can't be afraid to talk about the issue. Once we can talk about it, we can ensure that we are providing sufficient mental health care.

Psychiatrists are covered, but often hard to get into, while other forms of counseling and treatment are not covered at all. We need to expand coverage and ensure that people are receiving proper care for their illness.

Q: What is your plan to enhance the NDP presence in rural Saskatchewan?

This is importantly, not just strategically as a party, but also in ensuring that we are representing people from across the province. The SK Party has taken these constituencies for granted, but there's still a lot of work for our party to do. These areas are filled with members who feel disconnected or disillusioned with the NDP, or in some cases neglected by the party. We need our next leader to spend time in rural Saskatchewan and foster greater connections in these areas.

Once the party is on sounder economic footing, we could also look at creating field agents to represent the party and be visible in these constituencies. Whether that's attending union meetings at the chicken plant in Wynyard, or helping to rebuild executives in these areas, we need to increase our own engagement.

However, policy is the strongest step we can take. We should consider establishing a body, if not a wing, for rural voters to ensure that concerns and issues are being brought up and making their way into our party policies.

Q: What is your view on the dumping of Nuclear Waste in rural communities?

If one community decides to store nuclear waste, it doesn't just affect their community it affects us all for years to come. And the current approach of a committee going in behind closed doors to speak with community leaders, with the promise of immediate financial benefit, is not the right approach to this issue.

We need to focus more on the development of green energy as well, as opposed to considering nuclear power. In addition to the problem of waste, nuclear power is more expensive and takes longer to implement. If we started building a reactor today, it wouldn't be operational until 2025, and the cost would be monumental. But we could easily invest in wind turbines and solar panels that take a fraction of the time and cost.

Q: Would you consider, or support, a merger with the provincial Liberal Party to form a centre-left party to avoid vote splitting? 

That doesn't sound advantageous in Saskatchewan, given the low levels of support that the third parties tend to receive in provincial elections. Instead, we need to develop policies and make connections with people who have voted for the other parties and show them that the NDP is the best alternative to the SK Party.

Q: Can you expand on how a healthy society creates a healthy economy?

Often, we think about this in the other way: a health economy creates a healthy society. But when we investment in human infrastructure, the economy can strive. If you can imagine a large group of marginalized and disaffected people, you can see how this creates a strain and drain on the economy and programs supported by the government. If you have healthy and engaged people, you reduce the drain and strain and will create positive benefits for the economy.

Q: I like your "Your Ideas" page on the website, how do you plan to get more people to contribute?

It's important for a leader to have their own ideas, principles, and vision; but it's also important to foster participatory democracy. We can see the opposite of this ideal being practiced in the federal Conservatives and the provincial SK Party, and their heavy top-down approach. We've held off on our own policy developments because we want to hear from as many members and citizens as we can. We want our ideas to merge to create policy not only for the leadership campaign, but for the next election. -Ryan also explained how to use the website to submit your ideas, or how to contact the campaign, but we don't need to put that here-

That bring us to Ryan's final thoughts, and then we'll look at the results for the one poll listeners were privy to the results of.

Continuing on the theme of leadership, Ryan again called on the need for the next leader of the party to come up with their own ideas and vision (Of which he included the creation of SaskPharma, a crown corporation that could be used to produce or secure low cost generic drugs; and the creation of a Saskatchewan Bank, based on the Bank of North Dakota model), but also stressed that leader needs humility and good judgement to listen to the ideas of others.

He also called again on the need for the party to reach out to the disillusioned NDPers and supporters of other parties who could support the NDP through the creation of good policy. He closed the town hall with a reiteration of his motto: We can do better, and we can be better, together.

So, let's look at the poll that was conducted during the town hall. In total, there were three polls. The first poll focused on how important it was for the next leader to already be a MLA; while the other two asked who people would support as their first and second choice candidates on the preferential ballot.

The last two polls did not have their results released to the gathered masses, but the first poll was, and Ryan spoke to it. I'm going to include the results, and Ryan's comment, then do a bit of editorializing on the issue.

The poll asked how important it was that the next leader of the NDP be a sitting member of the legislature.
12% said it was very important.
27% said it was somewhat important.
54% said it was not important.
7% were undecided.

Ryan approached the results as follows; he expressed appreciating for the work and experience that sitting MLAs have, and even acknowledged his own lack of experience as a sitting MLA. However, he called on the fact that he will be bringing his own unique experiences to the post, much in the same way that any first time MLA would. He also invoked the spirit of Grant Devine, reminding those gathered that keeping him out of the legislature during a by-election allowed him to travel the province and lay the groundwork for his eventual term as Premier.

He expressed that it wouldn't be a bad thing for the next leader to sit out of the legislature for an extended period of time, and that it would provide a chance for the leader to reach out across the province and create those connections and relationships that would be invaluable during the next election campaign. He also cited Jack Layton being elected leader of the federal NDP while not being a sitting Member of Parliament.

Ryan was also quick to remind us that the poll was not scientific, and he even hinted that given that people on the line were more than likely vested in his campaign, the results might reflect that.

And now begins the very light editorializing.

That last point is incredibly important. We weren't told how many people were on the call, so I don't know whether we're talking about 54% of 200 people, or 54% of 50 people...Also, yes, a lot of people on the line were already likely in camp Meili, and as such, would say that it isn't important that he already have a seat in the legislature. As such, it's good to see some caution in giving too much faith to the polling result.

Now, I've thought about this question a lot, and I'm going to do a stand-alone post on it in the future. (Though, slight spoiler, I have spoken about it a little in the past on the blog but the next post will be a major pro-con sort of approach to the issue.)

All in all, that concludes the report from the Meili Town Hall. (sorry for the rhyme.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

"The Fiendish Four" and Campaign Updates

I'm going to use the term Fiendish Four to describe the most recent event from the Sask. NDP Leadership Race, if only because it's a nifty term with a Stan Lee vibe, and it also calls attention to the ridiculousness of putting out ads to attack four candidates.

Much like their federal counterparts in the Conservative Party, the Saskatchewan Party has seemingly taken notice to the fact that the Saskatchewan NDP are in a leadership race. And again, like their federal counterparts, the SK Party is attempting to define and diminish the candidates before the race is over. While the ads aren't quite as 'character damning' as the "Dwain Lingenfelter: Down on Saskatchewan" ads; there's something to be said for the fact that these ads are even airing.

We talked a bit after looking at poll results about personality and the role it will play in selecting the next SK NDP leader, and I think this is a reinforcement of the necessity of that. The fact that right now the worst thing the SK Party can say about the current leadership roster is that they're too in step with Thomas Mulcair is already a bolstering sign.

Lingenfelter had his own baggage, and a somewhat gruff personality one must admit to those who didn't know him well, whereas the current candidates are exactly like Brad Wall: Younger, reasonably attractive (to people who apparently judge politicians by that standard), and generally well liked. There's no smoking gun of the perception of arrogance, or a general aloofness that stems from being of an older generation striving to adapt to a new generation of politics.

This was a political spot on the map that Brad Wall used to be the sole occupant of, at least in terms of the party leaders. But regardless of who becomes the next leader of the SK NDP, they will be staking a claim to that personable territory that Wall currently occupies. It was easy for the SK Party to dismantle Lingenfelter's leadership because he seemingly lived up to the caricature that they drew of him. It will not be so easy this time around.

And as I've said, being told you're too in step with Thomas Mulcair isn't exactly the worst thing one can be accused of. Furthermore, and perhaps unfortunately for the SK Party, the ad has the great potential of backfiring. Not only because they're going after a well liked group of people, but because it focuses attention to the economy.

Report after report, study after study, has validated Mulcair's statement that Canada is indeed suffering from the Dutch Disease of high resource prices affecting other sectors of the economy. Erin Weir has called attention to the loss of manufacturing jobs in the province, while the government has avoided the topic for the most part, and an ad like this is only going to cause more people to listen to the rebuttals the leadership candidates have to offer.

And for the SK Party, the facts are not on their side. If anything, this will only serve in showing that the current NDP slate of candidates are in better touch with the economy (which up until now, could be argued, was the SK Party's bread-and-butter policy area). It's going to put them in an awkward spot once more and more FACTS come out that validate Mulcair and anyone, provincially or federally, who understands the need to develop a diverse economy.

In the end, the only person who this ad may actually attack is the SK Party's credibility on economic issues.

So, with that out of the way, we can focus on the campaigns.

Ryan Meili's campaign website has added a flush of new content; mostly through the form of blog posts, but also some additions to the Vision section. While there is a still a majority of content focusing on Ryan's previous campaign for leader, the site is being updated as the content is formed by the campaign and supporters. I'd highly advise taking a look. (LINK)

Also on the Meili front, the campaign is having it's first phone town hall meeting on Tuesday, October 30th at 7pm. The campaign will dial houses and people will have the chance to ask questions to Ryan. I'll be listening into the call, though I don't know if I'll ask any questions, and will post the relevant information here.

Erin Weir's campaign has updated their website as well, and of particular note is Erin's response to Ryan's economic policy. (LINK) Without saying too much, Erin's major criticism (as has been his approach to Trent's education policy as well) is the fact that none of the provided ideas have a cost attached or an explanation to show where funding for the policies will come from.

Trent Wotherspoon celebrated the opening of his campaign office over the weekend, and also took time to meet with members in Moose Jaw on Sunday. Trent will also be in Saskatoon this Saturday.

Cam Broten most recently took some time to attend a workshop discussing migrant & immigrant labour issues here in Saskatoon.

I think that should cover it more or less for recent updates from the campaign; if I've missed anything, or need to add anything, I'm sure someone will let me know.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Here a Poll, There a Poll

A recent, non-scientific poll came out today via the Erin Weir campaign. The telephone poll was conducted in the middle of October (and I'm pretty sure I actually got one of the calls, so full-disclosure on that one), and has some pretty interesting results.

So, let's take a look at those results...and then I'll engage in some light editorializing. Also, since I'm not a fan of mucking-a-bout with the HTML code on the page, there won't be a table to accompany this post. Rather, I'll break it down into simply reporting the regions and numbers in different block text areas.

Province-Wide Result

Cam Broten:            219 = 10.0%
Ryan Meili:              177 = 8.1%
Erin Weir:                214 = 9.8%
Trent Wotherspoon: 248 = 11.4%
Undecided:             1324 = 60.7%

Regina Result

Cam Broten:             14 = 2.4%
Ryan Meili:                22 = 3.7%
Erin Weir:                 74 = 12.5%
Trent Wotherspoon: 185 = 31.4%
Undecided:              295 = 50.0%

Saskatoon Result

Cam Broten:            170 = 25.5%
Ryan Meili:              76 = 11.4%
Erin Weir:                57 = 8.5%
Trent Wotherspoon: 18 = 2.7%
Undecided:              346 = 51.9%

Other Areas Result

Cam Broten:            35 = 3.8%
Ryan Meili:              79 = 8.5%
Erin Weir:                83 = 9.0%
Trent Wotherspoon: 45 = 4.9%
Undecided:              683 = 73.8%

So, what does this all mean?

Well, let's look at the province wide poll first. If the race is looking for a frontrunner, then it would seem that the undecided clearly have it. But, since there's no fun in putting the undecideds in the front of the pack, that role would fall to Trent Wotherspoon; though there's caution to be had there at all. I say so, because since the biggest separation from the candidates is about 3%, it is possible to say that there isn't actually a frontrunner at all.

In my mind, a frontrunner generally holds at least a bit of a substantial lead over the next nearest candidate. And I think no one would argue that a 1.4% lead over the next candidate could be called a substantial lead. So, if anything, this poll at the very least shows that none of the candidates have a distinct advantage overall at the moment.

Now, let's look at Regina and Saskatoon.

Unsurprisingly, the two sitting MLAs from these cities (Trent and Cam, respectively) hold strong leads over the non-MLA candidates. Now, some might extrapolate that since Trent has a strong lead in his city than Cam has in his, that this might be a good first signal for overall support. However, I would advise caution to do so, given that Regina had 77 less respondents than Saskatoon, which would skew the numbers a little.

Also, I think the biggest concern here will be time spent in the legislature. I've mentioned before that Cam and Trent have a bit of an advantage as sitting MLAs since they will be able to raise their profiles through their roles in the legislature. As such, this could enhance their abilities to woo further popularity from people within their own cities and province-wide as well.

After all, it will essentially be free publicity for the campaigns to simply do their day to day duties as members of the opposition.I think that's one reason why we've seen so many media releases from Erin Weir's campaign, as it's an effort to keep just as much print about Erin as possible and serve as a counter to the press the two MLAs will get.

Of course, there is the argument that regular forms of media are no longer where the bulk of people will form decisions about the candidates; (after all, you are reading a blog by a non-journalist...), but there is a case to be made for traditional media sources for those who don't follow social media or aren't tech-savvy when it comes to things like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Now, let's focus on the "other areas" section of the poll. I imagine this contains your other major centres, like Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Yorkton, etc, etc, etc.

The interesting thing to come from this section is the fact that Erin Weir and Ryan Meili are leading the pack in this area, once you overlook the large amount of undecideds. But again, the leads aren't such that they suggest an impending surge for any candidate. Effectively, this poll shows that all the candidates have a good base in certain regions, and all of them have room to grow as the campaign goes on.

So, let's talk a bit about the results as a whole. Essentially, the main take away is that this is a wide-open race. Whichever candidate does the work and successfully builds their profile with the members is going to be the one who ends up leading the party. I think there was some thought that name-recognition and 'star quality' (ala Justin Trudeau) might propel a candidacy early on in the race, but this poll suggests that that did not happen.

As such, it will be all about personality and policy from here on out. Whoever meets that magic combination of the two will likely be the man to face Brad Wall in the next election. And make no mistake, personality will play a key role in this decision. I say that because in the last leadership contest, the bulk of members seemed to go with experience and 'policy' over personality, and I'd say the result was less than what we were hoping for.

While we can fight the Sask. Party on policy quite well, there's no denying the 'Wall Factor' of personality and likeability. I think we're going to see some members gravitate towards picking a leader who offers up that certain "je nes sais quoi" of personality that can stand to counter Wall's. While I'm not trying to downplay policy, which is also important, I just want to be clear that this is a multifaceted race (as most political things are) and it won't be just one excelling area that turns one of the contenders from candidate to leader.

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

As noted yesterday, Ryan Meili's campaign introduced their first policy release today. While I was not there in person to hear the announcement, I did receive a copy of the media release and shall use that to construct what was said and what the policy involves.

Also, for those of you in Saskatoon, Ryan's campaign is having a 'cocktails and policy' evening at the Two-Twenty on 20th St W starting at 5:00pm tonight (Oct. 26th).

Outlined as "From Boom to Bloom: Growing a Healthy Economy", Ryan laid out his approach to economic development and small business development for Saskatchewan's future. Effectively, Ryan framed his argument around the inter-connectivity of the economy and called for a focused attention on three pillars of designing a healthy economy: Nurture, Develop, and Produce.

Some specifics of his plan are as follows:

"Establish a legacy fund modeled off of Norway's, Denmark's, and Peter Lougheed's Alberta; the dividends of which would be used to endow long term education funding."

"Indexing the minimum wage to 120% of the Low Income Measure (a more accurate and up-to-date measure of poverty than the Low Income Cut-Off)"

"Conducting full reviews of both non-renewable resource royalty rates and corporate tax rates to ensure Saskatchewan residents are receiving fair value for their one-time resource windfall, and that companies are paying a fair share of Saskatchewan's infrastructure upkeep."

Ryan also added some policy developments towards small business, noting that a third of the Saskatchewan workforce are employed by small businesses and that broad brushstrokes towards all businesses does nothing to help small business development. With that in mind, Ryan proposed the following:

"A start-up bursary program for fledgling entrepreneurs to apply certified business training programs with a mentor-ship component"

"A change to Saskatchewan's Securities Act to accommodate recent innovations in crowdfunding platforms, in order to stimulate local investment in local start-ups."

Ryan's plan calls for a support for economic and community development together, as opposed to the current either or model.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Update

With the opening of the legislature today, I expect we'll see some big developments from the Cam Broten and Trent Wotherspoon campaigns; given that they will be 'taking the fight' to the government for every day that the legislature is in session.

This post is going to be more of a general look at what lies ahead, as opposed to any in detail look at the campaigns, and we're going to discuss some questions of delicate nature as well.

With Erin Weir's call for the campaign to start approaching policy debate, and the creation of a nifty chart to highlight differences between the camps (LINK), it would seem that we've officially entered the 'real start' of the race. Not to undermine any of the efforts undertaken until now, but once we start seeing more policy and developments within a race, is generally when the rest of the people concerned in how it will turn out tend to start paying more attention. Not to mention that policies might help undecided members find a camp they're willing to support, not just with a ballot, but financially and through volunteer work as well.

On that front, Ryan Meili's campaign has put out word of a policy announcement scheduled for tomorrow here in Saskatoon. I'm not sure whether or not I will be there in person for the announcement, but I shall report on it either way.

Which brings me to the questions of delicate nature. I've done my best to hopefully present this blog objectively, and without bias; hopefully, I've achieved that. Which is why I now find myself struggling with questions of how much challenging I can do with regards to things that are brought forward by the campaigns.

There is a good chance that I won't agree with everything brought forward by a camp, much in the same way that many of you reading this already find much to disagree with from candidates outside of your chosen one, but the question of just how much I can push back and remain unbiased has been at the forefront of my mind.

I suppose part of me thinks that these proposals will be scrutinized by the other leadership candidates, and as such, who am I to add my own chiding or ideas into the pot. But at the same time, I don't want to sound like a parrot simply repeating the information that has come out of the campaigns "ad nauseam". So, with that in mind, I think I've decided on the best course of action.

I think the best approach is to expand on the ideas presented; by which I mean, if I read a policy revolving around education reform, to add something to the debate that is missing or lacking. (For note, education reform as an example was chosen at random based on policies that have come out thus far from any of the camps.)

I don't think I'll be 'tearing into' any of the policies, nor objecting to them (unless something truly outlandish crops up and needs to be addressed, but I doubt that would happen), but we shall try to build on what the campaigns have introduced and hopefully add another approach that might not have been considered or mentioned at the policy table.

As such, in addition to regular campaign updates, we shall see some light editorializing from me as the race continues. It might be tougher to walk the line of being impartial during this, but I am going to try my best to remain as neutral as possible.

So, with all that said and done, I think we can expect the first of these over the weekend, given that all of the camps will have brought forth at least one policy plank. So, until then.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Campaign Update: Cam Broten

Planet S Magazine: LINK

Cam Campaign Video: LINK

Building on his release last week about strengthening our democracy, Cam's campaign has been quick with sending out links bemoaning the status of our parliamentary democracy (specifically focused on Dalton McGuinty's decision to prorogue Queen's Bench in the wake of his resignation; though, I imagine a similar shot at BC Premier Christy Clark might be in store in the future).

In addition to promoting his release of last week, Cam's also been on the road and meeting with constituents; most notably in the Battlefords. Cam's campaign has also been using social media, such as YouTube, to get some of his endorsers to tell their own personal reasons for supporting Cam in the race.

In addition to all of that, for the third year in a row Cam has been selected as Saskatoon's Best MLA by Planet S Magazine (full list and some explanations behind the votes found at the link on the top of the post). While there may not be any quantitative factor for what makes Cam the 'best MLA', I think it speaks volumes to his character and his overall likeability by those who meet him. If anything, it should at least serve as a reminder to the other candidates that Cam's personality leaves a good mark with those he meets; and he's well placed to win a lot of support as he meets more and more people during the course of the campaign based on sheer personality alone.

Couple that with the already forged policies brought forward from his first day on the campaign, and it certainly puts Cam on good footing this early in the race.

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Website: LINK

Gender Equality: LINK

Continuing along with the latest developments, Ryan Meili's campaign has brought forward a throwback to the past as a means of developing policy future. In a general call for discussion and contribution, Ryan has reposted his campaign's approach to the environment and gender equality and asked members and readers to contribute their ideas on these two ideas.

For a refresher, Ryan's approach to environmental policy from 2009 was as follows: creating a floating royalty rate to ensure a fair return on resources, while using profits to invest in environmental stewardship and renewable energy. Bold investment in renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydro) as opposed to current development (coal, natural gas, nuclear), with the aim of preserving scarce resources for future generations. Reduce energy needs by investing in conservation, supporting retrofits for older buildings while also stressing and encouraging new building methods to promote energy efficiency. Finally, an investment in rail, public transit, bicycle and pedestrian traffic ways, and high-efficiency vehicles.

So far, as of posting, the reminder has prompted at least one person to endorse Ryan's call for more rail development in Saskatchewan.

As for the gender equality page; the bulk of it contains a much lengthier policy statement from 2009. Rather than attempt to summarize it, and risk missing anything, I'd recommend those interested to follow the link at the top of the post.

However, there are 3 key areas mentioned at the end of the policy statement that I will include here. The first is a call for pay equality, and for Saskatchewan to fall in line with other provinces and adopt legislation that advocates equal pay, not just for women, but for all people (people of colour, those with disabilities, Aboriginal people, and so on.)

The second is a call for child care, which makes use of the Quebec example. But in addition to increased child care, Ryan adds a call to make it easier for families to have one parent who works within the home and and thus able to look after their family.

Finally, Ryan addresses education. From lowering tuition to providing on campus day care and modifying student loan regulations to reflect different education schedules.

Ryan also takes the time to address equality in general, stating that the overall goal is not only to focus just on women but on any and all who can be considered outside of the 'majority' (term used very loosely). This includes a call for us to do better with addressing problems of homophobia  and more general inclusion in society.

Again, as all of this is from Ryan's 2009 campaign, it will be interesting to see what changes in the current campaign. The involvement of people through Ryan's site is likely going to be the largest factor in determining any major changes to his previous approaches; but given that Ryan's first run at the leadership was firmly routed in the social justice circle (and I'd imagine a good many of his supporters feel the same way), I don't know whether we'll see any monumental changes to the policies as they stand now; not that that is a bad thing.

Campaign Update: Erin Weir

Erin's website: LINK

Costing Backgrounder: LINK

Erin Weir's campaign also made a major announcement today with their introduction of Erin's childcare proposal for the province. In addition to the link for the media announcement, I've included the link to the costing backgrounder provided. We'll talk a bit about the plan, but all of the key details can be found in the attached links.

The proposal covers a universal daycare system and an early learning program for children between the ages of two and five. The bulk of the idea seems to stem around Erin's call for the provincial government to establish new spaces in Saskatchewan through the use of existing schools.

Erin's argument also suggests that the creation of these spaces within existing schools could also help keep schools facing closure open. Erin also calls attention to the fact that these spaces are already equipped to deal with looking after children, as they have education, recreational, and nutritional facilities already built. However, Erin's plan also seems to take into account that some directly new spaces will need to be built.

The plan calls for about 17,000 additional childcare spaces to be created within the province, and for Saskatchewan to adopt Quebec's flat rate of $7 per day per child. All in all, Erin's campaign puts the implementation of his childcare plan at $180 million. Erin's campaign also suggests that creation of these new spaces would allow the government to end most childcare subsidies and recoup the $18 million currently spent on those subsidies.

This is Erin's first foray out of economic policy in the campaign thus far, and it's likely to be an issue that should generate a lot of good buzz for the campaign. The addition of the costing document to the announcement is also a pretty strong standing point for the campaign, as I think people will respond pretty positively to knowing how such a program will be paid for and just how much it will cost.

Campaign Update: Trent Wotherspoon

Trent's Website: LINK

On the campaign front, Trent Wotherspoon has release his newest campaign plank that focuses on addressing the problems (and causes) of poverty within Saskatchewan. Provided at the top of this post is a link to Trent's page, but we will summarize the points made there here.

The first plank is to make fighting poverty a priority. Trent's plan calls for a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy with precise targets, an immediate minimum wage increase to $11 followed by indexing the minimum wage to future increases in the cost of living, incorporating the use of the Index of Canadian-Well-Being to evaluation government policy and progress.

The second plank revolves around safe and affordable housing. Trent's plan calls for an increase in investment and building of Saskatchewan Housing Corporation units (that would provide housing units for students, seniors, people with disabilities, and working families), providing seed capital for housing cooperatives, a modern approach to rent controls (use of tax incentives, grants, and forgivable loans) and aim for a vacancy rate of 3% in Saskatchewan's major cities, and development of a program to support home ownership, especially in Northern Saskatchewan.

The third plank revolves around government/community cooperation. Trent's plan calls for community focused approaches that foster involvement from across a community (social workers, education, police, public health, First Nations & Metis leadership, community organizations, etc.), work with the federal NDP to foster a dignified income as part of Canada's pension plan, work with the federal government and First Nations & Metis leadership to increase on-reserve housing initiatives, address the roles that substance abuse plays in creating poverty and increase training in addictions therapies and treatment, ensure all provincial income security programs meet a socially acceptable level of funding and index to future cost of living increases, increase the income exemption for those on social assistance to foster greater employment engagement, address problems in the education system that help foster poverty later on in life (a call back to Trent's education plan).

The final plank revolves around tax fairness. Trent's plan calls for the provincial income tax to be removed for all seniors on the federal Guaranteed Income Supplement, and for provincial sales tax to be removed from feminine hygiene products and baby products.

Again, a lot of strong ideas put forth by Trent's campaign, and it will be interesting to see how these ideas develop as they become more fleshed out in terms of costing and exact implementation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Campaign Update: Trent Wotherspoon

And rounding out this long string of posts, comes the latest from Trent Wotherspoon's campaign.

In addition to his campaigning around the province; Trent's team has release their first policy guideline revolving around education in our province. (LINK)

Trent has drawn heavily on his own background in teaching, and on his family's long line of connections to education, to call attention to plan to reform education from K-12 and beyond. So, let's take a direct look at the plan.

The first plank in the plan is to address early education. Trent's plan calls for expanding pre-kindergarten programs to all publicly funded schools across the province; work towards ensuring full day kindergarten programs; and developing a Saskatchewan plan for childcare that would increase regulated spaces and cap fees at affordable rates.

The second plank is to address inclusion in schools. Trent's plan calls for increasing teachers, education assistants, and other support staff while striving to reflect Saskatchewan's population diversity; a reduction in class sizes and increased support with a focus on K to Fourth Grade; enhanced support for anti-bullying measures and enacting of anti-bullying legislation, with provisions for the creation of 'gay-straight' alliances in schools; improvement of English as an additional language classes and settlement services; ensuring all schools are equipped with up to date technology and provide support for educators to use this technology in their curriculum; ensure that Treaty Education is provided to all K-12 students, while also working with First Nations Leadership to develop a treaty and cultural centre.

The third plan is affordability. Trent's plan calls for an immediate reduction of $500 in tuition fees for post-secondary schools; the support of a tuition freeze at this new level, and for a plan to further lower tuition fees in the future; and support for 'Shannen's Dream', which would close the funding and outcome gap between on-reserve and off-reserve schools throughout Saskatchewan.

The fourth plank is success after education. Trent's plan calls for the creation of an aggressive strategy of skills training, job placement, and apprenticeship programs to meet the demands of the labour market; it also calls for a focus to be placed on assisting Aboriginal youth, newcomers to the province, and women in non-traditional post secondary courses and careers.

The final plank is accessibility to education. Trent's plan calls for a commission on rural education to examine how early years, K-12 and post-secondary education can be implemented and improved upon; enhancing post-secondary education in rural and Northern through improving long-distance learning and partnerships; commitment with Northern partners to build a post-secondary campus in La Ronge; and the establishment of a Northern Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy.

So, a lot to cover there, though I think breaking them down into the key planks: Early Eduction, Inclusion, Affordability, Successful Transition, and Accessibility go a long way in helping to nail down the approach Trent's campaign is taking to education.

Trent's camp is right to point out that our current education system hasn't changed all that much from those of the past, and that we need to reform the system (both economically and fundamentally) to create a better education system within the province.

Trent's covered a lot of good ground with these proposals, especially by including ways to make schools more inclusive to a changing body of students and teachers and staff. It'll be interesting to see whether any further proposals come forward from Trent's team revolving around education, as they've certainly laid a great foundation.

Another major strength is Trent's heavy drawing on rural and Northern issues; couple this with the fact that Trent has already hit the ground running to visit many rural and Northern communities, and I think it would be safe to say that Trent stands a good chance of capturing a lot of support from these regions. 

As it stands, all of the campaigns have drawn on strengths of their candidates from their lives before politics, and it seems like we're getting some great ideas from this wealth of experience.

I imagine I'll have more to say directly about some of Trent's proposals, but for now, I'll leave the editorializing out of it. 

Campaign Update: Erin Weir

Moving along to Erin Weir.

The bulk of the information coming from the Weir Campaign thus far this week has been revolving around the early strategy of taking the fight directly to the government. Primarily, Erin has been busy challenging the current government's numbers on manufacturing in the province; but also on responding to the Premier's latest plan for the development of Saskatchewan's future.

Let's start with the manufacturing numbers.

Saskatchewan posted a 11.3% increase in sales for the month of August, but month to month sales languished below the national average at 0.8%. And while the government is touting these numbers, Erin has gone to challenge the complexities behind them.

For the second time in the campaign, Erin has called attention to the fact that manufacturing jobs in the province are on the decline. Erin points to the 32,000 manufacturing jobs that existed in 2007, to 26,500 in September 2012, a decrease of 5,500 jobs.

Adding his voice to this is Doug Elliot, of Sask Motor Trends, who agrees that employment in manufacturing has lagged behind the development of sales in the sector. Elliot points out that the bulk of manufacturing firms in the province are working 'below capacity' and are bumping part-time workers to full-time in order to adapt. (LINK)

Erin was also in Prince Albert this week, where he touted his plans to close loopholes across the board to increase provincial revenues. He also used the opportunity to add his support to the development of a second bridge in Prince Albert, calling it a 'major provincial priority.' (LINK)

Erin also took time this week to directly challenge Brad Wall's "Plan for Growth", presented Tuesday to the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. Buckdog has a good posting of what Erin had to say directly, (LINK), and we'll also talk a bit about the comments here.

Firstly, on Wall's plan to reduce the corporate tax rate from 12% to 10%, Erin called it out as a multimillion dollar tax giveaway to companies. He pointed to the failure of lower tax rates in other provinces to spur on investment, and instead restated his plan to initiate tax credits and rebates based on investment within the province.

He also called attention to the fact that this plan would result in zero net benefit to Saskatchewan, while sending tax dollars flowing into the USA. Erin pointed out that repatriating taxes to the US is reliant on a 35% tax rate, minus the amount paid in Canadian/Saskatchewan tax. Companies currently pay a federal-provincial tax of 27% (12% SK, 15% Federal); and lowering the tax rate would mean more tax dollars are spent in the US for revenues raised in Saskatchewan.

Could there be a more perfect argument for not dropping the rate?

Erin also attacked Wall's commitment to a Heritage Fund, which was brought forward by the NDP last election, since Wall's plan doesn't seem to be on par with achieving that goal. Erin points out that Wall's plan will reduce revenues, which means less money to pay off the debt which is the first requirement in Wall's creation of the fund in the first place.

Finally, Erin questioned Wall's commitment to seeking out Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) given that the Premier is also fond of touting Saskatchewan's AAA Credit Rating. Rightly, Erin has pointed out that the government can fund projects at low interest rates due to their rating; and that entering a partnership with a private partner would result in higher costs and higher interest rates.

Effectively, Erin has rightly challenged the Premier on a lot of key issues here, and I think he's done so rather well. As I've pointed out before, Erin's campaign has been pretty quick to forge his candidacy directly against Brad Wall by challenging the government at every opportunity. And Erin's quick response to Wall's plan continues strongly in that campaign mindset.

Not only has Erin been able to challenge Wall's initiatives, but he's been able to do so with well reasons arguments and clear facts that the plans being presented are more detrimental than helpful. As a campaign narrative, it's a pretty good route to take, and one that Erin seems comfortable walking.

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Moving right along, we come to the latest from Ryan Meili's campaign.

In addition to new ideas popping up on Ryan's "Your Ideas" page (LINK), the most recent development from the Meili campaign has been to address the hot button issue of refugee health care. (Perhaps once I've done all the leadership updates, the blog will take a 'Federal' break and talk about it as well, among other things.)

Given the Ryan has spent a lot of time talking about health, both physical and in more abstract terms, it's unsurprising that he would add his voice to this field; in fact, Ryan has been talking about the issue since the Harper Government first announced that it would be clawing back the Interim Federal Health Program.

I could be wrong, but I do believe this is the first time Ryan has put a provincial spin on the issue though. As such, he's called for the provincial government to step up and provide health services for those who are falling through the cracks until the Federal Government reinstates the program. The release talks about how some refugees, who remain covered under the guidelines, are falling through the cracks due to confusion about who is and is not covered.

Ryan is calling for the Saskatchewan Government to follow in the steps of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec and to provide coverage. Furthermore, the Meili Campaign has called attention to the fact that the Saskatchewan Government is currently not applying the law as written to all immigrants and newcomers to Saskatchewan.

The release states that anyone who has lived, legally, in Saskatchewan for three months is entitled to health care coverage. It goes on to say that the current government is only providing health care to those with work permits, as opposed to all who meet the letter of the law.

Ryan hammered home the point that providing this care saves money in the long run, and that we should be working towards a medicare system that includes pharmaceutical, optometic, and dental care for all Canadians.

It's an interesting, if not expected, approach for Ryan's campaign to take. As mentioned, given his background in medicine and his promotion of his 'A Healthy Society' book, health issues are going to play an important part in the Meili Campaign and will (and in some ways already have) serve as a cornerstone in his approach to the race.

Furthermore, this is an issue that tends to be quite emotional. I don't think anyone would want to be 'the person' who denies health care to anyone in need of it; and as Canadians, we've always sort of had the mentality that we'll provide for those who need it, provided that they'll turn around and help us if and when we need it.

This is also Ryan's first real jab, and challenge, to the sitting government. I've mentioned before how Erin Weir has sort of cornered the market on directly challenging Wall and his ministers, and now it seems that the rest of the campaigns are eager to get in there as well. As the race goes on, it will become less about challenging each other and more about presenting one's self as an alternative to the current government.

And staking the moral high ground on health care for the most vulnerable, is one hell of a challenge to the current Premier. 

Campaign Update: Cam Broten

This is the first in a flurry of posts for today, given that all of the campaigns have been abuzz with activity recently. We'll start with Cam Broten.

Cam's campaign put out a release today calling for 'strengthening our democracy in the Legislature and the NDP' (LINK)

The release is an expansion on the ideas already brought forward from Cam's campaign with regards to enhancing the level of debate and ensuring more transparency and openness in government. Among the ideas put forward from the release include the introduction of brief question and answer sessions after speeches in the Legislature, increased roles for committees, modernizing the Hansard record, and pulling back some of the restrictions on recordings within the Legislature.

Cam's point of how currently backbench MLAs on the government side are rarely heard from is a point well taken; not to mention the truth in his acknowledgement that minimal debate and scrutiny on subjects in now commonplace in debates.

Also included in the release was a backgrounder, a nice little touch of expanding on the ideas contained within the release. (LINK)

So, we see from that that the question and answer session would be a ten minute period that allows people to pose questions or make comments to the speech given. Cam's quite right in pointing out that this would help make legislators more accountable for the things they say within the Legislature.

Enhancing committees is also detailed, in that Cam is calling for committees to have clear guidelines about when to seek testimony from witnesses (as opposed to allowing it to be on an ad-hoc basis controlled by government MLAs); as well, as proposing that committees be given greater time to study and scrutinize motions and bills brought before them. All of which would in turn allow the committees to provide better information to the Legislature and to the public. There is also a call for committees to hear more public input during the course of their deliberations.

The call for a Hansard update is pretty basic, given that it includes such ideas as ensuring that videos and text can be found on the same page, if only to make the record more easily searchable. Cam is also calling for the website to be made with considerations to mobile viewing in mind; and given the number of smart devices out there (phones, tablets, etc.) this is a very good time to get the ball rolling on that front.

And the call for relaxed recording is on par with making the Legislature more accountable; as right now cameras only focus on speaking members, but showing the whole session might encourage members to behave better knowing they're on camera. I'm not sure about the methodology behind that one; after all, politicians have often done things they shouldn't have when on camera or near a microphone...But I suppose it would certainly be worth a shot.

The release also takes the time to explore a new approach to internal politics within the NDP itself. Building on his experience as the policy renewal co-chair, Cam is proposing to continue with this means of getting involved directly with members to build better policy.

As mentioned before on Cam's site, this would involve the creation of policy commissions that would meet throughout the year and engage with the public and members to help craft party policy. Ultimately, these commissions would create a final report that would then go to caucus and provincial council and a final report would then be made to the party members at convention, where it could be adopted as policy or voted down by the members.

Cam's right in saying that the current convention process isn't as engaging as it could be; given that you only have a few days to discuss things and more often than not the same people tend to speak to every issue. I think a new approach behind the scenes would certainly streamline the process, and help get more voices added to the proposal.

I'd like to do some speculative things now that we've discussed the 'meat and potatoes' of the release itself. Cam's campaign has done some pretty wide brushstrokes with their policies, given that Cam launched his policies pretty early in the campaign, and we're now waiting for those policies to be given the 'backgrounders' to flesh them out more.

Some might wonder why Cam's first real move to better define his policies revolve around democratic renewal and to a degree decorum in the Legislature. Some might think that there are surely more important issues to talk about fresh out of the gate; especially when compared to the economic ideas brought forward by the Weir Campaign, or the call for fact-based decision making from the Meili Campaign, or the focus on education just brought forward from the Wotherspoon Campaign.

And it is true, this might not be an issue that registers large on the minds of a lot of people of Saskatchewan. But, I think, what it does do is call attention to the message of Cam's campaign. Effectively, I think, by bringing forward this kind of release as a first major staple, Cam's campaign is trying to position themselves as the camp that is most concerned with reinvigorating a stagnant democracy.

That it's not just about 'good ideas', but also about changing the approach used to make those ideas and also acknowledging the flaws in the system. Cam's right to call attention to the problems in the Legislature, as if people don't tend to watch the Sask. Legislature Channel, they might not really get an idea of the problems that exist there at the moment.

And by calling for reforms to enhance debate and enhance inclusion, Cam is setting himself up as the candidate who is most concerned with ensuring that the democratic process stays entirely democratic. He'll likely run into some of the other campaigns, especially Ryan's camp, on this issue; but for now, he's certainly making the argument that he's the candidate who is most willing to listen. Whether another campaign can seize that appearance, is another question for another time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Leadership Questionnaire: Ryan Meili

Well, the second of our four questionnaires has been returned and is now ready to be published. As always, questions are BOLDED while answers retain their regular formatting.

So, here are the answers from Ryan Meili.

Background/Personal Questions

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

My experiences in practicing medicine with underserved populations led me to recognize that if we want a healthier population, we need to find ways to influence the political decisions that have an impact on people's health.

2.) 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 was a community activist before I associated directly with a political party, but through that activism, and my readings on social democracy and social change, it was readily apparent that the NDP was the best vehicle for galvanizing the political will to make the changes we so badly need.

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

Even more than in 2009, there is a need for the NDP to excite and inspire people again, and a need for a new, positive approach to politics to address the greatest challenges of our time. I hope to be a part of bringing new ideas and a fresh approach to the party that will allow us to regain the confidence of the people of Saskatchewan so we can get back to the work of building a healthier society.

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

I believe my range of experiences as a frontline clinician, as an author and educator, in the development of successful initiatives such as the Student Wellness Initiative Toward Community Health (SWITCH), Making the Links and the Division of Social Accountability, and in advocacy with organizations such as Canadian Doctors for Medicare, would serve me well as leader. This experience would serve me well in building a team that is more effective in opposition and that governs with vision and a commitment to real improvements in people’s lives.

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

A healthier, more equal Saskatchewan.

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

I would continue to work clinically, as a family doctor, in service of underserved populations, while advocating for social justice in various arenas.

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

The 2009 leadership race was a tremendous learning experience. It really felt like taking an immersion year in Saskatchewan politics, public speaking, policy development and much more. It influenced not only how this campaign is run, but also my clinical, research and advocacy work outside of politics.

Policy/Procedural Questions

1.) 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?

It's essential to point out the failings of the current government in using economic good times to create a more sustainable and just Saskatchewan. However, we can't stop at opposition, we also need to propose viable alternatives. This means presenting a compelling alternative economic plan based on diversification of revenue sources and economic opportunities, using the social determinants of health to guide policy initiatives that would turn that revenue into better outcomes for the people of Saskatchewan, and, internally, building the mechanisms to promote broad-based participation in and renewal of the New Democratic Party.

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

As government, we will have our work cut out to undo the damage our physical and social infrastructure are sustaining as a result of current mismanagement. We’ll need to move quickly to improve our long-term economic health (which is intimately tied to our ecological sustainability), identify and implement high-impact interventions that will address the social determinants of health, and apply what we learned from party renewal towards a process of democratic renewal more broadly.

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

Our theme of “Better Together” highlights the fact that all people, regardless of their social position, do better in a more equal society. When we recognize that we're all in this together, and when that recognition of interconnectedness is reflected in party policy, and eventually in public policy, we’ve begun the work of building a healthier society.

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

The fundamental principles of the CCF/NDP movement don't need to change. What does need to change is the degree to which we are connected to the social movements that built the party in the first place and sustained it through its most productive periods. What needs to change is the amount of real democratic influence that members have on the party's direction, and the degree to which our actions - both in opposition and in government - reflect those principles.

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

This government is focussed on short-term economic growth, as though the economy existed in a vacuum. Failing to recognize the stresses on infrastructure, the growing inequality, the environmental risks, and the frailty of an economy based in a small number of resource industries represents a failure of vision. We need to be smarter in managing our success to ensure it’s not just a flash in the pan, that we’re building not just for our future but for our children’s future.

6.) 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.

Together, we have an opportunity to excite and inspire the people of this province, to change the way politics is done. This race is about far more than choosing a leader, it's a time for an important conversation about who we are and where we're headed as a province. I look forward to being a part of rebuilding this party and working towards a healthier Saskatchewan.

Campaigning By The Numbers, Redux

Well, every once in awhile an update to an older post is needed, and given that we're dealing with the issues of numbers (and this is me we're talking about) this update is needed pretty quickly.

So, we've already seen some response to our last post regarding financial donations to the campaigns for the month of September. And there are a few mistakes with the numbers that need to be corrected, otherwise I wouldn't be worth my salt as a man who proclaims to adore facts.

First and foremost, yes, the financial report only highlights donors who have given over $250 to a campaign. In the heat of the moment, I neglected to mention that fact (somehow it flew by me, but we're correcting it now), and it changes the entire concept of the 'small campaign' introduced in the previous post.

Effectively, the campaign changes shape quite a bit, from what I reported in the previous post, once we fact in these donations.

The Weir Campaign was kind enough to pass along the formula that enables us to identify the total amount of donations that were under the $250 watershed. Effectively, if I am reading this right, these totals were obtained by taking the grand total of donations (so, in Erin's case $14,666.89) and removing the total received donations over $250 (in Erin's case, $10,999.71) to achieve the totals found below.

Cam Broten:  Total Donation: $19,694.99 - Over $250: $14,650 = $5,044.99

Erin Weir: Total Donation: $14,666.89 - Over $250: $10,999.71 =  $3,667.18

Ryan Meili: Total Donation: $13,188.81 - Over $250: $11,437.36 = $1,751.45

Trent Wotherspoon: Total Donation: $15,368.00 - Over $250: $14,246 = $1,122

So, those amounts constitute the total number of donations that were under the $250 watershed; sadly, it doesn't allow us to determine how many donors contributed to that total, but we'll let the totals speak for themselves instead.

With these new numbers in mind we have to redraw some conclusions from the last post.

Firstly, with regards to the 'small campaign', it would seem that Cam and Erin are leading the pack on this front. So, my first crunch of the numbers (which I think can be proven woefully inaccurate with regards to figuring out the small campaign effect) had it wrong on that front, and I offer up my apologies to the Weir Campaign for an accidental misrepresentation.

If anything, these more accurate numbers show that all the campaigns are doing alright when it comes to gathering financial support from your average member; though, at the moment, Cam and Erin seem to be doing better than the others.

As for the final grand totals, and figuring out which campaign actually raised the most once we remove the candidate and family and campaign staff...As far as I can tell, those numbers still hold up. Since we don't need to subtract anything new from the totals provided, or add any new information to the calculation, it would seem that our 'actual' totals from the previous post continue to remain accurate.

So, our actual totals still remain as follows:

Ryan Meili: $12,271.44

Cam Broten: $10,694.99

Erin Weir: $8,584.89

Trent Wotherspoon: $4,868*
(*This total was corrected after being informed that I missed a family member of Trent's on his contribution list, hence the new lower total.)

So, with that, we should have fixed the initial problem with the first post. Again, I welcome any corrections to problems that appear with the numbers; after all, it's the numbers that are being used to draw conclusions, and if my numbers are off, my conclusions are off...And I for one, certainly don't want that.

Campaigning By The Numbers

Source: Saskatchewan NDP: Financial Reports

Well, the first financial report for the Saskatchewan NDP race has come and revealed a few interesting things. I've provided the link to the direct website, but we'll include the numbers here as well. Now, I've spoken before about my disdain for mathematics, but there's some numbers that need to be crunched here a little so I'm going to give it the old college try.

Should anyone notice any problems with my numbers, please let me know.

*As there were some initial errors with this post, I am undertaking a edit to fix this. Please note that when a number of donors is listed, that number refers to people who donated over $250, not the complete total number of donors.

So, we'll start with Cam Broten.

Cam raised $19,694.99 from 14 donors, and spent $11,162.18 for the month of September. Removing donations from the candidate, family members (I'm guessing by last name according to the reports and as such, may have missed family with different last names), and campaign managers, Cam's actual total of donations comes in at $10,694.99. It is also worth noting that Cam received $1,500 from a union, but he is hardly the only candidate to have received donations from a union.

That brings us to Ryan Meili.

Ryan raised $13,188.81 from 11 donors, and spent $8,252.18 for the month of September. Again removing donations from the candidate, family, and campaign managers, Ryan's actual total of donations comes in at $12,271.44. It is also worth noting that Ryan received $3,000 from a business, as opposed to a union.

On to Erin Weir.

Erin raised $14,666.89 from 9 donors, and spent $14,392.27 for the month of September. Removing donations from the candidate, family and campaign managers, Erin's actual total of donations comes in at $8,584.89. Erin also received an in-kind donation of $1,190 from a union.

And finally, Trent Wotherspoon.

 Trent raised $15,368.00 from 10 donors and spent $26,792.34 for the month of September. Removing donations from the candidate, family and campaign managers, Trent's actual total of donations come in at $4,868. Trent also seemed to have received $1,500 from a union and $1,496 from various corporations.

So, what do the numbers tell us?

Let's focus on Trent first, as his campaign is the only one currently running into the negatives. With the amount of travel Trent has done in the first month of the campaign, this isn't that much of a surprise. I would expect that as travel becomes more important during the course of the campaign, the other candidates will incur similar expenses.

Also, given the fact that Trent has thus far garnered most of his financial support from corporate donations suggest that if he continues to make inroads within the business community, he should be able to correct a deficit status in his campaign fairly quickly.

Also of note is the fact that few endorsers appear across many of the candidates' returns. I would imagine that as the campaign crunch begins, more endorsers will step out of the woodwork with their pocketbooks to help out their supported candidates.

Now is where we get into the real number crunching.

*Due to errors in this section, please refer to the Campaigning by the Numbers, Redux  post.

The 'small campaign', I think, is a good gauge that shows the average supporter. Given that this is the first release, there's no real conclusion that can be drawn from the numbers, but what we can say is this: Right now, it seems that all of the campaigns have done well in attracting donations from the average member.
The average party member falls in this contribution level (below $250 to just below $500), and without their support (financial and on the ballot) a campaign is in pretty dire straits.

While is this not a direct be-all-end-all that shows support of the average member for a candidate, it does at least show some groundswell of support for a campaign. And that groundswell is what helps a campaign build on the other campaign donation levels.

So, looking at the middle and high level donations, we see that this seems to be where the bulk of donations have come from thus far. This is not surprising, given that the start of a campaign requires a certain amount of capital and we're likely to see these numbers decrease as the race continues. All of the campaigns did fairly well at getting this original influx of capital to their campaigns, but I don't think any of them can hope to rely on singularly large donations as the race continues; hence, again, why the 'small campaign' is so important.

And now for the final analysis.

When we look at the actual donations (candidate, family, campaign members, etc. removed from donation totals), despite having fewer donors, Ryan Meili's campaign has come out ahead with their total of $12,271.44.

Cam's campaign then goes from first overall to second, with a total of $10,694.99. Erin comes in third with $8,584.89, and Trent rounds out the pack with $4,868.

Now, some might say it's pedantic to remove certain donations from the grand totals...And while there is an argument for that, I think we get a better picture of support for a campaign and overall momentum when we take away those tied to the campaign and see what the numbers are; hence, why I've done what I've done.

I don't know if we'll do a post like this for all of the financial reports, but we shall see what the future holds.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ryan Meili Update

As stated, previously, it's time to look at some of the developments on the Ryan Meili campaign front.

So, let's start with the Your Ideas page on his website. As stated before, Ryan's approach to this campaign has been mostly about reaching out to supporters and getting their ideas before he starts announcing his own policies. It's an interesting approach, and so far, it seems to be panning out for the campaign. Ryan's website includes a 'Your Ideas' section, which allows people to submit their own ideas to the campaign and be reviewed by other supporters. (LINK)

From the creation of a progressive political Wiki to changing the way we measure success, the page has generated some interesting ideas.

This is also explained by Ryan's commitment to participatory democracy. Effectively, Ryan is establishing a campaign that seeks to foster equal contribution and collaboration with groups, as opposed to top down dictation of a campaign. To make that a bit clearer, Ryan seems to be creating a campaign where an approach to address an issue like gender inequality would not come directly from him, but rather from working with a group of women to develop a strategy.

In addition to user-generated content, the website has also been adding direct content from the campaign itself. The vision page, (LINK) has expanded over the past few weeks since Ryan first entered the race. It expands on his commitment to evidence-based policy development, and includes the sort of 'scientific method' of the steps needed to achieve that. (Study, Plan, Act, Reflect; so pretty close to Question, Hypothesis, Prediction, Experiment, Analysis.)

The vision section also takes the time to address the need for a more equal society, and explains how this creates a better society in general for everyone, whether they be at the top or near the bottom.

And of course, one must expect as a physician and authour on the subject, a focus on health. As opposed to just focusing on health care, Ryan has continued to expand on the greater subject of society, and is calling for a focus on the social determinants of health (education, income, social supports, housing, etc, etc, etc.)

The website has also evolved to include more blog postings directly from Ryan himself; focusing on either issues that have come up during the campaign that range from the serious (the approach to listening leadership) to the more lighthearted (the shave the beard or keep the beard debate).

Either way, the campaign has continued to focus on the approach of listening to people and their ideas. Ryan's post about Parking Day includes the results of his day long ballots handed out to people who dropped by, and which ideas generated the best response. You can find the outcome here: (LINK

So, a bit of analysis I think is in order.

As mentioned before, Ryan's approach tends to be a little more low key, given that it involves directly connecting with supporters and non-supporters. While this may not generate a lot of media buzz, it does have the result of at least passing on most likely good word of mouth about Ryan as a candidate and his approach to the race.

After all, in a democracy, people like to feel that they are being listened to. And on that front, Ryan is doing very well. Whether or not it results in a groundswell of momentum for Ryan's campaign remains to be seen, but it certainly can't do any harm.

More Erin Weir Releases

As promised, this post will look a little closer at the newest release from the Weir Campaign; when I made that vow, there was only one to talk about, but the campaign has put out another release so we'll talk about both in this post.

We'll start with the release on closing "potash loopholes".

The plan boils down to a change in structure, that doesn't touch current royalty rate or tax levels, but instead focuses on closing other avenues that allow developers to pay less while getting more. This starts by closing an exemption that allows developers to not pay tax on any tonnage amount over the 2001 or 2002 average; moves on to lower the 120% return on investment in Saskatchewan to 100% of actual investment; the removal of Crown Royalties from the potash production tax; and remove the Saskatchewan resource credit.

According to the release, these moves would increase revenue by $475 million. The release also states that this would reduce provincial corporate taxes by $55 million and federal corporate taxes by $70 million. The three major potash companies would take it on the chin, however, seeing a decrease of $350 million in their bottom-line profits.

Erin also used the release to endorse the previous NDP plan to establish a non-renewable resource revenue fund.

While a lot of that on the face is interesting, there's a more subtle piece in the release that I want to talk a little about. The release came out on October 10th, and includes a bit of history on Erin's involvement in campaigning for change in the way the province collects resource revenues. The small bit of history includes mentioning how former MLA Eric Cline introduced these loopholes in 2003, and how Erin spoke out against them in the NDP paper The Commonwealth.

Now, why I find this particularly interesting, is that on October 9th, Eric Cline had endorsed his constituency successor Cam Broten.

Perhaps the timing is just coincidental, but I politics I tend not to favour coincidence as an explanation. This is the second time that Erin's campaign has included a 'dig' at Cam's campaign, which is perhaps suggesting that Erin's campaign seems to think that Cam might be the candidate they need to win supporters from to secure a win at the end of the campaign. Nothing revolutionary in that thought line, as Greg over at Accidental Deliberations pointed out that this was likely the case back in September. (LINK)

So, if anything, this release is interesting in that it is structuring a bit of a challenge to highlight the differences between Erin and Cam. Whether or not it is a strategy that works, remains to be seen.

That brings us to the next release, which focused on oil & uranium loopholes.

Like the potash review, Erin is proposing an approach that doesn't focus on raising royalty rates or tax structures. The key focus is removing incentives for horizontal drilling; removing the special deal oil recovery initiatives; and removing the Saskatchewan Resource Credit giveaway.

According to the release, horizontal drilling started in the 1980s and was a new approach given an incentive of no royalty payments on the first 38,000 barrels produced. It now makes up the majority of wells in Saskatchewan, and according to the release, no longer needs the incentive.

Oil recovery initiatives have similar advantages, but also avoid paying most royalties until their initial investment has been recouped.

Now for the numbers.

The release suggests that the current system collects around 12% of current royalty rates and that by closing these loopholes Saskatchewan would collect closer to 20%, which is still below current resource rates. This would result in a return of around $645 million.

The removal of the Saskatchewan Resource Credit would also result in an additional profit of $10 million from Saskatchewan's uranium production. Weir also called for uranium reviews to be moved to a public sphere, as opposed to the current government's behind closed doors approach.

That's the release in a nutshell, and now for some observations. It would take a stronger mathematical mind than mine, but I'm sure it would be interesting to see just what Erin's proposals would have for a total revenue increase, decrease, and all of that fun stuff as a grand total; perhaps the campaign will release a totals sheet in the future, if some intrepid blogger or reporter doesn't get to it first.

As noted before, Erin is really rushing to the gate with the release of policy developments almost every week. It's a good strategy for keeping him in the news, and for reaching members en masse. 

My only concern, of course, is that all of the releases thus far draw on Erin's experience as an economist. Now, the economy is a very important issue (that can't be disputed); but there is a real risk that a lot of people who don't understand all the intricacies of the economy are going to look at these releases and just see a lot of numbers and not fully understand what they all mean.

While someone who knows the economy might see these as good policy, and understand why they are such, others might just see the numbers and immediately tune out like a five year old in an advanced algebra class.

I'm not saying that these issues aren't important, they are; but I do feel that the campaign would benefit from reaching outside of the economy zone on occasion. I'm sure we'll see social approaches and policy soon from Erin's campaign, as we will from the other campaigns, but I think if Erin wants to attract a wider swath of supporters from 'other camps', he'll need to flex some social policy muscle as well.

And more importantly, he has to do it before the other campaigns have staked out their claims on social issues. I say this because we've seen a lot of similarities in the campaigns thus far; and Erin has highlighted differences economically on policy between himself, Cam Broten, and Ryan Meili. But social policy, where a lot of NDPers tend to nod their heads and agree with one another, is a different beast.

Social issues will be harder to become identified with if everyone is agreeing with one another, and whoever is first out of the gate with some comprehensive social policy (Cam has a good start on his outline and ideals, but we've yet to see concrete policies) will likely be hard to catch later in the race to win socially minded New Democrats.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Out With the Old

As regular visitors might notice, the design for the blog has changed slightly. The old design was due for an update, and a comment to that affect prompted the decision to do it soon rather than later. Hopefully, it's not too much of a shock for regular viewers.

This is also a heads up that I will be configuring the blog to streamline the design a little and as such, more changes could come...Some small, some large.

Either way, rest assured the content of the blog will not change and I will continue to report (and often complain) on events as they occur.

Leadership Round-Up

With Thanksgiving out of the way and everyone back in the swing of things, let's take a look at some of the things that have developed since we last posted.

Broten Campaign

Cam has been scoring up endorsements from former MLAs, including the most recent one from Eric Cline (Cam's predecessor), and people as varied as mayors, youth members, and others. The campaign also celebrated the grand opening of their office on the Saturday before Thanksgiving; I was out of town, so I wasn't able to attend and report accurately, but it sounds like it was quite the event.

Cam's also used his role as the NDP Employment Critic to lambast the Sask Party for slashing Aboriginal employment programs and called for a long term growth plan to be put in place.

Meili Campaign

Ryan's campaign has a meet and greet this Thursday in Regina, and they've also fleshed out the campaign website a little more with a closer examination of some of the guiding principles Ryan will be bringing into the campaign. The best thing to do, would be to take a look at it here: LINK (expect analysis and so forth to follow in another post in the future.)

Perhaps the most tongue-in-cheek development of the campaign has been over Ryan's debate over his decision to enter the race whilst having a beard. It's a slightly amusing conversation that's brewed from the race, and one that Ryan has actually embraced and taken up as a sort of torch with regards to challenging what we expect our politicians to be. Who'd have thought that something as simple as a beard would have led to serious campaign discussion?

Weir Campaign

Erin's campaign continues to be hitting fast and hard with the releasing of policy developments; the bulk of which have so far focused on Erin's economic background and stayed within the economic policy sphere. The first policy, which has been covered on this blog, LINK, revolved mostly around closing tax loopholes and 'redefining' small business.

The second announcement, which will be covered in greater detail in a future post, revolves around Saskatchewan's potash development and the closing of loopholes that allow developers to be exempt from paying tax over a certain amount, and calls for continued support of the NDP's last election policy of creating a fund from non-renewable resource revenues.

Wotherspoon Campaign

Trent continues to be the provincial travel leader, hitting Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Melfort, Melville, Gordon First Nation, and numerous other communities across Saskatchewan. Trent also has a meet and greet tonight (Wednesday) in Regina at the Owl on the UofR campus.

That is more or less the major news from the campaign trail for now; but as more develops, you can expect me to talk about it. As mentioned above, there should be two post in the near future exploring the Weir Campaign's most recent announcement and a more in-depth look at the ideas flowing on the Meili Campaign's website.

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/