Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Editorial Content: The Recuse

In addition to an increased lack of time, I've found myself struggling a little to update the blog for a very important reason: I can no longer call myself undecided.

Like many other NDP members, I received my voting information and have already cast my ballot online.

As such, it becomes hard to objectively talk about the campaign when you go from having no horse in the race, to actively cheering one on.

As stated numerous times before, my
choices (since it is preferential ballot) shall remain my own; there will be no last minute endorsement or rally cry from me one way or the other.

But, instead, I shall try my best to say a few things now. We have a fine crop of candidates, and there is not a doubt in my mind that any of them would make a fine leader.

One way or another, the party should be in sound and capable hands. I think the fact that people like myself had such a hard time ultimately deciding on a candidate to mark as number one speaks volumes to the strengths of all the candidates.

More importantly, however is the call for unity. Regardless of who wins the leadership, they must focus on keeping our party together. It's not a secret that the last leadership race turned some members off our party; I heard it on doorsteps from North Battleford to Yorkton: not with your leader, was a common answer for why a person wouldn't vote for us.

Our next leader, and us pragmatists in the party, must work hard to ensure that we don't lose a single member just because their leadership choice didn't pan out. Our shared values as social democrats should be enough, but it isn't.

The next leader must reach out and do his best to heal all divisions and retain the membership we have. With the government we have now, we can't afford to be a disjointed party full of members with sour grapes and an axe to grind.

We must do everything possible to win the next election, not just to form government, but to ensure that Saskatchewan is building a future that is one of prosperity for all not a select few.

Unity is the first step; as the old rally cry goes "the people united, will never be divided."

Our next leader needs to focus on uniting the province, not internal party wrangling.

And while I won't endorse a candidate; I will endorse an ideal. I pledge to support our next leader, regardless of who they are. To not just show up to vote, but to join a constituency executive. To volunteer throughout the year, and to do my fair share to make our next leader the next Premier of Saskatchewan.

It's an endorsement I think all of us should be willing to make; and frankly, it's the most important endorsement any member of our party can make.

After all, out party is more than just the person who leads it; it's the ideals that it represents and the vision for the future that it advocates.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Campaign Update: Where With Weir?

Well, by now everyone should have heard that Erin Weir has withdrawn from the Sask. NDP Leadership race and thrown his behind Ryan Meili. As mentioned yesterday, it was one of the possibilities when it was announced that the two were making a joint announcement earlier today.

As with others, I'd like to extend my well wishes to Erin and thank him for his contributions to the campaign. I think he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that New Democrats can stand toe to toe with their right of centre counterparts on economic issues, and bring forward exciting and interesting approaches to enhance the social and economic spheres of government. If anything, I think Erin has definitely set a tone that the party will need to and must emulate in the next election, and that alone speaks volumes to the strength of his candidacy and the lasting impact that it will have moving forward.

In addition to the announcement, Erin and Ryan released a joint policy vision statement that helped to highlight the key reasons why Erin is throwing his support to Ryan. -this section has been amended, as I erroneously stated that the joint policy form did not include a mention of closing loopholes and instead committed only to a review, which was incorrect.-

To do a bit of editorializing, if I haven't already, I think this is a interesting development in the race at this point. With word that 2,100 of the 11,000 members of the Sask. NDP have already cast their ballots, there is the potential that this could make the race a little more interesting.

While Cam Broten has taken some flack for suggesting this isn't a game changer in the race, I do think we need to discuss this prospect to fully round out the story. When we look at the last two polls (both the Praxus poll and the one done internally by the Broten campaign), Erin was significantly behind the other candidates.

Erin's campaign also did its own web based poll, of which the results haven't been made public, but it is likely that it underscored the fact that Erin was running behind the other three challengers in the race; but who knows by what sort of margin. What we saw from the other polls was at least a 10 point margin of difference between Erin and his nearest competition. So, what this suggests perhaps is that the level of first ballot support moving from Erin to Ryan might not be as high as believed. (Of course, Erin's final internal poll would paint a better picture for this, so it's all speculation until evidence shows otherwise.)

I had given active thought as to what would happen at the convention in terms of down-ballot support, and in the scenarios where Erin was eliminated in the first ballot, determining where his supporters would go was a bit of a problem. There was the notion that those seeking an "outsider" candidate would shift to Meili; while those seeking someone with experience would find themselves split between Cam and Trent Wotherspoon.

As I've said before of endorsements, even with Erin's withdrawal, there is no guarantee that all of his supporters will find their way into Ryan's camp. While having Erin actively endorse Ryan is a good step towards that, it doesn't guarantee it. The joint policy vision was a good second step, as it tries to highlight the policy agreements between the two former rivals, and may go a long way in securing those who were supporting Erin based on policy.

But ultimately, supporters will reexamine and decide where they end up. It may be with Ryan, or it may not. And since we don't know what sort of numbers we're dealing with, in terms of Erin supporters, we truly don't know whether or not this decision will have clinched the leadership one way or the other.

Personally, I think there are still a few "wild cards" a play when it comes down to the actual convention; and we should have a clear idea by the first day which way the winds are blowing, but until then, I wouldn't even dare to suggest that this race is over. But, this certainly is an interesting development, and it is sure to have some kind of impact on the race.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Campaign Update: An Interesting Development

A media release went out today with regards to a joint announcement from Ryan Meili and Erin Weir coming tomorrow morning. Needless to say, this has started the speculation wheels spinning.

So, there's a number of ways to speculate about what is going to be announced tomorrow. The first, and the one everyone immediately thinks of, is that Erin is bowing out of the race and endorsing Ryan.

Weir's team has done a recent Internet poll, and perhaps the results of that might have influenced the decision, but I think withdrawing at this stage is a little odd. Even if support was below expectations, considering that the debates have wrapped and advance voting has been going on for the better part of two weeks, withdrawing at this point just doesn't make sense.

So, if Erin isn't withdrawing, what else could the announcement be?

The next alternative is a public announcement of support, in that Erin asks his delegates to move to Ryan if he should be eliminated; and vice-versa. This isn't exactly common prior to an elimination, but if advance voting continues to be strong (lessening voting on the convention floor) it makes sense to do it now to get the most impact from such an agreement.

Even then, the timing of such an announcement still seems a little odd, as this should have been done weeks ago prior to the opening of advanced voting.

A distant, but other, possibility is that the two have common ground on a policy issue. At this point in the game, it would be a little late for a new policy (considering the debates have come and gone) but there is always room for surprise in any kind of campaign.

Ultimately, I would tend to favour the second option as my knee jerk response as to what will happen tomorrow morning; but ultimately, it's all speculation until it happens. Until then, I'm sure there will be plenty of people wondering just what is going to happen tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Editorial Content: Compare and Contrast

While Ryan has released his healthcare policy, and we will talk about that in another post, one of the more interesting things to come out the campaign recently has been two sets of poll numbers.

The first poll comes from the Star Phoenix, the full article can be found here: http://www.leaderpost.com/news/poll+Sask+leadership+race/7954869/story.html

The first, done by Praxis Analytics is what we will talk about first. Firstly, then poll suggests that few people outside of the party membership are paying attention to the race thus far; in that 55% of those surveyed were not aware of the leadership contest, and few could even name any of the four candidates.

Where it does become interesting is when we get to those aware of the race, and the way people responded.

Ryan Meili has a slight edge, polling at 33%; Trent Wotherspoon comes second with 30%; Cam Broten comes in third with 27%; and Erin Weir is a distant fourth with 10%. This is the result of all of those polled; which raises one question, since the Star Phoenix article is unclear, I am assuming that this means the grand total of those surveyed (including those who knew nothing about the race) how does that skew Ryan's total numbers?

It just strikes me as odd if those who knew nothing about the race overwhelmingly said they would support Ryan; it's a concern, since it can skew the result, but again it is mostly speculation since they don't say whether or not those people were included in those totals.

And that's why it gets interesting when you look at the numbers of those aware of the race. In that case, Trent comes in first with 33%; while Cam and Ryan tie with 29%, and Erin holds at 10%.

In another part of the poll, Cam was selected as the candidate who could hold his own the best against Brad Wall, by three percent over the others (though the totals are not mentioned.) However, some less than glowing news for Cam is that he is also the candidate that ranked the highest as the "anyone but" candidate with 32%.

The second poll can be found here: http://www.jordoncooper.com/2013/02/ndp-leadership-race-polls/

As stated, the poll is an internal poll done by Cam's campaign and looks mostly at first ballot support. What is interesting is the contrast it has to the other poll.

In this poll, Cam is leading his fellow candidates at 43%. Followed by Ryan at 32%, then Trent at 19%, and Erin at 6%. The poll also suggests that Cam has the most down-ballot support as well.

As said, these two polls are an interesting contrast. Considering they offer completely different views on the campaign at this current stage. After all, we have one poll showing Ryan in the lead and then another showing Cam in the lead. We have one poll saying Cam is the "anyone but" candidate, and another showing that he has the most down-ballot support.

I would state that the other campaigns have been polling; just the other day I received an e-mail web based poll from one of the campaigns. Whether or not they chose to put out their results remains to be seen; but what we can glean from this is something that we've had an idea of since the beginning of the race.

This is not a done deal for any candidate. And there is still very much a chance that someone could get "Romney-ed" by polling information. Jordan suggests that the convention is likely going to be a boring one; in my opinion, however, I think it might actually be a surprising one.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Website: http://www.ryanmei.li/democratic_renewal

Best laid plans...No discussion of the debates for now, due to losing the bulk of my weekend. So, we will talk a bit about Ryan's democratic renewal statement. In keeping with our newest way of covering these items, the link above will take you to the release and you can read it in full there.

So, we shall instead talk about what stands out from the announcement.

I see two things worth talking about here, and that revolves around the plan to double party membership by 2015 and to retire the party debt.

Like a few of his more recent announcements, this update doesn't provide any concrete plans and detailed methods, but instead is a sort if guiding document that talks about the ends without focusing too much in the means. Furthermore, these two objectives draw on Ryan's own experience within the campaign.

While I don't think any official membership numbers by leadership candidate have come out (if they have, I haven't seen them), there is a common perception that Ryan is the candidate who has signed up the most new members. On top of which, Ryan's fundraising machine has consistently outperformed his competitors in the campaign.

It's a strong argument then that Ryan is trying to frame himself as the party's best chances at continuing to drive membership and fundraising dollars. Whether or not Ryan could continue to be successful in that regard as a leader is one of those remains to be seen questions, but he has certainly established a good track record during the campaign.

I think it's an ambitious plan to set the membership goal, especially considering the backlash that could follow if Ryan becomes leader and the membership goal falls short (which could be used a fodder by both the SK Party and 'dissenters' in the ranks), but it is certainly an interesting approach.

In other Ryan news, he picked up an endorsement from Alex Taylor (a former Blakney cabinet minister) and from fellow blogger Greg Fingas.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Editorial Content: Some Loose Thoughts

As this race has gone on, I thought it would become more and more clear which candidate I would get behind. As of this posting, that still remains and elusive and difficult decision.

There's no doubt that we have a fine slate of candidates in Erin Weir, Ryan Meili, Cam Broten and Trent Wotherspoon. Each has their own unique perspectives and ideas and plans for moving the party forward, but there's also just enough similarity between them that they could be accused of "violent agreement" with one another too often.

I have done my best to remain as impartial as possible on the blog, and I do hope that I've achieved that (even if some mistakes have crept into the blog from time to time that could be mistaken for partisanship). That being said, I do have to admit that as an NDP member, there have been a few times during the course of this campaign where I have walked away from an event or debate and thought, "Yep, he's my candidate"...Only to go to another event or debate and leave in a state of utter confusion as to where to pledge my vote.

I think that speaks a volumes to the quality of our candidates, and I think it shows that regardless of who wins on March 9th, the party will have a good leader at the helm. Also, if the 'majority' of members find themselves in the undecided boat, they might be going through the same back-and-forth support crisis I have found myself in. And in that case, I think it would be foolhardy to try and ascertain that someone has the leadership in the bag. If anything, it should make for an interesting convention.

As such, I want to restate what I have said from the start of this campaign: Regardless of whether or not people want to know, I shall not be laying down an endorsement of any candidate. This is one part of my waffling on trying to decide who to support, but also mainly from the fact that I don't think my endorsement will mean heads or tails in the long run.

Now, there has been some speculation about trying to guess how the voting process will go during the convention. Greg has done some work on this front over at Accidental Deliberations; and I suppose it is worth exploring since we haven't talked a lot about it. 

Going into the convention, I think we should be able to see just how much of an 'establishment'/'outsider' mentality is existing within the last few days of the race. We've seen Ryan address this issue by talking about 9 + 1; but we've also seen Cam address it by hammering home the issue of experience/proven leadership. Erin and Trent have mostly seemed to have stayed out of this debate, only talking about the issue when presented a direct question on it.

And while I think you could argue that the bulk of supporters for an 'establishment' candidate will sway to the remaining 'establishment' candidate; much in the same way that supporters of an 'outsider' candidate may gravitate to the remaining 'outsider' candidate if one is eliminated. Of course, this is a rather simple possibility, and is not an iron proof example. Furthermore, there's always the possibility of an unexpected first ballot result.

If both establishment, or both outsider, candidates remain on the second ballot it will completely change how the down-voting process goes. But, there is one sort of out that exists in this kind of scenario. I think we've seen some supporters, from most of the campaigns, make it clear that there are individual "Anyone But ________" campaigns going on behind the scenes. I think we've all seen it, so we don't need to be pointing fingers this way or that way. So, I think that will be a major wild card factor in trying to determine where second ballot voters may go.

Ultimately, I think there are a lot of factors (some of which escape even my consideration) and we just can't figure out which way this is going to go until the day we get there. Again, Greg has done some good work on examining factors and 'roads to victory' for the individual candidates, so it is worth heading over to his blog and giving it a look.

So, I'll close this post on the thought we opened with. Regardless of who wins, we've seen a contest that have brought forward four great candidates who will all have roles to play as we move forward as a party.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Campaign Update: Cam Broten

The major announcement, which could have some interesting implications on the rest of the leadership race, is the word that Massey Place (Cam's constituency) now has the most NDP members of all the constituencies in the province. I don't believe the exact numbers have come out, I believe it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 500+, and we'll find out more when the campaigns release some more details on their membership drives.

Cam has also continued to receive numerous endorsements from levels of people involved with the NDP, including one from former SK NDP Director of Organization  John Tzupa.

Cam's campaign has also modified one of his grandfather's CCF campaign posters to be a bit more reflective of the current race; LINK It seems the retro themed poster design has caught on, given that Ryan's campaign has also released a poster which has some similar elements (I'm not a graphic designer, but they do strike me as similar...[waits for actual designers to come and shoot down this idea]) LINK. I don't think we need to focus on who put out which poster first, though it has been pointed out by Jason that Ryan's poster was the first one out of the gate.

In addition to all that, Cam has been making the most of highlighting some of the policy planks that he released when he first entered the race. He's been calling the most attention to his plans for stronger democracy in within the party (LINK), and long-term policy decisions in government.(LINK)

That should cover it for the candidate updates for now; and when I find a bit more time, (possibly this weekend) we'll try and get some notes up about the Weyburn and Battleford debates.

Campaign Update: Trent Wotherspoon

And on wards to Trent Wotherspoon. Trent continues to gather endorsements from both former candidates, caucus members, and party members. Among the 'featured' endorsements would be that from Glenn Hagel, LINK, though you can look at all of the endorsements that are flowing in by heading to the campaign website. LINK

In addition to that, Trent used the cold weather in the province to launch a 'fuel the fire' fundraising campaign that urged supporters to reflect on the cold digits and pledge donations of 21 dollars. The campaign seemed to work well, as it managed to reach its goal in only a few days, and we should we what impact that has on Trent's overall campaign finances once we see some newer financial reports in the months ahead.

On top of that, in his role as finance critic, Trent has been the party's go-to-man on the rather odd case of treatment the provincial auditor received in the latest committee meeting. While it might not sound like an issue that could capture the imagination of the people of the province, in the same way that Cam's work on refugee health care did, it's an important issue. Furthermore, the idea that the SK Party is trying to pass of the behaviour as rookie MLAs simply confused to the role of the auditor, allows Trent to showcase some of the experience he's gained in his time as an MLA. LINK

Trent also took some time out this week to celebrate Chinese New Years in Regina.

Campaign Update: Erin Weir

On the Erin Weir campaign front, the campaign picked up the endorsement from two former elected officials in Saskatchewan; MLA Evan Carlson and MP Ron Fisher. For a full list of elected officials who have endorsed Erin, current and former, you can check out Erin's website here: LINK

Erin's also continued to keep up some pressure on the economic front by calling attention to PotashCorp's profits for the last quarter and the total amount of tax and royalties paid at the same time. Again, Erin does a better job of explaining it then I can, so it's worth taking a look at the campaign's website for a clearer picture regarding this issue. Erin's website: LINK

In addition that, Erin continues his travels around the province, making a stop in Meadow Lake and receiving some news coverage there. Meadow Lake Progress Paper: LINK

That should be the bulk of the most current news, but as always, if I've missed something the comment box is open.

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Due to some increased time constraints on my schedule, we're going to modify the way the blog reports on some of the campaign announcements. Up until now I've put the details of the plans release on this page, while also providing a link to the announcements. We're going to simplify, and continue to use the links, but cut out the reposting of the information.

We'll continue to talk about the policy issues that stand out, and some light thoughts on it, but we'll leave the actual bulk of the policy release to the campaign websites.

So, we'll start by finally addressing some of the Ryan Meili policy releases that I've fallen behind on talking about.

Since the post will be a little compacted, we'll address the three newest policies in this single post.

We'll start with Ryan's proposal on Justice. Ryan's website: LINK

In keeping with the bulk of his announcements, Ryan's statement on justice calls attention to his themes of evidence-based policy and the social determinants of health. And while there aren't direct policy planks in the announcement, it does a good job highlighting some of the facts about crime and the criminal justice system that increase rather than decrease crime.

We'll move on to Ryan's First Nations and Meits policy. Ryan's website: LINK

One of the things that sticks out is Ryan's comments on revenue sharing with First Nations in the province. He rightly calls attention to the fact that the idea failed in the last election due to party underdeveloping the policy and allowing it to be defined by the SK Party for their own goals (a fact I've been talking about on the blog since the last election, so clearly, I'm happy to hear one of the leadership candidates follow this line of thought). Ryan seems to have a commitment to revenue sharing, but achieving it in a way that calls for better preparation and consultation, in order to have a clearly designed plan that can't be hijacked and manipulated by the other side.

Finally, Ryan expanded on his much mentioned idea of SaskPharm, through a link to an article he wrote about it. CMJ website: LINK 

In addition to the lower cost of generic drugs that SaskPharm would generate, it's a bit more interesting to focus on the other outcomes that Ryan's plan predicts. In particular, the idea that such a crown corporation (driven by public good over profit), would generate new research, new drugs, and free up provincial dollars for investment in other areas is an interesting approach. I still haven't seen the Weyburn and Battlefords debates, so hopefully this comment is able to ring true, but I think it's something we haven't heard much about when Ryan mentions SaskPharm.

While cheaper generic drugs may be enough by itself to sell people on the idea, I think focusing on the other positive aspects it could generate deserve some serious mention when the idea is brought up.

That should cover it, for now, for the update on the Ryan Meili campaign. Expect some more updates on the other candidates to follow.