Wednesday, June 14, 2017

$21,932.61

Source: CJME News: Saskatchewan Health Authority Board Members Named

What's this? Two blog posts in a row? While you try to get over the shock of such rapid posting, allow me to fill you into the somewhat cryptic number you find in the title of the post.

Earlier today, the Saskatchewan Government announced the board members for the soon to be amalgamated Health Region of Saskatchewan (name pending). The ten person list encompassed as the minister says:

"...a range of professional backgrounds, including governance, accounting, medicine, law, education and business." - Health Minister Jim Reiter.

But, a range of background and a future working together is not the only thing many of the new board members have in common. A little over half, that's 6 people for you playing the home game, have made contributions to the Saskatchewan Party over the last ten years.

If you don't believe me, feel free to head on over to the Elections Saskatchewan Website and check out the financial returns that parties are required to file. The returns go as far back as 2006, with a PDF file for each party. Sadly, the PDFs are non-searchable; meaning you can't just type in a name and see if it pops up...So, for the last few hours, I've been combing through eleven year's worth of financial returns.

As such, it's entirely possibly my tired eyes missed a name or two as I scoured through the list. Also, worth noting, is that these lists really only list "bigger" donors. If a person didn't contribute more than $250 in a fiscal year, their name won't appear in the return. This is also true for cash donations of under $20 made in person; which, as far as I know, are still allowed to be made without any need for paperwork on the party's side.

So, all of this information is what I consider to be the "searchable" donations. There's also the spouse and children factor. In the case of one board member, I was able to identify their spouse's name and as such, have included their donations in this total. Before you cry foul, let me explain: There are years in the records where both contributed separate amounts under $1,000; and then are years where only the spouse contributed an amount over $1,000. As such, in my opinion, it seems likely that those years the contribution was made just under one name, and I feel justified in including it in my tally.

The reason I am including these "exceptions and rules", is because it's worth keeping that in mind when we have a board member who's name doesn't appear on financial returns. Just because they don't appear, doesn't mean they didn't make a donation to the Saskatchewan Party...It may just have been a small enough donation not to end up in the report. Of note, the inverse can also be true; they may not have actually donated.

Since I can't say beyond a shadow of doubt that they did or didn't, it neither condemns nor exonerates them.

Now, let's get to the meat and potatoes of it; the following newly announced board members have made at least one contribution to the Saskatchewan Party since 2006:
  • R.W. (Dick) Carter, Chairperson
  • Grant Kook, Vice-Chair
  • Brenda Abrametz (and spouse)
  • Robert Pletch
  • Donald Rae
  • Tom Zurowski
These six people, since 2006, have contributed $21,932.61 to the Saskatchewan Party; hence the title of this post. Again, this is for the donations that can actually be tracked through the financial return. This can't account for smaller donations, especially smaller cash donations made in person at campaign or constituency events; nor does it account for contributions from spouses or children whom I could not link directly to the indicated board member. I mention this specifically, as a person who may be Mr. Carter's spouse appears in every return from 2017 - 2006, and would significantly increase the amount donated from the Carter family to the Sask Party over this time period. But, given that I cannot 100% confirm that spousal status, I'm leaving it out of our totals for now.

Of particular note, it is worth noting that nearly half (48%) of the total amount of monies donated by these 6 board members comes from a SINGLE person: Robert Pletch, who since 2006, has donated a whopping $10,447.10 to the Saskatchewan Party.

With no exception, each of the 6 board members listed have above have donated over $1,000 to the Saskatchewan Party since 2006.

The fact of the matter is: There are already a number of growing concerns over the switch to moving to a single health region; especially when considering the pratfalls that other areas of Canada have experienced while making such a move.

The Saskatchewan Government had to, let me emphasize that, HAD TO ensure that this process was undertaken in such a manner that the groundwork had to be beyond reproach. The first way of doing that: an act of good faith by not stacking the health board with Party Toadies. Instead, what we've gotten, is the complete opposite.

Even if the remaining unaccounted for 4 boards have never made a contribution to the Saskatchewan Party, as the financial records could suggest, their voices would still be easily drowned out by the 6 members who have provided over $20,000 in donations over 11 years.

By not even being able to start the process in good faith, Reiter and Wall have effectively started this process by poisoning the well. While the board members may have sterling reputations, and a few even have health board experience in the existing boards, this is completely undercut by the fact that the majority of them have ties to the sitting the government.

One act of good faith was all that was needed to suggest that the Wall Government wasn't going to make this process political or open to pratfalls...He couldn't even provide that.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Latest on Leadership

SOURCE: CBC News: Trent Wotherspoon Resigning as NDP Interim Leader, Considering Run for Permanent Party Leadership

Given that we took a moment to discuss Ryan Meili's entry into the Saskatchewan NDP Leadership Race, it seems only right that we take a moment to consider Trent Wotherspoon's precursor to potentially entering the race himself.

I'll admit, I was surprised this afternoon when I saw the headlines that Trent was stepping down as interim leader and would be considering entering the race to become the next full-time leader of the Saskatchewan NDP. Given his previous answers on ruling out a leadership run, it seemed like mostly a done deal that Trent was happy to serve in a short-time capacity for the party.

However, one can hardly blame Trent for stepping back to fully consider his options. After all, the NDP is in a very different place at the moment. For the first time in a long time, at least the first time since forming government in 2007, the NDP is polling ahead of the ruling Saskatchewan Party with voters. Wall's seemingly invincible armour has been chipped, if not cracked, and Wall's own political future is in question.

Those sorts of shifts alone warrant a re-examination of decisions made prior to such events occurring. So, while I'm sure there may be some who are apprehensive about Trent potentially reversing course, I'd say the thought is entirely justified.

Which brings the next point: There has been a considerable amount of grassroot support for Trent to take a stab at the full-time leadership; from the standard "Draft Trent Wotherspoon" mumblings on various social media sites to just general statements from rank and file members discussing the leadership. Given Wall and the SK Party's shift, and own pressures from within the party to consider running, it's not surprising that Trent is taking the thought seriously.

At this point, at least in my opinion, it seems unlikely that Trent won't enter the race, which means at the very least we will see a contest between Meili and Wotherspoon. As mentioned in my previous post, this is good for the party on the long term. Meili and Wotherspoon are arguably the two "heaviest hitters" that could have entered the race; so, at the very least, it will ensure that we have that conversation leadership race I talked about as opposed to a coronation.

Again, to draw on the last post, I would say that the next leader needs to be ready to lead a province that might be weaker than expected. So, while it will be nice to have a conversation about what kinds of new social programs or spending can be expected under an NDP Government in 2020; I certainly hope there is lots of consideration given to the "darker" timeline option of finding ourselves in a repeat of 1993, post-Wall.

Now, as we fleshed out a few areas where Meili is like to take some shots from the Saskatchewan Party, we should likely consider what Trent needs to be prepared for should he end up winning the leadership.

The easiest target is previous leadership associations; much like Wall has tried to smear Meili with the Carbon Tax, I would expect the SK Party to look back to "Aboriginal Resource Revenue Sharing" pitched by the NDP in 2011.  That attack was a popular favourite against both Lingenfelter and Broten; and it wouldn't surprise me to see it dusted off again should Trent become leader.

I would imagine it would have the new spin of "Resource revenues are down, so why would we split what little we are getting now"; as such, this should be a question that Trent and his team are able to answer, even if there is no plan to bring back Resource Revenue Sharing as a policy for 2020.

The other angle, which Trent and team need to consider, is what happens if Wall does indeed resign prior to 2020.

Regardless of whether a long-time SK Party Cabinet Member takes over or some wild-card emerges, I imagine there will be the continued messaging of Trent being part of the 'old guard NDP' and how a province under his leadership would be a "step back" for the province. Now, I have no doubt that policies brought forth during the leadership race will help combat this talking point, but I pause because I imagine that this will be an issue that is also brought up during the leadership race.

While we're likely to see the "violent agreement" that often exists in NDP Leadership races at all levels, I imagine that Trent will take some flak for being a longer serving caucus member. While he can easily spin this into highlighting experience in the legislature, there is the very real potential that we will see another "Old Guard/New Wave" problem that has permeated the last few leadership races. And it would be a disservice to the past to not learn from previous aftermaths, and Trent and any other candidate not named Ryan Meili needs to be prepared to address how they will foster party unity.

While I think it's unfair to consider Trent "Old Guard" simply because he's had a few terms in the legislature, I do believe that it will be brought up in that manner that makes it sound like it's a bad thing. The goal, however, is to make sure that we as a party are able to make sure that this division does not inflict a wound during the leadership contest; a wound that will eventually fester and become infected during a general election, and that will present an easy target for the SK Party to hone in on.

Not that my call to action means much, but I would certainly encourage our leadership candidates to abandon the whole "Old Guard/New Wave" mentality; it does us all no good when we foster an Us/Them mentality within our own party. Regardless of what happens in the leadership race, we should be fostering an inclusive community where progressive people of the province feel at home and valued. Failure to do so will only ensure more ammunition for the SK Party during the next general election, and our goal should be to deny them any kind of "advantage" we can.

With Trent likely to enter the race, and Meili already confirmed to be in it, I think the pool of potential contenders continues to narrow. I don't know whether or not any one else out there is considering weighing into a race that now has the two perceived front runners involved; but of course, I could always be wrong and someone else may very well step forward. If someone does, I'll update accordingly and hopefully be able to provide some early insight.

In closing this post, I would like to again impress the importance to ensuring that whatever the outcome of this race that we ensure the NDP is ready to govern for 2020. While it's still a long way away, and poll numbers can change, the party needs to be ready. And we need to be sure that we're prepared to be surprised, for good or for ill, with what state of finances we are given.