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.