How The Sask Party Can Keep Winning
In 2005, the Editor of Poletical started a website called NoNDP. The purpose of the website was to encourage Saskatchewan voters to vote the NDP out of power. In 2007, the voters of Saskatchewan did just that. Since then, the province has been on an upswing that hasn’t occurred in decades. Whether it’s the Riders winning multiple Grey Cups, skyrocketing real estate prices, or massive new investments in business and industry...Saskatchewan is winning.
Every silver lining has a cloud, and the Saskatchewan Party would do well to remember the old saying, “Pride cometh before the fall”. Brad Wall may be Saskatchewan’s golden boy, but I’ve been hearing rumblings from the grassroots. Anecdotes of course, but something is happening and the Saskatchewan Party had better take heed.
Without further ado, here are ten things the Sask Party needs to do to keep winning.
#1. Brad Wall needs humility.
When Grant Devine swept into power in 1982 he was met with great expectation. “There’s so much more we can be!” he exclaimed from the stage. He was Saskatchewan’s golden boy. The Estevan Rider fan who believed in prosperity and free enterprise. Nine years later the party was totally destroyed and Grant Devine was never heard from again.
So what? Brad Wall is different, right? He’s Mr.Popular and Saskatchewan is different. Everything is dandy and always will be, right?
Maybe, but the parallels between Devine and Wall are striking. If Brad Wall thinks the Mr.Popular sentiment can’t turn to absolute and vile contempt, then he doesn’t understand politics. The “build’em up and then knock’em down” attitude has happened in Saskatchewan before and with a couple of wrong turns, we could see it again.
#2. The Saskatchewan Party needs some other stars.
The Saskatchewan Party needs to be more than the Brad Wall Party. One of the comments I remember during the 2012 Alberta election was that Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Party was all right, but the “Randy’s surrounding her are nothing to get excited about.”
I remember thinking the same thing in 2003. I was working at Access Communications as a camera operator during the election and the station offered every candidate a free 3 minute spot to talk to the voters. I was a hardcore Sask Party loyalist and was itching to see them win, but when they walked into the room it quickly became apparent that they were not ready for prime time. Sweaty, slovenly, amateurs doing take after take to get things right. I’d offer advice, but it was like I didn’t exist. They’d finally finish and leave and an NDP MLA would walk in looking sharp and professional with a prepared speech and nail it in one take, thank me and leave. It was a classic case of the Sask Party having the right ideas, but the wrong people to implement them.
Things have gotten better since 2003, but the party has not branched out enough with a cast of characters that could hold their own if Brad Wall died tomorrow. It’s not enough to hold a point of view and hate the NDP. The cast of characters need to continually improve, not only for the sake of the people, but for their own sake as a party.
#3. Something needs to be done about healthcare.
Saskatchewan ranks extremely low for health care in Canada. I’m not going to dazzle you with metrics, since you can google all that yourself, but talk to people in Saskatchewan about anecdotal experiences with the system and you’ll hear it for yourself.
I remember covering the late days of the NDP for Global News in Regina and the Saskatchewan Party would bring a “patient of the week” into the legislature to demonstrate how the NDP were failing the people on healthcare. Now the Saskatchewan Party have been in power for 7 years and we’re still hearing these problems.
I get it...Saskatchewan is filled with old people and Aboriginals and these two populations strain the system, but this only means that better and more dynamic solutions should be taking place. Saskatchewan was the birthplace of radical solutions for healthcare and should be again.
#4. Cam Broten is going to lead the NDP back to legitimacy.
Dwain Lingenfelter was a disaster for the NDP. It was really hilariously bad. When a new leadership race started, the Saskatchewan Party must have been hoping for Ryan Meili or Erin Weir to win. Unfortunately, Cam Broten snuck into the top job with 44 votes to spare.
Because Cam Broten is not a batshit crazy leftist. He’s a middle-of-the-road guy with a young family and an optimistic outlook. He’s the NDP’s Brad Wall. Attack ads won’t work now. Fear and smear campaigns aren’t going to work. Looking at old playbooks from 1999 and criticizing the NDP with that model simply won’t work.
Cam Broten is a force to be reckoned with.
#5. Better jobs.
Whenever I mention job creation to people in Saskatchewan the answer I hear back is that all the jobs being created are “shit jobs”. Jobs slinging fries at A & W for instance. These jobs used to be filled by high school kids in the 90’s, now immigrants move from Toronto and get these jobs. The more immigrants that arrive, the higher Saskatchewan’s population goes, resulting in more Burger King franchises that require more workers, thus...creating more jobs.
Again...I don’t want to pull stats that I’m sure can refute and/or confirm the legitimacy of job types in Saskatchewan, but this is what people are saying. This is the perception.
So what can Brad Wall do? Well he could bribe companies to move here with massive subsidies like Grant Devine and Lorne Calvert tried to do (Crown Life? or that call centre in Regina that was supposed to demonstrate how high tech we had become? Startech?).
Truth is...I don’t know. I’m not paid to know, but the Sask Party makes over $3 million a year and they’ve got the steering wheel of government in their hands.
Figure something out.
#6. Better roads.
Saskatchewan is still notorious for having brutal roads. I get it...we have horrible winters and not a lot of people in the province to pull revenue from. Nevertheless, spend some more cash on the roads. Saskatchewan isn’t interior Russia (anymore) and shouldn’t feel like one when driving around.
It’s also good politics as people on the highway can see their tax dollars at work as they slow down to let workers make improvements.
#7. Let go of old grudges.
I hate unions as much as the next guy, but picking fights with them in the 21st century is pointless. Fewer and fewer people are unionized and the ones that are mostly hate their own unions. It’s not 1945 anymore and we don’t need to give so much headspace to “what the unions think”. Carry on and move forward, accept them as a fact of life and if they pose a real problem then crush them, but in the meantime stay focused on picking better fights.
Destroying the film industry in Saskatchewan just because they had ties to the NDP. It was petty, marginal and unnecessary. Stuff like this creates more ill will than needed and the gains from these fights simply aren’t worth the price.
#8. Quit trying to pay down the debt and use the money now.
I know Saskatchewan had Ralph Klein envy and everytime he’d blow another billion off Alberta’s debt people in Saskatchewan shook their head in amazement, but what good did it do in the long run? It left a massive opportunity for future leftist governments to simply go nuts in the candy store with Mom and Dad’s credit card.
Paying down debt is an admirable goal, but Saskatchewan isn’t going to do it by 2016, so stop thinking it’s an election score and simply hold the line on debt. Use the money received for stuff happening NOW or you may not get a crucial third mandate in order to eliminate the debt fully. People need to see and feel the results of success or else they become disillusioned. Numbers on a leger don’t impress anyone anymore, so put the money to work right now.
#9. Privatize the liquor stores.
I know Wall learned some valuable lessons from Elwin Hermanson during the 2003 election campaign. Lesson number one was don’t talk about privatizing the crowns. Liquor stores, however, aren’t viewed with the same majesty as something like SaskPower or SaskTel. People would not be as opposed to getting rid of liquor board stores in the same way as a major utility.
Privatizing liquor stores works...just ask any Albertan.
Do it and do it fast. This whole “Willow Park can have one store and only sell wine and maybe we’ll see how it goes and maybe another store with only wine and you know...well...we’re not sure” mentality looks weak. I’m sure Wall thinks he’s doing a Harper move with incrementalism, but it’s not working.
Privatize now and in two years people will be asking themselves why it took so long to happen in the first place.
#10. Get Saskatchewan’s oilsands developed.
Saskatchewan has a massive deposit of oilsands and we’ve barely done anything with them. It’s expensive and may require some government intervention into the economy, but take a page out of Peter Lougheed’s playbook and get things rolling. The northern part of this province looks basically like 1714, not 2014.
Open it up! Get some business done. Think bigger! Garner some revenue.
Conclusion: Start stepping up. It’s not enough to not be the NDP anymore. Cracking some jokes at a podium and talking about Rider nation is going to wear off. Don’t believe your own hype. Get stuff done and build the future.
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