Say, Didn’t You Used To Be The Saskatchewan New Democratic Party?

As the result of last week’s referendum sink in, it’s pretty apparent that the Yes side has a few things to take stock in. First of all, they have a pretty good base of support in certain areas for the next civic election, if they can figure out a way to hold it together. And secondly, they now know that the once-vaunted Saskatchewan NDP political machine is now as useful as nipples on a boar.

During the referendum campaign, former city councillor and onetime NDP candidate in Regina Qu’Appelle Fred Clipsham sent a letter to the Regina Leader-Post, saying in effect that since Regina city councillors had approved the P3 system, that should have ended the debate. If council let it be written, council should let it be done. As well, Sask NDP leader Cam Broten was silent on the issue, as were (at least publicly) the Regina NDP caucus.

From what I have seen the NDP, especially in Saskatchewan, has long taken the activist community for granted as a political base. In a province full of rednecks and Chamber of Commerce suckups, where else are union types, social activists and low-income types going to go? But it seems to me that the NDP, especially since the Romanow years, has been more interested in selling itself as good economic managers – the types who won’t rock the economic boat – than whatever passes for the social gospel today.

And this is probably why Broten stayed out of this debate. But it’s not a good strategy. The Chamber of Commerce types – of this and the upcoming generation – would cut off their feet and eat them rather than acknowledge that the NDP may have a point with something. There’s nothing that the NDP can say that could interest them, or even neutralize their support for right-of-centre economic and social policies. And rolling over and playing dead is what the NDP have done in the face of right-of-centre economic forces in Saskatchewan for a long time.

As well, the NDP appears to be husbanding all its resources for its provincial electoral campaigns, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Municipal politics is a pretty good proving ground for politician wanna-bes (Harry Van Mulligan served a few terms on Regina City Council before making the leap into provincial politics. He and John Solomon, Simon DeJong’s executive assistant and who later became a Regina-area NDP MP in the late 1980s/early 1990s, shared an office), so where’s the next generation of NDP candidates going to cut their teeth?

Author: Stephen LaRose

2006 winner of the Canadian Association of University Teachers's Award of Excellence in Journalism for a bunch of prairie dog stuff. Invited into the best homes in Regina. Once.

10 thoughts on “Say, Didn’t You Used To Be The Saskatchewan New Democratic Party?”

  1. This is a humorous but astute post.

    It does seem the NDP doesn’t seem clearly aligned to any issues. They seem to take their base for granted while also doing little to sway anyone else.

    Weighing in on the financial foolishness of privatizing water and paying a foreign corporation interest and profits to borrow our own money and sell us our own water service would have been an ideal symbol for the NDP to differentiate themselves.

    They could have made the point on how the cash from other privatizations lasted for only the fiscal year in which it was collected, and how those ventures we haven’t yet privatized continue to bring savings and dividends year after year.

    The next election will probably be fought on the eve of a slowdown that the media will minimize but everyone else will fear in their gut could be the bust that follows every boom.

    The nuvo-rougeneck majority may hate unions and crown ownership, but not enough to pay more for their auto coverage if Brad Wall tries selling SGI (and SaskPower, SaskTel, etc)

    Just look at the revolt when they hinted motorcycle premiums could go up.

  2. nouveau

    Not everyone hated the idea that motorcycle premiums might go up, especially those vehicular drivers whose premiums subsidize motorcyclists.

  3. For the record, many well known federally-affilated New Democrats had no such hang ups being associated with, and campaigning for the YES side during referendum process.

  4. I don’t know who the Sask NDP “is” at the moment, though I sense that “it” “is” not very “sophisticated” or even “mature” in its political adroitness. Which is pretty much the only reason the Sask Party can beat them.

  5. Barb, I agree, but when bikers started threatening the minister: instant policy reversal.

    When many factions, even those ideologically aligned with Sask Party pointed out the folly of exterminating the film industry and hundreds of jobs: no action, save for replacement of one obtuse minister with another.

  6. I realize now I was unclear to the point of bungling my earlier point. What I mean to say is that individual’s ideology tends to fade quick when it means actual dollars from their pocket.

    Motorcycle owners that normally kiss Brad Wall’s feet got very chilly overnight when estimates of their slightly higher insurance premiums came out. The free-market-loving-give-me-capitalism-or-give-me-death crowd suddenly didn’t like the concept of motorcycle owners paying their fair share.

    Same with the water debate. People heard the lie about the $276 and that’s all it took to sway thousands and tip the balance. We know from many other cities that rejected similar proposals that the default citizen doesn’t want it. But the $276 threat was a fresh idea being test marketed right here.

    Deep down everyone wants a healthy economy, protection from monopolies, control over their water, freedom to consider options in the future, and for their neighbor to keep his job. But not if they hear it might cost them $276. Even if it saves them thousands of dollars in the future, the idea of parting with $276 today is too objectionable.

    I’m actually curious what the magic number even is. $176? $76? The city’s political spin agency obviously thinks it’s at least $200, since that would have been the short term cost to replace the “lost” $58 million.

    But that didn’t seem like a scary enough number, so they faked it up to a “loss” of $80 million to create a scare number of $276. And that worked.

  7. Yossarian, please tell me who the federal new democrats were who campaigned on the yes side. Last I checked, T Mulcair was being praised by Brad Wall for his pragmatic approach to P3s ( so very usefully, in the middle of our campaign). If you’re talking about NDP members, I know you’re right – but they won’t be bragging about their affiliation any time soon, I’d be willing to bet.

  8. Okay, so it’s true I’m feeling a little bitter.

    Marc, I appreciate your support and your willingness to participate in the campaign (great photo, but the way). I also voted for you last time and will again, but the silence (well, actually, silence would have been better) of your federal leader is unhelpful – and your provincial counterparts are completely absent. Hard to rush to support a vacuum.

    So Marc, I am sorry I smeared you with my broad brush comment. Sadly, your voice gets rather lost in the unhelpful federal comments and/or the deafening provincial silence, so you might consider taking it up with them.

  9. Good questions you raise, Rosie. It seems the provincial NDP has relinquished its ties and involvement at the local municipal level, just as they did in the rural areas some years ago. I wonder where that leaves them. Federally, the only comment Chow could muster when she was in town was that P3s should be monitored. I would probably help out Noah or Marc in the next federal election, but there’s no way I would carry a card for these turkeys again.

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