Going to the Candidate's Debate…

There was a forum for the candidates for the NDP leadership tonight at a local restaurant so I headed over to check it out.  Here are some random impressions…

– I arrived early and bumped into a young woman who looked really familiar but who I couldn't place.  She did the “you look familiar…” routine with me too and it turns out she was a journalism student who did a brief placement with an organization I worked for a few years ago.  Inevitable “small world” comment is followed with some catching up on each others' lives since then. 

– the event started to fill up so I slipped into the private room they'd booked and grabbed a seat.  Luckily I did because they ended up getting probably 3x the number of guests they expected.  (I ended up helping to carry out a table with a sitting MLA doing the heavy-lifting at the other end to clear room for more chairs!)

– I'm biased but I interpret this turnout as a pretty good sign for the campaign of Ryan Meili – I think people who are involved with the NDP enough to come out for an event like this are also very curious about this new, bright young light who doesn't have much history with the party but has a buzz going.  (Meili just got endorsed today by two former Cabinet Ministers and I wonder if that's an echo of the slow build that Obama saw in the States too when all the initial endorsements went to Hillary thinking she was a “safe” choice.  Similarly, right now, the leader in the race, Dwain Lingenfelter has been endorsed by 10 of the 20 sitting Sask MLA's I think.)

– they drew names randomly for the order in which the candidates would speak and first up was…Dwain Lingen…I mean, Harry Van Mulligan [Edit: Mulligen – though I think he gets that all the time!].  The former Finance Minister was subbing in for Mr. Lingenfelter and I'm not sure how people will take this – I kinda got a sense that some people in attendance found it a bit insulting that all the other candidates could make the effort to attend but Mr. Lingenfelter couldn't.  (To be fair, I have no idea what his reasons for not attending were – but again, there is a very sizable “anyone but Link” contingent out there and part of this is predicated on the fact that he is seen as having abandoned the party (and the province) for a plush government relations job with an oil company in Calgary when the NDP lost a previous election.  Now he's coming back as if he's a knight on a white stallion but some people still think he's somebody who doesn't show up when he should and not appearing tonight doesn't help that reputation.)

– second on the list was Deb Higgins who is a sitting MLA from Moose Jaw.  Her speech quite good but I almost wonder if this happens automatically when you've been in politics for awhile – both her and Mr. Van Mulligan [Mulligen] spoke like politicians instead of real people – safe platitudes while circling around issues instead of being direct.  I don't know – maybe that's the reality of having to play it safe all the time so you never offend anyone.  I guess that also means I'll never be a politician (er, not least because I have a blog where I post this – won't someone think of the children???)

– Next up was Yens Pedersen who's a young lawyer and former NDP party president.  His speech was quite good (all were given a quote from an Allan Blakeney book about Saskatchewan's place in Canada and asked to speak to that).  I'm not sure if this was intentional but he seemed to directly point out the absence of Mr. Lingenfelter in his remarks when he mentioned the other two candidates in attendance but failed to note the appearance of Mr. Van Mulligan [Mulligen], even in his substitute role.

– Ryan Meili drew the final spot which can be a blessing or a curse.  Luckily, he quickly got the crowd on side with a funny joke I wish I could remember then launched into a speech that was…well, I wish I'd had my video camera there so you could be watching it on YouTube right now.  He got tons of applause during his presentation and quite a few laughs as well.  Of the three, he sounded the least like a politician and the most like a leader if that makes any sense. 

I admit that I'm biased because I really like what Ryan Meili brings to the contest but now, having had occasion to hear all four candidates (okay, three and a proxy), I've solidified my support for Ryan Meili.  Tonight, I think he stole the show and gave a big group of Regina-area NDP loyalists a lot to think about.  (Afterwards, I talked to one person I knew from my undergrad days who said they didn't have a party membership but were thinking of taking one out, just to vote for Ryan!) 

I also thought of another thing to add to my list of Ryan's similarities to Obama – he comes across as very cerebral and someone who puts a lot of deep thought into his opinions before speaking them. 

– Shea was at home with Pace so I didn't stick around for the hob-nobbing afterwards but as I mentioned above, I did get to say 'hi' to a couple people I knew. 

– I think I've also volunteered to help out with the online aspects of Ryan's campaign which I'm quite looking forward to.  I watched what Obama did with the online aspects of his campaign very closely and would love to try to model some stuff for the Meili campaign in Saskatchewan.

More on this topic in the weeks to come…

Comments 19

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    I am not sure how you can link turnout for a debate put on for leadership candidates as coming out to see only one person who has little to no name recognition within party membership. I think people are really stretching things to make comparisons between candidates they support and Obama. If you want major endorsements take over half of the NDP caucus is supporting Lingenfelter, Higgins own union endorsed Lingenfelter. Obama spent four years campaigning in the United States prior to running for President. These were small gatherings at first and grew to the major speeches he gave in the Presidential campaign. He traveled to every single part of America. Something Meili is not doing. Meili is an extremely talented young person but he is in no way similar to Obama. Obama won the nomination because of his plan to focus on caucus states. Clinton assumed she had it in the bag. Lingenfelter on the other hand is going to be in all 58 ridings doing exactly what Obama did to win the Democratic nomination.
    There have been plenty events in which not all candidates showed up to events put on for leadership candidates. They didn't show up not because they didn't care because they are busy people. You make time for the events you can do but you do have to miss some. Certainly candidates who waited until half way through the campaign missed some events others attended.
    The problem is that Ryan outside largely Saskatoon is not known to people within the NDP. That is why endorsements are from individuals from Saskatoon. Endorsements for Higgins have been from different areas of the province and same for Lingenfelter. Do some polling of NDP members and you will find Meili is not known and given coming into the campaign so late it shows his lack of experience. Obama worked hard for four years straight to win the nomination and that is why he won.

    Posted 05 Mar 2009 at 7:19 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    I would also just like to point out. The endorsements Obama received were from some of the biggest political insiders and mainstream members the Democrats had. We are talking about the Kennedy's, Tom Daschle and individuals like John Kerry. You cannot get more establishment than that. Lets also remember many candidates waited to endorse any candidate until after the early primaries.
    Compare that to the endorsements Meili has received. They are former cabinet Ministers but individuals who are further to the left of the party and are largely from Saskatoon.
    Higgins has received endorsements from four other MLAs including, Pat, Frank, Cam and Warren. So she has current MLAs and former cabinet ministers endorsing her. Some like Pat are viewed as being to the left of the party well others like Frank are viewed as the moderate side. And Cam is one of the younger MLAs. Her endorsements also cover Regina and Saskatoon.
    Pedersen has received no big name endorsements that I know of or that he has published on his website.
    Lingenfelter has the endorsements of the two northern MLAs, two MLAs from Saskatoon, has 5 MLAs from Regina, and the one MLA from Prince Albert. Two endorsements come from the younger MLAs, half of the female MLAs and the Aboriginal MLAs. Lingenfelter has the best endorsements. He is also doing the work necessary to win like Obama, he is going to every corner of the province and meeting with people and not assuming anything. He also has Higgins own union endorsing him. His endorsements cover the left to the center of the party and from rural and urban parts of the province.
    Based entirely on this information and where each candidate has been the campaign is largely between Higgins and Lingenfelter.

    Posted 05 Mar 2009 at 7:44 pm
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Why do you think there was a turnout 3-4x bigger than organizers expected? I put forth one theory which I think makes some sense – you keep citing the number of MLA endorsements Lingenfelter and Higgins have but, *unlike* the US, we don't have super delegates and I don't think these endorsements carry the weight you think they do.
    As for Ryan's presence in rural Saskatchewan, the reality of his campaign means he's going to be spending most of his time (at least initially) in major centres. But with that said, I suspect that he chose to be a rural relief locum rather than taking a less onerous position in a medical clinic in a city or at least in a single location, would carry a lot more weight in rural centres than being courted by politicians who only seem to pay you any notice when an election comes around.
    I think there are a lot of parallels to Obama but I'd also concede that there are lots of differences (and thankfully so.) I know Obama campaigned for four years after his 2004 DNC speech to raise his profile nationwide and lay the groundwork for his Presidential bid. We don't have a similar primary system here and our timelines for campaigns are much more compressed.
    Finally, I understand candidates are busy. But knowing that one of the biggest strikes against him is his move to Alberta in 2000, I'd be trying to get to every event I was invited to – even as the frontrunner.

    Posted 06 Mar 2009 at 1:26 am
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    By their nature, the biggest endorsements come from the establishment since those are the people who have name recognition or the prestige of their position or whatever.
    But as I said in my other reply, I'm not sure how much weight they carry. In the US with the super delegates, that was one thing. Here, who knows what it means?
    Thanks very much for taking the time to comment – I really appreciate it!

    Posted 06 Mar 2009 at 1:28 am
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    Two reasons, because it is a leadership race so obviously some interest in that regard and because when doing any political event you plan for a smaller venue then people you expect. I am not sure if your theory does make sense. As Ryan does not come up as a known person when doing polling during this campaign. He is known amongst a few in Saskatoon but less so in every other part of the province. An MLA can bring major importance to a campaign as they can become key organizers in their local ridings and much more profile then former MLAs.
    The attempt to paint any candidate as the Obama of the race is a far stretch in most campaigns. The amount of parallels that exist are the same as other campaigns. Obama worked four years prior to the primary race which means he took the required trips to Iowa to campaign. That is why Lingenfelter was the first in the race and despite being out of politics for about 8 years had great momentum going into this race. Sure he worked in Alberta but he also spent enormous amount of time internationally. I do not think that is a strike against him but a positive as it has allowed him to travel the world and work with other governments. I think he has negatives but they are not because he worked in Alberta given at the same time he continued to farm in Saskatchewan. He certainly showed his dedication to the campaign by getting in the first weeks it was on well others waited until the halfway point. So he has been going to more events then those who only came into the race in Jan or Feb. So I do agree you try to make it to as many events as possible and I think he has been which is why he has had the most endorsements so far in this campaign and continues to receive them.

    Posted 06 Mar 2009 at 1:47 am
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    I know about planning for a venue that's just slightly smaller than the number of people you hope to attract so people aren't swimming in a sea of empty space (how many press conferences have you seen on TV where the news camera pans the crowd…only to show a sea of empty chairs along with three reporters sitting looking bored, notebooks on their laps?)
    It's an possibility but being *so* surprised by the turnout that you have to scramble to move tables out of the room completely, bring in stacks of extra chairs and still have some people standing against the walls speaks to me that it was something else happening.
    Maybe there is a lot of interest among NDP supporters just because it is a leadership campaign like you say but Lingenfelter is the definite front-runner with little chance of anybody beating him (at least according to the media and many within the NDP) so again, why turn-out in such numbers? Higgins is a known quantity, Pedersen to a lesser degree is too.
    So I still think that at least to some degree, people were really interested to come out and hear about this new young unknown star of the party who's appeared out of nowhere – at least as far as many in Regina are concerned.
    I wonder if this is yet another Obama parallel? I will admit that if that's true about him gaining a reputation as a new light of the party, then maybe Meili's run this year is more similar to Obama's 2004 DNC speech, setting up for a future run rather than immediate returns. I've heard people refer to Meili as the future of the party in print and in person.
    I'm not aware of Lingenfelter's personal circumstances (does he farm with siblings? Hire workers?) but coming from a farm background myself, I'm a bit skeptical about how you work a high profile government relations job in Alberta and continue to farm in Saskatchewan. But even if that's true, I'm mostly conscious of the perception that the fact that he even went to Alberta creates among the people of this province who are, perhaps more than any other slight, are sensitive to any of our own choosing to go to the greener pastures of Alberta (and I say this having been one of these ex-pats myself.)
    Do you mind if I ask – do you have a preference in this race or are you just interested in the race in general? No matter your preference, do you think anybody has a chance against Link?
    Oh, and I'm off for a week's holiday as of Monday so if you reply, I may not get back to you quickly.

    Posted 07 Mar 2009 at 2:57 pm
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    If something else is happening it only occured at that event as turnout for Ryans own events typically attract the same core 8 individuals and few others. You cannot have an unknown star. People do not know who he is and some might have been interested to find out who he was but he was not the reason why individuals were interested in a all candidates debate.
    What is with the attempt to attach Meili to Obama at every corner? Meili is not Obama and lacks any significant connection to what occured with Obama.
    It is not hard if you are a senior person in an energy company to take time off to seed and harvest. He went to Alberta and gained some important experience. The issue of leaving to Alberta is not an issue. Nobody cares about as many people do spend a period of there life outside of the province. You seem to think he simply stayed in Alberta and never left. His job was to work with governments around the world. So who is better to take on Brad Wall? Somebody with a background in business and experience in dealing with governments on the left and to the right or individuals who do not have any experience?

    Posted 08 Mar 2009 at 4:59 pm
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    “You cannot have an unknown star”.
    That's not an either/or proposition. You can have a rising star which is what Meili appears to be – the more people hear about him, the more they like and the more they tell each other. Is what happened at the forum part of this build? Hard to say but again, I can't think of any other good reason why they would get 3-4x the number of guests they expected for this event. One fact is for sure – it definitely wasn't anything to do with Lingenfelter since he wasn't even there!
    I don't know the details about Lingenfelter's farm but I tend to think of farming as a year-round occupation, not something that you spend a couple weeks on in the spring and a couple weeks on in the fall. I think most in Saskatchewan's agricultural sector would agree with me and be suspicious of a “farmer” who seemed to do his farming in a way that most city-folk tend to think it happens.
    As for going to Alberta, I think that people in this province do care A LOT as they've seen years and years of our citizens abandoning this province for the richer environs of our western neighbour.
    Some come back (as I did), some never do. But as much as whether you come back or not, it's *how* you come back that people are going to notice. And obviously Lingenfelter left Alberta for his job and as you claim, even came back to Saskatchewan to spend a couple weeks seeding and harvesting each year!

    Posted 19 Mar 2009 at 12:09 am
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    If thats the case then how come Ryans own events attract the same individuals and have low turnout? If this was the reason people went to the debates than its pretty safe to assume the high turnout would remain steady for events that only feature him but of course that is not the case.
    Well, Lingenfelter does farm and that is well known in the agricultural sector. So not sure where you get your information from.

    Posted 19 Mar 2009 at 3:23 am
  10. Anonymous wrote:

    Two things on this point…
    – every time I've gone to a Meili event (and I've been to a few now), I'm seeing some of the same people (of course) but I'm also seeing new faces everytime as well.
    – “low turnout” is a pretty old-fashioned concept in this day and age – maybe one single person who comes out to a Meili event and is impressed goes home and sends a Facebook message to 500 of their friends encouraging them to support Ryan?
    That point sort of gets to the generational shift that I think's happening. You have people like yourself who see a room with 10 or 20 people and say “low turnout”. I see that and think, “wow – I bet those people are networked and in easy contact with dozens if not hundreds of people each!” Ryan recognizes that and the NDP as a party needs to make sure they recognize that too if they're going to be successful in 2011.

    Posted 22 Mar 2009 at 6:28 am
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    I get my information from YOU! I never said he doesn't farm, just that if he only farms for a couple weeks during seeding and a couple weeks during harvest when he can get time off from his job in the city, many farmers in Saskatchewan wouldn't consider him a real farmer. Any coffee row in the province would tell you the same thing – guaranteed.

    Posted 22 Mar 2009 at 6:37 am
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    So some you link large turnout for a leadership debate to Meili alone but can't explain the low turnout for events which simply feature him?

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 2:43 am
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    No, I believe he farms the entire season. Though you seem to have a major grasp on the life of Dwain Lingenfelter.

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 2:43 am
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    I keep telling you to read what I wrote before you post – it would make this back and forth a lot easier.
    I admitted “I'm biased but I interpret this turnout as a pretty good sign for the campaign of Ryan Meili”. I didn't say Ryan was the only reason there was a big turnout but that he was likely part of that reason. I *know* it wasn't from people interested to hear about Lingenfelter because…oh yeah, he wasn't there! 😉

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 2:54 am
  15. Anonymous wrote:

    Are you even serious with your snark? You're getting close to troll territory after some initially interesting comments.
    According to his official biography, I know Lingenfelter has a family farm and I know he took a job doing government relations with Nexen in Calgary after the NDP lost the election in 2000.
    But YOU are the one who said that Lingenfelter takes time off from his job to farm. And now you're saying that he takes off entire seasons to do so. I don't know of many jobs that let you take off the spring AND the fall, especially high-powered, highly-paid corporate jobs in the Alberta oil & gas sector.
    I have no major insight into Lingenfelter's life than what is publicly available (and what insiders like yourself post on my blog!) But I do know when I hear a story that doesn't quite ring true.

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:05 am
  16. Anonymous wrote:

    I believe Lingenfelter does take time off from his job to farm. I don't believe that is inaccurate. I am not sure what the difference is between taking time off to be on the farm and farming seasons. They are the same thing. It is strange you stated you have no insight into his life but continue to talk about it as if you do? Are you saying Lingenfelter does not farm or that an individual is unable to do more than one thing at once?

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:27 am
  17. Anonymous wrote:

    I'm saying (and have said) that in the farming community (or agricultural sector as you so eloquently put it), there are different types of farmers. There are those who do it as their entire livelihood year round. There are those who do it while holding down jobs – often in nearby communities. And there are those who do it in a very superficial manner – perhaps they're wealthy and have lots of hired men. Or they run a small hobby farm that doesn't take much of their time.
    Again, I have no idea which category Lingenfelter fits into with this farm or even if he fits in any of these as I've defined them. I only know that *you* said that he takes time off from his job to farm and I said that, to many in rural Saskatchewan, farming isn't the type of work that you take off a few weeks each season to do.
    I said this in another post but I'll repeat myself. I have no insight into Lingenfelter's life other than what is publicly available and what apparently informed sources like yourself have posted on my blog.
    I'm not saying he is or isn't a farmer but I do think there are different types of farming. My grandfather did the year-round type of farming. My father did the year-round with a job in town in the winter type of farming. Based only on what you've posted here, Lingenfelter does the type where you are only around for seeding and harvest while his main focus is his government relations job for Nexen in Calgary.

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 3:50 am
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    If you farm year round you have a side business unless you have livestock. If you are a grain farmer at this point in time you do have a second job when farming season for you is done. That is the reality and with the technology of today it is not that hard to do.

    Posted 24 Mar 2009 at 4:07 am
  19. Anonymous wrote:

    I've read your post a few times but am still not sure what you're trying to say. Can you clarify?

    Posted 29 Mar 2009 at 6:07 pm

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