Going to the Candidates' Debate Part Deux: Bloggers Collide!

Shea and I managed to wrangle a babysitter (thanks dad!) so were both able to attend the final NDP leadership debate forum tonight.

The Accidental Jurist and I ended up sitting next to each other and when I introduced Shea to him, I explained, “he's the guy who puts thought into his posts, fact-checks and keeps things fairly level-headed while I'm the guy who spouts off the first things to come to mind during commercials in the playoff games.”

Speaking of…here's his thoughts on the night and here's some random impressions from me…

– all candidates did well as the Jurist said.  I think the biggest thing that sets Ryan apart in my mind is that if you imagine a typical politician, that's what the other three sound like to me.  And Ryan, after being on the treadmill for a few months, still manages to sound like a real person.  (Shea put it differently – “the other three sound like they're thinking about how to become Premier as their main focus, Ryan honestly sounds like he's thinking about what the future of the province will look like.”)

– That sort of got me thinking, “Why does Dwain Lingenfelter want to be the leader of the NDP?”  Seriously, not the politician answer about loving this province and unicorns and rainbows.  But really – why?  He had a sweet government relations job with an oil company in Alberta.  He was traveling the world.  He has a lovely young family.  He'd been away from politics for what, a decade?  He's roughly my dad's age (and my dad's semi-retired and a grandfather.)  So why would you come back to the fold?

– I submitted a question at the forum.  It didn't get picked.  Oh well.  All of the questions were very issue-based – something about youth (check), something about First Nations (check), something about seniors (check), something about the environment (double check) – and they didn't seem very interested in philosophical questions such as “Where did you file your income taxes last year and do you have a current Saskatchewan health card that I can see?”  (Just kidding – just a little poke at a couple of the main criticisms of Link and his time in Alberta.   My question was actually how each of them see themselves as carrying on the legacy of Tommy Douglas.)

– Speaking of Tommy, in his closing remarks, Yens talked about how there once was a politician who was first elected at age 34 and who was an outsider to his own party fighting the status quo but on the strength of his big ideas, became one of Saskatchewan's greatest leaders and our nation's Greatest Canadian.  And all I could think was “wow, how nice of Yens to endorse Ryan!”

– in answer to the question about seniors (check), Ryan mentioned his idea for SaskPharm (get it?  SaskFarm?), a new Crown Crop (oops, “Corp) which would manufacture generic drugs, sell them at cost to our government, develop new drugs, value-add to the raw materials produced in Saskatchewan, etc.  When I went to my first organizers' meeting, I asked “What's his big idea?  What's Ryan's Medicare?” and the person who responded mentioned SaskPharm.  That's just one of the reasons I got excited about Ryan's candidacy – this is a guy who isn't afraid to dream the big dreams.  (To put it in a library context on the off-chance that any librarians are still reading, I've posted the idea before that, if libraries didn't exist today, could they be started with the answer being “probably not”.  Similarly, if Medicare didn't exist in Canada today, could it be started?  Probably not.  But if Ryan gets in, I think we'll have a real chance to see if we can make some really radical, really big ideas fly.)

– Dwain Lingenfelter has a booming voice.  I can't help but wonder if you develop that in parliament shouting at the other party?  I mean, we've all done that school trip to the Legislature and we've all been shocked that it's a bunch of people, obstentiously in charge of our government, yelling at each other and acting like kids in the sand box.  Deb Higgins doesn't though.  Must be just his natural voice.

– quote of the night goes to Ryan while talking about Labour (as in unions, not as in pregnancy).  “Labour is like the ugly prom date of politics.  The Sask Party won't get in bed with labour because they don't want to be seen by the business community as doing anything for unions.  The NDP only gets in bed with labour during elections and when they need money.  But if everybody thinks we're in bed with them all the time already, let's get some action at least!”  Huge crowd response on that one.

– Shea's anger moment of the night was when Deb Higgins talked glowingly of a couple integrated facilities that do such a wonderful job of giving their users a holistic approach “like the new Tatagwa View in Weyburn where all houses are arranged in a circle and long-term residents can access the kitchens and there's a daycare in the middle of the facility where residents can see children playing…which we all know is very healing.”  Yeah, except if a resident goes near the kitchen in Tatagwa View, they will quickly be steered away from the hot burners and running water, the day care has windows plastered with art where you don't really see children even if you're allowed to roam the halls near it and there is still a huge lingeri
ng anger among many on staff and in the community that the original Souris Valley Mental Hospital was torn down to build this new compound which is already showing lots of building deficiencies after only being open for a few years.  (Pace agrees with his mom that this daycare sucked!)

– I think it was Deb Higgins who made the point that she should be elected because she provides a true choice from Brad Wall.  Dwain Lingenfelter sat there nodding his head and I wanted to scream out “Why are you nodding?  She's talking about you!”

– doing phone banking from Ryan, I called at least one senior who told me they were voting for Dwain because “he's a nice young man”.  As I said, Dwain is my dad's age and my dad is at an age where one gets to order off a very special menu at Perkins.  Answers like that, combined with the average age of the attendees tonight being somewhere north of 60, makes me realise that the party has a hell of a lot to do to renew itself!  (Although it was a sweet touch to get a 14 year old kid up to give the fundraising spiel before they passed the collection plate.)

– On that note, afterwards, Shea asked me, “in twenty years, if Pace comes up to us and says there's this exciting new candidate I'm supporting and your guy – Ryan Meili – has had a good run as Premier for the last couple decades but now it's time to move on”, what would we do?   Would we listen to our son?”  Similarly, I don't know if Ryans' message of party renewal caught on with many of the people in the crowd wearing the bright orange “Link” buttons.  But I hope so. 

– oh hell, since I'm rambling, I'll throw in two more Link anecdotes, one from Shea's dad and one from mine.

When I was in undergrad, I signed up with the local cable company for my TV & Internet which got me two free movie rentals in their store.  I went there with my dad one day and seeing a guy who looked like he was an employee of the company (smartly dressed in a blazer), dad asked him where the bathroom was.  The guy looked momentarily confused then pointed vaguely towards the back of the store.  I looked over and saw that my dad had just asked the Deputy Premier of Saskatchewan where the can was!  (To be fair, dad likely would've recognized him in any other context but probably didn't expect to see him standing in the Comedy Aisle at Cable Regina.) 

The gist of the other one is this…

Shea's dad was quite involved in some farm protest activities maybe a decade ago (someday I'll post about the night we helped “occupy” the Saskatchewan Legislature overnight) and he ended up giving a speech at one rally that Mr. Lingenfelter was at.  Dennis ended up talking to Dwain and asked “What are you going to do when all the farms die and everybody moves to Alberta?”  Dwain replied “Well, then I guess I'll just go with them.” 

Sort of reminiscent of this clip making the rounds of the YouTube of Dwain at a roast soon after he left the NDP and moved to Alberta.  I'm actually of the opinion that this is getting way blown out of proportion since it's a roast for godssake – people making rude and offensive jokes is the whole point.  But yeah, perhaps some of that flippancy that my father-in-law saw from the then-Deputy Premier as he expressed his frustration that family farming was dying in rural Saskatchewan has some truth to it?

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