I’m spending my weekend as a delegate at the provincial NDP convention and it’s a bit different experience than my first time attending which was the leadership race a couple years ago. This year’s a bit more subdued compared to that exciting time of course. But this year’s convention is equally intriguing for other reasons, not least of which is that we’re heading towards an election this year – the first since our new leader was chosen.
Now, I’m a realist and I know what the polls say, what the media says and what the word on the street is.
Most observers believe that the NDP doesn’t stand a chance in this fall’s provincial election – Brad Wall is too popular, our economy is doing too well, when other parties manage to take government from our natural governing party, they usually get two election victories before the people go back to the NDP (who tend to get three or four victories in a row when they’re elected!) So all signs point to the Sask Party being re-elected.
So that’s the reality. But politics is a funny game where the unexpected can happen (as our own recent history shows.)
With that in mind, here are five reasons why the NDP might just pull out a victory in November:
1. The New NDP Team
The NDP have nominated a slate of candidates who have youth, energy and diversity on their side – all attributes that will take them far during the campaign. The exciting brand new faces are balanced by a strong team of experienced MLA’s who can mentor and guide the rookies.
2. A Rooted and Growing Vision
The NDP has spent a good part of the last year or so consulting with members, organizations and other citizens of the province in a variety of forums to come up with an overarching policy document which will guide the party for the next few years. A Rooted and Growing Vision is just that and I enjoyed spending time in a few sessions this morning discussing such varied areas of interest as “Support Families, Protect the Vulnerable and Build Safer Communities”, “Build a Bright Future for Farm Families” and “Renew Our Democracy and Rebuild Our Trust.” In fact, the discussion was so stimulating, I wish I could’ve been able to attend all of the 15 different discussion areas arising from the policy document!
Although it will go fast, we still have over half a year until the election. That’s a lot of time where anything can happen. Beyond the basics of the NDP ramping up their well-oiled campaign machine, other unexpected events could have a huge impact on the election. Now, I’m not expecting photos of Brad Wall in his Montreal Alouettes under-roos to come to light (though I wish I had the photoshop skills to make that happen!) But any kind of government scandal or poorly chosen words into a live mic could shift each party’s political fortunes very quickly.
4. Social Media
I heard a couple old-timers expressing some doubts when social media came up during one of the discussion sessions today but I have always believed and continue to believe that social media will play a greater and greater role in politics with every year that goes by. Conservative radio host, John Gormley had a tweet today about the federal election saying how 2006 was the “blog election”, 2008 was the “Facebook election” and this year will be the “Twitter election”. Notice how none of those were the “brochure election” or the “phone bank election?” (Rick Mercer put it differently saying “Looking fwrd to the train wreck that will be hundreds of politicians tweeting during an election 4 first time. Tweetmeggedon”) I’m biased, wearing one of the sexy cherry red t-shirts of the social media team at the convention but I think the NDP is really working hard to develop their use of social media tools in a way that I’m not seeing from the Sask Party. And when they do, they still don’t get it. Brad Wall had to be told specifically that Twitter is a two-way medium and he should probably follow people instead of just expecting people to follow him (the symbolism is too rich.) Another small example – the SaskParty made a big deal of talking about the “Saskatchewan Advantage” with their recently released budget. But when you go to www.saskadvantage.ca, what do you see? 😉
Has there ever been a leader for any party who evokes such strong reactions pro and con in the province’s history? I’ve been fairly open about my own ambivalence towards the man since I started writing about provincial politics during the leadership race. But I do honestly think that Link has two huge advantages that he brings to his leadership of the NDP – one I’ve commented on before and one that caught me completely off-guard during his leader’s address this afternoon.
The one I’ve written about before is his experience as a Nexen executive. With potash easily being the province’s biggest political story in the past year, Link’s experience as a high-level corporate executive with a focus on international affairs is the perfect skillset for the province at this time.
The other thing that hit me today was when he exposed his humanity. I’ve heard Link speak before on a few occasions and I’m always impressed with his abilities in that area. But today I think he hit a new high note and what took him over the top wasn’t something you’d expect. Link recently lost his father and during his speech today, he talked about the impact his father had on him and how his dad gave him the values that he follows to this day: “you shop at the co-op, you bank at the Credit Union and you haul your grain the Wheat Pool.” He talked about how his dad was a “stubborn farmer” who chose to stay in one of the worst areas of the province for farmers during the height of the Great Depression. He said his dad was a “simple man” but someone who knew how to solve problems, often even “unsolvable” ones simply because that was what was needed.
It was a touching moment hearing Link talk so openly about something so personal and briefly taking down the walls of the persona he normally has. I don’t think Link has to turn into Dr. Phil or something but a bit more openness and emotion would go a long way to connecting with voters in my mind. In fact, if the party staffers haven’t put a copy of this part of his speech on YouTube, they really should. Link was talking about his own experience but it’s a common experience for so many of us in Saskatchewan that I think it would resonate widely.