Saturday Snap – Random Thoughts From the Weyburn #skndpldr Debate

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Killed two birds with one stone today – coming down to Weyburn for the latest #skndpldr debate and also getting to spend the night with Shea’s folks. Shea and I got to work Ryan’s table at the debate and, as usual, I’ve got a lot of random thoughts from the day…

– I’ve been to two debates now – Regina and Weyburn – and watched bits & pieces of various others online. And wow – I don’t know how the candidates keep their focus! It’s always new information for each audience but for the candidates, they’re probably at the point that they know what each other are going to say before the other one says it. Coincidentally, my best personal analogy to understand what this must be like also has a Weyburn connection. When I was Branch Supervisor for Southeast Regional Library working out of Weyburn, I had to visit each of our 46 small town branches over a period of about two and a half months. During that time, I delivered a 3-hour training session on the Internet, popular web sites and social media to all of our branch librarians. By about day 5, I had my patter down and by about day 10, I felt like I could pretty much do my presentation on auto-pilot, with some of my “quips” even being quite rehearsed. I wasn’t debating anyone (at least usually, depending on how the training went!) but like the candidates who get at least a little variety in terms of the questions they’re asked and even the order they speak in, I got variety from the different skill levels each branch librarian possessed and some of the rabbit holes we went down depending on the questions I got and/or the interests of the person getting the training. But I think the biggest similarity is that I never stopped enjoying it because I loved what I was doing – which I suspect is how the four candidates also manage to keep these debates fresh for themselves.

– Speaking of Southeast Regional Library, the debate was held at the Weyburn Legion Hall which is where we held most of our large SRL events. I organized three different staff days during my year and a half contract and also attended as many regional board meetings at the Legion. Lots of fun memories in that building – from making a presentation for SRL to create a digital branch (#GeekLibrarianFail) to staff kindly clapping as HQ staff were introduced but giving our payroll person a standing “O” to being introduced to a new colleague who soon after proceeded to slurp a spilled beer off the table, downstairs at the Legion Bar, at the end of my first day of work (which also happened to be a regional board meeting.)

– Best neck tie? Easily Cam Broten’s bright orange one. Not only does it evoke the NDP but it could also be used as a hazard flag if you hit the rhubarb driving down! 😉

– Cam introduced himself to me when he first arrived which was nice – just as it was nice when he introduced himself to me at a couple other events during the race. 😉  (I do feel sympathy for the candidates on that too – how do they possibly keep track of names and/or faces of all the people they meet?)

– Got to meet Trent Wotherspoon and Erin Weir’s dads who were traveling with their boys. Both seemed like great, personable guys – you can see how their boys grew up to be politicians. (Also couldn’t help that Mr. Weir sports a beard. Perhaps he’s a secret Ryan Meili supporter?) 😉

– Funniest comment of the day goes to Trent Wotherspoon. He’d already tweeted about how good his aunt’s cinnamon buns were and also mentioned this from stage during one segment. But rather than leaving well-enough alone, he said something like “Some people might say she has the best buns in the southeast too, I guess!” I’m not sure if he was being sincere (in that he meant her dinner buns), going for the double entendre or if he kinda mixed a bit from Column A and a bit from Column B with this line. But the crowd seemed to think he was making a joke about his aunt’s booty and he got the biggest laugh of the day as a result.

– Not sure why that story reminded me of this but I’ve noticed that each of the candidates has a different quirk that sort of defines their stage presence:

  • Cam – tends to give a little chuckle/giggle in the midst of saying things, even when he’s not making a joke or talking about something funny.
  • Erin – easily the most animated hand talker of the four
  • Trent – I didn’t notice if he was doing it today but in previous debates (and even before the debate began today), I noticed that Trent tends to assume a very studious, hand-on-chin pose when others are talking  [Edit: totally unplanned but I just realised the photo I uploaded with this post has Trent doing the exact pose I’m talking about!  Yes, like Rodin but also reminds me of Ken Dryden’s famous pose for some reason.)
  • Ryan – I’d be curious what people in other camps have noticed about Ryan’s quirks since I’m quite biased to see nothing but polished perfection in Ryan. 😉 But my own observation is that Ryan frequently seems to smile the least of the candidates on stage. Being serious probably isn’t a bad thing, especially given what’s at stake. But it just stands out in contrast to the pun-loving, slide down a snow mountain personality I’ve seen behind-the-scenes.

– What else? Shea’s uncle has been a party stalwart in SE Saskatchewan for many years and even got a shout-out from Trent during the debate (which I joked to Shea meant that Trent’s guaranteed himself at least one vote!)

– That also led to a slightly awkward moment when someone came up to the table having mistakenly thought Shea was her uncle’s daughter rather than niece. Shea’s uncle had also told this person that Shea and I were brand new to the party. (“Well, pretty much everybody who’s joined the party since 1970 is brand-new to Shea’s uncle”, I explained.)

– I don’t know – what defines “new” in terms of the Sask NDP? I can say that I bought my first membership in 2001 and have been very active since 2009 so am I “new”?  It’s an important question because it’s a theme running through the leadership race too – how long has Ryan been active (both longer and more active than most people realize I think.) Did Trent work for the Liberals before becoming an NDP MLA as Erin accused mentioned at a recent debate? (Me: Who cares?) Who’s got deeper party roots – Erin who’s spent 15 of his 30 years active in the party or Cam whose grandpa was a CCF MLA? (Again – who cares? Shouldn’t we try to expand the tent rather than having people pass a purity test to be NDP leaders – either in terms of length or depth of involvement? Tom Mulcair got some of that too and he seems to be working out just fine.)

[Edit: A representative of the Erin Weir campaign has contacted me to clarify that the mention of Trent Wotherspoon working for the Liberals wasn’t meant as an accusation but as an example of the “expand the tent” mentality I mention later in that same paragraph.  If you watch the clip, I think it’s probably best characterized as a backhanded compliment at best – especially given how Trent reacts during his next chance to speak.  I don’t really have a dog in the fight so am happy to approve any comments from either camp who want to clarify or discuss the point further.]

– I’ve frequently talked about my connections to Weyburn – from my mom going to high school there to my parents getting married to Shea also doing her high school there, my work with Southeast Regional Library and how Shea’s folks now live in Weyburn. That meant there were lots of people at the debate who we knew – either from the library or that Shea went to high school with or whatever – or that knew her parents or that we had some other connection to. I mean, that happens anywhere you go in Saskatchewan but is probably never more pronounced than when we’re in Weyburn. And I love it! 😉

– Erin Weir joked in his opening remarks about how all the candidates would probably take advantage of being in Weyburn to continually evoke Tommy Douglas but I think Trent was the only offender (a double-offender actually – tweeting a shot of his volunteers at the Tommy Douglas statue before the debate and quoting Tommy Douglas in his closing remarks – although if memory serves, he does that as part of his closing in every debate.)

– We came down early to get to Shea’s parents’ so I was also the first to arrive to set-up our candidate table and I think the NDP HQ staff deserve *major* kudos for all the work they do to put on these debates, often behind-the-scenes before anyone arrives and after everyone’s left. Craig and Rick and Aaron and Aaron and apologies to anyone else I missed (and those are the ones I met there today – there are other staff who go to different debates at different times.)

– one good way to judge how the debate went is to watch which tables get the most visitors after the debate. And I didn’t notice how busy the other candidate’s tables were…because I was so busy at Ryan’s! 😉

– oh, and a good strategy if you have a snarky comment occur to you if you’re live tweeting a debate is to type up the tweet, save it as a Draft then delete it later (being *very* careful not to hit “Send” by mistake!) Or you could hypothetically use some of those comments to write a blog post! 😉

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