If you had $900,000 and someone offered to give you another hundred grand for free so you had a cool million, would you take it? Of course – I think anyone would agree that gaining something that costs you nothing but which adds incredible value to what you already have is a great deal.
That’s another reason I’m supporting Ryan’s candidacy.
Ryan’s written more eloquently about the advantages to the Sask NDP of electing someone who’s actually *outside* the Legislature at this point in time than I ever could in his “9+1” blog post.
But I still think that the potential of this unique opportunity to add talent to the current caucus is one of Ryan’s greatest immediate advantages so I’m including it on my list too.
By far, the strongest part of the case is to look at some other Leaders who were chosen by their parties before they were elected to office. This freed each to do all kinds of groundwork outside their respective Legislatures to build up their parties and prime each for their greatest electoral successes.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Jack Layton or Grant Devine? (A colleague has observed that the best thing the NDP ever did for Grant Devine was defeat him in a by-election which allowed him to focus on building the Sask PC party for its 1982 landslide. Imagine Ryan-as-leader being able to build up the NDP in a similar fashion to create a similar landslide result against the Sask Party in the future!)
There’s another part of this rationale that is particularly relevant at this point in time that may not have mattered as much just over a year ago when the NDP still had 20 seats. After being reduced from 20 to 9 seats, the current MLA’s are much more stretched and are often doing the work that was done by multiple MLA’s before the NDP’s 2011 defeat.
For example, Trent Wotherspoon is currently the Critic for Finance, Education, SaskPower, Global Transportation Hub, Information Technology Office as well as the only non-government MLA chairing a government committee, the one responsible for Public Accounts. Since the last election, Cam Broten has responsibility for a number of portfolios including being the Critic for Health, Seniors, Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration.
Should either Trent or Cam win the Leadership, that means the NDP caucus would, in all likelihood, still have nine members for the next few years but that one of them would have to add the full-time responsibilities of Leader. This means the work they currently do would get added to that of their other colleagues even though the number of bodies trying to do the work won’t have increased.
Of course, a lack of legislative experience has been one of the main charges against Ryan’s candidacy. Again, I think that if circumstances were different, this may be more relevant. But the reality is that, right now, what the NDP needs more than anything is someone who can connect with people across the province, sell memberships, raise funds and so on, unencumbered by Legislative or constituency responsibilities.
And, should Ryan win, that still leaves Trent and Cam in the Legislature able to use all of the legislative experience and knowledge they’ve gained since first being elected two elections ago to fight the good fight on that front.
But the reality is that a Leader is so much more than what they do in the Legislature – how they promote the party, how they inspire people with their vision – and, as with Jack Layton who was elected to City Council in Toronto before moving to the much different world of federal politics – there is precedent of Leaders going from a base in community-based advocacy and commitment to bigger and better things – which is *exactly* what the Sask NDP needs right now.
Since I’m refuting criticisms of the idea, another one that’s been raised is that the party can’t afford another non-MLA salary. Ryan refutes this succinctly in his 9+1 piece so I’ll use his words:
Concerns have been raised that having a leader outside of caucus would be too costly for the party. This is more about trying to dismiss the candidacy of a non-MLA than it is about any real financial barrier. The party has already budgeted for a modest stipend for the leader and I am committed to ensuring that this does not become a burden for the party. My campaign’s consistent success in fundraising is already a good indicator that we can grow the party’s support base enough to not just meet our expenses, but quickly retire the current debt and build toward a more stable financial future.
Or to put it another way, “you’ll never earn a dollar when you worry about the dimes.”
I’m on a roll so I’ll refute one last criticism. One of Ryan’s opponents has pointed out that there are Leaders like Saskatchewan Liberal Leader David Karwacki who were also elected by their parties when they weren’t in the Legislature and didn’t have the success that either Layton or Devine had. So why does Ryan think he would be successful?
It appears that “stretched” applies to more than just how some MLA’s are feeling in their day-to-day duties because that attempted analogy is definitely a stretch! The situation before the Sask NDP is a big one but as the current official opposition with a long history as the province’s natural governing party and a population that is only a few years removed from a government utilizing a social democratic approach, that’s much different than trying to re-build a party which has all but ceased to exist since 1996!
Right now, the NDP has an opportunity in front of it – they can stay with the resources they have. Or, without even needing to win a by-election, they can vastly increase the talent they have on their team. Who wouldn’t take that offer?
Next – #3 – That Positive Thing