(I have no idea what the statute-of-limitations on being known as a “Meili guy” is but since I was such a vocal supporter of Ryan during the last SK NDP leadership race, I feel obligated to mention that everything in this post in my own opinion, no former Meili team members saw or approved this article before I posted it, and I am neither trying to build bridges nor stir the shit – I’m only trying to make a few honest observations about how this election campaign has played out from my perspective. And now that I’ve used a swear word on the Internet and guaranteed I’ll never be a candidate for the NDP anyhow, here we go…) 😉
So the Saskatchewan provincial election happens tomorrow and it’s been probably one of the quietest, most status quo elections I can remember (or maybe I’m just biased watching the non-stop twists & turns of the US elections that are also happening right now?)
In terms of polling, both parties are pretty much exactly where they started a month ago with the Sask Party hovering around 60% support and the NDP around 30%. No single issue appears to have ignited the electorate (even when there should be plenty of options to choose from), and you get the distinct impression that Brad Wall’s highly popular Saskatchewan Party are just trying to run out the clock by playing zone defense, dropping the writ on the last possible day then filling the news cycle with distractions rather than substance.
Barring a major political upset of the highest order, the only unanswered question is where the Sask NDP ends up once the votes are counted tomorrow night?
Can they increase their number of seats (they’re projected to go from their current 9 to possibly up to ~15 seats if they can make some gains in urban areas) or is it even possible that they could end up losing ground (unlikely though that might be) if they struggle in ridings that are projected to be tight races?
Obviously, I shouldn’t speculate too much until tomorrow’s results are in but I will observe that, no matter what happens tomorrow, there is at least one major positive the NDP can claim, specifically that they fielded the most diverse slate of candidates in Saskatchewan history. (I paged through the Sask Party’s “Our Team” page and the contrast was stark in terms of which party better reflects the entire population of our province.)
On the flip side, there’s also a major negative looming. If things go the way it appears they might and the NDP end up with around the same nine seats they have now (or even if they gain back a handful of seats in previously safe NDP ridings), that means they will have little to show for any work that’s been done since the last leadership contest in terms of rebuilding the party, inspiring the people of the province and fielding one of the most diverse slates of candidates in recent memory.
After the Leadership contest back in 2013, I posted that my hope was that the new Leader could get the party back to the 20-seat mark where it had been before the disastrous experiment with bringing back Dwain Lingenfelter as Leader.
Of course, no one who’s being truly honest with themselves expects the NDP to win this election. But I believed then and I still believe now that 20 seats is a fair and reasonable marker to show the party’s at least headed in the right direction, whomever the Leader is.
Back then, I also said I would post the “mother of all ‘I told you so’ posts” if the NDP didn’t reach this mark. But that was with Ryan Meili’s leadership loss still fairly fresh and painful in my mind.
I don’t know what I might write after the election (which is part of the reason I’m posting these musings on the eve of the election instead of the day of.)
But I will say that a lot of time has passed and although some will try to tell you otherwise, I think it’s fair to say that the NDP membership is, for the most part, unified behind and supportive of the current Leader. (Proof? Meili’s campaign manager is running as a candidate on Cam’s team, many of Ryan’s other supporters are also either candidates and/or workers and/or volunteers and/or donors in this campaign as well as still remaining involved with the NDP in various other roles.) The bigger problem, in my view, is that the people of Saskatchewan haven’t seemed to connect with Broten in any meaningful way.
I sincerely hope the NDP ends up with 20+ seats. But if they don’t, I also think the party has to take a very serious look at itself – not just the Leader but their entire philosophy and approach, not just since the last leadership race but going back to the last time they were in government and maybe even before that since there’s been a steady decline in their number of seats since 1991.
If the province’s natural governing party allows Wall to have a history making third mandate in a row, it’s time for some serious soul searching.