10 Random Thoughts After Attending One Night and One Day of #skndpldr Convention #skpoli

I’ve only written a couple things about the current Sask NDP leadership race since the last race ended in 2013.

But since Shea and I went to Ryan Meili’s hospitality suite on Friday night (where a few people stroked my ego by asking if I’d be blogging about the race this time) and we also went to the Saturday of the Sask NDP leadership convention, I thought I’d slowly dip my toe back in the water and write a “quick hits” piece (er, but hopefully not a “hit piece”!) of some of my thoughts and observations of the early days of the Leadership Race.

[I’ll do my usual disclaimer too – I’m a supporter of Ryan, have been since his first leadership run in 2009 and have assisted his campaigns in various roles over the years.  But anything I post on this blog is my own opinion, not endorsed by or approved by his campaign – even though sometimes I wish they did!] 😉

  1. Having played a big part in Ryan’s social media team last time, I learned better than anyone that you can’t count on social media metrics completely (hint: Cam won even though Ryan and Trent both had more support on social media.) But I still found it interesting that Ryan’s event on Friday night had 37 respond on FB to say they were “Going” and 58 respond to say they were “Interested” while Trent’s event on Saturday night had 36 respond on FB to say they were “Going” and 55 respond to say they were “Interested”.  That’s essentially a draw or maybe even a (small) victory for Meili since he was the “visiting team” being based in Saskatoon and doubly so since the Wotherspoon team sent out way more invitations (429 for Wotherspoon to 174 for Meili.)  Or maybe I’m overthinking social media metrics like I have since 2009 and Wotherspoon’s supporters are just less likely to respond to a FB invite? 🙂
  2. It didn’t count in the attendance metrics on FB but I also appreciated that Ryan’s team picked a venue that was child-friendly (and had a few kids running around including two of mine) whereas I don’t believe that Rebellion Brewery where Trent had his event allows children.  At any rate, due to the convention having an evening event on Saturday, I doubt many people would take kids to an event that started at 9pm, even if they could.
  3. Personal highlight of Ryan’s event?  Our four year old daughter was wandering around, pretty much unsupervised and making friends with various people in the room.  Ryan later came over and told us that she even came up to him at one point and said “Will you play with me?” not realising that it was Ryan’s party and he was just a little bit busy! 😉
  4. I’ll likely have more to say on this eventually but I love how Ryan’s events always seem to attract a mix of long-term NDP members and especially so many people who are new to the party.
  5. The convention had a formal theme of “Building For Tomorrow” and an unofficial theme of “The NDP in the Age of #metoo”.  It’s been a long journey from our first convention in 2009 when my wife was introduced to a sitting MLA who immediately made a sexist joke when he found out she was a nurse to this year’s convention where there was an hour-long panel on “Building Safe and Inclusive Spaces”, a powerful moment in Nicole Sarauer’s speech where she addressed some of the issues that women in politics face every day (maybe even a star-making speech which got lots of chatter going about why the NDP doesn’t have a woman running and whether Saraurer should’ve run), and an elephant in the room in the form of a number of brave young women who have come forward recently with their stories of sexual harassment (and worse) in their personal lives and even within the party
  6. Had an enjoyable lunch talking with a rural member who was very intrigued to hear that Ryan Meili grew up on a farm and the possibilities that connection could unlock for the party’s chances in rural Saskatchewan.
  7. The leadership debate between Trent Wotherspoon and Ryan Meili was about an exciting as “vigorous agreement” can be (echoing most of the federal debates.) The only (slightly) heated moment was when Ryan Meili questioned Trent Wotherspoon about his decision to accept corporate and union donations in the Leadership Race even though Wotherspoon also brought forward a bill that would eliminate the practice the next time the NDP formed government.  Meili was pretty clear that he intended this approach as a “test run” for what both have said is the future policy they desire to implement the next time the NDP forms government but Wotherspoon was (in my view) a bit disingenuous in spinning this as Meili saying this approach would tie the party’s hands behind its back in the run-up to the next provincial election (which is not what Meili said at all.)
  8. Steve Patterson moderated the debate and was hilarious.  I especially enjoyed the (surprise?) multiple choice questions he put to both candidates at the start which showed off a bit of their personalities and ability to think on their feet.
  9. If you want a good summary of the entire debate, Greg over at Accidental Jurist liveblogged the entire thing.  The only thing I’d disagree with in his summary is his equivocation of Meili’s better crowd response with the number of signs Trent had.  As I mentioned earlier (and as Trent, going for a pro wrestling-like “cheap pop”, mentioned in his opening statement as well), Regina is Trent’s home turf.  So I would’ve expected the crowd to be a lot hotter for Trent *and* to have more signs.  But that wasn’t the case and I was (honestly, a bit surprised) that Ryan got a stronger response than Trent. (Not just my biased opinion on that – both Greg and a CBC reporter made the same observation about the crowd’s vocal support for Ryan.)
  10. I had a bit of fun with Trent at one point.  He saw me in the lobby and, knowing I’m a strong Meili supporter, joked “Jason, I have a button I’d like you to wear.”  “Sure, I’ll wear your button” I replied.  He looked at me for a second to see if I was serious then turned back towards his table to grab one.  But then I said “…but I’m going to wear it on the inside of my jacket instead of the outside!” (I said this wouldn’t be a hit piece but I can’t help but wonder if Trent appreciated my joke which I realised after the fact was about someone changing their mind!) 😉

Okay, toes are now wet and I will likely be increasing my blogging about the race as things develop and ideas come to mind.

In all seriousness though, best of luck to both Trent and Ryan.  One of the best things about this race is that both are great guys who are relentlessly positive and good-natured.  (How weird is it that Ryan’s relatively tame question to Trent was the “meanest” part of the entire debate and even Trent’s question to Ryan – about how he’ll promote small businesses or something – was a bit of a softball?  I can’t find reference to it on my blog but I have a memory of Trent using a similar technique in the 2013 race – asking the other candidates fairly innocuous questions – likely with an eye to maintaining good relations with his competitors should he have ended up winning the race – which, given some of the tensions that I heard existed between Cam’s team and the other camps – is a pretty sound strategy.)

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