Should @sask_ndp #skndpldr Voters Consider Who The Winner of The @saskparty Leadership Is When Casting Their Ballot? #skpoli #pickapremier


There are concurrent leadership races happening in each of Saskatchewan’s two major political parties but it often feels like the party’s leadership candidates are running in completely different worlds.

And maybe they are – the Sask Party race has been focused heavily on rural issues, small businesses, and the ever-looming shadow of controversial social issues.

The NDP leadership race has been focused heavily on urban issues, what is the appropriate level of union participation, and the ever-looming shadow of contemporary social issues.

There are some notable areas of overlap – carbon taxes, the current government’s achievements and failures, and education (mainly due to the Sask Teachers’ Federation’s #pickapremier advocacy campaign which encouraged teachers and their families to get involved in both leadership races by buying memberships and making their voices heard.)

With less than a month until Sask Party voters choose a new leader who will automatically become Saskatchewan’s Premier and with the Sask NDP having already responded to this development by moving up the date of their convention to early March to prevent being caught without a permanent leader in case a snap election were to be called to confirm the mandate of the new Premier, it got me wondering if Sask NDP voters should take into consideration how a new Sask NDP leader might match up with the new Sask Party leader in making their decision?

I mean, on one hand, obviously Sask NDP members should pick the best leader for the party using whichever criteria people feel is important – ability to bring in new members, fundraising results, experience, bold policy vision, rural roots, personal appeal, number of endorsements, caucus support, etc.  etc. etc.

But, at the same time, politics is largely about personalities – not just those of individuals but how they match up against others – whether that’s Lorne Calvert using his personal appeal and trustworthy nature as a former United Church Minister to beat back a challenge from the upstart Sask Party under Elwin Hermanson or how Cam Broten seemed unable to gain any traction against Brad Wall no matter what he did.

So with that in mind, I thought I’d try to prognosticate a bit about who I think Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon would match up against best out of the five current Sask Party leadership contenders (there were six but Rob Clarke came in late and left early – and when I put on my tinfoil hat, I wonder if this was encouraged by the Sask Party who were already making hay out of the fact that the NDP could only find two white men to run whereas the Sask Party had women and then, with Clarke, an Indigenous candidate as well?) 😉

I’m not sure if there’s a clear front-runner out of the five Sask Party candidates.  There are lots of conflicting polls out there (scientific and otherwise), lots of different metrics that could put each of them in the lead whether it be fundraising (Ken Cheveldayoff), support of caucus colleagues (Scott Moe), support of Sask Party founding MLAs (Gord Wyant), or even endorsements from Brad Wall’s parents (Alanna Koch).

(Uhm,  I’m not sure if there’s a metric that would indicate Tina Beaudry-Mellor is in this and consensus seems to be that she doesn’t have a chance.  I can’t find it now but there was a news story – possibly a Murray Mandryk column – that said that Beaudry-Mellor had to record her own interviews at some event, indicating a lack of organization and support.  In fact, another tinfoil hat theory I have is wondering whether she ran for the Leadership, at least in part because she knows it will be tough to win her urban seat in 2020 and winning the Leadership would allow her to run in a different seat if she lost her own?  Call it the “Christy Clark” strategy!) 🙂

So anyhow, I’m sure a highly partisan Trent Wotherspoon supporter would say Wotherspoon matches up best with all five potential Sask Party leaders and a highly partisan Ryan Meili supporter would say the same thing about Meili.

Obviously, I’m a Ryan Meili supporter but here’s how I see it, with Sask Party candidates listed roughly in the order of how I see their chances of winning at the end of the day. (Also, another another caveat – I’m not following the Sask Party race closely so I’m not super-familiar with all the candidates so these thoughts are based on my at-a-distance impressions of them as much as anything):

If Alanna Koch wins, I think Ryan Meili matches up the best against her.  Trent Wotherspoon uses a lot of aggressive, attacking “fight” language which may not play well against a female leader. As well, as a non-elected, high level civil servant, Koch is arguably the most “outsider” candidate the Sask Party is putting forward and it would be unfortunate, if the Sask Party, after 10 years in power, was able to claim the mantle of “change” and “new” were Trent Wotherspoon, who’s also been in office for the NDP’s past decade in opposition, to be chosen by the NDP.  (To be fair, she is also arguably the closest to Wall so the NDP would have the opportunity to spin her as “not new” at all.  But if you’re saying she’s too connected to Canada’s most popular premier, that’s not going to work either.)  Koch has the strongest rural roots of any Sask Party candidate and is using that to full advantage with her endorsements, travel schedule and even how she’s focusing her campaign.  Meili is also way better positioned than Wotherspoon to counter this, having not only been born and raised on a farm but having lived and worked in rural communities across the province.

If Kevin Cheveldayoff wins, I think Trent Wotherspoon probably matches up better with him.  Both have strong “alpha male” personalities and so those two would probably square off in more traditional political arena-type battles that aren’t the style of either Meili or really any of the other Sask Party candidates who come across as more cerebral, jovial, passionate and friendly (I’ll let you decide which label applies to which candidates!) 🙂

If Scott Moe wins,  I think Ryan Meili is the better leader for the NDP.  Wotherspoon has strong caucus support as does Moe so in some ways a Moe/Wotherspoon victory might be the most status-quo result.  But if you’re the Sask Party with 47 seats to the NDP’s 12, this is a good situation to be in – even if the Sask Party knows its likely to shed urban ridings in 2020.

If Gord Wyant wins, I think it’s a toss-up.  Wyant was a card-carrying Federal Liberal at the start of the race and is easily the most centrist of the contending Sask Party candidates.  So hopefully, the Sask NDP has learned their lesson about running a centrist candidate against a centrist candidate in the last election – especially when the NDP’s “brand” is (was?) about being the party of bold, innovative ideas for the province and the entire formation of the Sask Party was intended to allow a new party to eliminate vote splitting between center and right-of-center parties in Sask politics, leaving the left for the NDP.  Choosing Wyant would allow the Sask Party to re-focus on their roots after a slow drift to the right in recent years.  At the same time, the STF’s #pickapremier campaign has arguably encouraged a lot of teachers who are a natural constituency for the NDP (the head of the STF was even a former NDP candidate) to support the Sask Party.  Wotherspoon, as a former teacher, is likely better positioned to draw those people back to the NDP which is why I think this could be a bit of a toss-up.

If Tina Beaudry-Mellor wins, I think I’ll just go buy a lottery ticket because that’d be about an unexpected turn of events as thinking Cam Broten would lose his seat during the last provincial election! 😉

So anyhow, I think my Meili bias shows through a bit in that I have Meili as a better match against two Sask Party candidates compared to one for Wotherspoon, one a toss-up and one a “toss-out”.  And again, this is all based on very rough surface-level thoughts on the Sask Party candidates so take my quick thoughts with a big ol’ mountain of salt.

And ultimately, even if “Chevy” pulls it out and even if he might match up better with Trent Wotherspoon, I’m still voting for Ryan Meili on March 3 and I hope you do too!

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