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The Progressive Economics Forum

Brad Wall Light?

I got to know and like Dave McGrane in the Saskatchewan Young New Democrats, but the following assessment misses the mark:

McGrane, an assistant professor at St. Thomas More College, said the NDP’s defeat was a product of failing to connect with rural Saskatchewan, poor political marketing and outdated policies.

“People had no idea what the NDP were going for,” he said.

NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter trumped in the final day of the campaign the party’s policies and platform as ideas former NDP premier Allan Blakeney “would be proud of.”

“Those are policies from the 1970s and they should stay in the 1970s,” McGrane said.

. . .

McGrane said the NDP needs “to fight the Sask. Party on its own ground” as the party has become centrist and appeals to a broader base under Wall.

. . .

“If they try to change people’s minds, they’ll lose,” McGrane said. “They need to offer Brad Wall-light instead of creating a divergent platform.”

Party policy should always be open to debate, but dismissing policy as being from the 1970s is not much of an argument. Should 1960s policies like medicare stay in the 1960s?

The political centre is, by definition, somewhere between oneself and one’s political opponents. In a two-party system, trying to occupy the centre is a mug’s game.

Of course, the Sask Party took power by moderating itself and avoiding major policy debates with New Democrats on contentious issues like privatization. However, it did so after 16 years of NDP government, when “time for a change” was enough to win.

The same strategy would not have worked against the Sask Party government after just four years and is unlikely to work four years from now. The only way to effectively challenge a relatively new government is to stake out policy differences.

Finally, why would anyone vote for “Brad Wall-light” when they can vote for Brad Wall? The NDP needs to provide an alternative, not an imitation.

Enjoy and share:

Comments

Comment from Kelsey
Time: November 11, 2011, 9:41 am

Saskatchewan Party wins a landslide victory and Elections Canada were in a hurry to bury the hatchet with ReformCons In/Out Scandal and let go of Harper’s minority 2006 government with a slap on the wrist.

Comment from Dave McGrane
Time: November 11, 2011, 11:24 am

Hi Erin,

I knew that these comments, as reported, may raise a few eyebrows.

A couple of things.

First, in this election, the NDP ran on the most left-wing platform since 1971. To say that the result was completely caused by problems with the platform is too simplistic. But, the result has to be taken as some sort of rejection by the SK public of the platform. It simply did not gain any traction with the public.

Second, to use an old defense, the newspaper article took my comments out of context. I don’t think that all social democratic ideas from the 1970s are bad. I do think that the platform contained too many ‘traditional social democratic’ ideas. Bringing back one or two ideas from the Blakeney era is fine but bringing back 10 or 15 may be too much. I think that the platform should have contained a better mix of traditional and third way social democratic ideas.

In short, I think that the party is not the right policy direction. It needs a more fundamental re-thinking of its philosophy and resist completely dismissing all the ideas of the Romanow era. It has to analyze which ideas in the platform worked and which didn’t. The next platform can’t look the same or the result will be the same.

Comment from Erin Weir
Time: November 12, 2011, 8:16 am

Thanks for responding, Dave.

As Greg Fingas has explained in greater detail, the election result was not a rejection of the platform. Polling had the NDP trailing by something like 40 percentage points before it announced the platform. We failed to gain traction mostly due to public perceptions of Dwain Lingenfelter (whom you supported for the leadership).

However, I agree that we must analyze what worked and what didn’t. For example, sharing resource revenues with First Nations was hugely unpopular and poorly thought through as a platform plank. We should focus first on collecting a fair return from resource companies for Saskatchewan people, rather than on how to divide the proceeds among Saskatchewan people.

Your dismissal of the platform remains rather abstract. Which “traditional social democratic ideas” would you remove? Which “third way social democratic ideas” would you add?

Comment from Erin Weir
Time: November 12, 2011, 10:31 am

I am also not sure how you consider it to be “the most left-wing platform since 1971.” In 1975, the Saskatchewan NDP ran (and won) on “direct government participation in exploration for and development of potash and hard rock minerals” as well as higher royalties. The 1986 platform promised larger increases in government spending than the 2011 platform.

Comment from Purple Library Guy
Time: November 12, 2011, 10:02 pm

I’m rather distant from all this. From BC I find it hard to understand how New Democrats thought they were going to win with a guy who spent years as a Calgary oil executive. I mean really, what the?! That’s gonna get the base out, sure.
Personally, when I’ve watched elections what I’ve noticed is that it’s not how left wing are the ideas you present, it’s how you present the left wing ideas. The purpose of genuine left wing ideas is to help the majority of the people. If you present them as ideas for helping the majority of people, then many people may realize “Hey, that could help me!”

The Third Way, on the other hand, is vacuous. Going third way is all about being unthreatening by having no content. It has the disadvantage that if you’re not slick enough, people will notice that there’s no point in electing you. It has the additional disadvantage that, even if you manage to get elected, there will have been no point. Anyway, there’s already a Third Way party–they’re called Liberals.

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