Monday, June 01, 2009

Leadership 2009 - Ryan Meili Policy Review

Ryan Meili has followed Yens Pedersen's philosophy of putting together a detailed platform to introduce himself to the province's NDP members. In contrast, however, his one-piece-at-a-time release strategy has allowed him more time to refine his policies, and allowed him to frame them based on later developments in the campaign. The result is a platform that avoids a couple of Pedersen's relative pitfalls while enjoying the same strengths - though the downside is that there's been less time to discuss some of Meili's ideas.

Thoroughness - 8/10

Again, Meili's platform addresses all of the major provincial policy areas while delving into a few interesting new areas (such as his specific focus on developing rural arts and culture). That said, I'll rank Meili just slightly behind Pedersen here due to the difficulty of putting the full program together as early as Pedersen did, as well as his additional discussion of the structures involved in policy implementation.

Consistency - 7/10

For the most part, Meili's core policies (i.e. the ones listed on his website as "issues") are remarkably consistent for a platform with the Meili's amount of detail. But while I noted above that Meili's gradual policy release strategy has allowed him to maintain flexibility throughout the campaign, that can also lead to some contradictions - particularly when a proposal is drafted primarily as a response to events as they happen. And so it is with Meili's stance on nuclear energy, where a recent proposal to effectively restart the Sask Party's nuclear development consultation process to include more time and a broader range of issues doesn't seem to fit with Meili's previous statements which (rightly in my view) suggested that any insistence on discussing nuclear development is likely to make for a waste of time and effort.

Creativity - 8/10

Once again, Meili's platform contains a number of significant new ideas - most notably SaskPharm (discussed in more detail below) and a truly progressive justice policy. But there are a few areas as well (education and labour being two notable examples) where Meili's platform consists mostly of a continuation or expansion of existing policy.

Support - 9/10

As I've discussed before, Meili has taken an important step beyond his competitors here by seeking outside support for his policies even during the course of the leadership campaign. And that isn't as a matter of an either-or choice in how to support his policies either, as Meili's platform is backed by solid principled explanations and links to reading material or related programs.

Pragmatism - 8/10

What's perhaps most striking about Meili's distinctive ideas is their ability to propose major changes without creating obvious opposition constituencies within Saskatchewan: it's hard to see who in the province would want to take the "no" side against cheaper prescription drugs or the development of rural culture. But at least a few policies (the focuses on encouraging organic farming and "closing the loop" of food production in particular) would likely face some opposition from the free-trade crowd and actors from outside the province. (Which might actually make for reason for Meili to run with Deb Higgins' proposal to limit political contributions from outside the province before moving on to his substantive ideas.)

The Big Idea

Meili's SaskPharm proposal ranks alongside the idea of increased public resource ownership (proposed in different forms by Pedersen and Lingenfelter) as the two ideas which seem virtually certain to stay in circulation at the end of the leadership race. And indeed it may also serve as the best example of how Meili's policies can lead to substantial positive change without raising significant opposition from within the province. While it would obviously have supporters in the health professions and among those whose prescription drug bills might be reduced - and create potential side benefits in terms of increased research and development of drugs for public health purposes around the world - it wouldn't seem to compete with any existing Saskatchewan industry or raise too many concerns from anybody besides the most rabid anti-government voce who would oppose anything of substance from the NDP.

Of course, the flip side is that SaskPharm too may face substantial opposition from abroad. Manitoba and its generic drug manufacturers presumably wouldn't be happy to see SaskPharm moving in on their industry, and even the broader pharmaceutical industry might decide to try to shut down research in the hands of a Crown corporation. But if the greatest problem with an idea is that others prefer to have similar types of development for themselves, that's probably a sign that there's plenty of benefit to be found.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

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