Monday, June 08, 2009

On policy development

As Murray Mandryk notes, it doesn't appear that Dwain Lingenfelter's comments on how the Saskatchewan NDP will end up handling the nuclear issue are quite as problematic as they appeared at first. But while Lingenfelter's answer appears to have instead pointed to the party's policy development process rather than claiming that his view as leader would be the final word going forward, the same issue figures to resurface before long.

Here's the initial CP quote that gave rise to the issue:
Dwain Lingenfelter, who won the leadership Saturday, says every NDP leader in the province has supported the development of Saskatchewan's uranium industry in some way. Lingenfelter says most recently there was support to study the idea of building a nuclear reactor. He says he too supports that idea, but also believes the party must review its energy policy and consider alternatives.

The comments come after party members passed a resolution stating that an NDP government would not pursue the building of a nuclear reactor, but would look at other energy sources.

Lingenfelter has noted that a couple of hundred people supported the resolution at a convention in Regina, but not all of the party's 13,000 members were in attendance.
From that passage, the first impression would seem to be that Lingenfelter had effectively made a decision for himself as to what the party's policy would be. But as Mandryk and others have noted, it appears that Lingenfelter's response made specific reference to the NDP's policy renewal process - which will of course culminate in a policy convention where NDP members will receive exactly the same opportunity to vote on policy which they enjoyed this weekend.

Mind you, that doesn't mean that the issue will go away entirely. After all, the policy convention too figures to be attended by only a portion of the NDP's members - so to the extent that Lingenfelter actually questions whether a "couple of hundred people" should have the ability to express the will of the party through a duly constituted convention, that could lead to more direct conflict if the NDP membership holds to its current position at the policy convention. And there's some question as to whether Lingenfelter's view of grassroots involvement - which included explicit approval of members' ability to be heard individually during the policy renewal process, but no direct mention of respecting the will of the NDP's members - might be intended to give him the last word regardless of how much of the party disagrees.

But there's a difference between the existence of some significant questions yet to be answered, and the apparent concern that Lingenfelter had already answered them in the wrong direction. And for now, the jury is still out on Lingenfelter's willingness to listen to his party.

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