Saturday, March 05, 2011

Saskatchewan Party Cancelled Due To Lack Of Interest II: This Time We Mean It

After the Sask Party showed its near-complete lack of member participation with a policy-free convention in 2010, I figured it would make sure to avoid similar stories in an election year.

Well, it's certainly changed something about its handling of policy resolutions:
(W)hile the Sask. Party convention is focused on the upcoming election, one thing that won't be seen is policy development for the party's platform.

There are no policy resolutions to be debated by delegates.

Wall said there are other ways of developing policy and the Sask. Party has focused on developing its plan through consultations by MLAs with Saskatchewan residents.

He dismissed concerns that the policy process could appear non-transparent or top-down, saying party members would not "countenance" policies that didn't represent them.

After a lengthy policy review, the NDP recently released a 65-page draft report that will be debated at a convention at the end of the March. But Wall said the Sask. Party had done a complete policy overhaul after its 2003 election loss.
Now, Wall seems to be making two separate excuses for the fact that the organization he's leading has ceased to be a political party in any meaningful sense of the term. But both look highly dubious under the circumstances.

Chronologically, the first claim is that the Sask Party hasn't had any need to develop new policies in the last 8 years. Which is obviously enough absurd on its face - but looks to be wrong even on Wall's own account. After all, he himself recognizes a need for somebody to set his party's current policy through some means rather than being able to sleepwalk through a decade at a time.

That leads to the claim that consultation through MLAs is enough to meet the Sask Party's top-down policy-making needs. But even leaving aside the principle that it's probably best to have multiple forms of engagement with the province, Wall also has to face his party's track record of hand-picking those whose input is acceptable and going out of its way to ignore the rest of the province. And a convention focused on policy would seem to be exactly the place to determine whether that kind of selective consultation had led the party astray.

That is, for a leader who placed any value on member and citizen engagement. But rather than looking to increase his own party's interest in policy from embarrassingly low levels, Wall has apparently decided that it's easier not to countenance any policy debate inside or outside an election campaign. And if public participation is the last thing Wall wants to encourage going into an election where he hopes to coast to a second term on general apathy and disinterest, then that surely doesn't speak well as to whether we can expect Wall to listen to anybody if he gets what he's after.

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