Sunday, September 30, 2012

Leadership 2013 Candidate Profile: Erin Weir

Erin Weir has wasted no time in carving out a place within the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership campaign - with a pre-campaign "draft" movement presaging a quick launch once the campaign officially started. But what can we expect from him as the leadership race progresses? 

Strengths

First and foremost, Weir brings to the leadership campaign a strong base of economic and public-policy expertise - with a focus on resource royalties which ties in ideally to the decisions Saskatchewan faces as a province in the midst of a resource boom. So his campaign enjoys a ready-made central theme and rallying point.

In addition, Weir has ample experience and skill as a public advocate - meaning that he has a chance to stand out within the field in media and debate settings on topics going beyond economics.

Weaknesses

But it's less clear how Weir will fare when it comes to winning over actual and potential members in up-close-and-personal settings - particularly in contrast to Trent Wotherspoon and Ryan Meili. And I"m not sure that the campaign's current workaround will pay off in the end.

In fairness, Weir is engaging in some innovative means of reaching out to people with an interest in the race, and putting in plenty of appearances at public events. But he also looks to be putting substantial effort into media appearances as a perpetual voice in response to economic news - which looks to me to distract from both his ability to reach out to people in person, and his potential to chart a strong policy course which forces his leadership competitors and the Saskatchewan Party to respond on his terms.

Key Indicator

Which is to say that the defining question for Weir figures to be this: how much time and effort will other key political figures in the province spend responding to his cues on policy?

If Weir is able to both define the policy parameters of the leadership race and ensure that they're a major topic of discussion, then members will have to take a close look at how that ability might translate into the broader political scene. But if the main focus isn't on policy, then Weir may have trouble gaining much traction.

Key Opponent

The most obvious hurdle for Weir will be getting ahead of one opponent whose supporters might select him as a second choice - with the best-case scenario for him likely being a fourth-place finish for Meili which frees up the votes of non-establishment members.

That said, the larger issue is whether Weir can then win over supporters of one of the MLAs in the race once there are only two choices remaining. And that makes Cam Broten the most important opponent for Weir's chances: it's entirely plausible that Broten's supporters might see Weir as a preferable choice on a final ballot against Wotherspoon, but less likely that any of the factors leading to first-ballot support for Wotherspoon would do Weir much good on a final ballot against Broten.
 
Plausible Outcomes
Best-case: Late-ballot victory based on uniting activists and policy-focused voters
Worst-case: Fourth-place finish as other candidates maintain their higher profiles

2 comments:

  1. To all,

    The old comments are lost to the ether, but a kind blogger preserved my original comment about Weir's candidacy here:
    http://buckdogpolitics.blogspot.ca/2012/09/why-economist-erin-weir-plays-critical.html

    Obviously, I would disagree with your framing:
    "...if the main focus isn't on policy, then Weir may have trouble gaining much traction."

    It should read:
    "...if the main focus isn't on *the economy*, then Weir may have trouble gaining much traction."

    Events & circumstance have forced the economy to be the main issue. The resource boom bestowed an honourary economics degree upon Brad Wall. He has milked it ever since...and he will milk it in a future provincial campaign.

    I believe NDP members are smart enough to realize the next election will be fought on these terms. So their leader must project the utmost confidence in these matters.

    So what if the other candidates do not respond to Weir's policy provocations? They would only expose themselves as ill-prepared for a confrontation with Brad Wall...who has his own bewildering amount of numbers, statistics, & boasts about his personal economic competence.

    Best,
    Dan Tan

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  2. I'd stick to my formulation based on a couple of factors. First, I don't see a focus on the economy as distinct from other policy areas as necessary for Erin to do well: if the race centres on (for example) the environment, I'd think he's equally capable of standing out among the candidates by articulating and defending a position on that.

    Conversely, a race fought around "the economy" wouldn't necessarily work to Erin's advantage depending on its shape - particularly if his depiction of the economy is drowned out by the corporate voices so dominant in Saskatchewan's current political scene.

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