Saturday, February 23, 2013

On divisions

Dan Tan has already provided one follow-up post on the sudden rash of commentary arising out of Erin Weir's decision to withdraw from the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race and endorse Ryan Meili. But I'll take my own look at how the Weir endorsement and the associated reaction from the Village (or should we call it the Hamlet for Saskatchewan?) may affect the leadership campaign.

As long as there were four leadership candidates in the race, there were several ways to try to draw dividing lines among them. And the message that's suddenly crystallized in the media wouldn't have registered as the most obvious classification schemes.
One could view the most important differences in the campaigns were geographical, with Meili/Broten and Wotherspoon/Weir largely representing Saskatoon and Regina members respectively while competing for other votes around the province. Or one could contrast the above-the-fray messages and statesmanship from Meili/Wotherspoon against the more conflict-oriented approaches of Broten/Weir.

Even for those wanting to divide the campaign into Meili/Weir and Broten/Wotherspoon groupings, there were other more sound grounds for doing so (insider vs. outsider, detailed policies vs. high-level platforms) aside from the ideological framework applied by Gormley and Mandryk. And that goes doubly since Weir's narrow focus on royalty loopholes and criticism of broader review processes could arguably be seen as less ambitious (if more certain to bring in some additional revenue) than the reviews favoured by the other candidates in establishing the fiscal basis for progressive policy.

Finally, the candidates themselves had conspicuously avoided dividing themselves into consistent groupings - as each wanted to preserve enough distinctions from potential challenges on any one set of criteria by pointing out the importance of others. Indeed, as I observed here, Wotherspoon declined what amounted to an offer from Broten to divide the race based on MLA experience.

But with the field down to three and with Meili all but cementing his place on any final ballot, most of the permutations and combinations have disappeared.

Instead, the most important question from here on in looks to be whether members vote based on the perception of three camps or two. Unless Broten and Wotherspoon's respective supporters link their interests together in a way the candidates haven't done, Meili looks to have a significant advantage. But it will be well worth watching whether the media intervention actually encourages that dynamic where it might not have developed otherwise.


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