Wednesday, February 20, 2013

#skndpldr - Prince Albert Debate Notes

One of the dangers of trying to catch up to past leadership events is the possibility that any analysis might be overtaken by more recent developments. But before we find out what's involved in today's joint announcement from Ryan Meili and Erin Weir, let's take a look at one more of the leadership debates.

At the outset, the Prince Albert forum featured journeys into a bit more uncharted territory than most of the recent debates, including specific policy questions about forestry, mental health and reproductive rights. And on each point, the candidates more than held their own in addressing relatively new issues.

Perhaps most interestingly, a question about the importance and meaning of full employment allowed each candidate to discuss some of the problems with our current measures for economic development, and their plans for alternate benchmarks. And Trent Wotherspoon particularly took advantage of the topic by noting that the quality of employment matters at least as much as raw job numbers. 

Once again, though, most of the distinction between the candidates was found in their questions to each other. And as at the Yorkton debate, Cam Broten's stance on corporate tax rates came under heavy scrutiny: Weir noted in his follow-up that Broten's deference to some future study serves as a carbon copy of the path taken by the Romanow and Calvert governments as they cut revenue before it could be used for social benefits, while Wotherspoon again highlighted the futility of facilitating the flow of profits out of Saskatchewan.

Meanwhile, Meili also faced a new round of questions about one of his policy planks, as Weir challenged him on jurisdictional questions and logistics surrounding his Bank of Saskatchewan proposal. But Meili was able to stand his ground in pointing to Alberta Treasury Branch as a similar institution that's succeeded under Canada's division of powers, while noting that there's room to ensure a Saskatchewan equivalent cooperates with credit unions rather than pushing them aside.

Meili also contributed a couple of noteworthy exchanges to the debate: his first query about Broten's "big idea" was met with a standard response about NDP membership structures, while his second round of questions to Wotherspoon gave rise to a substantive two-way discussion about providing opportunities for disadvantaged children.

In sum, the Prince Albert debate looked to offer enough new issues and different angles to give us a better understanding of the leadership contenders - even if the end result wasn't a campaign-changing performance from any candidate. And with that, we'll have to wait and see just how much the candidates' latest plans end up reshaping the race.

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