Saturday, October 28, 2017

Leadership 2018 - #skndp17 Debate Liveblog

With the first candidates' debate taking place at the Saskatchewan NDP's provincial convention, I'll take the opportunity to do a bit of liveblogging. Again, you can find my reference page for the leadership campaign here.

- Highly entertaining opening bit with multiple-choice questions. Not sure if the candidates knew it was coming, but both showed plenty of humour and quick thinking in dealing with them.

- Wotherspoon's opening starts with a critique of the Sask Party, but shifts into a fair bit of his own policy. (And yes, I'll be dealing with the candidates' policies in more detail later.)

- Meili opens with an appeal to members and volunteers before pivoting to his own policies.

- First question to Meili on his quick pitch on the economy - he says there are people hurting because of Sask Party decisions, including reliance on austerity and corporate tax cuts which together harm the economy.

- On the same question, Wotherspoon says economic progress is part of the social democratic vision, including benefits for all rather than precarity and austerity.

- On a followup as to how to put unemployed people back to work, Wotherspoon says he'd fix the procurement model to keep money with Saskatchewan employers, and implement renewable energy and retrofitting.

- Meili notes the candidates' agreement on local procurement and green jobs, but points to unemployment in Indegenous communities in particular as a top priority. 

- Next question is on carbon emissions - Meili frames it as a generational issue, and says people are ready for leadership including a made-in-Saskatchewan price on carbon to incentivize decreased use.

- Wotherspoon points to Saskatchewan's previous leadership in wind power under the Calvert government, and notes the need for a provincial plan in response to the federal carbon price.

- In response to a follow-up question as to how to respond to the federal mandate, Wotherspoon discusses the need to talk to people to ensure protection for people and sensitive industries.

- Meili reiterates the need to design Saskatchewan's own plan, while recognizing the need to respond to fearmongering about a carbon price and present the opportunities it could generate.

- We've reached the first candidate question. Meili asks Wotherspoon about his willingness to forego corporate and union donations in light of his statements about getting big money out of politics; Wotherspoon notes that he has introduced a bill in the Legislature and approves of Rachel Notley and John Horgan's plans, but would only make the move as an act of government given the rules now in place.

- Meili follows up that his question is directed toward the internal race and to corporations as well as unions; Wotherspoon says he'll play within the rules that are there, and asks whether Meili can reasonably reverse course in the general election.

- The next question deals with a strategy to win rural seats. Wotherspoon mentions STC among other policy issues which resonate for rural residents.

- Meili says the NDP needs to recognize the value of representing the whole province, and reflect back the issues being raised by rural leaders, including Crown lands and agricultural research.

- The follow-up question addresses electing 20 female MLAs in 2020. Meili points to the work of the SNDW, and discusses amplifying the voices of women within the party while developing stronger policies as well as safe spaces for participation.

- Wotherspoon discusses the caucus' current gender parity, and points out the need to encourage and support more women to run for office.

- Patterson asks about keeping Crown corporations public. Wotherspoon (who just announced his policy on the point of amending the Saskatchewan Act to entrench constitutional protection) points first to the Sask Party's attacks before pivoting to his plan.

- Meili points to the activists already at work in keeping Crowns public, and talks about stronger legislation requiring any changes to go to the citizenry as shareholders before noting the need to allow Crowns to grow inside and outside the province.

- The followup question deals with STC. Meili discusses how people are having to move to cities for want of transportation, businesses are being affected and public safety is at risk, and proposes to build a new STC based on current transit needs.

- Wotherspoon says not to give up the fight to hold onto STC's assets, but broadly agrees as to the need to rebuild anew if that doesn't work.

- Wotherspoon asks Meili about the government's procurement model. Meili says we need to get back to building things ourselves, maintaining public ownership of services and hiring local businesses and workers, then ends by noting that wealth produced in Saskatchewan should stay in the province.

- Wotherspoon generally agrees before presenting his proposal on Crowns. Meili says it's a great idea and in line with the work of SaskCrowns.

- In response to a question about reconciliation, Meili says it's the second crucial priority alongside climate change, noting both the advanatages of a large young population and the risk of failing to give it an equal opportunity. Meili follows up by saying jurisdiction and geography should not be a barrier to equal access to services, and proposes to follow Australia's model of a "closing the gap" address and accountability model.

- Wotherspoon talks about building relationships with Indigenous leaders and communities, as well as fair access to services including closing the education funding gap and properly teaching students about the treaties.

- The final followup goes to Saskatchewan's leadership in social programs. Wotherspoon points to his plans for universal mental health care and universal $15/day child care.

- Meili notes the unfinished components of health care, including mental health, vision and dental care, as well as pharmacare.

- Meili's closing statement focuses on a fundamental belief in equality, community and love, then turns to the need for a change in approach to achieve better results.

- Wotherspoon closes with an alternative analysis that the party is already on the ascent, and frames his campaign in terms of fighting back against the Sask Party.

I'll close with a few of my own thoughts.

Both candidates were highly impressive throughout the debate: Wotherspoon held his own in a detailed policy debate (though he was slightly more prone to veer off topic), while Meili's sense of humour showed through in banter with Patterson. And it helped that the format and moderator created an upbeat mood without undermining the seriousness of the issues.

Meanwhile, the crowd didn't give a strong indication of favouring one candidate or the other. Wotherspoon's camp had more visible signs, but Meili seemed to earn a slightly stronger crowd response during the debate - leaving little basis to conclude either had an advantage among the members in attendance.

Of course, many more people will have a say in the vote - and the candidates will have plenty more opportunities to present their vision before then. And today's debate seems only to have confirmed that there are two extremely strong choices.

[Update: added link.]

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