Thursday, October 23, 2008

On focus

While the main action within the Saskatchewan NDP obviously figures to involve the pending leadership race, there's still both a need and an opportunity for the party to start drawing some general battle lines for 2011. And based on the initial response to the fall throne speech, there's some reason for concern in that department.

After all, there doesn't seem to be much prospect that the NDP can make much headway with a message that the Sask Party is merely copying its policies. But that's what the first response to Wall's attack on out-of-province Crown investments sounded like:
Calvert also questioned the premier's promise of a "Saskatchewan first" investment policy for the Crowns, saying that was in place under his previous NDP government. Some of the out-of-province investments that were made also proved lucrative for Crowns, Calvert said.
It didn't take long for Calvert to deliver a stronger followup message. But the initial response is even more problematic since it at least partially undermines the point which Calvert rightly tried to make later: if the goal of the Crowns should be to invest for Saskatchewan whether or not that means investing in Saskatchewan, then the last thing the NDP should want to do is take credit for mandating the latter.

Meanwhile, another initial message to the effect that the biggest problem with Wall's tax-cut structure is that it's taking awhile to put in place looks to have virtually no long-term impact. Simply put, when voters decide who to support in 2011, the question of whether a program which doesn't meet with opposition was implemented in 2008 or 2009 isn't going to be at the top of anybody's mind.

And other lines of argument which would seem ripe for attack seem to have gone without comment. Surely Wall's pushing forward with Senate elections would make for fertile ground to restate the NDP's commitment to Senate abolition - not to mention in continuing to brand Wall as the 14th Conservative MP. But that seems to have gone completely untouched.

Fortunately, there's plenty of time to set the narrative for 2011. But for those tasked with defining the NDP's message at the moment, there's still every reason to look to the longer term in determining how the NDP responds to - and highlights - events today. And the more the NDP instead gets caught up playing things safe by pointing out minor quibbles rather than drawing real points of distinction, the more likely we'll be to miss the opportunity to remove Wall from office in 2011.

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