Friday, May 22, 2009

Leadership 2009 - Dwain Lingenfelter Government Projection

In his opposition projection, I noted that the combination of his political history and the leadership campaign itself leave fairly little room for doubt as to how Dwain Lingenfelter would handle the job of leader of the opposition. But notwithstanding the fact that his long political career includes experience in positions all the way up to deputy premier, his possible path in government may actually be one of the great unknowns associated with Lingenfelter.

On the plus side, the same factors which figure to be strengths in opposition as well would be all the more important in government. To start with, while the experience factor has probably been overstated in a number of areas, it figures to be relatively significant in terms of finding the balance as to what's possible within an NDP government. And that advantage is supplemented by the fact that as the lone candidate with strong business connections to go with his links to labour and other stakeholders, Lingenfelter would seem to have far less work to do than the other candidates in terms of building rapport with the groups who might potentially get in the way of policy priorities.

But then, what priorities would Lingenfelter seek to pursue? His leadership campaign policies include a downright fascinating mishmash of proposals consistent with national and global progressive trends with ones grounded largely in Saskatchewan's history, and of concrete commitments with promises to consult toward developing detailed policies later - all mixed in with large quantities of criticism of the Wall government.

That leaves voters in the leadership campaign likely to find something they'll agree with in Lingenfelter's current platform. But there's not much of a common theme apparent to Lingenfelter's policies to date, and it also seems entirely likely that a general election strategy will look substantially different from Lingenfelter's focus for a leadership campaign. Which means that there's plenty of uncertainty as to what Lingenfelter would do when it comes time to decide which priorities to push.

The most obvious risk from that starting point is that once in power, Lingenfelter would push both the party and the province to the right. But there's at least as significant a danger that the absence of a unifying vision would lead Lingenfelter into an everything-as-top-priority strategy which would ultimately figure to satisfy nobody.

In sum, Lingenfelter is as strong a bet as any of the candidates to successfully implement whatever he puts his mind to in government. But there's far more room for doubt as what he'll seek to accomplish - which may be the last thing the Saskatchewan NDP wants after 16 years in power where the party's social democratic vision was all too often an afterthought.

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