Monday, May 18, 2009

Leadership 2009 - The Endorsement

At the start of the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race, my impression was that there would be far more of a gap in coverage from outside the campaigns than there would be a gap for work within them. And from that perception - which seems to have been accurate in retrospect - I'd planned to stay effectively neutral in order to focus my attention on discussing the race from an outside perspective. That is, barring any one candidate standing out from a strong pack of contenders.

But while all of the campaigns have had plenty of positive material to offer, there's one candidate who has indeed stood head and shoulders above the rest. And so, in what surely won't come as a surprise to those who have followed this blog closely, I'll be endorsing Ryan Meili for the leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP.

So how did I get to that point? The first step was the impression that a movement of young, progressive NDP members was starting to coalesce behind Meili. In a political scene where I've seen far too little coordination among younger groups of politically-involved friends over the past few years, the opportunity to join forces behind a strong leadership candidate naturally held plenty of appeal - and the same has apparently held true for many others.

Needless to say, that movement has done nothing but grow since the start of the leadership race. And rather than merely serving as an outlet for younger party members, Meili has also managed to put together a team of supporters which looks to be as well positioned as any to govern the province - hopefully starting in 2011, and for a long time to come.

But then, a movement's success in actually reaching its goals is ultimately limited by how much its leader listens to those involved. And even while Meili has been busy trying to get his name and positions known through the leadership campaign, he's shown a relentless commitment to engaging with the people around him - whether in person or through his online campaign hub, which has featured a collaborative effort at developing policies and other campaign materials along with active discussions throughout the campaign.

Of course, it hasn't hurt matters that Meili has unveiled plenty of innovative policy ideas of his own. But it takes a rare combination of creativity, judgment and accessibility to reach the best possible outcome on any policy question, due to both the difficulty of choosing between competing options and the importance of working with stakeholders to smooth out the path toward change. And all indications are that Meili has each of those elements in spades, making him the right person for the job of renewing the NDP and leading it into the future.

Now, this endorsement shouldn't be taken as a slight toward the other candidates, each of whom offers significant strengths as well: Lingenfelter with his experience and command of policy, Higgins with her commitment and tireless effort, and Pedersen with his own new ideas and strong policy voice. And whoever wins the leadership race, there's little room for doubt that the NDP will remain the better option for Saskatchewan voters going into the next election and beyond.

But there's an important difference between merely remaining the top choice among Saskatchewan's political parties as they now stand, and striving to build the best party and province we can. And I'll be voting for Ryan Meili - and encouraging others to do the same - in order to take the opportunity to develop and implement a new social democratic vision for Saskatchewan.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

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