Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Everyone's a critic

The Saskatchewan NDP's new critic list is here. And the inevitable speculative second-guessing is here, courtesy of Murray Mandryk:
Nor is it all completely surprising that Higgins supporter Pat Atkinson lost her agricultural critic duties to Lingenfelter, along with her deputy leader status. But doesn't demoting Atkinson in this way undo the unity you're supposedly trying to build?

And doesn't the appointment of loyalist Trent Wotherspoon as critic responsible for finance, SaskPower and SaskEnergy over arguably more capable Higgins supporters like Cam Broten (advanced education) or even Warren McCall (First Nations and Metis relations) send the wrong message about rebuilding the party with your stronger young members?
Now, it would seem obvious that in the same column where he criticizes the lack of party renewal involved in replacing Harry Van Mulligen with Dwain Lingenfelter, Mandryk might at least consider the possibility that Lingenfelter has also talked with his other current MLAs about who does and doesn't plan to stay on after 2011. And while that's publicly only a matter of speculation right now (and I'd have concerns about any effort to push current MLAs out the door), Atkinson's length of tenure in the Legislature makes her an obvious candidate to step aside.

Mind you, I'd agree that Atkinson's reduced responsibilities could be seen as a slight if her plans don't match that theory. But it can hardly be a sign of internal division to concentrate responsibilities in the hands of MLAs who are more likely to stay around - particularly when the candidate Atkinson supported for leader is one of the beneficiaries.

As for the allocation of responsibilities among the younger critics, the key word in the passage quoted above is "arguably". Mandryk doesn't offer up any particular reason why any choice among the three MLAs would be a matter of leadership loyalties rather than being based on the party's best interests. And in fact, Wotherspoon held a wider range of critic duties than the other two under Lorne Calvert (carrying responsibility for education, early childhood development and literacy) - so it's hard to see how another promotion under Lingenfelter would be a matter of controversy.

Of course, Broten and McCall should undoubtedly be in the mix for increased roles within the party as well, and hopefully that will happen once Lingenfelter's transition phase is done. But for now, there's little apparent reason to search for hidden messages in Wotherspoon's critic assignment - even if purely hypothetical threads of discontent might make for a more interesting story than the lack thereof.

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