Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Leadership 2009 - Deb Higgins Policy Review

Finishing off the policy review series, let's take a look at how Deb Higgins' platform compares to those of her competitors in the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race.

Thoroughness - 7/10

On the surface, the broad topics in Higgins' online platform would seem to cover significantly more ground than Dwain Lingenfelter's - if still missing a few obvious concerns like education of health care. But the subject areas included in Higgins' official platform are dealt with somewhat inconsistently: some (such as environment) are addressed with a fairly long list of proposals, while at least a couple still tell readers to "come back for updates". Which means that anybody who didn't hang onto the Commonwealth may have trouble finding out what Higgins has to say on some of the more important issues which figure to be dealt with during the leadership race.

Consistency - 8/10

One of the advantages of a fairly modest set of proposals like Higgins' is that it doesn't tend to lead to major inconsistencies. But that tends to lead to problems in other areas, such as...

Creativity - 5/10

As I've noted before, Higgins' platform consists almost entirely either incremental changes to existing programs, the implementation of previous Saskatchewan reports or policies modeled on plans which already exist elsewhere in Canada.

Support - 7/10

Yet even with ample opportunity to rely on outside sources in support of her policies, Higgins doesn't offer much by way of explanation for her policies. Both her website and her Commonwealth responses tend to include a brief paragraph or two providing an extremely high-level look at the subjects involved, but little beyond that to explain Higgins' policies.

Pragmatism - 8/10

Of course, the lack of a strong explanation may be mitigated by the fact that Higgins' policies are generally non-controversial. Noteworthy exceptions may include a "triple-bottom-line" assessment process for major developments and indexation of the minimum wage above the poverty line - but even in those cases the policies would seem to have at most incremental effects on their opponents, and there would be obvious constituencies in favour as well to help ease the policies' passage.

The Big Idea

Higgins' first major announcement of the campaign was her campaign finance reform package which would prohibit donations from out of province, set limits on donations from Saskatchewan individuals and organizations, and provide for a public subsidy to political parties based on their total votes received. And while the proposal has been echoed in full by Meili and in part by Pedersen, it still stands out as Higgins' most significant contribution both to the race, and hopefully to the political scene at large at the end of the race.

Of course, that may depend in large part on the NDP's own fund-raising strategy coming out of this weekend's convention: if Lingenfelter emerges victorious and figures that his Alberta connections can rival the Sask Party's, then it's unlikely that the plan will go any further. But I'd argue that whoever wins the race would be best off adopting the policy - both in order to create a strong issue to wield against the Wall government, and in the interest of better connecting political parties with voters than with their financial backers as a matter of principle.

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