Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Leadership 2009 - Dwain Lingenfelter Policy Review

In theory, one might have expected the campaign with the most resources to also spend the most time putting together a thorough leadership platform. Instead, Dwain Lingenfelter has been extremely selective in putting forward policy proposals, limiting his online policy to a few a grab bag of suggestions and even ducking a couple of written questions from the Commonwealth. That may make for a logical strategy from a candidate whose top priority is not giving people reason to oppose him, but it also leaves NDP members in the dark as to what we can expect if Lingenfelter wins.

Thoroughness - 5/10

Lingenfelter's complete list of independently-presented policy proposals is as follows:
- restoring SaskEnergy's mandate to develop energy resources;
- implementing an immigration and multiculturalism strategy;
- implementing a cap and trade system for CO2 along with increased renewable energy;
- providing greater support for women within the NDP;
- setting up a "blue ribbon panel" on electricity; and
- holding an NDP policy renewal process.

Which doesn't make for a bad start in signalling Lingenfelter's top personal issues, but leaves vast swaths of the party's policy priorities - from agriculture to health care to education to labour relations - completely untouched. And while at least a few of those blanks are filled in by Lingenfelter's responses in public forums such as the Commonweath and the leadership debates, the lack of any detailed policy leaves plenty of room for uncertainty.

Consistency - 8/10

But then, with only a few ideas being presented, there isn't too much room for Lingenfelter to contradict himself. And that goes doubly when most of his proposals start with consultation or collaboration rather than direct action.

Creativity - 7/10

Aside from his SaskEnergy proposal, Lingenfelter's policies are generally oriented toward either working with organizations or structures that are already planned or in place. But he does get credit for raising a serious issue about the proper role of Crowns in serving the public interest.

Support - 8/10

Interestingly, Lingenfelter offers the lengthiest discussions out of any of the leadership candidates. And while a good amount of that is generally dedicated to criticizing the Wall government rather than explaining Lingenfelter's proposals in great detail, there's enough background presented to allow readers to see where the ideas come from.

Pragmatism - 8/10

While most of Lingenfelter's policy proposals are fairly non-controversial, even his most striking departure from the status quo seems fairly well insulated from outside criticism. By stating his intention to have SaskEnergy work "in partnership with other companies" in developing energy resources, he offers up a suggestion that the private sector also stands to benefit from increased Crown-driven development - which combined with his own energy-sector connections would seem likely to minimize the risk of a strong corporate push against the plan (even if it may limit the benefits to the public as well).

The Big Idea

For obvious reasons, Lingenfelter's proposal to get SaskEnergy back into the business of owning and developing oil and gas reserves looks to be by far the most significant generated by his campaign. But it's worth wondering just what shape the proposal would ultimately take if put into practice.

After all, while Lingenfelter's proposal focuses largely on where SaskEnergy has been, a restored mandate wouldn't have the effect of turning back the clock on the context in which SaskEnergy operates. And it's some fairly subtle points within the larger plan - how aggressively SaskEnergy would bid for and develop reserves, how it would seek to interact with private-sector players, how it would deal with any international friction - which would ultimately determine how much benefit there is to be had from the idea.

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