Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On non-stories

It's a plus that Murray Mandryk has realized that the Sask Party's facade is far different than what lurks below the surface. But it would be even better if he didn't feel the need to toss in several paragraphs of unfounded concern trolling about the NDP in doing so:
Lingenfelter announces Monday that he will be running in the Regina Douglas Park seat that is being vacated by 23-year MLA Harry Van Mulligen -- what should be a good-news announcement for the NDP. However, with Van Mulligen winning 52 per cent of the popular vote in that riding in 2007, any Saskatchewan Party candidate coming within 20 percentage points (its Douglas Park candidate received only 30.9 per cent in 2007) wins a moral victory.
Now, it's probably fairest to say that Van Mulligen's announcement was less a good-news announcement than an entirely expected one from the NDP's standpoint. But it's downright remarkable that Mandryk manages to both present a misleading analysis about what would be a "moral victory" for the Sask Party (since by-elections figure generally to result in a closer race with all parties able to focus all their attention on one or two ridings) - and then assume that outcome in advance in order to claim bad news for the NDP.

But wait, there's more:
Tuesday's news that NDP leadership runner-up Ryan Meili won't be seeking Lorne Calvert's Saskatoon Riversdale seat means that Meili and Lingenfelter won't be sitting together in a unified Opposition caucus, allowing the Sask. Party to hammer away at the perceived split in NDP ranks for a while yet.
Of course, it's almost certainly true that the Sask Party will look to "hammer away at (a) perceived split" regardless of what happens in reality. But there's no apparent reason why Meili's decision to work outside the Legislature would offer any actual evidence of a split. And indeed, Meili's decision not to run in Riversdale is best taken as evidence that he wants to keep the NDP's members working in the same direction for now rather than facing a potentially divisive decision in the riding.

(As a bonus, let's offer up a counterfactual: if Meili had declared his intention to run for the Riversdale nomination, how long would it have taken Mandryk and others to point out his competition with a strong female candidate as an indication of fissure within the NDP? Yeah, I thought so.)

Finally, there's this:
But perhaps more importantly, this signifies a strategic change for the NDP.

For most of the past four decades, the NDP's two safest seats (Riversdale and what's now Regina Elphinstone-Centre) were occupied by the NDP's leader or deputy leader. With all due respect to current Regina Elphinstone-Centre MLA Warren McCall and political novice Danielle Chartier (who likely will be the NDP candidate in Riversdale), we are no longer seeing NDP heavyweights in these rock-solid seats. In fact, many of the party's safer Regina and Saskatoon seats are occupied by MLAs who aren't exactly heavy contributors.
Now, it's worth noting that Mandryk's premise looks to be faulty in the first place. McCall can already claim the contribution of a major report as well as significant cabinet experience well before the age of 40, and given Chartier's strong bio and organization to date there's every reason to think she'll join any list of "heavyweights" in a hurry.

But even taking the premise to be true, is it really such a plus for Wall if Meili runs in a riding which the Sask Party might otherwise have some hope of winning - or better yet, uses his developing public profile to flip a riding currently held by the Sask Party?

If anything, one essential element of any 2011 victory for the NDP would seem to be attracting the strongest possible candidates in the closer ridings which will determine which party holds power. And while Meili may yet find a safe riding in which to run, I'd have to think any Sask Party MLAs or candidates who might have to face off against him in a riding with more potential impact on an election outcome would have to be less comfortable than if Meili and his enthusiastic base of support were safely ensconced in Riversdale.

Of course, it may be that a few speculative or ill-advised shots at the NDP are a minimum requirement for any CanWest column which dares to point out internal problems in the Sask Party ranging from "explosive frustration" to potential retirements or defections. But if the non-issues raised by Mandryk are the worst dangers the NDP faces, then Wall may really have reason to worry in 2011.

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