Sunday, February 03, 2013

#skndpldr - Battlefords Debate Notes

With Saskatchewan NDP's leadership candidates figuring to be thoroughly familiar with each other and the party's debate format, one might have expected little new to emerge from the Battlefords leadership debate. But instead, it offered some novel subject matter for the candidates to discuss - and the candidates' reactions to new (or even differently-worded) questions still look to have plenty to tell us as the voting window approaches.

So what was new compared to previous debates? To start with, the audience questions took a couple of turns not seen in previous debates - with varying results.

An early question asking candidates to explain public-private partnerships and assess the P3 development of a new mental health facility was met with strong responses all around. And a later offering about the federal democratic deficit let each of the candidates focus on a particular area of strength: Trent Wotherspoon was able to champion open government and proper accounting transparency, Ryan Meili to focus in on the need for democracy to be reflected in institutions as well as a single leader's philosophy, Cam Broten to discuss the legislative process in detail and Erin Weir to pitch his proposal to eliminate corporate and union contributions to parties.

But a query about genetically-modified organisms gave rise to two distinct sets of responses: Meili and Weir both presented detailed discussions about the possible merits and pitfalls of GMOs, while Broten and Wotherspoon largely demurred on the basis that they weren't particularly familiar with the details of the issue. And that contrast was particularly stark in light of the second round of candidate questions, where Broten challenged Meili on his willingness to talk beyond a script, only to be met with an effective defence of the value of being open to discussing new and creative ideas.

Meili didn't fare as well responding to a more detailed set of questions from Weir about his plan to facilitate crowd-funding of investments. But he wasn't alone in providing at least one less-than-thorough answer: Broten avoided Weir's question as to whether favourable small-business tax treatment should be available to professional corporations, while Broten's question to Wotherspoon about party-building was also met with few specifics (even though Broten has asked similar questions before).

Finally, the most significant development may have been Meili's second round of questions, where he called out Broten's campaign based on concerns about personal attacks by volunteer callers. In effect, Meili seems to have concluded (and not without justification) that the best way to counter whisper campaigns is to bring them out into the open - and I'll be curious to see whether the campaigns take note of Broten's disavowal of the practice.


  1. Anonymous4:35 p.m.

    Good to see the Meili campaign not put up with the negative actions coming from the Broten campaign. If Broten does not win the leadership race he most certainly will be attempting to hurt the next leader in order to position himself for a future leadership race.

    1. Lest there be any doubt, I don't consider that any more fair than the phone calls questioned by Meili: Broten too has made clear that the candidates should work as a team to build the party, and I fully expect him to live up to that intention.

  2. Anonymous5:08 p.m.


    The last debate I watched, Weir failed to resist Broten's charge that he was burdening small business. The truth of the matter does not matter...such a charge is the equivalent of being accused of picking on a handicapped child.

    If your reporting is correct, then this offensive strategy helps him recover significant ground: "Broten avoided Weir's question as to whether favourable small-business tax treatment should be available to professional corporations".

    Such an attack serves to both clarify the target of his policy, and transfer the burden onto the opponent.

    However, that is not enough. Weir will also need to repair the lingering damaged impressions. To accomplish this, he must present himself as the most capable advocate & defender of the institution of "small business".

    Thanks for the preview. Will have to watch it in full when it is available.

    Dan Tan

    1. Hello Dan,

      The whole debate should be embedded - let me know if there's some problem viewing it and I'll see if I can fix it. (Or you can go to the link from the leadership page at

      The small business debate has certainly been a recurring theme throughout the campaign. Previously the primary question has been where to set the small business threshold, but the point about professional corporations offers another area of discussion as to what we should include within the definition of "small business".

    2. Anonymous5:33 p.m.


      Silly me.

      My habit is to follow this site using one of the feeds. That obscures embedded media from view.

      I see it embedded above in your post.

      Dan Tan

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