Monday, June 06, 2022

#SKNDPLDR Candidate Profile - Carla Beck

On paper, Carla Beck's track record covers nearly every group the NDP should be looking to attract into its fold. She's a well-respected veteran member of the Legislature, with prior experience as a school board trustee who can thus point to a history of collaborative government. And she can combine rural roots with a political base in one of the party's most important urban strongholds. 

Moreover, she was able to get organized from the outset of the NDP's leadership campaign, resulting in only one challenger entering the field. And it's no surprise that a front-running campaign has been able to assemble endorsements from within any group a leadership hopeful could want to attract - giving nearly any type of voter some validation to accept her as an option.

All of those factors mean that Beck has been in the driver's seat of the campaign from day one, and still looks like an overwhelming favourite to win the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership. But there are still a couple of crucial questions which are making her campaign positively painful for some of us to watch. 

The most basic question has been how Beck's experience and skill would translate to being the face of the party on a provincial level. And on that point, there don't look to be any strong answers in either direction: her work speaking to voters may not be the most comfortable yet, but there's no reason to think she isn't up for the job in an election campaign. 

More problematically, there's been uncertainty as to Beck's decision-making process in deciding what the NDP's messages and priorities should be. And while that may not affect the outcome of the leadership race, it raises alarming prospects for the party if Beck does cruise to victory. 

From the moment Beck's campaign launched in an oil and gas supplier's business, there's been reason for concern from the beginning that she's accepted a dangerous interpretation of the results of the 2020 provincial election. 

In that respect, it's worth another reminder that the Saskatchewan Party's spin about the NDP's platform has never borne even a remote resemblance to reality, particularly as it involves the oil and gas sector in the province. 

Under the leader regularly branded by the Moe government (and its media allies and puppets) as being opposed to oil-sector jobs, the NDP explicitly said (PDF) the "(o)il and gas is an will remain a strong pillar of our economy", announcing that its ambition was limited to "chang(ing) our energy mix" by moving to renewable and non-emitting electricity. And the NDP never put together the type of climate plan which would actually affect the fossil fuel sector's carbon pollution - a point which plenty of people within the party recognized as a weakness before the campaign. (After all, it's a lot easier for opposition spin about your positions to stick when you don't have a clear answer as to what you actually have planned.)

One could hardly imagine a more self-destructive choice for a political party than to fully buy into opponents' framing of the political debate. But Beck (if hardly alone) seems to have accepted the view that resistance to the complete domination of Saskatchewan's political scene by the oil sector is futile - and that there's nothing to be done other than to supplicate the party to its wishes, rather than hammering its own message about the difference in interests between oil workers and the billionaires simultaneously trying to exploit and eliminate them. 

It's from that starting point that subsequent events have looked particularly worrisome - including an oil show photo-op which did little but validate the fossil fuel barons who already have multiple fully-owned political parties at their disposal, and a distinct turn toward the austerian in answering questions as to whether there's any room to increase public revenue with the claim that it's possible to fund the change Saskatchewan needs merely by finding efficiencies (among other rhetoric that would more comfortably be found coming from the CTF than the NDP). 

Of course, there's no lack of outside voices who have been telling the NDP constantly that what it needs is to brand itself as the Sask Party Orange. But that's always been at best a dubious proposition even from the standpoint of trying to make the case for change - and a downright destructive one for anybody who actually wants to accomplish anything for the province's people in the process. And if Beck continues with that mindset, the risk isn't limited to the outcome of the leadership campaign, but extends to the prospect that people will conclude the NDP has given up on providing a meaningful progressive alternative. 

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