As the result of last week’s referendum sink in, it’s pretty apparent that the Yes side has a few things to take stock in. First of all, they have a pretty good base of support in certain areas for the next civic election, if they can figure out a way to hold it together. And secondly, they now know that the once-vaunted Saskatchewan NDP political machine is now as useful as nipples on a boar.
During the referendum campaign, former city councillor and onetime NDP candidate in Regina Qu’Appelle Fred Clipsham sent a letter to the Regina Leader-Post, saying in effect that since Regina city councillors had approved the P3 system, that should have ended the debate. If council let it be written, council should let it be done. As well, Sask NDP leader Cam Broten was silent on the issue, as were (at least publicly) the Regina NDP caucus.
From what I have seen the NDP, especially in Saskatchewan, has long taken the activist community for granted as a political base. In a province full of rednecks and Chamber of Commerce suckups, where else are union types, social activists and low-income types going to go? But it seems to me that the NDP, especially since the Romanow years, has been more interested in selling itself as good economic managers – the types who won’t rock the economic boat – than whatever passes for the social gospel today.
And this is probably why Broten stayed out of this debate. But it’s not a good strategy. The Chamber of Commerce types – of this and the upcoming generation – would cut off their feet and eat them rather than acknowledge that the NDP may have a point with something. There’s nothing that the NDP can say that could interest them, or even neutralize their support for right-of-centre economic and social policies. And rolling over and playing dead is what the NDP have done in the face of right-of-centre economic forces in Saskatchewan for a long time.
As well, the NDP appears to be husbanding all its resources for its provincial electoral campaigns, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Municipal politics is a pretty good proving ground for politician wanna-bes (Harry Van Mulligan served a few terms on Regina City Council before making the leap into provincial politics. He and John Solomon, Simon DeJong’s executive assistant and who later became a Regina-area NDP MP in the late 1980s/early 1990s, shared an office), so where’s the next generation of NDP candidates going to cut their teeth?