Mandryk: NDP debate shows why he has a bigger problem with his base

The NDP’s problem is the same as Sask’s. A party that also fears losing fringe support if its policies do not cater to all the whims of the fringe.

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Perhaps it was fitting that the coin toss to see who would speak first in the Saskatchewan NDP leadership debate between Carla Beck and Kaitlyn Harvey rang out on the Moose Jaw stage.

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Things did not go smoothly for this party which still does not represent a great threat after 15 years in the desert of the opposition.

How concerned exactly was Saskatchewan Party Premier Scott Moe about the leadership of the NDP on Thursday night?

Well, he was front and center at the victory celebration of fellow Conservative, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, in Toronto – obviously a stop in his latest globe-trotting adventure to New York, Washington and New York with the new Minister of Justice, Bronwyn Eyre.

For the record, it was heads. Beck won the coin toss – perhaps a good omen for the perceived favorite to replace Ryan Meili in the NDP vote on June 26.

Beck seemed to offer a better understanding of this party’s urgent need to identify with the majority of Saskatchewan taxpayers. “I know when we connect with people, we win,” Beck said, noting that “people vote with wallet issues.”

The NDP has “a different story to tell,” but “what people know about the NDP is what Sask. The party told them,” Beck told the crowd that included longtime NDP luminaries, including former premier Lorne Calvert.

Asked about the local problem of restoring funding to the Wakamow Valley Authority which had to engage in online crowdfunding, Beck noted the problem of Sask’s 15-year-old. Party MPs sitting in the backbenches with no ministerial influence. “Representation is important,” she said.

That’s not to say Harvey hasn’t done surprisingly well with his often direct messaging devoid of the more irritating platitudes we usually hear from more seasoned politicians. This may be a refreshing change for many potential party voters.

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For example, when the two candidates were asked where they would get the money to fill education funding gaps, Harvey bluntly mentioned $600 million in annual provincial government grants to oil companies and other corporations.

At the time of 2 dollars a liter at the pump, this could resonate beyond the far left… although don’t worry. mistake that it’s who Harvey appeals to the most.

The NDP has stood for very little over the past few decades, Harvey told the Moose Jaw crowd. The party can now “hold our heads up or hide our heads in the sand” confident that “the status quo is the best we can do,” Harvey said.

It’s about here that the two candidates diverge in a way that arguably doesn’t help right the NDP’s registration ship.

Even before the event started on Thursday night, Beck was taking heat on social media for just attending the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show in Weyburn with fellow caucus MPs Trent Wotherspoon and Aleana Young.

“The Saskatchewan NDP is failing the most basic tenets of social democracy,” wrote Emily Eaton, professor of geography and environmental studies at the University of Regina, in a post on Twitter.

“They don’t distinguish between bosses and workers! We need you to get to work creating alternatives for fossil fuel workers, not boosting the industry that rakes in profits and leaves massive liability for the public.

Asked Thursday night by a small business owner what each candidate would do to help struggling small businesses, Harvey talked about supporting sustainable environmental initiatives. By contrast, Beck said Thursday night that “any plan on climate change that ignores the reality of working people is doomed to failure.”

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You get the picture. While it hasn’t always been glaring, there are troublesome divisions in an already divided party that will remain difficult to mend.

Of course, there have always been divisions within Saskatchewan’s political parties.

It is no small irony that Thursday night demonstrated that the NDP’s problem is the same as that of the Saskatchewan Party, which also fears losing support from the fringe if its policies do not cater to all the whims of the fringe.

But when it comes to so-called fringe influence in Saskatchewan politics, that seems to be a bigger issue for the NDP.

Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

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