During the federal election, I remember watching long term Parliament Hill reporters in shock at some of the NDP and Conservative MPs who were losing. They all said the same thing; they were hard working, not hyper partisan, and cared a lot about constituent issues.
I was reminded of the same when Cam Broten lost tonight. I have known Cam for five or six years and have seen him work extremely hard as an MLA on a lot of different issues. Because of Wendy’s job and the neighborhood we live in, she has referred many people to talk to Cam and seek his help. Most times they have reported to her that Cam’s office was able to help them sort out their problems; even if it wasn’t a provincial issue. He was a great MLA. I was always happy to see him and he has been in Wendy’s and my home.
For a bunch of reasons, it didn’t work out for him as the leader of the opposition. Winning such a tight leadership race which was essentially the centric base of the NDP versus the left wing made it impossible to consolidate the party. It also probably didn’t help that the “socialist” Bernie Sanders was making inroads in the Democratic primary and the left wing Rachel Notley is Premier of Alberta (even if she won because of a right wing civil war). There was this feeling amongst many is that Broten was too centrist for the NDP, even if that is the kind of leader that Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert were. I don’t think the comments from Ryan Meili were overly helpful. Neither was him not getting involved to help move the party forward. It hurt Broten, it hurt the NDP.
Also, Brad Wall is incredibly popular. How do you attack an incredibly popular Premier without upsetting people. I keep hearing people he should have gone negative even more but that’s hard when people won’t believe it; remember, you have to believe in it for negative ads to work. Also without the NDP having any rural strength, how do you actually act like a government in waiting. This election was going to be bad regardless. I said the upside was 20, the low was 5. I predicted 14. They got 10.
In the last week I could feel the vote collapsing for the NDP. You could feel voters making the move to the Saskatchewan Party. I don’t know why it happened but once it happens, it’s almost impossible to stop. If Cam wasn’t the leader of the opposition, he would have survived with his seat but he was and Saskatchewan loses a hard working public servant. That’s the reality of politics.
Tonight, the NDP need to do some soul searching. Their party doesn’t exist outside of the inner city Saskatoon, Regina, and part of Prince Albert and now they have the same problem they came into this election with, a new leader, a caucus that didn’t run under the new leader, and nothing close to a rural breakthrough in sight. It is a party that is a centre left party in a province that has swung to the right. So whoever it is that is the new leader, have fun because one thing that we have learned is that being the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP could be the most thankless job in Saskatchewan.