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Trent Wotherspoon

Cam Broten wins the NDP leadership

Joe Couture reports

Cam Broten – who won the leadership of the provincial NDP on Saturday by just 44 votes – told reporters after his victory that he knows the party has “a lot of work to do in earning the trust of Saskatchewan people.

“It was a close race,” the second-term Saskatoon Massey Place MLA, who is 34 years old, admitted to the media at TCU Place, where the leadership convention was held – although, he in the next breath mentioned former Manitoba premier Gary Doer and his win of the leadership of his province’s NDP by just 21 votes in 1988.

“But we know we have a lot of work to do as a party and as a caucus,” Broten continued. “All the candidates have done such a tremendous job, their teams have done a tremendous job, and we need everyone involved to build the NDP once again and earn the trust of Saskatchewan people.”

On the second ballot at the convention, Broten received 4,164 of the total votes cast or just more than 50 per cent, narrowly beating out Saskatoon doctor Ryan Meili, who was ahead on the first ballot, but received 4,120 votes on the second.

Meili described the results to reporters as “bloody close.

“Who would expect that I could actually get closer to winning this time than last time?” he said, referencing 2009’s leadership race, in which he finished second to Dwain Lingenfelter – who ultimately led the party to a crushing defeat in 2011.

“There was, I think, an appetite for the vision that I had, but obviously what Cam brought forward also appealed very much to the party members and ultimately, his team and his campaign was successful,” Meili continued, telling reporters he didn’t expect to try to challenge the close results.

The results of the first ballot, announced earlier in the afternoon, saw Meili in first with 39 per cent of the vote and Broten in second with 34 per cent – Trent Wotherspoon, who came in third with 24 per cent, withdrew from the race minutes later.

Broten made the right moves in the winning the leadership but he was wrong about one thing

Asked about the possibility of becoming the focus of negative publicity generated by his Saskatchewan Party opponents, Broten also sought to minimize concerns.

“Attack ads can be effective in the short-term, but in the long term, I think it turns people off politics,” he said, noting he plans to “stay in touch with what Saskatchewan people want and stay in tune with what their concerns and priorities are.”

I have heard from a couple of NDP MLAs that the biggest mistake they made was not to “define” Brad Wall when he was elected Saskatchewan Party leader.  If I was the Saskatchewan Party, I would not make that mistake in trying to “define” Broten.  Of course the interesting part is that he may be hard to define negatively.  He doesn’t claim a residence in Cavendish, PEI; he didn’t spend most of his life abroad claiming to be an American and unless I missed a big gaffe in the debates, there isn’t much there.  It will be interesting on what they do and if it will stick.

NDP Leadership Race Polls

While the LeaderPost published a poll of voter intentions in the province for the provincial NDP leader, I was curious when I heard about some internal polling done by the candidates themselves.  Over the last couple of weeks the Broten, Meili, and Wotherspoon campaigns have all done some polling.  Interestingly enough, the buzz is that both the Wotherspoon campaign has commissioned two polls right after the other.  If you don’t like the results of the first poll, maybe you just keep polling?

The Broten campaign has been the only one talking about the results which if accurate, makes sense.  It is bad news for both Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon.  I know Nate Silver says to not believe campaign polling but it’s all we have.  Until the Wotherspoon and Meili camps post their numbers, I only have the Broten numbers to go on and here they are.  

When I looked at the poll, it was done by Public Polling Inc which is a polling company out of Toronto (there is a Saskatchewan Party attack ad in there someplace).  It was a large poll with a margin of error is only +/- 2.2%.   The poll asked two basic questions — (1) “If you were to vote for the new NDP leader today, who would be your first choice?” and (2) “Who would be your second choice for the new NDP Leader?”  The results of the poll show the following breakdown of first ballot support among decided voters throughout the entire province:

If the poll is correct, it looks like a 3rd ballot victory for Cam Broten and he would become the next leader of the opposition.  Trent Wotherspoon has either lost his support or pundits have really overestimated his support in the first place.  Maybe that is why he is polling so much.  According to the poll, Broten is the second choice of most of the people surveyed.  With the NDP at about 11,000 members and with the vast majority of them casting a ballot; I can’t see the convention floor delegates having enough votes to change the outcome but I have been wrong many times before.

The end result is that a) it’s going to be a boring convention b) Cam Broten will become the next leader of the opposition c) the Saskatchewan Party is probably already cutting the attack ads on Broten as I post this.

It also means that 2015 is going to be an interesting election. 

Update: I immediately was emailed as asked if who I was voting for.  I am not a member of any political party and therefore won’t be casting a ballot in this race.  I am just looking at it from the outside.

Deficits are Devine

Well it’s official, deficit financing on the scale not seen since the Devine era is back in Saskatchewan.  The government of Saskatchewan is going to run a billion dollar deficit this year based on the fall of potash prices.  As told by the Star Phoenix.

The release of the government’s mid-year financial report Thursday shows it now projecting it will take in only $109 million from potash royalties and taxes – $1.8 billion below what it forecast in its spring budget.

The government is now spending more than it is taking in, even with higher-than-expected oil royalties, tax revenues and federal transfers.

That has required a drawdown from the reserve Growth and Financial Security Fund of $564.3 million and a special dividend from Crown Investments Corp. of $460 million from the sale of the government’s share of SaskFerco.

However on a summary basis – which includes all of the operations of government including the Crowns – a deficit projected at $25 million at budget is now pegged at $1.05 billion.

The NDP were all over this today.  I’ll link to Cam Broten’s website who posted the NDP press release and response to the deficit.

I liked how it started.

With the release of the Mid-Year Financial Report, NDP Finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said the Wall government has confirmed that it is responsible for the biggest example of fiscal incompetence in the history of Saskatchewan. He said the combination of grossly inflated potash revenue projections, equity stripping from Crown Corporations, and out-of-control government spending has left the province with a $1 Billion deficit on a summary financial basis and a financial blunder not seen in generations.

“Private forecasters, industry representatives, and the NDP Opposition all cautioned against the fantasyland numbers the Wall government put forward in its budget,” Wotherspoon said. “But cheerleading and popular promises ruled the day with no thought as to whether or not the expert advice it received should have been taken into account.”

Then it gets a bit weird as it moves for attacking “out of control spending” and attacks spending cuts.

Wotherspoon said the Wall government’s fiscal mismanagement isn’t just about numbers on a page; people are being asked to pay for its incompetence through cuts to healthcare, education, rural programs, and their quality in life in general. He noted that among the cuts was $122 million from the construction of long-term care facilities in rural Saskatchewan and $32 million from new school infrastructure.

So on one hand the NDP are criticizing the Sask. Party for running a huge deficit (which they should) while at the other hand trying to get upset or cutting spending to keep government spending under control.

I have friends and I respect people in both parties and here is my advice on to handle the situation.

Saskatchewan Party: You missed your revenue predictions by $1.8 billion dollars.  I would fire whoever made that prediction because I agree with the NDP on this one, when you came out with this budget, you must have known it was going to be a bad year for potash prices.  Even I knew it was going to be a bad year for commodity prices going into a global recession.  To keep this from happening again, I would come up with an independent office of economic forecasters that would give guidance to the government that were outside the Ministry of Finance and therefore outside the influence of the political pressures that lead to really bad budget forecasting.  Don’t go half-way with this.  Give it legitimacy, give it some independence, and fund it properly.  I am not an economist but I know many of them have ideological bents on how the world is going to pan out and that is natural.  Even the best economists are also going to make mistakes.  I can accept that (not $1.8 billion dollar mistakes but some mistakes).   What I want to see as a voter and a taxpayer is a process in budget forcasting that is non-partisan and transparent.  This would go a long way in restoring some confidence in your budget predictions which have been questioned by the media for over a year. If you want us to trust you again, you need to take some steps to ensure you don’t miss your targets again.  Again, as a Saskatchewan voter and taxpayer I want to hear what your plan is to pay back your billion dollar boondoggle sooner rather than later.  It’s a lot of money and you are going to take a beating in the press and in the Legislature but it’s better to deal with it up front and head on and then move on then play political games with it.  Dealing with it this way will hopefully stop the comparisons to the Devine Tories of the 1980s.

Also, potash prices didn’t just fall last week.  I know you a governing party doesn’t want to give negative financial updates every month but it seems prudent during a time of unstable financial times to offer a more transparent accounting of the public purse in regards how we are doing compared to our predictions.

NDP: Maybe they should not use the same press release to attack out of control spending and then attacking spending cuts.  Use two pieces of paper and maybe send out two different press releases.  Despite not liking the wording and structure of their release, the NDP have the high ground here, as they are the ones that slayed the deficit that last time.  If I was the NDP, I would have a reunion luncheon with Roy Romanow, Janice MacKinnon, Eric Cline, and others who had to go through year after year of budget cuts to talk about how hard it was and the consequences of deficit financing in the Devine years had on the 1990s in Saskatchewan.  While you are at it, give out a lot of copies of Minding the Public Purse to remind us again how hard it was to make those cutbacks as a government but also to remind us voters how hard it was to see things we care about in Saskatchewan to be cut.  If I was Trent Wotherspoon, I would also use the term “billion dollar boondoggle” a lot in the days ahead but that is just me.  Boondoggle is such a great word.

For both parties, I would love to see a real debate on their visions for the future.  A future that involves peak oil, a liquidity crisis turning into a long term government debt crisis, a future where our federal government seems destined to burden all of us with long term debt (again), higher interest rates, cut transfer payments, and potentially higher unemployment.   Are we going to grow ourselves out of this mess (doubtful) or make drastic spending cuts?  Will we see a higher PST and income tax rates in our future?  Will the burden be put on businesses or individuals or will someone come up with a new path to take?  Tough times are ahead and it would be refreshing to hear the vision of both major parties in Saskatchewan (and for that matter, I would like to hear the Liberal Party vision as well) about the role of Saskatchewan in a smaller, less affluent world will look like.