Generational Polarization - Not Ideological - Main Feature Of Sask NDP Leadership Race
A key distinguishing feature of this race has been the breakdown of candidates, supporters and issues along generational lines as opposed to what usually would be along ideological lines.
During the last Saskatchewan leadership race in 2001, traditional Left/Right factions polarized around Lorne Calvert and Chris Axworthy. Calvert won and Axworthy eventually left the party to run federally for the Liberals. The departure of Axworthy ultimately proved that the Saskatchewan NDP made the correct decision by not selecting him as leader.
This time around, old ideological divisions seem to be taking a second seat to the desire for generational change that is being demanded by the ‘non-babyboomer’ demographic in the party. New Democrats of every ideological persuasion should be ecstatic about the vibrant and articulate youth element that is alive and well in the party. If anything should send shivers through the ranks of the currently governing Saskatchewan Party, it is the sheer size of the youth component active in the NDP.
Candidates Ryan Meili and Yens Pedersen have both clearly articulated their desire for generational change this time around. What they lack in long time experience and activity in the party is largely supplemented by their commitment to social democratic principles and policy. Both are to be commended for making this race a race of ideas.
Dwain Lingenfelter and Deb Higgins have both articulated a vision for the party based on their hard won experience and active service as Members of the Legislature. What they lack in youth is supplemented by the battle scars of active political combat that they have won in the trenches.
Regardless of who wins on Saturday, (be it a veteran New Democrat or a ‘new gen - New Dem’), the Saskatchewan NDP will rally around the new leader. No one has a monopoly on righteousness in the NDP. As a result, our Leader must submit to being a servant of the party. Anything short of that they do at their own peril within the mechanisms of the party. We are a party of ideas and we continue to offer the only real alternative to those on the Right who have damaged the world’s economy with their ongoing commitment to ‘unfettered free market’ nonsense.
The Wheatsheaf has more on Leadership 2009.