"Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!"
-Homer J. Simpson

Sunday, July 20, 2008

More Lingenfelter speculation

So there is more speculation about a return of Dwain Lingenfelter as the next leader of the Saskatchewan NDP. Now the newspapers are in on the act.

I found this comment particularly interesting:

at a time when Calvert can count his remaining months as party leader on his fingers

Really, with the latest poll results? I'm not sure this is the case.

That being said, yes there is talk all over the party about who the next leader is going to be. And yes, there are a group of people pushing for Link. Let me quote from my previous comments

Pros: Ability to raise a lot of money, supposedly a pretty good network still for not having lived in the province for years, possible appeal to the business community, name recognition.

Cons: First elected in the 70's (Doesn't exactly reek of renewal). Perceived as "right-wing" in the party and therefore might have trouble winning, has been out-of-province for over a decade.

Analysis: Dwain would no doubt be a strong contender if he ran. He might even have a shot at winning. That being said, other than a couple of vocal MLA's and some back room hacks from the early 90's, who is talking about this guy? I haven't met any rank and file party members who support him. I am told the support it there, but I haven't seen it in person.

And in the comments I elaborated:

And as for the "Duane Train" I would love to know which MLA's are on it. I can guess at a couple, such as Kevin Yates and maybe Ron Harper and Kim Trew, but of the big boys and girls? Higgins, Atkinson, Quenell, McCall, Taylor, Belanger, or any of the new three? [I would be surprised]
Again, what does a guy who was elected 30 years ago bring in terms of renewal? Nothing.

What is his vision? How will he deal with the environment, or technology, just to name two issues that have changed dramatically in the 8 years since he was last an MLA?
In my opinion there is a generational shift happening in politics right now. Brad Wall is actually a part of that as one of his strengths is his relative youth.

This is similar to some of the points in the news story:

Ensconced for the past eight years in his role as vice-president, government relations, for Calgary-based Nexen Inc., why Lingenfelter would give up the perks of an interesting and well-paying job with global travel to rebuild a party on the decline is a big question.

Moreover, working for an Alberta-based private oil company isn't exactly the base from which to relaunch his former 20-year career as an elected Saskatchewan New Democrat.


Certainly, his support for Jim Dinning in the Alberta Conservative leadership race last year and his lobbying for nuclear power in Saskatchewan (something that didn't exactly endear him to his successor as deputy premier, Clay Serby, and others in the hierarchy of Lorne Calvert's NDP government) didn't seem especially helpful.


They also say that he wouldn't be afraid to take on issues that the Saskatchewan NDP hasn't been addressing, like the air pollution from the Alberta oilsands being dumped on Saskatchewan or even Boyd's suggestion that the province can't touch oil royalty rates for 12 or 16 years.

The way I see it, Link has three big problems. One is that he is viewed as on the "right" of the party, which makes it a bit difficult to win the support of a left-wing social-democratic party for leader. Particularly given that the party's membership is down to the core base, the true believers right now.

Now this could be overcome two ways, either run on a left-wing platform (which might be difficult) or sell a lot of memberships to people to come on to support him. This second one might work to win the race, but it also might fracture the party. I know of at least three high-profile members of the party (not MLA's but elected to serve in some capacity) who would quit the party if Link was leader. I know of a few other left-wing rank-and-file types who would "go green" or otherwise leave if Link was leader. It is hard to know how widespread this effect is, but it might prove to be a problem. (Personaly, I have a great deal of sympathy for this position, as I have a feeling it might apply to me as well ;-)

The second biggest stumbling block (and it is somewhat related to the first) is that Link has a severe credibility problem on the Green Issue. The environment is becoming more and more of a core issue for new Democrats (particularly the younger ones) and a "Brad Wall Lite" pro-nuclear, pro oil company leader is definitely NOt wanted by a pretty large section of the party. Again, this be overcome with the same soulutions as mentioned earlier, with the same problems.

The third issue is the "generation change" issue. Again, I am note sure what a politician who was first elected before some of the current MLAs were born brings to the table in terms of renewal. I have heard that Louise Simard was approaching people to dicuss her possible run and although she recived a decent reception, the number one objection she found was "it's time for a generational change." If that applied to her, then it applies to Link in spades.

In other words, if Link wants to be taken seriously and not risk splitting the party for his own gains (by just signing up instant members, who will disappear right after the leadership race) then he needs to do a couple of things:

1) Articulate a clear vision on the environment that is not "Brad Wall" light

2) Showcase some other left-wing social plans

3) Develop a leadership team that includes a number of people under the age of 30. Have a solid plan for attracting and retaining some youth to the party.

If those conditions were met then Link just might win this whole thing and have an intact party at the end to boot. Without at least some of those conditions, well, there is going to be a problem of him, either before or after the vote.