Looking ahead to politics in 2018
- NC Raine | January 25, 2018
From shocking decisions by foreign governments, to major announcements from Saskatchewan's provincial government, 2017 was one of the more memorable, and sometimes alarming, political years in recent memory. With 2017 now firmly in the rear-view, its time to turn our attention to some of the major political stories to watch for in Saskatchewan in 2018.
The province's first, and perhaps most significant political event of the year, comes on January 27th, as the Saskatchewan Party elects a new Premier to replace the retiring Brad Wall, who served the party for ten years. The Sask. Party faces some daunting challenges after a budget that cut spending and increased taxes, and a $1.2 billion deficit.
“They have to find someone who is acceptable and appealing first to the majority of the caucus, then to the electorate, which is a challenge in light of the high standards of appeal and acceptability that Mr. Wall enjoyed,” said Joe Garcea, Political Science Professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
Garcea says to look for the Sask. Party to lean towards a candidate who is best placed within the party to adopt a team approach rather than ruling by individual will. He also says that the new leader will have work to do with Indigenous leaders in the province.
“Whoever becomes leader and premier will have to think about what kind of relationship they believe the provincial government should have with the Aboriginal governments,” he says.
“It will be interesting to see what position they take regarding our people,” added Dirk Dashing, political columnist at Eagle Feather News, who says rebuilding the economy will be the new premier's biggest challenge. “Will they take a more progressive view about getting us engaged in the economy and education system so we can all prosper together?”
Tina Beaudry-Mellor, Ken Cheveldayoff, Alanna Koch, Scott Moe, and Gord Wyant are the five candidates competing to replace Wall. There are no clear-cut favourites to win.
The New Democrats in Saskatchewan will likewise have some new faces, as they elect a new leader on March 3rd. The two leadership candidates, Trent Wotherspoon and Ryan Meili, have quite similar platforms, including calling for more protection for Crown corporations, a $15 minimum wage, and the protection of local voices in health care.
“They are fairly evenly matched. I think each candidate has a constituency within the party that supports their particular vision and style,” said Garcea. “But the really interesting thing that has emerged is interim leader Nicole Sarauer [...] and to what extent she will become a de facto leader even though she might not be the official leader.”
Sarauer has maintained that she will not enter the leadership race, but Garcea believes she is person to watch for the future of the NDP leadership.
In late July, the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan will hold a long awaited legislative assembly. It will be the first MNLA in three years. Questions of leadership legitimacy have long plagued the MN-S, with such questions hampering the efficiency and effectiveness of government and their ability to provide services to members, says Garcea.
“One hopes that an assembly can be accomplished where the focus is on substantive issues rather than leadership legitimacy issues,” he says. “It will be interesting to see if they can have an assembly where they get on with the more important issues of the needs of their members.”
Finally, in October, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) will elect a new Chief. No candidates have yet been announced, including if current Chief Bobby Cameron will seek re-election. But with treaty land obligation issues, education and suicide prevention initiatives carrying on into 2018, the future Chief will have his or her hands full working with the FSIN.
“The challenge is being relevant,” said Dashing. “For the last decade, especially under Harper when all the funding was cut, a lot of talent was lost. Now the question is becoming, can the [FSIN] make itself relevant and effective like it was in the 70s and 80s?”
Dashing says that implementing the spirit of the treaties, bands and self governance, respecting jurisdiction, improving education results, and getting more involved in the economy will be some of this year's focus for those vying for leadership in the FSIN.