Tuesday, 24 October 2017 04:46

NDP MLA sees an opportunity for political change in Sask.

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Saskatchewan NDP MLA Carla Beck talks to Stewart Wells before her address to the annual general meeting of the Cypress Hills-Grasslands Federal NDP Riding Association in Swift Current, Oct. 14. Saskatchewan NDP MLA Carla Beck talks to Stewart Wells before her address to the annual general meeting of the Cypress Hills-Grasslands Federal NDP Riding Association in Swift Current, Oct. 14.

Carla Beck, the Saskatchewan NDP's deputy house leader and MLA for Regina Lakeview, believes the opportunity for political change in Saskatchewan has increased since the 2016 provincial election.


She was the guest speaker at the Cypress Hills-Grasslands Federal NDP Riding Association's annual general meeting in Swift Current, Oct. 14.
“I do sense that there is more of an opportunity for us to go out and to talk in many communities across the province that perhaps wasn’t there for us in the same way even during the last election,” she said during an interview after the event. “We saw such an outcry around the potential library closures, such outcry around the cuts to education. … We’ve been around the province talking in communities. This summer we’ve been out to all 61 constituencies around the province and we’ve been welcomed with the education petition, the Crown petition in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time.”
She thinks the recent announcement by Premier Brad Wall to retire from politics also played a role to change the political dynamics in the province.
“It’s no secret that Premier Wall’s popularity, although it has dipped below 50 per cent in recent months, has been persistently high and for the Sask Party to lose him as a leader at this time when the popularity of the party itself is waning, I think does certainly present a political opportunity for our party, but also for the people of Saskatchewan to really have a discussion about the type of province they want to have,” she said.
She feels a number of issues will be of interest to Saskatchewan residents in the run-up to the next provincial election.
“I think people want to see a long-term plan for the province, for the economy,” she said. “They want to see a long-term plan environmentally. I think people have been very clear they want to not only maintain but also strengthen our Crown corporations and the service that they provide around this province.”
Beck, who is the NDP critic for education, early learning and childcare, Crown Investment Corporation, agriculture and SGI, believes most residents do not want to see cuts to education services in the province.
“We are in a knowledge based economy,” she said. “We need to ensure that our kids have the tools that they need to meet their needs but also our needs as a province and as an economy going forward into the future. I’m not seeing that right now, and I think that will be a big question. Health care of course is always a big issue and having a credible plan for energy going forward in this province is hugely important. It’s not enough to just stomp your feet and say no. You actually have to have a plan and I think that those will be significant issues in the next election.”
There are currently five candidates in the Saskatchewan Party's leadership race to replace Premier Brad Wall. The new party leader will be elected at a leadership convention on Jan. 27, 2018.
There are currently two candidates in the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership race. Last month the party's provincial council changed the date for the leadership convention from May 6 to March 3, 2018.
“I think it’s important, when we go into the spring session, that both parties have their new leader in place so that the people of Saskatchewan can get a real sense of what the options are there with regard to leadership with the two main political parties,” Beck said.
The theme of her speech at the Swift Current event was politics in the age of Donald Trump. She felt there are no simple answers to explain Trump’s rise to power, but it is important to understand the underlying reasons that motivated people to vote for him.
“It’s too easy to attack Trump’s voters as simply being stupid or just racists or deplorables, and to look down our noses at them and to shake our heads and write them off as less than, because I think in many ways that’s some of what got Trump elected in the first place,” she said. “We need to acknowledge that there is a very real and a very strong anger out there, and a disconnect that many working class and other people feel with the current state of politics.”
She noted that the Occupy movement and other politicians such as Bernie Sanders in the United States and Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom have also been able to capture people's fears about the future.
“They became a voice for this obscene failure of modern economics, but so did Trump,” she said. “He found a way to tap into that angst and that outrage, those whose jobs have been lost through global trade and automation and the changing economy, and he was successful in leading those who are desperately searching for answers and someone to blame.”
Beck emphasized that those frustrations and anger among people are also present in Canada, and populist politicians can attempt to exploit those feelings for short-term political gain.
“Let’s be clear, inequality is growing in Canada as well,” she said. “The top 20 per cent in Canada own nearly half the wealth in the country. In Saskatchewan, there’s a 30 per cent gap in early mortality when the poorest citizens are compared to the wealthiest. Indigenous women in this province and this country are three times more likely to be murdered than non indigenous women. Thousands and thousands of jobs have been lost in the last year in this province alone. People are facing increasing uncertain economic times, and we have seen our own austerity budgets here in Saskatchewan.”
She believes the best way to counter Trump-style politics of division and hate is a focus on ideas and empathy with people's concerns.
“People are looking for someone to listen to them, to hear them, to fight for them, to make good on their promises, and to have a concept of the greater good,” she said. “They’re looking for people to stand with them against growing inequality, to understand them, their fears, but also their dreams because in the absence of that hope, people can and do get into fear and get into hate..”

Read 120 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 October 2017 04:25
Matthew Liebenberg

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