If I was managing the Sask NDP campaign right now…

Here’s what I would do.

The NDP campaign is in crisis, no doubt. In crisis, not just because a whopping four NDP candidates were booted off the slate in the first week, thanks to ill-advised social media posts.

Not just because it’s Day 5 of #skvotes 2016 and they’ve fired their central campaign manager.

Perhaps it’s because the party is apparently divided, almost in two. A recent poll shows that of those who indicated the Sask NDP was their first choice as a political party, only half said that Cam Broten would make the best choice for Premier of Saskatchewan.

I’m not entirely sure what that half of the Sask NDP’s problem is. Broten is a super likeable guy. He’s visually appealing (don’t tell me this doesn’t matter, because it absolutely does). He’s as qualified as Brad Wall, if we’re comparing resumes. Perhaps he’s not as hard-left wing as some in his party would like him to be, but who is? And what is that half more concerned about: leadership ideology, or leadership strength?

Anyway, bottom line is that despite all these unfortunate handicaps, the NDP campaign is in the crisis state it’s in simply because it’s been sloppy from the start.

Tell me one thing the Sask NDP campaign stands for…one overall message you’ve received loud and clear about what they’ll do if elected, or why you should vote for them.

Yeah, exactly.

Politics 101 – pick your plot, choose your ending, then figure out how you’re going to get there. Preferably well in advance of the first day of your party’s campaign.

The Sask Party have done a fabulous job of defining their narrative, and essentially the narrative of the entire campaign: Let’s Never Go Back…do voters want to take Saskatchewan Forward or Back?

They’ve been running an expensive rotation of ads based on this narrative for weeks now (an election spending flaw that needs consideration) and had the Sask NDP defending themselves out of the gate. Which leads me to my first point:

Pick a bloody theme. A slogan. Something, anything, that tells voters in this province what exactly the 2016 Sask NDP stands for – in one line.

If it was entirely my call, that line would be this: ‘We Can’t Change the Past, but Together We Will Build a Better Future’. From there, use that statement to build a rollout for the rest of the campaign.

Unfortunately, that means a hard reset on the current Sask NDP campaign strategy.

Turn it off and on again. Because the last week was a tire fire.

Shut down everything except door-knocking, cancel the beers at Amigos tonight, and hunker down to regroup. First up on the list should be…

Get rid of the gimmicks and scattergun announcements.

No more Gravy Planes or jars of dirt on a card table in front of the Legislature. No more mixed messaging. In the past 5 days the Sask NDP has:

  • announced they’ll shut down SaskBuilds. Saskatchewan voters’ number one concern is the economy, and you’re going to close down something called SaskBuilds?
  • demanded weekly debates with Brad Wall.
  • committed to ending Lean, which I’m pretty sure has already ended.
  • said, vaguely, they’ll “fix” the new Moose Jaw hospital.
  • committed to a second bridge in Prince Albert
  • promised to fund First Nations’ and Metis schools and then “send the bill to the federal government”. Oh, okay.
  • cut the number of Saskatchewan MLAs from 61 to 55.

I mean, these are all noble endeavors, but do you get any sense of a plan here? No. Its a dumpster fire of slash, burn, pontificate and promise on random issues that don’t connect: not to a comprehensive narrative, and definitely not with the voter.

Believe it or not, however, finding new material wouldn’t be that hard to do, because again, believe it or not, the Sask NDP has a relatively decent platform on their website.

Did you look? That’s their campaign. That should be the imagery, the tone, the language. Bam. Why aren’t they telling that story?

Screenshot (10)

Well, that would be the next step.

Change the channel. Go positive. Tap into hope and happiness instead of trying to manufacture fear.

That would mean revamping the media release schedule, appearances, messaging, even reprinting mailouts or reshooting television advertising – which in 2016 isn’t that hard to do.

Finally, but probably the most important:

Makeover Cam Broten.

Actually, makeunder Cam Broten.

Angry Cam is not Real Cam. Shouty, stressed out Cam is not Real Cam.

Norwegian sweater Cam is Real Cam, but that thing should still probably be taken off the campaign trail.

Real Cam is an easy sell. He just needs to come back. Chill out, laugh – be himself. Throw on some great dress shirts (blue), dark indigo jeans and some brown boots and get out there. Bring his beautiful wife and kids out to events, kiss some babies, get lots of pics.

This is so EASY. I shouldn’t need to tell you this.

The challenge – this hard reboot… literaly turning the campaign off and then on again – has to be done in the next 48 hours. Then it needs to be disciplined, stay on message, but be flexible enough to adapt.

Anyway. If I was managing the Sask NDP’s campaign right now, that’s how I would do it.

But I’m not.





7 thoughts on “If I was managing the Sask NDP campaign right now…

  1. I agree that the NDP do need a better campaign but on what? Diversifying the economy? That becomes a loser as soon as you ask them diversify to what? Which new industry will they bring in or which existing industry will they expand?
    Your statement that Cam Broten is just as qualified as Brad Wall isn’t true. Cam Broten, as you point out, can’t even vet his candidates properly or organize his campaign so what makes him qualified to run our province? Past getting a degree, albeit a fine accomplishment, Cam Broten has no real world experience. He was elected twice in a once safe NDP riding and has lost a huge portion of the vote in the riding. He will more than likely lose his own seat on April 4th.
    As far as Cam Broten being likeable I have to completely disagree. I have lived in Cam’s riding long before he got here. For years I’ve watched Cam try to interact with my neighbours on the street, in the grocery store and at various events. It’s painful, to say the least. He comes across as cold, angry and arrogant to most people. You will disagree but the numbers in his own party support my claim. His charm is turned on and off at will and is most often off.
    Now while I think you have the all the right ideas to turn around the NDP campaign, I don’t think they’ll work when their policies are the same ones that are failing in Alberta and have racked up massive deficits in Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia and now Alberta. Everywhere the NDP have ever been in power. The NDP record of debt and failure in Canada is atrocious. Far worse than that old PC they can never quit bringing up.
    While the NDP’s record on debt in Saskatchewan isn’t as bad as Devine’s, it’s not good, either. The infrastructure deficit they left is enormous. Which, of course, they blame on other people. They always blame other people. Cam Broten says it wasn’t his job to vet the candidates. Never good to blame others.
    I don’t see any future for the Saskatchewan NDP.


  2. Wall used a strategy of talking about life under NDP governance. There is no direct comparison to anything except population stats. There is no context only an unspoken inference that things are better after 56,000 people left the province and governance shifted to the Sask Party. The connections they are trying to create are that this is a cause and effect scenario, where our loved ones and those closest to us, will be forced to flee, if the NDP ever get back in power. The principle, of course, is that history repeats itself and we must learn from it.

    The lack of context is the key. When Grant Devine turned governance over to the NDP the mess was significant. Unemployment rates were over 8% and rural Saskatchewan were in a state of collapse. The unemployed were fleeing the small towns to try to find work. Meanwhile the government was faced with a deficit left by a free spending Conservative government. Massive debt caused by mismanagement so heinous that the party could not survive the scandal. The rebranded lipstick on a pig, the Sask Party, became the renamed Conservative Party. There have even been rumors of the federal Conservatives wanting to conscript Wall as their leader.

    Meanwhile, the NDP were faced with making the hard choices. Wallow in debt, borrowing from future generations or pay the piper. Taxes were raised, rural schools and hospital services had to be reorganized and right sized. Meanwhile jobs were created. Erin Weir, an economist, did an study examining the claims of superior job creation by Brad Wall. “The underlying rate of workforce growth has been almost identical during the premierships of Brad Wall and Lorne Calvert.”, and “Employment growth under Wall has been slightly slower than under Calvert and much slower than under Blakeney,” observes Weir. “Employment grew faster than the province’s working-age population under NDP governments but has barely kept pace under the Saskatchewan Party.”

    This government’s real record is one of not making the hard decisions. Lorne Calvert made a mistake by lowering resource royalties to encourage development in a climate of rising resource prices. Wall compounded it even further by lowering them to the point that Saskatchewan became the second cheapest place worldwide to get resources. Meanwhile, the government started spending resource money before they actually had them in hand. When potash prices plunged we were suddenly in deficit land again. They just sold off some of the provinces assets under the guise of reducing government. They didn’t learn from that experience and once again they are spending resource money before they have it. Now that oil prices have plunged, the liquor profits are being put up for sale, to cover a higher and higher deficit.

    Bringing in consultants is yet further proof that they are unable to make the hard decisions. They spend money they don’t have and can’t make the hard choices of what to do about the massive deficit they have created. This during one of the most prosperous periods in the province’s history. They inherited a province with money in the bank, due to those who know how to make hard choices. Jobs were “created” despite them during a hot economic era. Now the province has experienced the second largest harvest in its history and we are still seeing a growing deficit.

    If there is a theme to be chosen here try


    1. Devine inherited an unemployment rate of over 10% from the NDP as well as several money losing Crown Corps. PA Pulp alone was losing $500,000 per day! Then there was the $4,000,000,000+ that the NDP borrowed at 24% interest rates to pay for the potash mines they “Nationalized”.
      Devine was a Economics Professor at the U of S and actually believed Keynesian Economics would actually work. It doesn’t. The NDP in Alberta are proving that right now.
      As far as Erin Wiers “study” of the Sask Party’s job creation record, please don’t insult me by expecting me to believe it was anything more than a biased attempt to help the NDP.
      TheNDP are being thrown out at high speed across Canada. Manitoba will be next to turf them and Alberta can’t wait to turf the NDP: why would we ever want them back here?


      1. Click to access UnempRate.pdf

        Making up stats doesn’t make them real. This table from Stats Canada clearly shows that under the NDP the unemployment rate at the end of 1981 was 4.5%. Devine took power in the spring of 1982 and by year’s end had the unemployment rate up to 6.3%.
        Erin Weir’s study is also based on actual stats, which you seem to think shouldn’t get in the way of your version of reality.
        As to your misinformation about NDP money management, facts don’t support that case either. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/Balanced-budgets-historically-left-wing-territory-323482351.html


      2. Really?? You’re trying to turn this into a Tommy Douglas vs. Grant Devine election?? I want to laugh but another part of me feels sad for you.
        But ok, I’m a sucker. Your Winnipeg Press opinion piece may make you feel good but is completely irrelevant. No one is going back 70 years to look at a party’s fiscal record. They’re looking at the enormous debt ang governing fiascos in Ontario and Nova Scotia. If the NDP did manage as well as you claim they’d have gotten more than one term in either of those provinces.
        The NDP also ran massive debts in British Columbia, Manitoba and are currently running massive deficits in Alberta. But I’m sure you can explain how all of those deplorable records are some other party’s fault.
        Now because I feel bad for you I’m actually going to try and help you, spot you a few points, If I may.
        1. Move on. No one cares about Grant Devine or Tommy Douglas. You’ve beat that to death and it’s gotten you 9 seats out of 58. It’s not working.
        2. Get some new ideas instead of just waiting for the Sask Party to screw up. Instead of playing Gotcha! politics come up with a plan on how to bring a new industry to province or expand an existing one. Cost it out and figure out the details.
        3. Let go of the tired old clichés. You may think the “Gravy Plane” is cute but it won’t gain you 1 net vote.
        4. Hire someone like Tammy or hire Tammy, just get new blood.

        I know you won’t take a word of this advice, but you’ve been told.


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