April 8th: I’ve updated this story by way of the note at the bottom of the post.
Somewhere in Saskatoon, right now, a man named Naveed Anwar is quietly relishing victory.
A victory he says he strategized and fought for deliberately – to take down Saskatchewan NDP leader Cam Broten.
Here are the #skvotes 2016 results from the Saskatoon Westview riding:
The name Naveed Anwar was familiar… Google Google Google…
Ah yes, Anwar ran for the Saskatchewan NDP in 2011 in the riding of Saskatoon Sutherland.
So, why did he run as a Liberal in 2016… and against the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP?
Candidates do switch teams – but this seemed odd, especially given the number of votes received by Anwar, and the number Broten needed to win.
So, I called Anwar.
(At this point I want to take a moment and address the good people who pay me to work for a living: I do actually work. Promise!)
Anyway, let’s have a look back:
2009: Ryan Meili’s loses his first run at Saskatchewan NDP leadership to Dwain Lingenfelter.
March 27, 2010: At the NDP convention in Prince Albert, Meili announces his intention to run for the NDP candidacy in Saskatoon Sutherland.
Days later, Anwar announces he is also running for the NDP nomination in Saskatoon Sutherland.
September 2010: Meili drops out of the nomination campaign just a few days before the vote, saying on his Facebook page, “the often negative and divisive aspects of political life have taken their toll on me. For this reason I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for nomination in Saskatoon Sutherland.”
A story that appeared in September 25, 2010 edition of the Star Phoenix reported Anwar was telling people he had sold a huge number of NDP memberships* in Sutherland – an amount that would shellshock any opponent. The types of numbers which, frankly, are sometimes associated with dubious dealings, though Anwar maintains he sold every one personally to his connections in the immigrant community in Sutherland.
The same story cited Meili as saying he had been told that Cam Broten was supporting Anwar’s nomination.
“If that’s the case it would be disappointing because it wouldn’t be about the last leadership, it would be about the next one, about eliminating a rival,” said Meili, who in hindsight was unbelievably prescient, considering he said this an entire year before Dwain Lingenfelter was obliterated as the Saskatchewan NDP’s leader.
Broten “scoffed” and “laughed” at the suggestion that he was working to help Anwar bump Meili off the NDP ballot.
“People like drama,” said Broten. “But I’m not supporting or helping any candidates.”
At the time, Anwar also denied Broten was helping him.
Given the way things have shaken out, when I talked to Anwar today, I asked him that question again.
“Of course he did,” was his emphatic reply. “Provided support by (I’ve redacted the name, but it’s one of Broten’s longtime staff members).
Back to 2010 – Anwar wins the Sutherland nomination, but goes on to lose the election to the Sask Party’s Paul Merriman.
September 5, 2012: Cam Broten announces he’s running for leader of the Saskatchewan NDP. Naveed Anwar is on Broten’s NDP leadership campaign-team, playing what has been described by insiders as a “huge role”, specifically in securing Broten’s “ethnic vote”.
A week later: Ryan Meili announces he is also running for Saskatchewan NDP leadership – his second attempt.
March 9, 2013: Ryan Meili loses the NDP leadership to Cam Broten by 44 votes.
The fact Meili
was ran offwalked away from the Sutherland ballot has been largely cited by insiders as the major reason he lost his 2013 Saskatchewan NDP leadership bid.
2014: Vicki Mowat is acclaimed as the NDP candidate in the riding of Saskatoon Fairview.
2016: Naveed Anwar runs as a Liberal candidate in Saskatoon Westview, against Cam Broten.
So, how does one go from driving Ryan Meili out of a NDP candidacy with the support of Cam Broten (allegedly)… to loyally volunteering for Broten’s leadership bid… to running as a Liberal, against Broten?
“Oh definitely,” said Anwar, when I asked him if he ran against Broten deliberately.
Anwar says** that in 2014 he went through the NDP candidate vetting process, which according to the Saskatchewan NDP Constitution includes a ‘Candidate Screening Questionnaire’, which is reviewed by the NDP’s Provincial Committee; criminal record check; and anything else the party requests for documents.
This was the second time he had completed this process, and Anwar says** just like he was in 2010, he was fully approved by the Provincial Committee to proceed with a nomination campaign in the riding of his choice.
And he chose Saskatoon Fairview.
Anwar said he chose Fairview for the obvious reason – it had just barely been won by the Sask Party’s Jennifer Campeau in 2011, and he figured he could win it back for the NDP in 2016.
Except Cam Broten told him that no, Anwar could not run in Fairview, because that’s where he wanted Vicki Mowat to run.
When Anwar refused to back down from his decision – citing his “democratic right” to run for nomination wherever he chose, since he had already been through the party’s approval process – he says he got an email from party CEO Frank Quennel saying nope, wasn’t gonna happen.
If Mowat was such a shoo-in, why not just let Anwar run against her? Surely she’d have the membership support she needed to clinch the nomination, right?
I’m guessing given how fabulously he performed for them in 2010 in Sutherland, Broten and Quennel knew Anwar could do the same thing again in Fairview, except this time he’d be knocking out not their nemesis, but their star candidate.
Upon realizing he wasn’t going to get past party brass, Anwar said (and I’m paraphrasing) “f**k that noise”, and went to the Liberals, requesting to be put on the ballot in Saskatoon Westview.
Anwar said he knew he couldn’t win Westview, nor was he planning to try. Instead, he said he looked at the redistribution of 2011 votes (given the boundary change), and calculated how many NDP votes he would need to steal, in order to ensure Broten lost to the Sask Party candidate.
Once he had his number in mind, Anwar says he methodically targeted ethnic NDP voters in the riding and asked them to vote for him. Remember, methodically targeting the NDP ethnic vote was pretty much exactly what Anwar did in 2013 for Broten’s leadership race, so he’d have a ton of the names and information on hand already.
(Well, except back then he was securing those votes for Broten, not against him.)
In 2011 Broten only won his riding by 800 votes. Redistributed boundaries tipped the scales even further away from Broten. The number of votes Anwar needed to sway wasn’t that high.
On the night of April 4th, 235 voters cast their ballots for Naveed Anwar.
Cam Broten lost the riding by 232 votes.
In today’s Star Phoenix, new MLA David Buckingham (who based on his quotes in the story, is probably getting media training as we speak) boasted his “stealth attack” on Cam Broten.
“I don’t think he realized how much I was on the doorstep,” said Buckingham. “As long as I could keep him from the doorstep, I figured we had a chance of winning.”
Okay, settle down cowboy. What we’re establishing here is just one more catalyst that led to Broten’s demise, so not sure you need to be taking all the credit, quite yet.
(Also, how did you “keep him from the doorstep”? Buckingham either totally made that up, or he inadvertently spilled the beans on some kind of Sask Party’s central campaign diversionary tactic. Though I’m still not sure how they could keep Broten from doorknocking.)
And let’s abolish the words “I”, and “stealth attack” from our new political vocab, shall we?
I’ve had a few friends tell me that Anwar isn’t necessarily credible. He did definitely tell me a different story today than he did to the Star Phoenix in 2010.
Based on what I’ve heard, though, the facts line up. He had a goal in 2010, and that goal was accomplished. He had a goal in 2016, and that goal was accomplished.
Would another Liberal candidate in Saskatoon Westview have secured 235 votes on Monday?
If not, would those votes have gone to Broten?
Had Ryan Meili won the Sutherland nomination back in 2010, would he have won the riding in 2011?
Would he have won the NDP leadership in 2013?
What we do know, however, is that if Naveed Anwar was removed from the equation, the outcome of that nomination race in 2010, and subsequently the leadership race in 2013, might have been very different for Ryan Meili and the Saskatchewan NDP.
If Naveed Anwar and his targeted campaigning was removed from the equation, the outcome of the 2016 election might have been very different for Cam Broten and the Saskatchewan NDP.
Bottom line: if Naveed Anwar was removed from the political equation of the last eight years altogether, the Saskatchewan NDP might look very different today.
I’m thinking a big chunk of their base would consider that a good thing.
You’re going to hear this a lot around here: politics is a vicious game.
Sometimes – more often than you think – it’s the pawns that end up flipping the board upside down.
*Quick primer on political party memberships: all nomination candidates receive a current riding membership list, so they can campaign for members’ votes. Additionally, nomination candidates sell party memberships. The only prerequisite is that the new members to whom they sell live in the riding. Members do not have to be Canadian citizens or of voting age. In other words – you beg your neighbors to pay a few bucks (around $10) for a party membership, and then those neighbors come out and vote for you. The nomination candidate with the most neighbors, wins.
**April 8th update: CBC journalist Stef Langenegger (and she is an actual journalist – an awesome one at that. I, on the other hand, am decidedly not a journalist. I just like politics. We’ve been through this.) Tweeted that she spoke to the Saskatchewan NDP, and they said Naveed Anwar was not approved in 2014 as a candidate for their party. This doesn’t change anything for me, because either way Anwar was pissed off enough to do what he did, but they would be responding to the notion that it was a specific riding for which he was rejected.