Colby Cosh looks at the long road back for Saskatchewan’s NDP, which bestrode the province like a Colossus for a political eternity but is now a peripheral player:
These are hard times for the New Democratic Party in Saskatchewan — the party’s ancestral wellspring, the mecca it faces at prayer. Not so long ago, the NDP’s provincial leader was typically, by virtue of his office, the second-most prominent figure in the movement nationwide. Typically, that is, when he wasn’t in first place. And the New Democrats had the kind of sweet corner on Saskatchewan’s legislature that the Liberals had on the Dominion’s. From 1942 to 2009, every leader of the provincial party also served as premier at least once.
But the winner of the Saskatchewan NDP’s March 9 leadership tilt, Cam Broten, takes charge with the benefits and the burdens of low expectations. Broten now commands an Opposition of just nine members to the government’s 49, and Premier Brad Wall’s approval ratings are the envy of Confederation.
Broten, the 35-year-old MLA for Saskatoon-Massey Place, ran on a platform that was light on ideological tub-thumping and heavy on plans for rebuilding the NDP’s political institutions. Like the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta, the New Democrats had grown too dependent on the voters’ total psychological identification of the party with the government, and were perhaps not careful enough to ensure that the former could thrive if detached from the latter. Two years of drama at the Ottawa level of the NDP do not seem to have done Saskatchewan’s New Democrats any favours, and federal Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair’s views on resources and national unity have been — well, what’s the opposite of a favour?